Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Trees (Ode To)

If you’re a scraggly-looking tree in an empty lot
and a workman comes along and sprays an orange “X
on you, you’ve got to think it’s not a decoration
for Halloween but rather it’s an indication
that soon another workman will come with a chainsaw
and you’re going to be the victim of a slasher,
and you’re going to be the tree-in-an-empty-lot
equivalent of the babysitter who drinks beer
and takes the kids next door so she can have sex upstairs
and the actress who plays you won’t be in the sequel.

Sequels are never as good as the original
so you’ll always have that—the spray paint, the photograph,
the poetry, the chainsaw coming to cut you down—
whatever that is, whatever the empty lot is,
now it’s a photograph and it’s twenty lines of verse
and it’s a thing on whatever the internet is
so you’ll always have that, and you’ll always have me, too,
and anyone else who sees this, and we’ll have you, too,
trick-or-treating in your scraggly-looking tree costume
scaring us for real but it’s still fun on Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

This Is Not “Fashion Bulletin I’m Yours”

I have a lot of clear acrylic gesso
and two or three kinds of glazing medium
but I’m not going to the craft store to buy
a large canvas panel to make a collage
that would be called, “Fashion Bulletin I’m Yours”

It would look like this, but carefully scrunched up:

The text “Fashion Bulletin” is at the top
and “I’m Yours” is in the lower right corner.

I love stuff like this and my friend Alison
did great work, but I don’t think I’m very good.

I really don’t like working with photographs
taken by other people and that’s the fun
of a magazine collage, mixing up junk
other people struggled to make into art,
well, you know, not art, but magazine content.

The photograph in the upper left corner
has a Salma Hayek quote: “If you’re a girl
who cannot walk in heels, it doesn’t matter
how beautiful you are
.” Mixing up the junk
other people struggled to make into art,
well, you know, not art, but magazine content,
is the fun of doing magazine collage.

I’m not going to buy a canvas panel
and carefully position these images
then use acrylic polymer emulsions
to glaze the panel something like a painting.

I like women in thousand dollar tee shirts
but there’s no fun in magazines any more.

Salma Hayek might not be food for the soul.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pamela At The Doorway To Atlantis

Without getting up, Pam said, “I’m going to grab
a can of Red Bull. You want to split it with me?”

I said, “Okay. I’ve got paper cups over here.”

I looked at the doorway between the living room
and the kitchen. Pam looked at me, saw me staring
and she asked, “What the heck are you thinking about?”

I pointed and said, “I’m thinking about doorways.
Doorways are passages between rooms. But what if,
in an alchemical way, a transforming way,
the exact same doorways sometimes, somehow, could be
passages between worlds? I mean, when you walk through
that doorway you travel out of the living room
and into the kitchen. What if one magic time
you were thinking about, maybe, say, Atlantis,
and you were thinking about Atlantis just right
and instead of traveling into the kitchen
that doorway was a passage from the living room
to a wild exterior, you know, Atlantis?”

Pam made a face. It was a face I’d seen before.
She said, “I’m going to grab a can of Red Bull.
From the kitchen. The kitchen right through that doorway.”

Pam stood up and walked to the doorway. Then she stopped.

Pam made a face. It was a different face, but
I’d seen this face before, too. She turned, glared at me.
She said, “I can’t believe I stopped! I can’t believe
I actually stopped to think about stepping
through this doorway. I mean, the kitchen is right there!
I can see it!” She pointed. “It’s not Atlantis.
Why did I stop? I’m getting a can of Red Bull.”

Pam stepped through the doorway out of the living room.

From the kitchen, Pam yelled, “I’m not in Atlantis.
I’m in the kitchen getting a can of Red Bull.”

I grabbed a couple of paper cups just in case
Pam’s trip back through the doorway also went as planned.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Just A Real Thing But That’s Enough

[laughs] “Wes’ whole garage is filled with
our props and paraphernalia. Don’t try
to take them away from him, either!”
[laughs harder]

Heather Langenkamp,
on director Wes Craven keeping movie props,
speaking on the commentary track
Nightmare on Elm Street

I hand-crafted this prop for a post last week
and I don’t have the heart to throw it away.

I’ve still never heard Taylor Swift sing a song.

And it’s just an ink-jet printout pasted down
onto an index card with a triangle
cut from another index card and folded
and pasted to the back to hold up the card.

I scribbled the frame with colored ball point pens.

Nothing’s archival. It’s all going to fade.

It will fade quickly but I can’t bring myself
to crumple up the thing and throw it away.

It’s a prop—a pretend thing—but it’s real, too.

It’s done being a prop, it’s done pretending,
so now it’s just a real thing but that’s enough
to make it feel more real to me than I feel.

I’ve never stopped pretending. I’m not that real.

Hell. It should crumple up me, throw me away.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Fun Offering To The World Gadget

What if I were writing this in long-hand
and my computer was switched off somewhere
and I was outside in the open air
say, sitting on a beach towel in the sand

say, writing something structured but unplanned
about gadgets, fun gadgets that don’t care
if I want fun or rescue from despair
or love or money or to understand,

then is the world a gadget around me,
not a wristwatch or a calculator
or a camera, but the sea and sun

and sand grains compressing underneath me—
by pushing my pen, playing creator,
would the world gadget accept this as “fun”?

