Friday, September 30, 2011

A Flute Landscape

I’ve always suspected the dinosaurs
want to come back to enjoy chasing us
and, more to the point for them, eating us.

Do hippie girls want to come back and draw
flowers on their cheeks and create a movement
to throw away cells phones and computers?

Dinosaurs and hippie girls is a world
where Beethoven could come back to a bar
and play acoustic piano for tips.

One of the bits of stop-motion animation I enjoyed making the most is “Where Did The Cows Go?” I created that, of course, because of the horrible radiation issues farmers—and everybody else—in northern Japan were and are still dealing with because of the Fukushima meltdowns.

I’ve been thinking about this for at least two reasons.

One reason is, many people might not know this, but for the last few days a nuclear power plant in Michigan has been venting secondary steam into the atmosphere. Supposedly it is just small amounts of tritium. But the power plant is right on Lake Michigan and for much of this week the wind around Chicago was what we call lake-effect wind, blowing from east-to-west. So, in our own little, trivial way, Chicagoans have joined the 21st century and become compatriots of the Fukushima cows.

So I’ve been thinking of recording and posting a guitar version of the little song from that animation.

That’s the second reason I’ve been thinking about this melody.

I’ve become very interested in the differences—real, perceived and imaginary—between high-end audio and cheap little speaker audio.

I’m not going to put up a guitar version today, but I might do it in the coming weeks.


This is the little melody from “Where Did The Cows Go?” If you click on the music image, you can see the image much larger. The lyrics follow the rhythm pretty simply:

“Darling, where did the cows go?”
“They’re out back. But they don’t look at all well.”

I imagined this as a flute melody, and one of the amazing things about working with a music workstation is that I can play this on a keyboard, but hear it as a synthesized flute. Another cool thing is that I can play this any way I choose, capture it to a sequencer, and the sequencer can display what I play in standard music notation.

This is all pretty standard stuff nowadays, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot because so many musicians—or, rather, so many musicians on the internet—spend so much time talking about the sound of what they play that you almost never see anyone actually talking much about the content the sound is expressing.

I recently watched this video, for instance, of a very good musician named Adrien Scott (of Air Supply, remember them?) demonstrating the new Roland Jupiter-80. It’s a nice demo and Scott has been involved with synthesizers for a long time so he is an expert presenter.

(There are especially good parts at 2 minutes 33 seconds, and 3 minutes 23 seconds, but the whole video is interesting, too, so you may want to watch the whole thing if you have eighteen minutes available.)

But I was really struck a couple of times when he says things like, “Why play this sound”—and then he presses a key and makes a bleeping sound—“when you can play this sound”—and he adjusts some setting then presses the same key again but this time makes a slightly different bleeping sound.

Even if we ignore the philosophical issue of defining music as sound rather than, well, music, in demonstrations like this often to my ears the difference between the old, “bad” bleeping sound and the new, wonderful, high-tech and expensive “good” bleeping sound is so subtle that I wonder if people, say, jogging while listening to iPod headphones could even tell the two bleeps apart?

It’s interesting because of the philosophical issues, the practical issues and the financial issues.

This is an informal comparison of the three typical approximate price points:

Casio WK-7500: $400
Yamaha PSR-S910: $1,800
Korg Kronos: $3,500

(The Jupiter-80 doesn’t have a sequencer or recorder so it’s not really a workstation per se, but it is in the Kronos price range.)

It would be interesting for someone with access to all three of these keyboards to select standard piano sounds, play the same song, and upload the samples at standard YouTube resolution. I strongly suspect most people wouldn’t hear a difference between the Casio and the Kronos.

There’s even another option. If a person already owns a computer, there are so-called “hybrid” solutions like the Arturia Laboratory for about $400, which provide a high-quality keyboard controller which has almost no functionality built into it, and various software programs which offer all the functionality—and sometimes more—of even the high-end dedicated workstations.


But all this stuff—the technology stuff, I mean—always makes me wonder if something is getting lost. No, it doesn’t make me wonder if something is getting lost. I know something is getting lost. It makes me wonder how much is getting lost.

I’ve talked about my friend Alison, the artist and graphic designer. One time she went out for a job interview and when she got back we talked and, to my horror, she started crying. The whole job interview, for her, wasn’t about her art abilities or her job skills or her degree from the Art Institute, it was about which computer hardware systems she liked and used, and which software programs she was most expert in. Well, she was a person who didn’t like computers. She wasn’t an expert with any hardware or software. And she felt her entire profession leaving her behind and embracing computer operators—computer operators with graphic design skills, but nonetheless the focus had shifted completely onto the tools side of the equation.

That same thing seems to be happening in the music world. Music skills are still in the equation, of course, but the focus seems to have shifted to the tools. Computer operators with music skills.

(And, of course, this is a bigger issue still. I did a post about a Bob Berman article describing how some professional astronomers don’t know the sky at all, and depend on computers to target their telescopes. Computer operators with astronomy skills. Obviously I could go on. Cameras are little computers now. Computer operators with photography skills. And, more seriously, military drones are killing a lot of people these days. Computer operators with soldier skills.)

I’m wondering how much is getting lost and I’m wondering: What kind of world are we creating?


When the whole world has been reduced to tools and tool-users, will there be any place for art?


Wind in the junkyard
blows across rusted metal
like a flute landscape.

Is this a junkyard church, this decay
around us, bricks, steel and broken glass?
Do rusted gears not turning say mass,
is their oxidation how they pray?

Thick clouds turn sunlight to shades of gray.
A photographer kneels in the grass,
hesitant to intrude, to trespass
the broken bricks and cut wires display.

Tiny computers, tiny motors,
focus the camera in the dim light.
The photographer just frames the shot.

Old factories. Old houses. Old stores.
Broken junk transfigures in our sight.
Tiny glories that won’t be forgot.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Real Water Colors (With Figures)

Real water colors —
We’re figures in a landscape
under a rainbow.

This afternoon as I was leaving my building, two young teenage girls were walking past. One girl, tall and thin, was staring at her phone as she walked and thumbing something on the phone’s keypad. The other girl, shorter but thin too, looked up at the street light in the middle of the block. She asked her friend, “Why are the street lights on in the middle of the day?”

Her friend continued to stare at her phone, continued to thumb the keypad. She said, in an archly bored voice, “Who cares why the street lights are on in the middle of the day?”

I can verify that women of all ages never lose the ability to speak in that archly bored tone. And they never lose the desire to speak in that tone.

Anyway, I thought the bored girl’s friend asked a good question. I first noticed a couple of months ago that the street lights around here were on during the day. I posted about it—in The Criss-Crossing Of Sara’s Hair—and I thought power blackouts had disrupted some timer circuit. But whatever the issue was, it never got fixed.

