Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Blood All Over My Kitchen!

Okay, today isn’t going to be much of a post, but I have a medical excuse.

Earlier tonight I accidentally broke a glass. Then, when I was cleaning up the broken glass, even more accidentally one of the jagged shards of glass put a big gash in my right thumb.

So I’m trying to be a man about it. I’m trying to be Captain Kirk about it. But when there’s blood all over my kitchen I kind of freak out.

Now, it wasn’t so bad that I had to go to an emergency room and get stitches. But unlike my last encounter with blood—Princess From Atlantis Without A Band-Aid—this time I did take the time to wash off the gash, rub Neosporin around the wound, and apply a big bandage.

So my thinking is a little discombobulated and my typing isn’t really up to speed. At least the right thumb only works the space bar.

Anyway, so my post today is kind of haphazard. I’m just going to do three little topics. I don’t have anything elaborate today on any of these topics, but I may come back to them.

Comet Elenin

There has been almost endless crazy talk about Comet Elenin on the internet. And it was all nonsensical. Comet Elenin was just a normal, average kind of comet. And, among comet fans—comet hunters are an established and passionate subset of astronomers, both pro and amateur—there was speculation that Comet Elenin may turn out to be smaller than average, or dimmer, or may even break up.

And Comet Elenin appears to have broken up. Among comet hunters, it wasn’t even a spectacular breakup. Just more or less average.

So, among all the real things there are to worry about, people can stop worrying about that little comet. It was never anything to worry about in the first place, but now it has gone to pieces.

Here’s a link to a story about Comet Elenin breaking up:

Whenever astronomers discover a comet headed inbound toward a close encounter the Sun, there's always buzz among observers about how bright it might get. That was certainly the case last December, when Comet Elenin (C/2010 X1) made its debut. Many hoped it would become easily visible to the unaided eye as it rounded perihelion nine months later.

By April, that initial enthusiasm had waned a bit, as it became clear that Comet Elenin was small and intrinsically faint.

... One veteran comet-watcher who's not surprised is John Bortle. Four months ago, based on Elenin's performance to that point, he cautioned, "The comet may be intrinsically a bit too faint to even survive perihelion passage." And his words have proved prescient, as the fading continues (estimates are near 9th magnitude) and there's speculation that this object or its remnants might not be around much longer.

Comet Elenin Self-Destructs
from Sky and Telescope’s website

SpaceWeather also has a story on the breakup, along with a picture. Click on the picture to link to their story:

Organ Beaters

Since I’ve been learning to play keyboards, I’ve been interested in the history of the keyboard as a musical device.

It appears to go back in time to two separate threads.

The first historical appearance of keys, apparently the oldest use of keys—or buttons and levers vaguely resembling keys—was to control pipe organs of various kinds.

The second appearance of keys was to automate the plucking action on lutes, creating harpsichord-like instruments.

Here is a quote and a link to a short history of keyboards from a website:

The German word "Klavier," which can refer to any keyboard instrument, possibly derives from the Greek word "celava" which means club (because most of the early organ keys were hit not played); but it is more likely that it came from the Latin word "clavis," meaning key, as this is where the English word key derived from. On early organs, the keys were marked with the pitch. These were translated into letters which were called "clavis."

The Roman water organ had a row of little levers. Evidence for this can be found on mosaics and carvings dating from before the collapse of Imperial Rome. During the tenth century there was an organ at Winchester Cathedral with 40 stops and two manuals, probably consisting of lever type keys, all naturals with no accidentals, taking, it is said, three men to play it. The organ was the first instrument with a keyboard, and the weight of its keys, like that of many other instruments, varied. So much so, that it took the strength of a man's fist to push down one of the crude levers, which to us would hardly be recognisable as a key. It was not unknown for players to be called "organ beaters." Organ players began complaining of uneven touch on the organs. A contract between an organ builder and Rouen Cathedral in 1382 refers to the repair of the keyboard with the purpose of making it more uniform and lighter in touch. However, parts of an organ dated 226 AD and found near Budapest had keys no heavier than those of a modern piano. Throughout the ages, touch has been one of the gripes of the performer. Even the great Silberman, who trained most of the great piano makers of the 1700s, was criticised by J. S. Bach, who said that Silberman pianos were too hard to play. This was around 1733.

Marlena from “Cloverfield”

Okay, this is silly, but I want to do it anyway.

I mentioned a while ago that when I watch the low-budget killer-snake movie “Vipers” I pretty much ignore the main characters and treat the movie as a story about one of the side characters, the disgruntled teenager, Maggie—Maggie And The Fish Head. (And a little clip of Maggie appears at the start of “Hold Me Forever: A Doll Philosophy”.)

I do something similar with the film Cloverfield.”

I don’t much like that movie. I don’t really like the main characters and I think the writing of the movie itself is ridiculous—a giant monster is rampaging through New York and the main character freaks out because his phone battery runs down and he can’t talk to his on-again-off-again girlfriend.

However, there is a side character named “Marlena” who doesn’t even know the main character and for one reason or another she tags along with the dimwits on their adventures.

Marlena is pretty and has more personality than all the other characters in the movie put together.

When I watch “Cloverfield”—when I’m in the mood for a New York monster movie—I usually put in the DVD and jump ahead right to the 7:00 mark. That’s when Marlena appears over Lily’s shoulder at the party. Then I watch the movie up until the 52:00 mark when Marlena explodes at the Army outpost.

The giant monster and Marlena are the only interesting characters in the movie and after Marlena explodes even the giant monster, by itself, isn’t enough to counter-balance the remaining dumb characters and make the movie interesting. I usually just switch it off after she’s gone.

So—of all things—the movie “Cloverfield” has its own wikia [?] and on the page for the character Marlena one of the background facts is that the actress who portrays her—Lizzy Caplan—took the role without knowing anything about the character or anything about the script. She took the role because J. J. Abrams was producing the movie and he had created the TV show “Lost” which Caplan had been a fan of.

After making “Cloverfield,” the actress said she would never do that again, that in the future she would find out what a film is about before she would take a part.

Ha, ha, ha. Lizzy Caplan the actress who plays the character Marlena in “Cloverfield” has more personality than all the other characters in the movie put together, too!

Okay, that’s about all I have for today. Time to go.

It’s good to know when it’s time to go. Marlena knows:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Folklore Of The Carnivore: Taylor Swift

“We get to have such groovy, cool stuff happening. I’ve never had pyro before. I’ve never had aerialists before. It’s got this grand staircase. The stage in itself looks like an old-world theater. I can’t believe we get to play stadiums. I’m so excited about this tour. I want to live on that stage. I hope people leave the concert feeling like they know you better.”

If I was Taylor Swift I wouldn’t tour
with a big staircase and a high-wire act.
I would trust my songs themselves to attract
fans to concerts where the show could be pure.