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

Little Complicated Things And Stuff

Gadget Angst

The Criss-Crossing Of Sara’s Hair

I Can’t Sleep In My Kitchen

Monday, October 24, 2011

There’s No Pain In The Sky

The first four letters of the word “paint” are the word “pain.”

I have expensive watercolor paints, and fun paints,
but whenever I take out a watercolor set
all I can think is that a watercolor painting
isn’t a puppet—it doesn’t move, it doesn’t sing.

There’s a dim comet, hard to see, in the western sky
and in the east there are bright, easy to see clusters,
both beautiful, the Pleiades and the Hyades.

They sky moves but it doesn’t sing and there’s no pain there.

There’s no pain in the sky but there is endless beauty.

It’s different down on the ground than up in the sky.

Down here there’s something hard to see like a dim comet
and there are things that get in the way like clouds at night.

Lost in the metonymy of puppets and painting
and songs moving, somehow, something like from east to west,
is this real, too, down here, this working, craft, quest to find
the illusion of pain, the grace of endless beauty?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Buying The Beatles Forever

I’ve just seen a face of a woman laughing.

Most Beatles fans know the title “Scrambled Eggs”
was the working title Paul McCartney used
for the music version of the song later
developed with lyrics and a string quartet
and a new three syllable name, “Yesterday.”

Some Beatles fans know the accepted legend—
Paul got out of bed, sat at a piano
and worked out the melody and harmony
right there in one sitting using nonsense words
to keep time until he wrote proper lyrics.

Really detail-oriented Beatles fans
make a face and gesture and say, “Well, yes, but—”

Paul’s room at the house of Jane Asher’s parents
was an upstairs room with a twisting staircase
and the room was small and the staircase narrow.

It’s hard to picture a piano up there.

I’ve just seen a face of a woman laughing
and asking which kind of Beatles fan I am.

I tried to keep my face expressionless but
I felt my forehead creasing, eyes narrowing,
corners of my lips pulling into a frown.

I couldn’t do it. I said, “I’ve seen pictures
of the house. And of stairways in nearby homes.
How could Paul have had a piano up there?
And if we can’t believe a simple story
about where one of the world’s most famous songs
was written, how can we believe anything
about the Beatles? I mean, really, what if
the whole accepted legend of the Beatles
is pop mythology, fiction back-story
to build context around the material
and, so to speak, colonize people’s thinking
and keep them buying the Beatles forever?”

I’ve just seen a face of a woman laughing
but there was a kind of melody to it
and it was a catchy tune performed for me.

Even though I knew she was laughing at me
there was something so musical in her laugh
instead of feeling hurt I felt like her muse.

And she didn’t run off stage after the show.

And later I wrote this with her as my muse.

And workmen struggling to get a piano
safely up a narrow, twisting flight of stairs
is the image at the end of this story.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

“Ha, Ha, Rubber Lizard Loves Taylor Swift”

Oh boy.

It’s been kind of a busy day around here at Impossible Kisses.

Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard are having a bit of a fight and I’m sort of stuck in the middle of it. Go figure.

Little Plastic Doll has gotten her hands on a video of Rubber Lizard that Rubber Lizard would rather nobody in the world ever saw. It’s not a sex tape or anything—thank heavens!—but it is something Rubber Lizard would rather keep private.

But the content of the tape has kind of made Little Plastic Doll angry and the last thing any man wants is for an angry woman to have an embarrassing tape of him.

So Little Plastic Doll wanted to up-load the video to YouTube, but I talked her out of that. But I did have to promise her that I’d put the video—it’s Rubber Lizard singing a country song—here on the blog.

I’m sorry, Rubber Lizard, but it’s better this than let the whole world look in on YouTube.

And Rubber Lizard shouldn’t be too embarrassed. I did my own country and western song yesterday and the production values of my video sucked compared to this!

Okay. Since Little Plastic Doll insists, here is Rubber Lizard enjoying himself by performing a country and western classic (well, country by way of Manfred Mann) when he thought he was alone:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Face The Lonesome Cowboy Sees

Today’s post is practically nothing, but in a kind of crazy way I’ve got a quite a few things to say about it.


I didn’t make any plans to have a theme this week, and I don’t have a theme this week.

However, on Monday I did a post that was built around me having seen a woman I know driving her car and talking on her phone and staring straight ahead. Actually, I saw this woman doing this more than once and she always had a very strange expression on her face (her very beautiful face!) and it (the expression, I mean!) made me think of gargoyles. Exerting Agency, Liminal Entities And Scripts

Then on Tuesday I did a post about the very cool expression I’d once seen when a woman told me she was looking forward to leaving a certain job and never going back. Memories Of Faces/Lost In Shadows

So today I’ve been wondering if I had anything else to say about faces.

And I realized I had a loose end about faces that was actually older than the blog.

A couple of months ago I did a song, Quasi Una Atomic Octopus Fantasia, that I’d posted only the lyrics to years ago.