So street lights are on during the day around here.

I can kind of prove it.

Later this afternoon, when the Sun was low in the west, we had a rain shower. As I was getting soaked because I didn’t have an umbrella with me, I thought, well, when the Sun’s out during a rain shower, you can sometimes see a rainbow. So I looked to the west to see exactly where the Sun was, then I looked to the east in exactly the opposite direction. And there it was, about a quarter arc of a rainbow. Just a short little beautiful segment of a rainbow. And there was just the hint of a secondary rainbow off to the right, but everything was kind of hard to see. I don’t know if I’d have seen even the short segment if I hadn’t actually looked for a rainbow opposite the Sun.

Oh, so, if you click on the photo to enlarge it and look carefully at the corner street light, you can sort of see that the street light is on even though the Sun is still up.

Sunlight shining on a street light under a rainbow.

If those two teenager girls were still outside, I bet the tall girl still would have been playing with her phone and wouldn’t have noticed the rainbow. And if her friend had pointed it out to her, I bet the girl with the phone would have said something like, “Yeah. It’s a rainbow. So?”

And I know exactly the tone of voice she would have said it in.

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

Clowns, Women, But First A Rainbow

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dinosaurs And Hippie Girls Is A World

Q: Why did the hippie girl go home with Beethoven?

A: When she heard that at home he had eighty-eight keys, she thought he could supply her with joy for years!

I’ve always suspected the dinosaurs
want to come back to enjoy chasing us
and, more to the point for them, eating us.

Do hippie girls want to come back and draw
flowers on their cheeks and create a movement
to throw away cell phones and computers?

Dinosaurs and hippie girls is a world
where Beethoven could come back to a bar
and play acoustic piano for tips.

Joni sat in with us during the second show and we improvised a thing that was really good - ending it with her singing 'Duke of Earl'. She came on stage, we did a few chords for her and she started reciting this poem: 'Penelope wants to fuck the sea...' — Quote attributed to Frank Zappa

from the Zappa Wiki

There is an alternate history
of this Joni Mitchell
meets Frank Zappa story
available on the internet.

yeh, i was at that show when mitchell improvised a tune about a girl who wanted to fuck the sea. while she tried to be ethereal and haunting, zappa made the band alternate 2 monster chords a tritone apart at an ominous largo tempo. mitchell looked a little thrown by this and glanced over at zappa, as if she wasn't expecting him to lob her a curve ball.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Watercolors And Dive Bombers

I’m not sure what to make of today’s post, but I’m going to go with it. It’s a series of things that are interesting to me and I don’t have any linking scheme or anything, but I like these individual parts, so, here goes nothing. (Literally!)


I love watercolor paintings. And I love the process of watercolor painting. To my mind, it is the most thoughtful painting method and it produces the most beautiful results. For instance, I’ve posted about how much I like the paintings of British artist Ian Sidaway.

Good watercolors are as beautiful as paintings can be.

But, really, bad watercolors are awful.

However, for most of my life when I painted I painted from dark-to-light with opaque media. For some reason, my initial reaction to watercolors was harsh. Even when I was interested in the medium, I still was very dismissive.

For instance, in 2006 I posted a poem I’d written years earlier:

Winston Churchill Described Paintings As Cryptograms On Canvas

I’d forgotten that poem had a indirect reference to “bistre” in it, describing how I mixed my blacks, and I’d forgotten that poem mentioned Winston Churchill in the title.


Earlier today I was visiting the Model Airplane News website. (Yeah, I know I never mentioned model airplanes before. But sometimes I read the magazine that’s now called Electric Flight.) Anyway, I was. I was checking out photos of a model called the ‘Syncro’ which is an electric ducted-fan model plane that can switch between glider wings and sport-flyer wings. I think ducted-fans are perfect for powering up gliders, even though folding props might make more sense. I don’t have one of these now, but there may be one of these in my future.

But down in the lower right on the web page, they had a poll in progress, asking what is your favorite WWII Axis fighter plane:

I couldn’t believe I had a favorite, but I did, so I voted for the Stuka.

I didn’t do well in the poll. Only 13% of the voters shared my favorite Axis fighter. But, nonetheless, I stand by my choice.


Also earlier today I read this sentence: “These differing effects of white, deriving solely from the qualities of the colors separating them, fail to materialize whenever it is impossible to distinguish them.”

What a sentence. Isn’t that like saying, for instance, ‘These different intervals of pitch become impossible to hear when they become inaudible’?

That sentence comes from this paragraph attempting to find a logical scheme to Cezanne’s watercolor method:

Once again it must be remembered that in watercolor, though they appear to be the same, quite opposite functions are assigned to the ‘highest’ and the ‘lowest’ brightnesses, to highlight white and background white. The form of an apple, for example, is lifted away from the neutral paper white of the ground by means of a few layers of dark colors. However, at the same time the paper white, in a shape left unpainted and surrounded by bright color, is given to describe the form of the apple’s most rounded center. The one white is thus the deepest background while the other, in the opposite direction, has been developed step by step into the point of highest brightness. The sharp contrast between the dark tones of the shadows and the resulting ‘cold’ white of the ground inevitably places this one in the plane lying further back, as opposed to the ‘warm’ white that is created out of gradually brightening layers of color. Between these two qualities of whiteness the colors themselves are registered as increasing and decreasing light energy levels. So as to tie together foreground and background more firmly, Cezanne often created generous transition gradations between highlights and ground white, so that only closer analysis reveals their origin in the simple white of the paper. These differing effects of white, deriving solely from the qualities of the colors separating them, fail to materialize whenever it is impossible to distinguish them.

You read stuff like that and you sigh. Or at least I do.

That’s author Gotz Adriani writing in his comprehensive collection, “Cezanne Watercolors.” It’s a good book, but you can’t take the commentary too seriously.

I mean, first of all, the method as described, in itself, makes a kind of sense. If you paint that way, you can create images that make a kind of visual sense.

On the other hand, if you actually look at Cezanne’s watercolors, however, hardly any actually provide any evidence for Cezanne consciously working in this manner. One or two do. But usually whites are scattered all over the place. Forms, even simple forms like apples and pears, will have either no highlights at all, or multiple highlights at inconsistent locations.

Stuff like this, to me, makes the medium of watercolor seem trivial and idiosyncratic and, for the most part, absurd. I mean, some of Cezanne’s watercolors are interesting and even pretty. But when academics try to expand on the images and make them more than one bizarre old man’s idiosyncratic attempts at a medium he didn’t understand, it’s hard to do more than sigh.

British watercolorists typically approached watercolor with a better attitude than their French contemporaries. Even though Berthe Morisot painted maybe my favorite watercolor of all time, she was using the medium in a classically French way, where the touch of the brush was more important than the flow of a wash.