I’d play in parking lots, asphalt glamour,
just a sponsored stage, nothing to distract
from the love, that is, love in the abstract,
that is, the folklore of the carnivore.

If I was Taylor Swift I’d want to play
for fans for free on a parking lot stage.
There’d be no fireworks flashing above me

distracting from what the lot might betray,
abstract tenderness, the end of an age—
I would want the parking lots to love me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In Which I Wrap Up The Cheese (Trilogy)

So over the weekend someone asked me if I was going to make a trilogy out of “those two posts from last week” in my blog.

I don’t like looking dim-witted and, sometimes, I can make mental connections reasonably quickly. But when I thought back to my posts from last week the only similarity I saw was that I did a post about tree leaves, and I did another post about lithosphere/ionosphere coupling. But I didn’t get the impression the person I was talking to was suggesting a third post about the atmosphere and things that live in it.

So I gave up and said, “Which two posts do you have in mind?”

The person said, “Well, you started last week with a post about that girl tennis player.”

“Caroline Wozniacki,” I said.

“Yeah,” the person said. “Then you finished the week with a post about Rembrandt.”

And then I knew exactly what the person was talking about. I picked my words and my tone-of-voice carefully. “Yes,” I said. “But, you know, Wozniacki is Danish and Rembrandt was Dutch.”

“Oh. Danish and Dutch” the person said. The person asked, “They’re not the same thing?”


But, you know, maybe I can make this a threesome.

Kangaroo Girl And The Yale Boys

Writing About Photographing Rembrandt


First of all, I was kind of mean to Caroline Wozniacki—calling her ‘Kangaroo Girl’ and such—but she went on to win that tournament last week. It wasn’t a big tournament and, possibly, players consciously don’t expend too much effort the week before a Grand Slam event, however this is the fourth year in a row that Wozniacki has won that tournament in Yale. It’s the first time in almost ten years that any player has won the same tournament four years in a row. That’s pretty cool.

Caroline Wozniacki is very pretty and winning the same tournament four years in a row is a cool accomplishment. I’m sorry I was mean to her and I’m glad I have this opportunity to apologize and congratulate her on the good work at Yale.

(But I’ll be honest, too: I know I’ll never get over that kangaroo business and I know I’m going to be calling her Kangaroo Girl again at some point in the future.)


Secondly, I’m not going to talk about the differences between Danish and Dutch. But I would like to talk about places in general.

A long time ago, some fictional character—I think it was a Salinger character, either Buddy Glass or maybe Seymour himself—said something like, “Most people spend their whole life moving from one piece of holy ground to another.”

Now, I often feel strongly that I would love to “get away” from the life I’m living now. Buy a boat. Sail away blue water cruising.

But at the same time I know that “place” is very relative.

I mean, I know if I had been born and raised in, say, Shanghai, then I’d probably be sitting around looking at world maps and thinking, “Gee, it would be great to be living some place distant and exotic, some place like, maybe, Chicago.”

And I know that a person’s sense of place can be used for all manner of manipulations by devious politicians and businessmen. The very phrase Balkanization (from southern Europe) has come into world discourse to describe the process of subdividing places into other places, subdividing populations to suit one or another manipulative scheme.

So I make a conscious effort not to get carried away by emotions driven by my sense-of-place.


Okay. Thirdly, I’m going to say something about Wisconsin.

Danes. Dutch. And Wisconsin.


It’s the concluding chapter of a cheese trilogy.

So: I’d like to “get away” but I’m not sure I really believe “away” has any meaning.

Certainly from a spiritual sense Scripture is blunt. In the Gospel of Luke, 17:20, Jesus specifically says the Kingdom of God is within us, it’s not a place out there that we can see, or go to, or that we need to fight over, or make a pilgrimage to. It is inside us, always available to us.

Now when he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “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.”

And there are simple practical issues, too.

For me, one cool aspect of getting away would be turning off my worries about meeting people I used to know. I don’t like catching up on old times. I don’t like trying to figure out if a person is happy to see me or just being polite. I don’t like having my reveries intruded on or intruding on the reveries of anyone else. And people always talk about What’s new? but with me nothing is ever “new.” I’m still trying to accomplish the same things I was trying to accomplish ten years ago. Or twenty years ago, for that matter.

Anyway. As a practical matter “getting away” simply can be tricky these days when everybody gets away regularly.

One weekend during some Grand Slam tennis tournament I was feeling kind of depressed and I really wanted to get away from everything and everyone. So I figured I’d drive up into Wisconsin, randomly find some small town and get a hotel or motel room and just watch tennis on TV all weekend.

So without checking a map I drove up north into Wisconsin. I got off the Interstates and drove up regular highways.

I just drove randomly north for hours.

At some point when I found a medium-sized town, I found a reasonably clean looking old hotel, parked and went to the check-in desk.

When I wrote my name in the book, the senior citizen woman doing the check-in looked at my name, looked at me and gasped, bursting into a big smile. She leaned way forward over the counter and hugged me. She hugged me very tightly.

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” she asked.

I smiled and shook my head and tried to look not terrified.

“I’m Agnes, Elinor’s best friend,” she said. “I was your mother’s best friend when you were just a little boy. I was there that time you saw the spider under the front porch, remember? You tried to run and fell on the patio and I picked you up and carried you over to your Mom? Remember? That was me!”

And then I did remember her.

WTF. I drove off into a Wisconsin night, randomly went through town after town, randomly selected an out-of-the-way hotel and somehow managed to find the one hotel that was owned and operated by a woman who had been my Mom’s best friend forty years earlier. WTF?

“So tell me everything!” Agnes said. “What’s your Mom doing? What are you doing? How is everyone?”

So much for my “getting away” weekend.


So, anyway, Danes come from Denmark and the Dutch come from the Netherlands. (Denmark is the one farther north.)

The distance from Amsterdam to Copenhagen is around four hundred miles. That's less than the distance from Paris to Berlin.

Compared to, say, the United States, the Netherlands and Denmark are both tiny, little places. And compared to, say, the distance from New York to Los Angeles, Denmark and the Netherlands are right next to each other.

But in the global scheme of things (or the global scheming things) they are completely different places and completely different peoples who both regard themselves as living in completely different cultures.


I don’t really know what distance means any more.

But I’d still like to get away!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing About Photographing Rembrandt

Will we ever find an answer to the question of whether Rembrandt’s self portraits are accurate likenesses? Each of his self portraits shows a slightly different individual, just as our own successive passport photographs do. That being said, no one can shake off the feeling that Rembrandt’s personality and even his physiognomic peculiarities crystallize, as it were, when one surveys his self portraits as a group. You feel that you recognize him. It looks like him. The truth, however, will never be known.

Ernst van de Wetering

“Portrait of a Painter” by Frans Hals

Some people believe the Frans Hals painting
“Portrait of a Painter” is a portrait
of Rembrandt. They were contemporaries.
And the person in the Frans Hals portrait
resembles the way Rembrandt saw himself.
And where it doesn’t resemble Rembrandt
the variations seem consistent with
differences in the resemblances
of, say, painted self portraits of van Gogh
and photographic portraits of van Gogh.