But even earlier than that I’d done a week of five songs where I posted lyrics from songs that I’d written a long, long time ago. (I’d done the music to one of those five songs a couple of years ago: Quasi Una Zombie Fantasia.)

But another one of those old, old songs was a kind of science fiction/country and western song [!] about a guy having a vision about seeing a face, Five Songs: #5 – Lonesome Cowboy.

I’ve always wanted to put up the music to this song, but, really, the music is kind of simple (or simple-minded if someone wants to be mean to me) and I never could get up the energy to do the song for the camera. But with the added incentive that it is about a face, and a loose end, well, I decided to go for it.

Richard Brautigan

My favorite writer is Richard Brautigan and at the end of his great novel, “Sombrero Fallout,” the writer achieves something like momentary peace of mind in his breakup with his girlfriend by sitting down and writing a country and western song. When I wrote this song I was being a Richard Brautigan character.

Diminished 7th

This song is built on just three chords. The root, a diminished 7th half a step up, and then a minor 7th half a step up from that. Here I’m playing in the key of B, so it is a BM7, CDim7,C#m7. Over and over again. I have no idea if this kind of progression is at all interesting to listen to, but my thinking was to keep the focus on the little story the lyrics are telling. And playing and singing a little progression like this is very relaxing because it becomes a kind of meditation exercise after a while, playing the same thing over and over.

So here’s today’s post. I’ve made the video dark and grainy, like an old cowboy song should be. (The signal path here is just my guitar to my metronome speaker. My Tascam had a low battery, so it’s unavailable, across the room getting charged.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Memories Of Faces/Lost In Shadows

Sometimes when a person gets a new job
or retires, they come back to spend some time
at the old place. Maybe they’ll work part-time
or they’ll volunteer or just visit friends.

I knew a woman who worked hard and smart
and if you had a problem she solved it.

When she moved on from a job around here
I talked to her before she left and asked
if she would be coming back to visit
or volunteer or take some part-time hours.

She looked at me and when I looked at her
her face didn’t look like faces I see
but it looked like a face I’d imagine
if I were writing a fiction story.

“This place,” she said, and glanced around the room,
“will not see my shadow again. Ever.”

I don’t think I ever saw her shadow
and although I miss her it’s exciting
imagining what her shadow’s up to
because whatever her shadow’s up to
I know it’s not going to out-wit her.

Her face didn’t look like faces I see
but it looked like a face I’d imagine
if I were writing a fiction story.

Lost in shadows, memories of faces
or rather memories of some faces
are like memories of when there was light.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exerting Agency, Liminal Entities And Scripts

The careful reader will notice that we have avoided taking a position over whether the synthesizer (or flute or player piano) is solely a machine or solely a musical instrument. Rather than read any essence into this technology, we have looked at what people themselves make of it—the meanings they derive from its use. The synthesizer is a form of “boundary object,” a liminal entity. Liminal entities are “neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention and ceremony,” according to the anthropologist Victor Turner. The synthesizer is something that can pass between different worlds, that can take on different meanings in these worlds and in the process transform these worlds. The question of whether the synthesizer is a machine or a musical instrument, of whether it is for classical or pop music, of whether it is for emulating old sounds or exploring new ones, of whether it is a part of science or art, will never be adequately answered. They are the wrong questions to ask. There are many souls in this new machine.

... Our story of the synthesizer draws attention to the role played by users. Designers “script” or “configure” ideal users into their machines. The black and white chromatic keyboard scripted a certain sort of user: one who wanted to play conventional melodic music. Scripts try to constrain the agency of users, but users can exert agency, too, and can come up with their own alternative scripts. Hip-hop DJs use turntables for “scratching,” a use inconceivable to the engineers who first designed them. It was possible to tune Buchla’s touch pads to the conventional scale and to retune Moog’s keyboards into unconventional scales, but such reconfigurations—the making of new scripts—required specialized skills, and most users did not want to invest the time and effort.

Users do not come to technology unprepared.

When I write a song, I also give it a name
but what is a song, what is this thing I’m naming?

I’ve seen her driving her car, talking on her phone,
staring straight ahead like a gargoyle looking down
from a gothic church at the people of Paris.

I think telephones are the new gargoyles, singing
synthesized songs in synthesized voices to us,
scripting us, moving us from this world to that world,

I’ve seen her driving her car, talking on her phone,
staring straight ahead like a gargoyle looking down,
becoming a gargoyle looking down, her only
act of agency holding the phone to her ear.

Sometimes, somehow, I can write a song and name it.

I don’t know how to fight gargoyles, or even if
the songs of gargoyles are things we can fight against.

I would start by composing a manifesto
and naming it—but what is a manifesto?—
“Exerting Agency, Liminal Entities
And Scripts,”
and then I’d let it play me like a flute.

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

Ancient Cities Of The Moon

Passages Between Worlds

Repurposing Vicki

You And Me, I Mean, Mare Carminum

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blows Against The (Expensive) Empire

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about music workstations.

I’ve written about the Korg Kronos and the Jupiter-80. And I’ve posted about the differences between arranger workstations and synthesizer workstations.

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2

But at some point it is worth stepping back from all these machines and thinking about music in general, and the technology available today.