The British, I think, win the watercolor war.


The Stuka was a very effective ground-attack aircraft early in World War Two. After the Battle of Britain, however, when the Germans lost air superiority and couldn’t provide fighter cover for the Stuka, it became much less effective simply because Allied fighters could harass the Stuka so easily it couldn’t execute precision dives against targets.

Never bet against the Brits.

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

This Airship, This Woman, This Dream

The Five Student Colors Of L. S. Lowry

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mice Elf Again

I’m losing status at the high school
I used to think that it was my school
... All the pom-pom girls
Look down their nose at me
They had painted tons of posters
I had painted three

Status Back Baby
Frank Zappa

So today I was in a library. (I have completely lost my status at the libraries. I’m just a guy who likes books and nowadays libraries throw away books.)

Anyway, today I was in a library.

Over the weekend I read a book about Pink Floyd written by Nick Mason, the drummer from the group, and I read a book by a Famous Groupie who’d gotten her start “pulling” the group’s manager, and then turned her attention to poor Syd Barrett. (Everyone assumes Barrett went nuts from doing three or four acid trips a day, every day, but what if it was his affair with Jenny that pushed him into the twilight zone?)

It was time for me to return those books.

I managed to get into and out of a library without anything bad happening, but on the way out I saw that the library had set up a display of various Snow White books and one of the books had a beautiful cover. The cover was so beautiful I stopped and stared. Then I kneeled down to stare more closely. Finally I grabbed a picture of the picture on the cover because it was so beautiful. This picture:

Isn’t that great? I’ve talked about book illustrations before. The artists who do book covers are often vastly better artists than the artists doing graphic novels. That illustration is by Nancy Eckholm Burkert.

I didn’t check out the book—it was in a display—but I believe that image is “just” a color pencil illustration. But to my eyes that’s about as beautiful as an illustration can get. And from reading the comments over at Amazon, apparently a lot of people love the illustrations in this book. And, apparently, the version of Snow White by Randall Jarrell—a real writer—is a favorite of many people since he kind of ‘takes back’ the Snow White story from the Disneyfication variations that are so common today.

So today was a good day. It’s always a good day when you discover a new artist to look up and check out.

Today was good for another reason, too.

I want to thank you
For letting me
Be myself

A long time ago, some millionaire threw a birthday party for himself and he hired a super-famous band and when the band was performing, the millionaire got up on stage with them and sang a song with them. When you are super-rich and paying all the bills, even the cool musicians let you get away with jackass stuff like that.

I no longer remember who the millionaire was or who the cool band was or what song the guy sang with the band.

But when I talked about the story with my friend Linda, she asked me what song I would sing if I were rich enough to throw a party for myself and hire a famous band and sing along with them. I said I’d like to sing along with Sly Stone and sing, “I want to thank you, for letting me, be myself, again,” because I know I’m sometimes difficult to spend time with and I really do love everyone who puts up with me.

So I’ve always had a lot of affection for Sly Stone. Even though, of course, legend has it that he is, possibly, the most irresponsible performer in the whole pantheon of irresponsible pop stars.

Today the first news story I saw on the internet was the very sad story that Sly Stone is having all sorts of money problems and is something like homeless and living in a van.

And then later today—before I went to the library—I was chatting with a beautiful woman and I brought up the news story about Sly Stone and she didn’t remember, off hand, any of his hits. I said, “You’d know them if you heard them.”

So it became one of those moments. I was able to burst into song for a beautiful woman. And I did. I sang that bit: “I’d like to thank you, for letting me, be myself, again.”

It’s probably something like twenty-five years later, since I sang the words to Linda, but I still enjoy singing them. And I kind of suspect the woman I sang to today kind of enjoyed having someone burst into song while talking to her.

I’ve lost all my status at the libraries. But every now and then I get a little status back. Out there in the wild.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Thunderous Tragedy Of Batteries

The idea grabbed him, wouldn’t be ignored,
but sitting in the pilothouse of his boat
he tried, watching things people threw away float
around the harbor where he kept his boat moored.

He hoped for rain. It didn’t. Bright sunlight poured
down like ironic storms. Sounds formed in his throat
and he put words around them the way a coat
kept him warm and framed his shape at his keyboard.

In a world of creatures, a world of instinct,
the way a boat at anchor has its tether
a battery for a creature of magic

can connect things. “Magic,” the alchemist winked.
“Sky and ground and lightning in heavy weather.
Boats float. But storms pass. A feature too tragic.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Thunderous Glamour Of Batteries

“What are you doing?”

“I’m putting in fresh batteries.”

He asked, “Does it matter?”

She said, “When people write songs, pop songs, they usually try to make them two and a half or three minutes long. With new batteries I’ll be able to play quite a lot of songs.”

He asked, “Does it matter?”

She looked around. As far as she could see in all directions, everything was flat. But flat like a parking lot. Not completely flat, but kind of undulating. Little depressions. Little rises. Little bits of jagged edges jutting up here and there.

She said, “It’s not windy now, but when the wind blows, it makes whistling sounds blowing over the little bits that stick up. And sometimes you can hear thunder off in the distance. There still seems to be a place for noise. If there’s a place for noise, maybe there’s a place for music.”

He stood up, looked around and sighed. He walked away.

She watched him, and in the bright sunlight her eyes were drawn to his shadow on the ground next to him as he walked away. The shadow was an outline of his form, but the edges of the outline weren’t straight. The edges of his outline curved gently on the ground because the ground wasn’t quite flat. And jagged bits of ground introduced sharp edges now and then into his outline.

She smiled. She pressed the On button. She struck a chord.

In a soft voice, she sang:

This world makes our shadows
More interesting than it makes us
But sometimes the wind blows
And it makes us sound glamorous

She paused, thinking. She wanted to get the rest of the chord progression, and the rest of the words, just right.

She stopped playing and singing to think, but her body kept time, swaying slightly forward and back in the tempo she had been playing and singing. Her shadow moved, too, uneven on the uneven ground, but she didn’t notice because she was thinking about her song.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Equinox And The Tropics And Me

The whole constellation of Cancer was invisible to my plain eyes in the light polluted skies here south of Chicago. With binoculars I was able to see Delta and Gamma Cancri easily enough. Through my binoculars the Beehive was a just barely visible smudge between the two stars. But through my telescope the Beehive was fantastic. That whole experience made me very thoughtful for some reason.

Just after sundown, Capricornus is visible in the southeast sky. One of my favorite celestial sights is Beta Capricorni. This is a wide binary star that displays remarkable colors. The brighter component is a golden-orange tint, and the dimmer companion is cerulean blue.

Today’s post is a kind of confession, but it’s such a dim-witted, pointless confession I’m almost ashamed to post it.