Experts writing in “Rembrandt by Himself”
do not believe Frans Hals painted Rembrandt.

Although we will never see photographs
of Rembrandt—if photographs are the truth
then it’s true that truth never will be known—
but letters or contracts or journal notes
someday might substantiate that Rembrandt
in fact did pose for the Frans Hals portrait.
That is a truth that someday might be known.

A letter or contract or journal note
could validate the truth of a painting.

That truth is still less than a photograph.

I wonder what Rembrandt really looked like?

And: How much truth does a photograph hold?

What if we’re wrong and it’s more than we think?

I wonder what that question even means?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Being Unhappy (And Happy)

I’ve been pretty sad lately.

I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it’s allergies. Maybe it’s the awful weather. Maybe it’s because the only thing I can do half right is write and books are gone, gone, gone.

(FYI--I replaced the missing video in that link above, “La Seule Chose Que Je Peux Faire.” All the cool videos disappearing from YouTube is another thing I'm pretty sad about. -- Mark)

Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time since I’ve met a brave squirrelmaid.

Whatever. I’ve been pretty sad lately. It makes it hard to think straight, and it makes it especially hard to do blog posts that I enjoy. I hate doing posts (like this!) where I just ramble.

However for today I’m going to just ramble.

The last couple of times I was really happy were doing the little stop-motion animations that became “Hold Me Forever” and “The Librarian And The Painter.” I really enjoyed doing those.

And I was really happy doing “Where Did The Cows Go?” I especially liked that one because it was so short. I like the idea of doing something interesting and funny and quick, so it doesn’t impose on people, doesn’t take a lot of time to experience.

After I learned a little about doing stop-motion I started to make longer little films. But if I can ever get my thinking straightened out, if I can ever get not sad again, I want to try to get back to doing interesting short things, pieces just around a minute long.

Anyway, thinking about blog posts that have made me happy got me thinking about other times I’ve been really happy. I’ve talked about some of them. Meeting Cathy. Getting a new guitar after I sold my two guitars during my move a few years ago.

One time when I was really sad something happened to me that was extraordinary and for some reason I haven’t talked about it yet. So that’s for today.

When I was younger, a girl named Angel took me to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” When I lived on the north side, that became a kind of stand-by thing to do on a Friday or Saturday night, if nothing else was going on.

Then, for a long time, I didn’t go see it at all.

Then, after not going for many years, one Friday or Saturday I was feeling pretty sad—kind of like I’ve been feeling lately—and all by myself I walked over to the theater and took in the midnight show.

As it happens, when the song “Over At The Frankenstein Place” came on, the girl dressed up as Magenta and singing along in the theater walked all the way up the aisle and took my hand and I stood up and we sang the song together, along with the movie.

I stopped being sad for a while. It’s impossible to be sad singing along with a beautiful girl dressed up as a wacky character in an absurd film in a theater full of people who all share the same kind of affection for the stupid film.

There’s a scene in that movie I always think about when I’m sad.

Riff-Raff zaps Frank and Rocky, and then Magenta looks at him and says, “I thought you liked them. They liked you.” And Riff-Raff looks away all sullen and shouts, “They didn’t like me! They never liked me!”

When I’m sad, I remind myself not to think like Riff-Raff.

I’ve had some pretty fun times. And—although I don’t understand why and although I am usually totally opaque to the experience—I know that some people have kind of liked me.

It seems like it all happened in a different world. Now books are gone. And now, to be honest, movies really aren’t what they used to be, either. This world is all about the television.

Anyway, I’m going to try to stop being sad in this world.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Civilization Of Leaves

Trees never go anywhere, at least not
in a direction anyone can see.

The civilization of leaves we call a tree
is shaped by branches and supported by a trunk
and nourished by a network of underground roots.

No civilization of leaves sends out space probes
to study us unless that’s what UFOs are.

No civilization of leaves sends astronauts
across the distance to adventure among us
unless bigfoot creatures are astronauts of sorts.

No civilization of leaves makes arts and crafts
unless lake monsters are a kind of wall hanging
or a hand-sewn shirt or a cabaret routine
or a feature film cranked out by an industry
somewhere within a civilization of leaves.

I photographed a tree that wasn’t picturesque
and I wondered if I could make something of it.

Or did I? Did a civilization of leaves
wonder what it could make of somebody like me?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lithosphere Atmosphere Ionosphere Coupling

TINA: “Maybe we’re going to have a big earthquake. They say things get really weird just before.”

When writer/director Wes Craven made his remarkable film-and-sequel combination of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare” he used earthquakes as a metaphor. He wanted to convey the notion that just as we take the solid ground under our feet for granted and that presumption is stripped away with terrifying results in earthquakes, possibly our understanding of reality itself is a presumption which is sometimes stripped away with equally terrifying results.

I don’t have a lot today, but it’s pretty interesting.

There was a big earthquake on the east coast today. Some reports say people in Chicago could feel the quake, but I felt nothing.

And—these days!—how can you tell if things are weird as a quake precursor, or just normal weird because everything is always crazy now?

That being said, however, thanks to all the climate-monitoring going on over the politically charged global warming issue, scientists have a lot of data readily available to them about atmospheric conditions leading up to earthquake events. Scientists believe they’ve observed strange correlations between unusual atmospheric heating along with odd atmospheric electrical activity and subsequent earthquakes.

There are at least two interesting parts to this. First of all, of course, if this turns out to be true and consistent with other earthquakes then scientists will possibly be able to start making serious earthquake predictions. Secondly, it’s kind of amazing to think that even geophysics is so intertwingled that changes in the rocks—the lithosphere—can cause weird things to happen in the upper atmosphere—the ionosphere.

But, nonetheless, one of the lessons of modern science seems to be that everything is more inter-connected than one would suppose.

I haven’t heard about any precursor data on today’s east coast earthquake, but I bet it will be available soon. This will be interesting to keep track of.

Here is a link to an MIT update on the proposed lithosphere atmosphere ionosphere coupling mechanism. The article is very interesting, and the first couple of comments are interesting. Then the comments turn crazy. But a lot of people are following this topic, and—it almost goes without saying—plasma physics will almost certainly play some part here.

The Physics arXiv Blog: Atmosphere Above Japan Heated Rapidly Before M9 Earthquake

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

Tina At The Window

I’m Standing At A Broken Window

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kangaroo Girl And The Yale Boys

Q: What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made while working on this biography of William F. Buckley Jr.?

A: There were two. First, he would rather talk about almost anything other than politics — literature, music, sailing. He once told me, “I only talk about politics when someone pays me to do it.” Second, I never heard him make a personally disparaging remark about anyone, even adversaries like Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Gore Vidal. He might describe something they did or the style in which they did it, but never in an insulting or even critical way. He had a large sense of the human comedy.