Music workstations—even arranger workstations—can cost thousands of dollars. Even inexpensive workstations typically depend on expensive computer packages to complete the music-making environment.

But how much of that is really necessary? How much of that, really, maybe, might even get in the way?

I posted last month in A Flute Landscape that I’ve been interested lately in music played through tiny, inexpensive speakers.

Today is a sample of that.

Everything today is battery operated. I could have been sitting in a parking lot playing and recording today’s little song. (I thought about doing that, but, to be honest, as I get older, people looking at me like I’m nuts becomes less and less fun.) It’s just my notebook computer, my Tascam GT-R1 and my Boss DB-90.

This song is my own big note/easy play arrangement of Jefferson Airplane’s “Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?” off their “Blows Against The Empire” album. (I don’t like the album, but I love this song.) I’ve posted the lyrics of this song three times, that’s how much I love this song, here and here and then here. (The album version is available on iTunes, off an album called, “Jefferson Airplane Love songs.” I’m not sure the Airplane was a ‘love song’ kind of group.) Down below, at the bottom of the post, there is a youTube embed of Paul Kantner himself doing a full-on hippie version of “Have You Seen The Stars Tonight” but without Grace Slick.

Here’s my version, played through a tiny little speaker:

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

And here’s Paul Kantner with a real San Francisco version. And being Paul Kantner, he gets to have a real hippie girl sing with him. (This is actually "Have You Seen the Stars Tonite", "X-M", and "Starship" but cuts off at 7:20 for some tech youTube reason):

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Behind-The-Scenes On Ten Thirteen

So today is October 13th and last year I did a couple of posts about the old TV show, “The X-Files,” on 10/13 because fans remember that the production company of that show was called “Ten Thirteen Productions.”

Ten Thirteen Unanswered Questions #1

Ten Thirteen Unanswered Questions #2

This year I don’t have anything more to say about “The X-Files.” I was never a big fan of the show. I was only interested in the show, really, because Gillian Anderson was—and still is!—so beautiful and because I always thought the show was so influential in establishing cell phones as hip products. So this date gives me an excuse, at least, to put up a completely gratuitous photo of Gillian Anderson.


I don’t have anything special for today, so I’m going to say a couple of behind-the-scene things about my first three posts this week, a kind of trilogy, about the Moon. And that will lead to one little possibly interesting thing about astronomy.

I got the idea to do three posts about the Moon at some point over the weekend. I was working on a couple of music things and at first I was going to film myself playing something, but this isn’t really a music blog and when I do music I like to work it into the blog format somehow.

So then I thought I’d write something about the kind of music I was playing and working on. And since the Moon was going to be full this week I thought I’d write something about music and the Moon.

When The Night Shapes Itself

Clouds Drift As If They’re Listening

You And Me, I Mean, Mare Carminum

(The idea of three posts about the Moon came about because I’m a big fan of werewolf stories and, although many modern werewolf stories have shape-shifters that can become wolves any time they want, in “classic” werewolf stories a werewolf has no control over the shape-shifting and, typically, turns into a wolf three nights a month—the night before the full Moon, the night of the full Moon and the night after the full Moon. So I thought it would be fun to do three posts on those nights.)

This is how I made those posts.

On Monday night, I took a few photos of the Moon, sorted through them until I found one I liked, and then I wrote the post to go with the image, just improvising things as I went along.

On Tuesday I used the same procedure, taking a few photos and then writing something to go with a photo I liked. I tried to write something that followed-on from Monday, and could lead to something interesting Wednesday.

On Wednesday I worked a little differently. I wrote the text for Wednesday during the late afternoon, trying to tie together topics from Monday and Tuesday, and add a larger context, something that would bring all three posts together. Then, since I talked about lunar features in the text, I knew I’d want to get a telephoto image of the Moon.

I knew clouds were moving in, so I checked the Moon-rise time and grabbed a picture as soon as I could. Right after I took that picture, the sky became completely cloudy.

I was really happy with the way the “trilogy” came out, even though I wrote them all separately without doing any note-taking or pre-planning for all three. I was very lucky, too, that the sky cooperated the way it did, with thin clouds for two nights, and then just enough clear sky for me to get one detailed photo.

That concludes the set of three posts, but at some point in the future I will have more to say about Molly Malone and Oh My Darling Clementine, and folk melodies in general.

(Over the weekend, I worked out an arrangement for a favorite old rock song, a song with a melody made up of related sequences of eight-bar phrases. And I’d been thinking about how folk melodies are usually very simple, even more simple than rock songs, yet folk melodies have persisted in our awareness for—in many cases—more than a century. Simple melodies are interesting, yet so many contemporary musicians seem to pride themselves on creating complicated, even convoluted, melodies. That’s an interesting dichotomy that I will be thinking about more.)

Anyway, the photo from Wednesday leads me to one interesting little bit of astronomy.

Here at the blog, I’ve used two telephoto images of the Moon.

The first was back in a post called, “Sense Of Place.”

The images are both small—I took these with my point-and-shoot camera with the telephoto at maximum, which is similar to 10x binoculars.

But if you look very carefully, you can see what a difference two days can make on the Moon.