And I really should save this post for Friday, but I’m thinking about it now so I’m going to do it now.

Finally, this is going to be a strange post in that it is not really empty in terms of content. However, the content is so trivial and meaningless outside of my own subjective world that, again, I’m almost ashamed to post it.


But this is something I think about a lot, so I want to post it. It’s an example of knowing something—for years!—without even knowing that you know it. It’s an example of the difference between intellectual brain knowledge and experiential body-knowledge.

It’s all about the tropics. Here goes.


So this Friday is the autumnal equinox.

It’s the start of fall.

In astronomical terms, Friday is one of the two times during the year when the Sun will be almost directly between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn.

Now here’s the deal: Henry Miller wrote a couple of books, “The Tropic of Cancer” and “The Tropic of Capricorn.” I’ve never read either of those books, but I know a lot of cool people have read those books and liked them a lot. The hipness of the books even made it into pop culture when Rosanna Arquette played a cool, beautiful girl who talks about them in the Martin Scorsese film, “After Hours.”

But that’s not what the deal is with me exactly. My issue is: All my life I’ve been interested in astronomy, but for some reason that eludes me, I never could remember which tropic marked summer and which tropic marked winter.

I knew there were two tropics, of course. And I knew that, in fact, we get the phrase “the tropics” in geography because it refers to the areas north and south of the equator where the Sun appears directly overhead, the north line of latitude and the south line of latitude which mark the extremes of the Sun’s apparent movement (which, of course, is really caused by the axial tilt of the Earth and the Earth’s yearly motion around the Sun).

This might sound crazy, but I knew all this stuff as a kid. I used to hang out at the Adler Planetarium and Northwestern University the way other kids hung out at the street corner.

But I always confused the two labels on the tropics and I always had to look at a map to see which tropic was which. And I knew Henry Miller had written the two books that cool people liked so I figured everyone knew about this tropic stuff but me.

I’m grimacing as I type this because it’s so dumb.

Anyway. At some point, as a movie buff, I learned that Alfred Hitchcock made a film called “Under Capricorn” and I knew that the story takes place in Australia and I knew that Australia was south of the equator so I was able to make this link from an entirely different area of thought to associate the tropic of Capricorn with the Sun moving south during the Northern hemisphere’s winter.

That kind of worked as a mental trick to remember which tropic was which, but it always felt like what programmers call a “kludge”—something that works but something that is inelegant and not really the way something should be implemented. I mean, I was a science buff. I should be able to remember something scientific without having to think about pop films.

Then something wildly unexpected happened.

Over the years of doing this blog, now and then I’ve done astronomy posts. I’ve mentioned checking out Mars passing in front of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer. And I’ve talked about star-hoping through Capricorn and how one of my favorite double stars is in Capricorn.

Here’s what happened.

One night I was standing in my back yard looking at the beautiful, colorful Beta Capricorni. And, just absently, I thought to myself, “Isn’t it strange that Capricorn and Cancer are both Zodiac constellations but Cancer, north of the celestial equator, appears so high in the sky and Capricorn, south of the celestial equator, appears so low in the sky.”

And then it was like one of those moments when someone throws a switch and a light comes on or a Zen monk hits another Zen monk in the head with a bamboo stick.

Of course, I realized, that’s where the tropics come from!

Ancient sailors watched the Sun appear to move north, appear to rise in the sky and then stop around the level of the constellation Cancer. Then sailors watched the Sun appear to go low in the sky and then stop around the level of the constellation Capricorn.

The tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn. They’re named after the constellations, of course, because one is north of the celestial equator and one is south. And the celestial equator is more or less the projection of the Earth’s equator onto the celestial sphere.

Oh my.

I knew all that stuff when I was a kid. But it wasn’t until I was actually standing in my backyard physically looking at Capricorn (and having recently also physically looked at Cancer) that the knowledge in my head took on real meaning for me and I understood the reality behind the names of those lines of latitude.

This still almost gives me goose-bumps, remembering how the realization touched me so deeply. It was almost a sensation of magic, a connection to the ancient past, to those ancient sailors for whom the sky was so real, for whom the sky provided actual real landmarks that divided and bounded their day-to-day (or night-to-night) world.

And, of course, it became impossible for me to ever forget which tropic was which. It’s not even something anyone has to remember. On any clear night you can go outside and see which tropic is which! (Well, around here you need binoculars to see Cancer, but you know what I mean.)

So this Friday is the autumnal equinox.

The Sun is more or less right above the Earth’s equator. The Sun is in the process of moving south, moving from the tropic of Cancer to the tropic of Capricorn.

It took me almost fifty years to figure it out but: The Sun is moving from the tropic of Cancer to the tropic of Capricorn — Anyone can see that!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Indigestion” (And A Victorine Meurent Update!)

I have an upset stomach right now, so I am going to cheat a little bit and just recommend another blog today. But I am going to do a little blogging.

First of all, I’ve mentioned in a post last week that I’m an idiot and that’s pretty much why I have a stomach ache. This summer, I’ve had terrible allergy attacks. I’ve always noticed that my allergies almost never act up if I manage my blood sugar carefully and prepare my meals carefully.

Sounds simple.

So, today was going really well. I was feeling good. Then, at some point I thought, “Well, if I’m feeling good, maybe I could have just a bit of candy.”

So I had a piece of chocolate. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon I polished off something like eight ounces of Hershey miniatures.

And now I’ve got an upset stomach. Surprise, surprise.

Why would I even buy candy? Why would I have candy in the house? I’m an idiot.

Serves me right.

Okay. Anyway.

Recently reading around on the internet I saw the word “indigestion” applied in an interesting context and since I’ve got an upset stomach, I’m going to share where I read about “indigestion.”

Look at this painting:

This was painted by a British artist right around the time Impressionism was happening in France. The Pre-Raphaelites in Britain attempted to embrace some of the elements of Impressionism, but they did it after their own fashion.

So, although this painting may have been started in the open air and may have depicted an actual location in England—and featured more or less “common” looking people as subjects—it is in no way an attempt to capture an actual “moment” of real life or an impression of a moment.

This artist—Holman Hunt—crafted this painting as an allegory. It’s called “The Hireling Shepherd.” His intention was for the shepherd to represent the “establishment” of British clergy turning their attention to “lofty ideals” while their flocks strayed and suffered from inattention.


Bright colors. A “natural” scene and “common” people pretty much summed up this British approach to Impressionism. Nobody, today, would see much Impressionism here, I don’t think, but British art critics responded to the Pre-Raphaelites with a similar derision to what the “real” Impressionists were dealing with in France.

British art critics looked at paintings like this and said the colors gave them indigestion.

Winsor and Newton has an article on the Pre-Raphaelites at their website. The company was around back then [!] and worked with influential avant-garde artists to develop bright colors and permanent colors.