Q&A on William F. Buckley

For those who don’t know, Caroline Wozniacki is the world’s current number one woman tennis player. Her tennis results since becoming number one, however, have been so miserable that the only things she is known for among fans are losing and, one time down in Australia, telling the gathered world press that she had been attacked and mauled by a feral kangaroo. Turns out she had scratched her leg on an exercise machine, not on a kangaroo at all. That’s Caroline Wozniacki.

Feral Kangaroos And Women

For those who don’t know, Yale is a college on the east coast famous for appearing in the title of a William Buckley book and for having frat boys who recently stood outside some women’s dorms chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” That’s Yale.

The Society Pages: Yale Frat Pledges Chant “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal”

The two come together this week at the New Haven tennis tournament.

Next week the final Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year starts in New York. Most players are resting up this week. But for players desperate to get their game together or just desperate for prize money there are a couple of little tournaments going on and one of these little tournaments with almost no players is in New Haven, Connecticut, on the Yale campus.

Yesterday in an off-the-cuff comment—or extemporaneously for any Buckley fans who might be looking in—I used the word ‘assignation’ in a sentence. Someone laughed and said, “I don’t think anyone uses that word any more.” I said, “Well, they should. It’s about ass and it’s got ‘ass’ right in it. It’s a good word.”

I don’t have a lot of experience myself with Ivy League schools. I do have one experience that’s kind of blog-able.

I once had a very interesting talk with a biologist who taught at Harvard. (Why Catching A Cold Makes Some People Cuter) After we talked, I said, “You know, as chance would have it, I’ve met a lot of people from Harvard. Without exception, they all have been pleasant people, smart people, interesting people to talk to.”

“That’s Harvard!” the biology professor said. “We pride ourselves on being pleasant, smart and interesting.”

“Yes,” I said. “But then there’s that whole Kennedy School of Government thing.”

The biology professor took a moment to choose his words. “Yes,” he said. “But then we try not to talk about that.”

So this week Caroline Wozniacki will be hanging out at Yale.

I’m guessing some assignations may take place. And if any conversations occur, I bet the topic of the Kennedy School of Government over at Harvard will not be among the things that come up.

It all works out.

The modern world is a smoothly functioning machine.

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

Hmmm. Sometimes I’m more
proud of myself than others.

I was very happy to note that I’ve posted
about exotic snows twice. It’s a
cool topic.

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

Dragon Storm: Ammonia Snow

Now, I note that along with today’s post,
I’ve got two posts that mention anal sex.

Anal Sex And Death In Los Angeles

Yeah, ummm, expect to see more posts
about exotic snows in the future.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Movies, Keyboards And Skirt Police

Hey, look, it’s a woman in a short skirt riding a bicycle!

Well, that photo is from a different blog, and I’ll get back to that in a second. But first some Other Things.


Mother gave me Barrie’s “Sentimental Tommy” when I was older, because she loved the Scottish dialect, and because of a particular chapter where Tommy shows how he feels about words. He is a poor boy who aspires to be a writer, and competes with another boy for a university scholarship. The teachers and examining board outside the village classroom where the essay competition is being held hear two pens scratching briskly at the start and then, after a while, only one. Who has quit writing? And why? When the time is up Tommy is still in a reverie, searching his mind for the exact word to describe how full the church—the kirk—was. The exam has been forgotten. He loses the scholarship (“The time went by in a winking!”) but for the moment he doesn’t care: the pursuit of the word is still uppermost. It wasn’t “puckle” or “manzy” or “flow” or “curran”—what was it? And at least one examiner marks down in his mind that anyone who has that much respect for words is the superior candidate.

from Turn Not Pale, Beloved Snail
by Jacqueline Jackson

That’s a quote from a cool writer about a quote from another cool writer. (I’ve quoted Jacqueline Jackson before, in Devouring Memory.)

I offer up that business because I feel bad about not having done anything with Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard for a long time. I meant to have something last week, and then this week, but I haven’t done anything.

The only excuse I have is that I’m trying to wait for a good idea.

I’ve had some little allergy issues and I’ve been a little sad over some random things and I’ve been a little distracted by some random things, and though I’ve given it a lot of thought I just haven’t had any ideas that I really liked.

I really enjoy doing those little movies, and their music, but I don’t want to do them just for the sake of doing them. I like to have a real idea—even if it is just a little idea, or even if it is just an idea that matters to me—before I buckle down to do the arrangements and work.

So I’m still thinking. It is a priority for me and I’ll get to it. It just takes some time. (It’s good to think things through: Losing Cool)


On a completely different topic:

Today I had a chance to play a little bit on a Korg Kronos synthesizer workstation. It was both very impressive—the machine, I mean, not my playing!—and a little disconcerting at the same time.

First of all, the keyboard had an extraordinary feel. It wasn’t as solid as a piano, but it was the most solid feel of any workstation I’ve ever played. Very cool.

Secondly, the Kronos has almost endless control surfaces. From left to right there are paddles and sliders and knobs and buttons. This gives you the option of controlling everything right at your fingertips. It seems a little daunting to have so much control, but I’m guessing after you’ve played the machine for a while everything becomes second nature.

Thirdly, I didn’t hear the fan at all. I certainly don’t like the idea of a musical instrument containing a built-in fan, but in a normal room setting the Kronos fan was so quiet that I didn’t hear it.

Fourthly, the fan business brings me to the big screen business. The Kronos comes with a big computer screen—a touch-screen!—right above the keyboard, right in the middle of all the real paddles and sliders and knobs and buttons. The Kronos needs a big screen because it actually runs Linux and is, itself, a dedicated computer workstation. It has to boot up, just like a computer. (I didn’t restart the Kronos today, so I don’t know if the horror stories of it taking two minutes or more to restart are true.) This is the disconcerting part. I used the touch-screen to select voices and play different parts and such. All very cool. The sound—through an amplifier—was okay. I don’t have very educated ears, but the voices sounded okay. These days, almost everything is so sophisticated the sound seems great to me.

But I found all the computer stuff a little distracting. There was a chart of the frequency response of the piano voice on screen as I was playing. To my mind, that kind of shifts the emphasis of the experience from music to technicalities. I’m guessing you have control over the screen display and can simplify the set-up, but the default screens were kind of “busy” for my tastes.

So that is a quick Kronos update. The machine looks and feels great. It definitely seems to give you three grand worth of stuff to play with. However, I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of stuff I want. But it sure looked beautiful and felt beautiful to play.

La Seule Chose Que Je Peux Faire

Beethoven, Britney Spears And A Ghost

Waterfall In My Kitchen

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2


Okay. Back to this girl in a skirt on a bicycle thing.

I had to get gas today.