The first photo from “Sense Of Place” was taken just before the full Moon. The second photo from “You And Me, I Mean, Mare Carminum” was taken just after the full Moon.

You can see the differences at the very far edges of the east and west limbs of the Moon, that is, the far right and the far left of each image.

I’ve grabbed the Moon images from each picture here:

Just before the illumination is total, in the first image, if you look very closely at the left edge of the Moon and compare the left edge in both images, you can see the illumination is a tiny fraction less complete on the first image than on the second.

Just after the full Moon, in the second image, if you look very closely at the right edge, at the Sea of Crises, the small round crater at the upper right, and compare both images, you can see the shadow line has just started moving onto the lunar disk in the second image.

The sky is always interesting. Sometimes it’s little things, sometimes it’s big things. But the sky is always interesting. If you want to look, the sky always gives you something to look at.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You And Me, I Mean, Mare Carminum

I know the names of features on the Moon
but what is the Moon, what are we naming,
and does the Moon put names on our features,
the Earth, I mean, or do I mean the Moon
seeing us better than we see the Moon
and does the Moon put names on our features,
you and me, I mean, does the Moon name us?

There is a dark area on the Moon
called Mare Nubium, the Sea of Clouds,
and we have real clouds here that cast shadows,
create dark areas always changing,
but does the Moon ignore that changing dark
seeing us better than we see the Moon
and hearing us when we can’t hear the Moon?

Does the Moon watch and listen to us sing
love songs to ghosts lost and gone forever
from this Mare Carminum, Sea of Songs?

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

When The Night Shapes Itself

Clouds Drift As If They’re Listening

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clouds Drift As If They’re Listening

I’ve been thinking a lot about moonlight on clouds.

From our perspective, here, on this side of the clouds,
moonlight is like light from a movie projector
and the clouds are like the screen in a theater
and on this side of the clouds, from our perspective,
we’d be behind the screen, not in the audience.

Moonlight isn’t bright enough for reading a book.
If moonlight’s a movie, the movie’s projected
on the other side of the clouds where we can’t see.
It’s not a book, not a movie and there’s no sound
so moonlight isn’t a song we can listen to.

I’ve been thinking about the songs, “Molly Malone”
and “My Darling Clementine.” Impossible things,
saving them, the doomed Molly, the doomed Clementine.

It’s so dark here. And it’s impossible to see
what’s happening on the other side of the clouds.
But we can see the clouds. We can see the moonlight.
From our perspective, here, on this side of the clouds,
sometimes we can catch glimpses of moonlight shining
on the other side of the clouds. We still can’t read,
or watch the movie, or hear music or a song.

I’ve been thinking about the songs, “Molly Malone”
and “My Darling Clementine.” Impossible things.
But when I play them, sing them and think about them,
clouds drift in the moonlight as if they’re listening.

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

When The Night Shapes Itself

Monday, October 10, 2011

When The Night Shapes Itself

When the Moon is almost full you can see trees at night
and the moonlight can seem almost as bright as sunlight.

When clouds move in front of a Moon that is almost full
shadows aren’t shadows, shadows are the night itself
given edges, parts of shapes that return to darkness.

When the night shapes itself above us and around us
we can see things even moonlight can’t illuminate
or parts of things or imaginary things reaching
out of the pretend into the real, reaching for us.

When real pretend things reach for us sometimes they touch us.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The French Word For ‘Dragon’ Is ‘Dragon’

A few days ago I exchanged e-mails
with a woman who believed dinosaurs
existed relatively recently
and were the basis for our dragon myths.

She thinks the spread of civilization
caused the extinction of the dinosaurs
as humans exterminated the beasts
to make the country-side around cities
safe for agriculture on a large scale
that’s necessary to support cities.

I asked her, What about the dinosaurs
that lived in the oceans or in the wilds
far away from any human cities?

She said, “Maybe some of those are still there.”

I don’t know if she was flirting with me
or if she really believed dinosaurs
might be out there somewhere eluding us.

And I don’t know which I think is more weird:
The notion dinosaurs might still exist,
or the thought a woman could flirt with me
talking about the possibility
that dinosaurs aren’t really extinct.

“Expedition,” I’ve read, is a French word
about preparing, then going somewhere.

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

“Expedition” at alphaDictionary


At the top of this post the picture links to
a Carnegie Museum of Natural History website.
Then the body of this post talks about the belief
that dinosaurs may still exist.

I did NOT mean to imply that anybody at the
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
believes dinosaurs may still exist. I linked
to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
simply because that’s where I found
the great picture of the Stegosaurus skeleton.

The cool woman I talk about in the body
of the post, Beth, who believes the spread
of civilization drove dinosaurs to extinction,
is a believer in what gets called Creation Science.

I did NOT mean to imply in any way that the
rigorous, clear-thinking, button-down scientists
at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
in any way endorse Creation Science.

No, no, no.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Kite Flying In America (With Trout)

BLOODY DISGUSTING: I love that you're using a cast of basically unknown young actors. Was that something you felt was important for this movie?