So something good came of such paintings.

Here’s the link:

William Holman Hunt & The Pre-Raphaelites Colour Palettes

Now I’m going to bed early. Tomorrow I’m going to try and be better about not eating stupid things.

Oh man. And I once built a whole tongue-in-cheek blog post around the punchline that just because you can eat something, that doesn't mean you should!

The real moral of the Little Red Riding Hood mythos is: Just because something looks good that doesn’t mean you should eat it.

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Wednesday Update

It’s worth noting that the painting style of the Pre-Raphaelites was a painterly approach to what modern photographers call a “high dynamic range” image. I mentioned this topic in Motion Beyond The Fox Point.

In a high dynamic range image, all areas of the image are treated as mid-values, and “lights” and “darks” are treated as variations within that mid-value range rather than abstract extremes, so there is no washing out of color saturation in the brights, and no obscuring loss of saturation in the darks.

This is quite in contrast to the various approaches of chiaroscuro in art history, which used—either rationally or intuitively—theory of light on form to craft images which seemed to exist in deep space and with dramatic, three-dimensional form.

I’m not going to dwell on it here, but this a very interesting area. Manet, of course, was criticized in France for doing the opposite of this, focusing on brights and darks and hardly rendering mid-tones.

European old masters typically worked with an abstract range—the light, the half-tones, shadows and reflected light. This has continued even into the modern world where a lot of graphic arts, for instance a lot of classic-style comics work, simplifies that traditional range to only two values, the lights and the darks, and then uses white for anything in the light and black for anything in the dark.

That abstract approach to image making seems to be consistent with the mechanics of human perception. And if the edges of the light and dark areas are considered very carefully, we can sometimes “see” much more detail than the image actually contains.

And that’s why modern high-dynamic range photographs (and Pre-Raphaelites paintings) have a kind of unworldly glow to them. They are consistent with how we think about a scene, but quite at odds with how we perceive a scene.

Now high-dynamic range images are a fun novelty. In nineteenth century England and elsewhere they were something like literally unreal, and they generated the extreme reactions from, I believe, what we would now call the cognitive dissonance between critics’ understanding of images-as-perceived and images which played something like perceptual games with our reactions to light and dark and color.

Wide Dynamic Range at Wikipedia

High Dynamic Range Imaging at Wikipedia

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Yet Still More Wednesday Update

Oh boy. In the course of looking around at examples of Manet’s focusing on highlights, I just found a photography blog that does a post with a photograph of Victorine Meurent [!!!] and includes some great modern updating of Meurent’s life and reputation, apparently quoting a British newspaper. For instance, this tidbit:

It was more than a century after Edouard Manet's death that the art historian Eunice Lipton discovered that his model, Victorine Meurent, had actually lived to be 83. And it seems unlikely that she was his grisette - a young woman in a casual relationship with an artist - let alone a prostitute. Manet died at 51 from complications related to treatment for syphilis, then an incurable disease. If there had been a sexual relationship, Meurent would probably have died far earlier than she did.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009: Victorine Meurent

Quote apparently taken from here:

Manet's favourite model, Victorine Meurent, has often been dismissed as a drunk and a prostitute. But as V R Main discovers, she was actually an ambitious artist

The Guardian, Thursday 2 October 2008

Amazon link to V. R. Main's book:

A Woman With No Clothes On

4/18/13 Apology: That photograph is NOT Victorine Meurent. It is the wife of photographer Nadar, Ernestine Nadar. For an explanation, see my post Notes From France! (Victorine Meurent Update!). I should read what I write. What did I quote myself saying, above? Just because something looks good that doesn’t mean you should eat it. Indeed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hood Ornaments And Exploding Stars

I’ve got two little things today. So far as I can tell, they are completely unrelated.

[ As I type this, I’m changing my mind, a little. I’m going to leave that top part in because the change I’m making was sparked by my typing the words “completely unrelated.” ]

I’ve got three little things today. They are related only by how they are unrelated.

Okay, this will be another couple of Barangrill stories, but I’m not going to put the Joni Mitchell embed on the post. But the YouTube clip hasn’t disappeared, so it is still available over on my post “What I Learned Today At Barangrill.”


This afternoon I walked across a parking lot (in Barangrill). At some point, the fingers of my right hand brushed against the hood ornament of a car. Completely accidently. My fingers just brushed against the hood ornament, and I felt the hood ornament bend down all out-of-shape and stay bent down.

I stopped and took a look at what I’d done. I saw, immediately, that the hood ornament was a Mercedes Benz hood ornament. And the car was some fancy, mid-sized Mercedes.

I thought, “What the hell, I’ve just broken a car that cost something like a hundred grand!”

But I looked more closely at the hood ornament that was bent almost completely sideways. Very carefully I touched the hood ornament, and moved it back into place. And it moved back into place perfectly.

I looked very closely.

It was some cool design for a hood ornament mount that I had never seen before.

Instead of just screwing the hood ornament onto the hood, or instead of attaching the hood ornament with a spring underneath, this model Mercedes had a hood ornament mounted on a little metal sphere. And the sphere was mounted in a round base that gripped the sphere, but didn’t prevent it from rotating in any direction.

So the hood ornament could be positioned normally, upright and facing forward. But if anyone or anything bumped into it, the hood ornament didn’t break, it just shifted around on the spherical base.

I felt a hundred thousand dollars richer when I realized I hadn’t broken the fancy car.

And I admired the design of the hood ornament. Cool German design and engineering.

That’s one of the reasons I bought a camera with a Leica lens.

Design and engineering.

They’re there to be seen:
Design and engineering.
But you have to look.


Also today I was thinking about this story from the Sky and Telescope website:

M101's Supernova Shines On

That supernova is blazing away in a galaxy I’ve written about here!

Looking To Fall Into The Bear’s Spirals

The galaxies of Ursa Major aren’t too difficult to see, but I’ve never been able to track them down under the bright skies of Chicago. I’ve got a four inch refractor now, but since I’ve gotten my new telescope I’ve never had a good view of the northern sky.

This is a cool story because in almost any context the galaxies of Ursa Major are as far away as far can be. On the other hand, when it comes to observing supernova explosions, many of the galaxies astronomers and astrophysicists study are even still farther away. So this supernova is giving scientists a great show.

And it’s a show that almost all amateur astronomers can get a glimpse of because the galaxy, M101, isn’t too hard to see, by deep sky standards. Even with my four inch refractor I may have been able to see it, if only I’d had a clear northern view.

Maybe next time.


After my adventure with the Mercedes Benz hood ornament, I walked to a nearby little store (just across the street from Barangrill). The beautiful woman who works at the store would look even more beautiful sipping a Singapore Sling.