I stopped at a big gas station. As I was pumping gas, a middle-age woman in a skirt riding a bicycle [?] rode up to the air pump on the other side of the gas station. She put a couple of quarters in the air machine, then fussed with the air hose a bit. Finally she walked over to the nearest gas pump and talked to a man pumping gas. He walked back to the air machine with her, straightened out the air hose, and put air into both her tires for her. Then he returned to his car. The woman got on her bike and rode away.

Now I was too far away to hear anything the woman and man said to each other. So all I have is this behaviorist report. I saw what they did, their actions, but I can only guess at their thinking.

And I’m wondering what I saw.

I mean, was the woman so stupid that she couldn’t figure out how to pump air into her bicycle tires herself?

Or was the woman pretending to be stupid as a strategy for meeting guys to have sex with?

It’s the 21st century, so I guess it could be either or both. Or something else, but the situation seemed kind of clear cut.

Whatever it was, I really wish—for some reason—that I hadn’t seen it.

If the woman was so stupid that she couldn’t figure out how to pump air into her tires herself then I don’t want to know about it. If the woman was hunting for sex on her bike then I don’t want to know about that, either.

What the hell is going on in the world?

So I was talking about this and someone told me it is really a kind of active topic among some people on the internet—this business of women riding bicycles in skirts. [!]

And that seems to be true. I looked around the internet. There are women who make fashion statements out of it. And there is a whole subset of women out there in skirts on bicycles with stories of being stopped by police—for some reason—which they seem to typically believe involves either power trips on the part of the police, or something like sexual harassment on the part of the police.

Check out the post, and all the comments, at the Lovely Bicycle blog post on the topic: Lovely Bicycle: Skirt Police

What the hell is going on in the world?

This is why God made the Volkswagen Beetle—so pretty girls can drive around in a car dressed anyway they like without turning the whole world into a potential Town Without Pity remake.

Just another reason why I want to be sitting in the cabin of a pilothouse sailboat anchored somewhere off the Torngat mountains, just sitting in my boat reading a book a thousand miles from everybody else in the 21st century. I’m working on it.

Princess From Atlantis Without A Band-Aid

A Place To Read Books I’ve Never Read

Thursday, August 18, 2011

All The Questions About Atlantis

I’ll never know if she thought me a fool

for attempting what I couldn’t quite do,
or was she touched by my zeal to belong.
Between heaven and hell veiled is the rule.

Brazil” has come up a couple of times here at Impossible Kisses.

I quoted a news story about a long whale migration that started in the waters of the Atlantic off Brazil in A Lost World Where Distance Is God’s Anger.

I quoted a news story about a new species of frog discovered near Brazil in New Species Of High Fashion Frog.

Strangely, to me, are the mentions I haven’t made of Brazil.

I never mentioned the movie “Brazil” by Terry Gilliam, or the poem by Emily Dickinson. (Although I quoted a different Emily Dickinson poem in Veiled.)

Today I’m not going to say much about the Terry Gilliam movie, but here is the poem by Emily Dickinson:

I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.

Brazil? He twirled a button,
Without a glance my way:
“But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?”

I don’t remember when I first read that. But one time Linda—the Linda from my post about Kate McGarrigle, Something Heroic And Remote—and I went to see the Terry Gilliam movie and we had a good time. Afterward we went back to her apartment and as Linda was talking about what a wild movie it was, I pointed out that she had an Emily Dickinson anthology right next to her bed. She said, “So?” I said, “Dickinson mentions Brazil in an odd little poem.” And I flipped to the index, found the poem, and showed it to Linda. She read it and looked at me. “I just read through this, and I don’t remember reading that poem. But now that you show it to me, it does sort of fit the movie in some weird way. Not a direct way, but somehow. How weird that I was reading this book before we saw the movie. How weird that I don’t remember that poem.”

Brave frog, as far away as Atlantis,
and as beautiful. I would be afraid
even to go into a store and ask
whatever merchant might be on duty
for this thing that would have to be denied.

I don’t understand distance but I know
there is here and there and I know that here
is not the answer to any question
about Atlantis. I don’t think Brazil
is the answer to those questions, either.

Brave frog, as far away as Atlantis,
and as beautiful. I think the answers
to all the questions about Atlantis
are on the other side of some distance
farther than a store, and more frightening, too.

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

Beautiful People Are Courageous

The Occult Technology Of Lost Songs

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pretty Blue Flowers At The Gates Of Hell

On the train from Paris to Berlin
I studied all the wreckage and ruin
And I couldn’t tell if the gates of Hell
Were on the outside or in
On the train from Paris to Berlin

I don’t know. Maybe the pretty blue flowers
were trying to run away from the dark
and they got all tangled up. Now the dark,
the wild dark, will be able to catch them.

Getting cropped and composed, getting glammed up,
is a moment of freedom from the wild,
a moment when the wild dark is held back,
reduced to just a trivial background.

The empty lot full of tangled blue flowers
I photographed when Amy Winehouse died
has been completely cut down. I don’t know
if city workers or county workers
did the job, but heavy machinery
did the cutting because tractor tire prints
left their pattern in the dirt and crushed plants.

I didn’t photograph the empty lot
now because it’s just a green rectangle
between two rectangles of parking lots.

Amy Winehouse is gone and the wild flowers
I photographed to remember Amy
are gone but the rectangles are still here,
the flat green rectangle without blue flowers
and the asphalt rectangle parking lots.

The flat green rectangle without blue flowers
is still just an empty lot, nobody
is digging it up to build something there.

If anybody had asked me about
letting the plants continue to grow wild
or cutting down everything in the lot—
if anybody had asked me if they
should send in the industrial cutters,
I would have told the workers, “No, no, no.”

Nobody asks anyone anything.

We have to find time to make images
and write about everything. And sing songs.

Tomorrow there will be only tire tracks.

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

“There's nothing you can teach me
I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway”

Donny Edward Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979) was an American soul musician. Hathaway contracted with Atlantic Records in 1969 and with his first single for the Atco label, "The Ghetto, Part I" in early 1970, Rolling Stone magazine "marked him as a major new force in soul music." His collaborations with Roberta Flack scored high on the charts and won him the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the duet, "Where Is the Love" in 1973. Six years later, his body was found outside the luxury hotel Essex House in New York City; his death was ruled a suicide.

Donny Hathaway at Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Craft Of Wreckage

I’m seeing things
Believe me
I’ve never seen before
But little things
Deceive me

from the theme song
of the Canadian TV show

“Seeing Things”

Somehow, from somewhere, the dinosaurs
are going to come back and our world
will crumble into wreckage, pieces
of cars and pieces of parking lots
tossed about together into piles
of the past nobody has the time
or the desire to sort into chunks
of pure wreckage that can’t be reused
and chunks of auto parts survivors
might craft into, you know, weapons or
machines that do water filtration.

I think the dinosaurs will have plans
for us and we won’t have time for crafts.

A lot of people do not have time
for sorting through wreckage of the past
in our world now without dinosaurs.