WES CRAVEN: Well, it mostly was the age of the characters. The characters were 16, and I didn't want to [make] a film of 24-year-olds playing 16. So it was important to get kids who were really in their teens. We actually had…I think Paulina was 16 actually when we started…I think also one of the other cast [members] was a minor…so the important thing was just that they were younger and looked like 16-year-olds. Max [Thierot] had done two or three films before. Zena had worked made films since she was a teenager, since she was like 12, I think. So they had some experience. Others, like Paulina, it was her first film. But the important thing was they looked like the kids they were supposed to be, the right age.

That picture is actress Emma Roberts,
the only good thing in the film Scream 4,
and in classic Hollywood tradition
even the only good thing in that film
makes me want to go fly a kite rather
than ever again watching a movie
not made with no budget and a webcam.

Wes Craven knows twenty-something women
look ridiculous as high school students.

And yet he made Scream 4 the way he did.

And isn’t the entire horror genre
youth (misguided, maybe, but passionate
and paying attention) fighting against
age (the inevitable, the monster)?

And yet he made Scream 4 the way he did.

Hollywood movies have become monsters.

Not the kind of monster mad scientists
laugh about. Something like the opposite
of the kind of monster mad scientists
laugh about. It’s mad. But it’s not science.

I want to fly a kite. Or go fishing.

I once wrote about a kite’s tail tempting
a fish into making a leaping strike.

If trout made movies I bet trout movies
would be low-budget, independent films.

Trout filmmaking in America.

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

The Mad Scientist Is Always Laughing

The Opposite Of Washing Machine

Special Appearance By Muskie Light Switch

Leaving Mandy Moore

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

Friday Update (With Chagrin And Vexation)

It occurred to me—last night, after I posted “Kite Flying In America (With Trout)”—that in my thinking behind the post I had made a pretty big mistake.

Even an analytical blunder.

I was focusing on the bizarre conflict and confrontation in the movie “Scream 4” between the “old woman” Sidney Prescott versus the young woman, teenage high school girl Jill.

And I was thinking about how that differed from almost all the rest of the popular films from within the genre of horror-thrillers. “Nightmare on Elm Street” was a teenage girl versus the ghost of the old man Freddie Krueger. “Halloween” was the young girl against the old “Shape” later revealed to be her older brother. “Friday the 13th” (the first one) was the teenage camp counselors versus the mother of Jason Voorhees. And, of course, “Scream 3” was comparatively young Sidney Prescott versus her own older half-brother. And “Scream 2” was college girl Sidney versus her ex-boyfriend’s old mother.

So my thinking, in general, was consistent. My post itself made at least a little bit of sense. “Scream 4” set against the context of the genre in general is bizarre and unpleasant. Even freaky.

However, I did overlook an obvious point.

And it’s a point a lot of other people have overlooked when discussing the teen horror-thriller genre.

“Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” are often thought of the defining progenitors of this kind of movie. They were both immensely popular and both made huge amounts of money. And my thinking was accurate when assessing those films.

But the Scream Saga itself began with the 1996 movie “Scream.”

And that original 1996 movie “Scream” is usually credited with breathing “new life” into the whole teen horror-thriller genre. And when most people analyze that first “Scream” movie they point to the elements of so-called post-modernism. The meta-this or meta-that elements where the kids are self-aware of their parts in the over-arching plot.

But in fact possibly the defining characteristic of that 1996 film “Scream” may be the content of the central conflict.

Because in the first “Scream” the conflict was not youth versus old age. Almost unique among popular films of this genre, the central conflict in the first “Scream” was youth versus youth. It was high school girl Sidney Prescott versus two high school boys Billy and Stu.

I’ve never seen anybody single out that odd fact.

Almost universally the popular and influential films of this genre revolve around a conflict that can be characterized as youth versus old age.

But the original 1996 “Scream” film was youth versus youth.

And even the filmmakers themselves seemed to ignore that when they made the sequels because the filmmakers immediately took the Scream cycle into standard territory by formulating the plots of “Scream 2” and “Scream 3” along standard youth-versus-age conflicts. (Or what could be construed as youth-versus-age conflicts.)

Isn’t that strange?

Could that be an element that added to the great success of the original 1996 “Scream” film? It didn’t just relegate old age to the role of villain. It completely dispensed with old age entirely. It created a story in which the protagonist and antagonist were both young people dealing with their own issues in isolation from the adults around them.

(Although in classic gothic tradition the specific problems of the young generation were the consequences of their elders. In the first “Scream” the antagonist Billy was dealing with his mother and father having broken up because his father had an affair with Sidney’s mother.)

So. I completely overlooked what seems to be a critical point about the original 1996 “Scream” movie. That film wasn’t youth-versus-age at all, it was youth-versus-youth.

And that aspect of the film—in comparison to other big money-makers in the horror-thriller genre—is so unique that it may reasonably be thought of as a key element of the film.

And beyond just me overlooking that critical point, even the filmmakers themselves seemed to have ignored that particular point, because the Scream saga immediately went back to youth-versus-age conflicts.

And the endless “Scream” copycats also didn’t dwell on youth-versus-youth themes. “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” for instance, was teenagers battling an old man. “Cherry Falls” was a teenage girl versus her demented English teacher. Even when the writer and director and producer of “Scream” tried to copy themselves—in the teen/young adult werewolf movie “Cursed”—they didn’t create a youth versus youth plot, but rather made a werewolf movie that turned out to be a young woman struggling against an “old” and established werewolf. A youth versus age theme.