In the parking lot by the little store, a fire department ambulance and pumper truck were responding to help a senior citizen who had passed out walking to his car.

The little store had the front door blocked open because the weather was nice today. As I was chatting with the beautiful woman who works at the store, I could see the fire department ambulance and fire truck outside.

And I realized that the beautiful woman was wearing a red hoodie that was almost exactly the same shade of red as the fire department trucks outside.

Red here, red there.

I looked around and, as it happened, nothing else around me was red or even reddish. The decorations inside were all built around beige and brown tones. Outside, the other vehicles visible in the parking lot were all cool tones.

So the only red colors around me were the red hoodie on the beautiful woman I was talking to, and the red paint of the fire department vehicles outside. And they were almost the same hues of red.

So—of course—I got pretty excited and explained to the beautiful woman why I was suddenly so animated.

Red here, red there.

Last Friday Thursday I talked about moments like that for me. The beautiful woman in the little store was the kind of person who didn’t smile at all at my idea of an exciting moment.

But it was still fun for me.


Red here, red there. And a supernova nearby in a galaxy that I once used as an example of something that was far away.


To me, distance—here and there—is like jazz,
it’s like a jazz arrangement of a song
where the musicians know what melody
they are improvising around and I
can almost recognize the melody
but I can’t recognize the melody
but it’s fun trying to figure it out.

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Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

A Bird Who Could Fly To Neptune

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Captain Kirk Exorcism

This morning I was a little late getting somewhere. That caused this conversation snippet:

“I’m sorry I’m late,” I said. “This summer, allergies are killing me. I took Benadryl last night and this morning I was late getting up. I feel totally inadequate. Captain Kirk never would have been late.”

“No, Captain Kirk might have been late,” the person said. “But Captain Kirk wouldn’t have been late because of allergies. He’d have been late because he was off banging some beautiful blue or green space girl.”

Anyway, now, in addition to all the other things I’m worried about, now I’m kind of worried about the amount of time I spend comparing myself to Captain Kirk and, of course, falling short of that high standard.

First of all, obviously, he’s a fictional character. Duh. It’s not even a real high standard. It’s a fictional high standard.

Second of all, he’s not even a real fictional character, he’s a TV fictional character. TV. Double-duh. Heck, I might as well feel proud of myself for (usually) being a more together person than Gilligan.

So I’m just going to stop it.

I’m going to perform a Captain Kirk exorcism on my psyche and stop comparing myself to this TV fictional character.

To help me get this TV fictional character out of my system, I’m going to devote today’s post to doing an index [an index!] of all the Captain Kirk references that have appeared here in this blog over the years. There don’t appear to be as many as I feared, so I will annotate them a little.

The Blogger search engine is something less than perfect, but I’m going to trust it for this task. I’ve remembered one post that the search engine—for some reason—misses, so maybe this index is reasonably complete. Here goes:

Blood All Over My Kitchen!

Princess From Atlantis Without A Band-Aid

These are pretty typical, I suppose, of how I think. I always think of those lines from “Celluloid Heroes” by the Kinks:

I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die

Captain Kirk always played through his pain. He helped everyone who needed help. He made every situation he was in better. Those are good things!

(I’m not even going to dredge up old Trek controversies, and in general I’m a fan of Harlan Ellison, but I thought the ending of “City on the Edge of Forever” was grotesquely contrived and totally out of character for both the series and Captain Kirk. Captain Kirk would have saved the girl AND found a way to get history back on track. That ending was an example of Ellison being bleak just for the sake of bleak. There are other issues with that episode, too, but, hey, the past is past. It’s just an old TV show. ’Nough said.)

The Built World Before The Wrecking Crew

“Watching T.V.”

These aren’t really my fault. They’re both “Captain Kirk” references from songs, one an old song from Germany and the other an old song from Britain. Of course, I remembered them, and posted them. My bad. (Isn’t it kind of interesting that Britain and Germany are historically kind of polarized cultures, yet young people from both countries have been so influenced by American TV that they would write songs with Captain Kirk in them? And one of those songs became something of a world-wide sensation!

The Law Of The Orchid And Rainbow Jungle

This is the entry in this index that I grimace over the most. This woman was named “Lori” and she was one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known. In my whole life, Lori is the only woman I’ve ever been friends with, then drifted apart from, and then actively sought out and became friends with again. Things still didn’t work out, and I wonder how much of that is because my stupid, cross-circuited brain is filled with ludicrous, absurd and unreal juxtapositions between actual life and pretend life?

“What Is It About You, Lana?”

I didn’t even remember this one. It’s a reference to the woman who appears a few other times in this blog as “Martha.” She was very cool, and I thought it was far below her abilities to waste her time writing a Star Trek novel.

Paris Hilton And The Kennedy Assassination — 2

This is another one typical of how I think. One time at our local library a nice guy retired and a very cool woman named Mary got promoted into his position. I stopped by to congratulate her and, without really thinking, I said, “So, I hear you’re the new Captain Kirk around here!” I felt kind of stupid, because Captain Kirk isn’t really a current metaphor. But everyone seemed to cut me some slack. (Although when I walked away everyone was probably shaking their head about me being an idiot. But at least they were nice to me while I was there. That’s really all I ask. Just be nice to me while I’m around.)

Saturday Afternoon Update: (Oh no. I told that story about Mary from the library ONLY to illustrate my use of “Captain Kirk” as a generic, person-in-charge label, NOT to imply any connection or similarity between Mary and Paris Hilton or the ‘Pink Camelot’ post. Mary is very smart and very helpful and very cool and has no connection of any kind to Paris Hilton. Other than that they are both attractive women. I’m sorry, Mary, if this post seemed to associate you with Paris Hilton in any way. But then, one of the points of this post is that I’m an idiot.)

Star Trek And Reality Revisionism

This one is fair, because I’m finding fault with Star Trek! As I should! It’s a TV show! Damn it!

Ashley And The Green Sweater (Part Two)

I spent a lot of time thinking about this when I wrote the short story. On one hand, out there in the real world you almost never hear a female human person make Star Trek references off-the-cuff. On the other hand, I have known a lot of females who were science fiction fans and, in odd situations, made surprising references to classic science fiction. So I left it in. In part, too, because Ashley was supposed to be possessed and doing things that were odd.

Okay. That’s about all I want to see or hear about Captain Kirk. Maybe for the rest of my life. I’m going to try and get better.

I’m trying to get better at lots of things. Writing, always. Music. Drawing and painting. Physical fitness. Mood-swings. To all these things (and a few others) I’m going to add: I’m going to try and get better about never comparing myself to Captain Kirk!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making Noise Between Puddles And Clouds

“Is it true the human body is mostly made of water?” I asked.

“Yes, I believe that’s true,” she said. “I think our bodies are something like eighty per cent water.”