I miss an old television show
about a reporter who sometimes
could see short glimpses of the future.

He almost never interpreted
the little things he saw properly
but the show was fun because he tried.

The dinosaurs will eat us. They will.

Before they get me I’ll be hiding
in the wreckage scribbling stuff like this
into notebooks. Just sorting things out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Clown As Supervillain

A week or two ago I did a short excerpt from a very early science fiction so-called “space opera” featuring a couple of tough young ladies and a supervillain, The Evil Light In Perkins’ Eyes.

Today I am posting a longer excerpt from one section of what might be the most famous space opera ever written. This was written a couple of decades after the “Skylark” series, by a slightly younger writer.

There are four characters in this scene. Toran and his wife, Bayta. A scientist, Ebling Mis. And a clown named Magnifico.

But look at the woman in this excerpt. The supervillain is one of the very best supervillains ever created.

I’ve edited this excerpt to be just the end of the story of Bayta and the supervillain, the clown.

Look at the woman in this excerpt. The supervillain is one of the very best supervillains ever created. And the woman defeats him.

Something happened to our world, I mean this real world around us. No one would create a fictional heroine like this in our real world. (What Is Electric Sugar?) And there would be no place for her if anyone did.

What happened to our world?

The clown sat down quickly. Bayta gazed at the floor. Slowly, slowly, her lower lip caught in her teeth.

Mis said, in a hoarse whisper, “I am convinced the Second Foundation can win, if it is not caught prematurely by the Mule. It has kept itself secret; the secrecy must be upheld; it has a purpose. You must go there; your information is vital ... may make all the difference. Do you hear me?”

Toran cried in near-agony. “Yes, yes! Tell us how to get there, Ebling? Where is it?”

“I can tell you,” said the faint voice.

He never did.

Bayta, face frozen white, lifted her blaster and shot, with an echoing clap of noise. From the waist upward, Mis was not, and a ragged hole was in the wall behind. From numb fingers, Bayta’s blaster dropped to the floor.

... Finally, from between teeth still tight, Toran choked out in an unrecognizable voice, “You’re a Mule’s woman, then. He got to you?”

Bayta looked up, and her mouth twisted with a painful merriment, “I, a Mule’s woman? That’s ironic.”

She smiled—a brittle effort—and tossed her hair back. Slowly, her voice verged back to normal, or something near it. “It’s over, Toran; I can talk now. How much I will survive, I don’t know. But I can start talking— About the calamity that followed us.”

... Toran said tightly, “You killed Ebling Mis because you believed him to be the focus of infection?” Something in her eyes struck him. He whispered, “He was the Mule?”

Bayta laughed sharply, “Poor Ebling the Mule? Galaxy, no! I couldn’t have killed him if he were the Mule. He would have detected the emotion accompanying the move and changed it for me to love, devotion, adoration, terror, whatever he pleased. No, I killed Ebling because he was not the Mule. I killed him because he knew where the Second Foundation was, and in two seconds would have told the Mule the secret.”

“Would have told the Mule the secret,” Toran repeated stupidly. “Told the Mule— Not Magnifico?” Toran whispered the question. Toran said harshly and with finality, “It’s impossible. Look at the miserable creature. He the mule? He doesn’t even hear what we’re saying.”

But when his eyes followed his pointing finger, Magnifico was erect and alert, his eyes sharp and darkly bright. His voice was without a trace of an accent. “I hear her, my friend. It is merely that I have been sitting here and brooding on the fact that with all my cleverness and forethought I could make a mistake, and lose so much.”

Toran stumbled backward as if afraid the clown might touch him or that his breath might contaminate him.

Magnifico nodded, and answered the unspoken question. “I am the Mule.”

He seemed no longer a grotesque; his pipe-stem limbs, his beak of a nose lost their humor-compelling qualities. His fear was gone; his bearing was firm.

He was in command of the situation with an ease born of usage.

He said, tolerantly, “Seat yourselves. Go ahead; you might as well sprawl out and make yourselves comfortable. The game’s over, and I’d like to tell you a story. It’s a weakness of mine—I want people to understand me.”

And his eyes as he looked at Bayta were still the old, soft sad brown ones of Magnifico, the clown.

“There is nothing really to my childhood,” he began, plunging bodily into quick, impatient speech, “that I care to remember. Perhaps you can understand that. My meagerness is glandular; my nose I was born with. It was not possible for me to lead a normal childhood. My mother died before she saw me. I do not know my father. I grew up haphazard; wounded and tortured in mind, full of self-pity and hatred of others. I was known then as a queer child. All avoided me; most out of dislike; some out of fear. Queer incidents occurred—Well, never mind! Enough happened to enable Captain Pritcher, in his investigation of my childhood to realize that I was a mutant, which was more than I ever realized until I was in my twenties.”

Toran and Bayta listened distantly. The wash of his voice broke over them, seated on the ground as they were, unheeded almost. The clown—or the Mule—paced before them with little steps, speaking downward to his own folded arms.

“The whole notion of my unusual power seems to have broken on me so slowly, in such sluggish steps. Even toward the end, I couldn’t believe it. To me, men’s minds are dials, with pointers that indicate the prevailing emotion. It is a poor picture, but how else can I explain it? Slowly, I learned that I could reach into those minds and turn the pointer to the spot I wished, that I could nail it there forever. And then it took even longer to realize that others couldn’t. But the consciousness of power came, and with it, the desire to make up for the miserable position of my earlier life. Maybe you can understand it. Maybe you can try to understand it. It isn’t easy to be a freak—to have a mind and an understanding and be a freak. Laughter and cruelty! To be different! To be an outsider! You’ve never lived through it!”

Magnifico looked up to the sky and teetered on the balls of his feet and reminisced stonily. “But I eventually did learn, and I decided that the Galaxy and I could take turns. Come, they had had their innings, and I had been patient about it—for twenty-two years. My turn! It would be up to the rest of you to take it! And the odds would be fair enough for the Galaxy. One of me! Trillions of them!”

... Toran stirred his voice to hardness. “Why do you stretch it out so? What was your mistake, and ... have done with your speech.”

“Why, your wife was the mistake. Your wife was an unusual person. I had never met her like before. I—” Quite suddenly, Magnifico’s voice broke. He recovered with difficulty. There was grimness about him as he continued. “She liked me without my having to juggle her emotions. She was neither repelled by me nor amused by me. She pitied me. She liked me! Don’t you understand? Can’t you see what that would mean to me? Never before had anyone— Well, I— I cherished that. My own emotions played me false, though I was the master of all others. I stayed out of her mind, you see; I did not tamper with it. I cherished the natural feelings too greatly. It was my mistake. The first. ... If I had stopped Pritcher in his well-intentioned babblings, or paid less attention to Mis and more to you—” He shrugged.

“That’s the end of it?” asked Bayta.

“That’s the end.”

... She was breathing hard, nearly gasping in her vehemence, “And we’ve defeated you. Toran and I. I am satisfied to die.”