Isn’t that strange?

The Scream saga itself started with a movie in which “age” and old people were practically irrelevant, and the central conflict was young people dealing with young people. Then in sequels the filmmakers re-defined the central conflict to ‘standard’ youth-versus-age conflicts. Then—almost freakily—the filmmakers created a movie in “Scream 4” were old age is presented as destroying youth. What the hell?

And although the first “Scream” was so influential in modern entertainment, very few films—in fact none come to mind—tried to copy the relatively simple characteristic of focusing only on a youth-versus-young conflict.

(I’m not even going to dwell on the observation that possibly the most successful comic strip of all time—Peanuts—didn’t even have adults in it.)

Anyway, so, I made a mistake in not thinking about this yesterday and bringing it up in some way. But I’m not alone in missing what should have been a particularly obvious point about a particularly influential story.

Psychology and art and entertainment are a strange threesome.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Checking In On Disbelief And Recognition

Looking for all the world like an iconic Sandcrawler vessel from the Star Wars franchise, the Sandcrawler Building in Singapore, destined to be a future architectural landmark, will house LucasFilm's regional headquarters, a public podium and a hundred-seat theater.

Architectural tourists and Lucas fans will be thrilled to know that a large swathe of the building will be open to the public, such as the 24-hour public podium set on a granite base and surrounded by lush greenery, and the massive, state-of-the-art theater, which will be used to host film premieres and conferences.

In Singapore, George Lucas had someone
design and construct an office complex
that from the side looks like a Sandcrawler
from Episode Four of the Star Wars films.

Once I was checking in to a hotel
and I heard a voice across the lobby
yell over the business talk, “Hey, Star Wars!”

I couldn’t believe my ears but I thought
I recognized the voice. I turned around.
Somebody I knew was running over
to say a group of people were going
to a nearby neighborhood theater
to see Episode Four in re-release
and they knew I wouldn’t want to miss it.

I looked from my suitcase to the desk clerk.
She told me someone could take my suitcase
up to my room for me if I wanted
to go off right away and watch Star Wars.

In Singapore, George Lucas had someone
design and construct an office complex
that from the side looks like a Sandcrawler
from Episode Four of the Star Wars films.

Hardly a day goes by without something
happening where I don’t believe my ears
or I don’t believe my eyes. I seem to
move through these episodes of disbelief
without taking them to heart (or to mind)
and questioning the concept of belief.

If somebody looked at me from the side
I think I’d look like a badly written
movie character who ignores the plot
of the movie playing out around him.

Sometimes I get so lost in fantasy
when I look at the real world around me
I don’t believe I know what to believe.

In Singapore, George Lucas had someone
design and construct an office complex
that from the side looks like a Sandcrawler
from Episode Four of the Star Wars films.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

There’s A Woman With No Clothes On Here!

Today’s post is stuff from the weekend that has given me things to think about these last few days.


First of all, there’s been a woman with no clothes on hanging out around my studio! Look, here she is by my keyboard:

She’s beautiful and interesting and I can hold her any time I want, but sadly she is ‘only’ a book.

It’s a hardcover copy of V. R. Main’s fiction/non-fiction story of Victorine Meurent’s life, “A Woman With No Clothes On.”

So a couple of weeks ago I didn’t even know this book existed. [ The blog was a whole different color in those days! ] Then one day when I was getting over a sore stomach I was flipping around blogs looking at Manet paintings and I saw a photography blog post a news story from a British paper about the title. Our local suburban library system doesn’t own even a single copy of the book, so I bought a copy from one of those Amazon associate places.

And now I own a copy.

I haven’t read the book yet. But I have read all the front-matter and back-matter and it sounds very cool. I’m looking forward to getting into the book itself.

But I have spent a little time wondering why no local libraries own a copy. At first glance, it appears to be exactly the kind of book any library would want to own. The author is both British and credentialed, a Ph.D., and all that. And as historical topics go, the Impressionist era is a popular topic. And there are not a lot of other books about Victorine Meurent available. It sounds like a book that would be in a lot of libraries.

But it isn’t even in one around here.

I bet I know why.

Now, I haven’t talked to an actual librarian about this. When I walk into a library, it is like a Marx Brothers movie. All the librarians hurry to put an OUT-TO-LUNCH sign on the counter, then they crouch down and sit under the counter eating donuts and reading month-old People magazines. If I walk up and say, “Hello, is anyone here?” I hear a squeaky, obviously fake voice say, seemingly from out of nowhere, “Nobody’s here. We’re all out to lunch. Come back later. Umm, this is a recording. Beep.” And then I hear giggling. I just look off to the side like Groucho and leave. So I haven’t talked to an actual librarian about why no one has a copy of this book.

But I do have a theory.

I bet it is all about the cover and the title.

The cover is a picture of a naked woman. Look at the photograph. The title of the book is “A Woman With No Clothes On” and the cover is a close up image of a woman with no clothes on.