“Yes, well,” I said, “I figure, puddles are water and they’re horizontal on the ground. And clouds are water and they’re all different shapes up in the sky. Humans are kind of vertical, moving around between the ground and the sky. Since puddles and humans and clouds are all made of water, I figure humans are, sort of, some kind of intermediate step between puddles and clouds.”

She smiled—it had some elements of a smirk to it, but it was still a smile—and took a deep breath. She said, “You spend a lot of time on the internet, don’t you?”

That was a conversation I had earlier today out in the real world.

I have a lot of conversations like that. I like to have them as quickly as possible when I meet someone. It saves time. Some people don’t smile at all. Some people smile with a bit of a smirk. And some people just smile.

Things usually work out best with people who just smile.


I had a lot of stuff to do today. Today was a crazy day for me.

That’s why I was out there in the real world talking to people.

Everything ended reasonably well, but I didn’t have too much time to prepare stuff for the blog here.

About the only thing I have is that conversation snippet.

I also have a cool link that I spent some time reading last night.

In the music world, right now two big companies have high-profile new synthesizers on the market. I’ve talked about the Korg Kronos a lot. I’ve also talked a lot about the company called Roland. Roland has a new machine called the Jupiter-80.

It’s an interesting marketing confrontation. They both cost about the same. (Way too expensive for normal humans!) But the keyboards are very different.

The Korg Kronos is very computer-like, a workstation, and is built around many different kinds of synthesizer “engines,” giving a user lots of tools for creating and manipulating sounds.

The Roland Jupiter-80 seems to be targeted more as a performance machine. There are almost no workstation features. It’s not a sampler. It’s not a recorder. And instead of being built around multiple synthesizer engines, it is built around a single combination, a coupling of traditional synthesis with special “behavior modeling” algorithms that attempt to produce sounds and articulations that are very realistic in the way they react to a player’s style of performance.

I haven’t had a chance to play a Jupiter-80 in real life, but I’ve read good things about it on the net.

It seems like a big gamble to me to introduce a machine, these days, with almost no workstation features. But it might be refreshing, to many musicians, to get that stuff off the keyboard since many musicians, these days, have those features on their computers anyway.

When I first heard about these two, I thought I’d be a Kronos person. But now I don’t know. More and more, I’m thinking the Jupiter-80 sounds cool.

It will be interesting to see how this competition works out in the market. I’m guessing one machine will sell better than the other, but I really have no idea or even a guess as to which machine will do better with musicians.


Over at a forum dedicated to Korg Kronos users, I saw an interesting thread recently.

Some Kronos users have reported a strange problem with the Kronos.

Something about the frequency distribution of the standard patches has turned up an odd characteristic. Some performing musicians are reporting that the Kronos sounds great played as a solo instrument, but when it’s used in a band context, the Kronos sound gets a little squashed in a typical mix. Apparently this is a known problem with keyboard synthesizers and it is just a question of doing something like using a spectrum analyzer to characterize the overall sound spectrum of a performance and then tweaking the Kronos patches to work well/play well with the other instruments. But it’s an interesting issue that I had never heard of. There is some good discussion of the issue, some history, and some solutions at this thread:

Pianos don't sound as good in the mix as solo

That’s about all I have for today.

I expect/hope tomorrow will be less of a crazy day for me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Passages Between Worlds

“Do you think the Bifrost is the only way in and out of this realm? There are passages between worlds that even your all-seeing eyes could not observe.”

Loki (the Villain)

“If there is any one skill most worth learning in watercolor painting, it is how you may find out for yourself your feeling about something, and how to shape it into a picture so others may share it with you. When you know that and know it’s easier than copying, you’ll know something 90 per cent of the painters do not know. You’ll be years ahead in your learning to paint the creative way, you’ll experience a whole new world.”

Carl Nickel

It took hundreds of people and many
hundreds of millions of dollars to make
the movie “Thor”—the Disneyfication
of astrophysics and ancient legends.

The film is not a passage between worlds.

In fact I strongly suspect if the film
is anything at all—beyond pretty
actresses and handsome actors—the film
might be something like a real-life version
of Thor’s Hammer smashing the Bifrost bridge.

Thinking shaped into words or images
or songs I strongly suspect can create
passages between worlds. Between places
where thought happens. Is that what distance is?
Is distance the difference between thoughts,
the amount or a quality of change
between thoughts, the direction of a change?

(Do we travel these passages without
noticing because our bodies don't move?)

Is the Disneyfication of distance
words or images or songs without thought?

Maybe it’s a passage between worlds but
not a passage designed for human beings.

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Headphones And Crucibles

Twenty-Four Hundred Man-Years For What?

Like A Tree I’m Going

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

Dinosaurs Are Searching For A Path To Disney

Looking At A Street Light In The Jungle

The Craft Of Wreckage

The Best Reason To Study Astrophysics

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hidden In The Shadow Of The Index

Today’s post is going to be a short update on an earlier post.

But maybe it is something more, too.

Today’s post is an example of a little, weird thing—even a trivial thing—that once I become aware of, I just can’t stop thinking about. Rationally I’m sure there is no “deeper meaning” here, but it is just so weird that I can’t help wondering how this little thing happened or if—in some almost unimaginable way—it is indicative of a larger dynamic.

Okay. Here’s the start.

I posted last week—in ‘Hortense Had Her Adventures’—that I’m reading this book by Ruth Butler: “Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-Wives of Cezanne, Monet and Rodin.”

Well, I picked up the book to read the first section about Hortense Fiquet, Cezanne’s model and wife. And I finished that section. I skimmed through the rest, but I’m not a big fan of Monet, and Rodin makes me sad because he really seemed to have hurt Gwen John and I like Gwen John a lot. So I’m pretty much through with this book.

The section on Hortense was interesting. There were some anecdotes I hadn’t read before, but, mostly, the section was just a summary of Cezanne’s work life with a focus on when and where the portraits of Hortense came into existence. (Cezanne almost never dated his paintings so any chronology is an educated guess.) There simply isn’t a lot known about Hortense.

My favorite part was the story of Hortense having dinner with Renoir’s children and Matisse—after Cezanne’s death—and Hortense says, “You know, Cezanne did not really know what he was doing. He didn’t know how to finish his paintings. Renoir, Monet, they really knew their metier as painters.” Now, of course, everyone knows Hortense and Cezanne had their disagreements. What I liked most about this story is that Matisse didn’t contradict her or correct her! (There’s an old saying: Silence implies consent.) Hmmm. (In fact, Matisse took Hortense’s evaluation of her husband so seriously that in a moment of self-doubt in his old age, he wondered if her assessment might be applied to himself, as well.)

Okay. That’s all as may be. It was interesting but not earth-shaking.

Here’s the thing that grabbed me.