But the Mule’s sad, brown eyes were the sad, brown, loving eyes of Magnifico. “I won’t kill you or your husband. It is, after all, impossible for you two to hurt me further; and killing you won’t bring back Ebling Mis. My mistakes were my own, and I take responsibility for them. Your husband and yourself may leave! Go in peace, for the sake of what I call—friendship.”

Then, with a sudden touch of pride, “And meanwhile I am still the Mule, the most powerful man in the Galaxy. I shall still defeat the Second Foundation.”

And Bayta shot her last arrow with a firm, calm certitude. “You won’t! I have faith in the wisdom of Seldon yet. You shall be the last ruler of your dynasty, as well as the first.”

Something caught Magnifico. “Of my dynasty? Yes, I had thought of that, often. That I might establish a dynasty. That I might have a suitable consort.”

Bayta suddenly caught the meaning of the look in his eyes and froze horribly.

Magnifico shook his head. “I sense your revulsion, but that’s silly. If things were otherwise, I could make you happy very easily. It would be an artificial ecstasy, but there would be no difference between it and the genuine emotion. But things are not otherwise. I call myself the Mule—but not because of my strength. Obviously.”

He left them, never looking back.

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

The Foundation Series at Wikipedia


The Dark Sidewalk

Three Clowns On The Dark Sidewalk

That Third Evil Clown

“This Was A Different World”

Seven Characteristics Of A Supervillain

Love Sonnet With Piano Wreckage And Worms

Me As A Supervillain Without A Supervillain Fortune

Famishius Vulgaris Ingeniusi

I’m hairy but I can walk like a man
and I’m going to catch that bird. I am.
I’ve thought out everything.
I have a plan!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Where The Scorpion Sits Down For Tea

It’s easy to think large things are special effects—
stop-motion animation or actors in suits.

But right now as I type this a hunter, giant,
larger than any building, is standing due south.
Orion, the Hunter, outlined in stars—Rigel,
Bellatrix, Betelgeuse—so bright, such a giant,
even the city’s bright street lights cannot hide him.
Hours from now there will be a giant scorpion,
Scorpius, its heart the bright, blood-red Antares,
in the same spot. There are stories about those two—
of the scorpion killing the mighty hunter
and the gods putting them far apart in the sky
to prevent them from fighting for eternity.

There are things larger than movie special effects.

Downtown in the Milky Way is that way—

Starting out in the suburbs of Cygnus,
fly out across the Summer Triangle,
keep going straight past Vega in Lyra,
follow the soft glow of the Milky Way
toward the bright star Altair in Aquila.

You should be able to see it from there.

In that same direction, past Aquila.

The scorpion is sitting down for tea.

You should be able to see it from there.

All the bright lights revolve around that spot
between the constellations Scorpius
and Sagittarius. It’s the center
of our galaxy: Downtown Milky Way.

A constellation is a big thing but
the Summer Triangle is bigger and
the Milky Way is something bigger still.

If there’s a nightclub where a woman sings
sad songs but it’s just an act, she doesn’t
mean the sadness and everyone knows it,
I bet it’s in that direction somewhere.

Downtown in the Milky Way galaxy.

From Cygnus, past Lyra, to Aquila.

You should be able to see it from there.

The scorpion is sitting down for tea.

If some damn punk kid laughs at me and says,
“You can’t get there from here!” I point upward
and get mad and say, “You don’t even need
a telescope to see the brightest stars!”

From Cygnus, past Lyra, to Aquila.

You should be able to see it from there.

The scorpion is sitting down for tea.

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

Okay, so this completes my accidental trilogy about the Summer Triangle.

Expeditions And Wilderness Parties

An Albireo Question

I know just yesterday [!] I said today I was going to write something about the great science fiction movie “Forbidden Planet,” but when I actually sat down and started typing I wrote this instead. Sorry. I’ll probably talk more about “Forbidden Planet” in some future post.

Telescopes can help us see. And nowadays most telescopes are sold with computers built into the mounting so telescopes know where to look. But even those robot telescopes can only guess at what we want to see. And telescopes, even the very best robot telescopes, don’t have a clue where we want to go or why we want to go there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Throwing Rocks At Tin Cans

“Another one of them new worlds. No beer, no women, no pool parlors, nothing. Nothing to do but throw rocks at tin cans, and we gotta bring our own cans.”

Earl Holliman as
the spaceship’s cook

So it’s the future—the real good future,
the one with cool interstellar spaceships
that travel faster than light—and people
still build conversations around tin cans.

Beyond that minor complaint, however,
that’s one of my favorite lines from films.

It’s funny, so you think about the words,
but then after you see the entire film,
if you’re a person who thinks about film,
all of the words become evocative.

On the planet that appears so empty,
someone in-the-know can have anything.

And there is a tin can—so to speak—there
already, the metal robot Robby.

And when everything starts to fall apart
all the high technology and weapons
turn out to be about as meaningful
in struggles that arise out of our hearts
as would time spent throwing rocks at tin cans.

So in the future, if we somehow get
the real good one, the one with cool spaceships
that travel faster than light and visit
all manner of fantastic new planets,
remember to count on the kitchen staff
to cook up some tasty philosophy.

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

Why Did I Write This?

Last week Friday I did a post that talked about the star Albireo. That’s a beautiful star in the constellation Cygnus, the swan.

Two weeks ago Friday I did a post that talked about the star Vega. That’s the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the harp.

Well, I didn’t plan it at all, but that sort of created the start of a trilogy.

Cygnus the swan and Lyra the harp are two constellations of what astronomers call the Summer Triangle.

So this Friday, tomorrow, I pretty much have to complete the trilogy and do a post about the star Altair in the constellation Aquila, the eagle. Aquila is the third constellation in the Summer Triangle.

I realized last weekend I would need to do a post about Altair and Aquila this Friday, but I couldn’t think of anything to say.

At some point this week, I remembered that the story of the movie “Forbidden Planet” takes place on a planet they call Altair IV.

There you go!

So, today’s post is just me: 1) killing time until tomorrow; and 2) trying to think of some topic from the movie, “Forbidden Planet,” that I can use to write about tomorrow.

I still can’t think of anything. But I’m going to work on it. That will finish off the Summer Triangle trilogy that I didn’t even know I was going to do.

Maybe something will occur to me tomorrow when I’m in the kitchen cooking.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beautiful People Are Courageous

Edgar Degas is well known as a painter of the human figure. One immediately associates him with ballet dancers, portraits, women at their toilette, laundry women, cabaret singers and racecourse scenes. His work epitomises life in Paris, where he was born and where he spent his life, mostly in Montmartre. Degas, in fact, poured scorn on his fellow Impressionists who painted en plein air, maintaining that 'real artists finish their work at home'. It comes as a great surprise then, to discover that when Degas held his first one-man show in Paris at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in November 1892, it was made up entirely of landscapes. 'The sudden eruption of landscapes at a one-man exhibition of monotypes partially overlaid with pastel at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in the winter of 1892 is therefore all the more curious. No oil paintings were shown - a departure from Degas' practice - and the fact that one-man shows were something Degas had never done before only adds to the curiosity.'