I mentioned last week that this book about model-wives only contained one index reference to Victorine Meurent and no index reference at all to Berthe Morisot, even though the book singles out Manet and a “prototypical” painter of the era.

But in fact the author does mention Berthe Morisot at one point. The author mentions Morisot, but the reference is not included in the index.

In a book about overlooked women, the person who made the index overlooked a reference to Berthe Morisot. And the author didn’t catch it.

Now, that alone would catch my attention. And it would bug me. But I’m a fan of Berthe Morisot so if it were only that Berthe Morisot got left out of the index I would just figure it bugs me because someone I like got slighted.

But there is one other aspect to this index business.

Here is the complete paragraph where the author mentions Berthe Morisot. I’ve highlighted the mention in red:

By January 1874, Paul, Hortense, and their two-year-old son were back on the Left Bank in a small two-story house at 120, rue de Vaugirard, in the Seventh Arrondissement. It may have been the anticipated exhibition of independent artists that lured Cezanne back to Paris. Thirty artists had signed on, including Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Berthe Morisot, and Renoir. The group’s biggest disappointment was Manet’s decision not to participate. Publicly he stated that he believed professional artists should exhibit “only in the Salon.” Monet circulated the idea that his refusal might have been his reluctance to hang his works in the company of Cezanne, for the sophisticated Parisian considered the work by the painter from Provence to be as repugnant as his manner and his appearance.

Okay, that paragraph speaks of six artists: Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, Manet and, of course, Berthe Morisot. Five men and one woman. And the Exhibition of Independent Artists was a pretty big deal in all their lives.

This is weird because—as I’m typing this I’m sighing and shaking my head—the index of the book contains entries for all five of the male artists mentioned in that paragraph. And all five of those index entries for the male artists contain a reference to the page containing this paragraph. In fact, for all the men the index breaks out the reference to this page as a sub-head in the index because of the mention of the Exhibition of Independent Artists (the Degas index entry has a reference to the page but not as a sub-head).

Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir and Manet get links. Berthe Morisot gets ignored.

In a book about overlooked women, the one woman who created works on par with all these men gets overlooked by the person making the index.

How does that happen?

Is it simple bumbling by the publisher? It’s Yale University Press!

Or is there a larger dynamic at work here?

Is the prejudice to see history as “made by men” so deeply ingrained that even professionals putting together a book about overlooked women still are so engaged with the male names that they pass over a woman’s name and their professional imperative to catch their own errors does not draw their error to their conscious attention?

I don’t know.

I just shake my head. It’s the 21st century, so we can never discount simple bumbling incompetence. But just knowing that the person preparing the index had to look at this paragraph so many times to pull out the other references—and still missed the Berthe Morisot reference—makes me strongly suspect that there is a psychological dynamic having some impact on this mistake.

I don’t know.

But this is how I’m going to remember this book now. Not by the two or three good stories about Hortense Fiquet. But by this stupid index omission.

And it makes me wonder, a bit, about what other “little” mistakes may get made. And how those little mistakes may add up. And how much of our understanding of the past (and the present?) is colored or outright shaped by psychological dynamics rather than by the actual content of reality.

I don’t know. (I’m shaking my head and sighing and shrugging as I type that.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Japanese Train Stations Forever

“Oh, my God,” Grant said.

He stared at the raptors, ranged along the beach in a rigid formation, silently watching the boat. And he suddenly understood what he was looking at.

“Those animals,” Gennaro said, shaking his head, “they sure are desperate to escape from here.”

“No,” Grant said. “They don’t want to escape at all.”

“They don’t?”

“No,” Grant said. “They want to migrate.”

“Jurassic Park”
Michael Crichton

SAMANTHA STOSUR: Yeah, my story is probably no different than many others, but when I was younger, no doubt my family gave up a lot. My parents especially and my younger brothers probably and my older brother probably got dragged through the tennis clubs more often than not when they didn't necessarily want to. But I'm lucky that I had a really supportive family. They saw that I had this dream and drive and determination to be a tennis player, and, you know, obviously none of us knew if it was ever gonna pay off. Lucky for me, I had that support behind me. Playing all those small tournaments and, like you said, I've slept in train stations and stayed in dodgy hotels and done the hard yards through many places, and it all pays off in the end. I'd do it all over again if I had to.

Q: Which train stations did you sleep?

SAMANTHA STOSUR: Fukuoka in Japan. If there was a safe train station, it was that one.

Fukuoka (the area of Kashii, Hakata, Sawara and Imazu) is said to be the oldest city in Japan, because it is the nearest city to China and Korea. The area around Fukuoka is among the oldest non-Jōmon settlements in Japan. Dazaifu was an administrative capital in 663 A.D., but a historian proposed that a prehistoric capital was in the area. Ancient texts, such as the Kojiki, and archaeology confirm this was a very critical place in the founding of Japan. Some scholars even go as far as to claim it was the first place outsiders and the Imperial Family set foot, but like many early Japan origin theories, it remains contested.

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

I spend a lot of time, too, watching boats.
And planes. I don’t see a lot of trains but
I often hear their horns in the distance
and the distant train noises sound plaintive
to me and not annoying. I’ve often
thought I’d like to “escape” without knowing
what I wanted to escape from or to.

But migration is a different thing.

Is migration an urge that people feel?

It’s not “escape,” then, going somewhere else,
although I guess nobody understands
why animals migrate just that they do
so I still wouldn’t know why I wanted
to leave where I’m at and go somewhere else
so the two words share some basic unknowns.

But migration sounds...cooler...than escape.

I’m puzzled by Japanese train stations.

Among all this other stuff I don’t know
I don’t know what Japanese train stations
are trying to tell me about themselves.

Japanese train stations sound like places
I’d like to go to and not embark from.

“Strawberry Fields Forever” is a song
by John Lennon remembering a place
he left then looked back on with affection.

I miss everyone I’ve ever met.

I don’t miss any place I’ve ever left.

I miss Japanese train stations although
I’ve never even visited Japan.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t a Beatle.

I can’t even migrate right, and my songs
never would have made the planet better
because I don’t miss any place I’ve left
so I couldn’t craft an engaging hymn
about Arcadia Lost to inspire
people to dream of building it anew.

I mean, I can see the conversation—
“Hey, Paul, my new song’s about migrating
to Japanese train stations forever”

and Paul and George would look at each other
and it would be a look I’d seen before.

It’s not a good look. In fact, it’s a look
you want to escape from when you see it
or migrate to someplace you won’t see it.

The noises trains make off in the distance
are the music part of a song about
a place people don’t look at each other
to try to think of nice ways to tell you
nobody here wants to read what you write.

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

“Strawberry Fields Forever” at Wikipedia


A Lost World Where Distance Is God’s Anger