Edgar Degas: The Last Landscapes

Edgar Degas Houses at the Foot of a Cliff

The landscape I miss most is a window
from a small clothing store on the north side.

I guess it was a resale store that sold
high-end, high-fashion men’s and women’s clothes.

It was the most beautiful front window
of any kind of store I’ve ever seen.

Every week the window display was new,
and there never were manikins or props,
just men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
held in place by monofilament strings,
sometimes shaped by inserts in the clothing.

There was a fancy mall a block away
from the brick building around the window
but I have no memory of the mall.

And I remember the old brick building
only as four fragments around the glass
above and below and next to both sides
of the window in front of the display
of men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
carefully, thoughtfully, beautifully.

I remember thinking people I saw
going in and coming out of the store
were beautiful people too but I don’t
remember any specific person.

I never had the courage to go in.

I know I’m not a beautiful person.

I never photographed it or drew it.

I know I’m not a beautiful person.

The building is torn down now. The store’s gone.

I don’t know if the people who designed
the window displays work someplace else now.

I can write carefully and thoughtfully
but beautiful people are courageous.

This is as close as I will ever get
to men’s and women’s clothes arranged in space
carefully, thoughtfully, beautifully.

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

Et In Arcadia Ego

Fons Et Origo

Cordon Sanitaire

“So how much myth is good for us?”

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Mythic Landscape (And French Writers)

There is an influential opinion that the terms like ‘myth’, ‘mythological’ etc imply a negative connotation in the sense of something ‘untrue’ and therefore illusory at best and deceitful at worst. From the point of view of sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists, subjective ‘truisms’ can have immense power and extensive effect even where they intrude into everyday reality – one only has to think of the far-reaching consequences of dreams or religious faith – and in this case Meurger is trying to illuminate the ‘meaningfulness’ of narratives about encountering mysterious ‘creatures’ in the imaginative world he calls the ‘mythic landscape’.

Today’s post is me recommending a couple of very interesting posts at another blog.

But I want to say some stuff about these posts I’m recommending and, while doing that, I’m going to tie up one old loose end from here at Impossible Kisses.

First of all, here are the links I’m recommending.

Over at Loren Coleman’s website Cryptomundo, last month he talked about a book written by a French sociologist about lake monsters in Canada, published in English as “Lake Monster Traditions.” I’ve never read the English translation of this book, but it was an important book in Coleman’s life and his thoughts on the differences he perceived between the French edition and the English edition are interesting. That blog post is here:

Rethinking Lake Monster Traditions

Loren Coleman is a pretty influential guy in the world of Forteana and the publisher of the English edition of the book wrote a response to Coleman’s critique. That response includes some great background on the publishing business (the original English translation was made by the French publisher’s girlfriend!). That blog post is here:

Fortean Tomes Publisher Responds: Lake Monster Traditions Misunderstood

French writers are interesting.

And influential. This blog, of course, Impossible Kisses, was and continues to be influenced by the thoughts and writings of a French former astronomer named Jacques Vallee. His book “Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers” really popularized the paradigm of linking modern Forteana to ancient fairy-faith beliefs.

And beyond Forteana, Vallee was and continues to be very realistic and buttoned-down in his thinking. His book “Messengers of Deception: UFO Contacts and Cults” may have been the first—and may have been the most detailed—UFO-related book to focus on manipulations of fringe believers by government and military intelligence agencies. In that book Vallee had commented on the group that would later become known as the Heaven’s Gate cult. That particular study is still relevant today because similar and equally bizarre—or maybe even more bizarre—beliefs are being put in circulation by internet would-be gurus about the incoming comet Elenin. It is just an average comet by all astronomical and astrophysics metrics, but it is being manipulated—for some purpose—by fringe groups in the same way as the Hale-Bopp comet was manipulated. And we can only hope there will not be similar results.

And for me personally the topic of French writers goes all the way back to the Seventeenth Century. There was really interesting math stuff happening in France four or five hundred years ago. The philosopher and statesman Leibniz developed the calculus of infinitesimals, but more than just what we would call the calculus came of this work. The whole concept of “infinitesimals” became a topic in itself among French mathematicians and some of the stuff I’ve seen translated now and then is as much philosophy as it is mathematics. However, it is very hard to find any of this writing translated into English.

(This is oddly similar to what happened more recently with the catastrophe theory of Rene Thom. Thom developed the mathematical theory almost as a adjunct to his philosophical thinking, especially about morphogenesis in biology. But Thom’s original writing is very hard to find, and instead catastrophe theory in English became strange, faddish, complicated math almost divorced from the simple elegance of Thom’s original writing and thinking.)

A while ago in my post A Place To Read Books I’ve Never Read I mentioned that I’ve read many of the books I’ve wanted to read, then said that I haven’t yet read some French math books. The particular book I had in mind is Analyse des Infiniment Petits pour l'Intelligence des Lignes Courbes, which translates as “Analysis of the infinitely small to understand curves.” This book was published around 1696 and was written either by Guillaume de l'Hôpital or by Johann Bernoulli. No one seems to know. At any rate, I have now and then seen excerpts from it and it looks very interesting, but I’ve never found an English translation, not even at college libraries.

I’ve never found any of Rene Thom’s books in any easily available English editions, either.

And one of the scary things about wanting to read an English translation of the book by Guillaume de l'Hôpital (or Rene Thom’s works) is that I know that reading a bad translation can be worse than not reading the book at all. And I know that bad translations happen all the time. (As may have happened with the lake monster book.) Sometimes what happens is that text gets “modernized” and the philosophical elements (or the author’s examples or the author’s word choices) which the author was happy with when a book was first written get completely eliminated, or get completely re-written to fit modern theory about one thing or another. And the seemingly “out-of-date” philosophy (or other content) may have been the most interesting content of the book!

(Or, more seriously, the original content may have helped a reader understand the writer’s thinking, while re-written passages conforming to some contemporary pedagogy may, in fact, obscure a writer’s thinking. My experience has been that this kind of re-writing is, strangely, more common than anyone would expect.)

So, that’s today’s post. I really enjoyed reading those links from over at Cryptomundo and I wanted to share them. And the topic of French books—and English translations—is an important one to me because there are some things I’d like very much to read that seem to be only available in French. Or, more accurately, I mean the books are only available with a meaningful context around them to people who can read French.

So I am hoping someday to meet a pretty French mathematician or philosopher and I plan on buying her a lot of dinners if she will talk to me about this stuff.

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Inca Roads (Introduction)

A Typical Day On The Road To Utopia

The Road To Magonia

A Mussel Of A Different Color