I bet libraries don’t want to stock that. I bet librarians feel kids would steal the book or adults would complain about the book or the cover would get defaced and constantly have to be repaired. I bet it is as simple as that. Because of the image of a naked woman on the cover, I bet librarians feel (and probably rightly so) that the book would simply be more trouble than it is worth.

If that is the reason (or even part of the reason) isn’t it remarkable that Manet painted that image more than a hundred years ago to make a statement about society and culture and, well, naked women, and it is still making a statement today.

And isn’t it still a more interesting statement than whatever the hell most modern artists are saying with their art? Or “art?”

Anyway, so now I’ve got a cool book to read.


Second of all, I discovered over the weekend that, in an internet sort of way, I know one of the principal organizers of this ridiculous so-called “Occupy Wall Street” nonsense going on in New York and in other cities.

I couldn’t believe it.

If the Feds ever kick in this guy’s door and confiscate his computer, they’re going to find something like a decade’s worth of e-mail exchanges with my name on them. And it’s my hotmail account, so it has my actual name right in the address.

[ I’m shaking my head as I type this. ] Back in the Old Days, before AOL and the Dark Times, the online world was very interesting. You met interesting people online. It wasn’t that easy to setup hardware and software to get online, so the community was, to an extent, self-selecting for people who had a working brain.

Nowadays corporations make it trivially easy for everyone to get online and, to be frank, corporations prefer dubious people because dubious people are easier to market to. And money from dubious people—as it happens!—is every bit as good as money from smart people.

So, anyway, the moral here is be very careful about the people you make friends with on the internet.

Almost nobody online is what they appear to be. And many people turn out to be something like the very opposite of the cyber-personality they present.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the e-mails I’ve exchanged with this left-wing nut. Mostly we talked about philosophy and theology and I don’t think the Feds will be sending any jack-booted thugs to kick in my door.

But, really, be careful. Almost without exception, when I’ve met people in real life that I first met online, I’ve ended up shaking my head and walking around all numb and dazed and confused thinking, “What a nightmare.”


So. Now I’m off to do something really rebellious and revolutionary, like read a good book about a woman with no clothes on!

Monday, October 03, 2011

About Not Seeing Comet Garradd

Last night I took my binoculars out into the back parking lot and looked for Comet Garradd. I didn’t see it, but I’ll be looking again. Comet Garradd reaches perihelion on December 23, so the comet may be getting a little brighter over the coming months.

This is an interesting situation for an urban astronomer.

Comet Garradd is a dim comet. It never gets very close to the Sun. Even at perihelion it will be roughly around the distance of the orbit of Mars. But at about sixth magnitude, it should be visible to binoculars, even under city skies. However unlike a star which is a point source of light or a planet which is tiny disk, a comet is kind of a little smudge. Because the dim light is spread out against an urban sky which itself is light, the lack of contrast makes a comet harder to see than a point source or disk.

Now, normally, it might not be much fun to try to hunt down a little smudge against a city sky at night. But Comet Garradd is in an almost perfect position for star-hopping. And because of the comet’s orbit, it will remain in a good position—in fact, its position against the stars will even improve—for the next three or four months. That’s very unusual for a comet.

And it’s very tempting for a would-be urban comet hunter. It’s like the comet is teasing us.

I’m going to describe the star-hopping I do to try and track down this comet.

First, here is a finder chart. If you click on the chart, the image will get a little bigger. And here is a link to a story about the comet at Sky and Telescope. The story includes a link to an even larger finder chart.

Here’s how I look for this comet.

First of all, the comet is in the constellation Hercules. Hercules isn’t a hard constellation to find, but there are no really bright stars and here, south of Chicago, I can’t see any of the stars without binoculars.

To find Hercules, I usually start at the very bright star Arcturus and go “up and to the left” through the beautiful Corona Borealis and into Hercules.

But Arcturus sets pretty early now, so I approach Hercules from the opposite direction.

After the Sun goes down, almost directly overhead the brightest star is Vega. If you start at Vega and come down almost due west—just a touch, just a tad, south of due west—the first bright stars you see are the edge of Hercules, the Omicron, Xi and Mu stars. (If I’m reading the Greek letters correctly.)

In the sky, the three stars look almost exactly like a small version of the handle of the Big Dipper, and there is the little star, Nu Hercules, just offset from Xi Hercules as a kind of indicator that you’ve found the right place. When Hercules is in the west, those three stars appear to be almost a vertical line.

In my wide angle binoculars, Omicron, Xi and Mu (along with Nu) all just barely fit into one field. So that’s a great landmark in Hercules.

And as it happens, right now Comet Garradd is almost exactly twice that distance—twice the distance from Omicron to Mu, one binocular field for me—away from Omicron Hercules.

So once I find those stars in Hercules, I can position my binoculars on Omicron and shift them almost directly south two field-widths and know that there—right there—is Comet Garradd. It may be too dim for me to see, but this star-hopping sequence makes looking for Comet Garradd a bit of fun. (Because Nu Hercules is the little star just offset from Xi Hercules, you can even tell which way is south, because you know the comet is in the opposite direction from little Nu.)

And everything is just going to get better.

Comet Garradd may get a little brighter. And over the coming months Comet Garradd will move almost directly in-line with Xi and Mu Hercules, so those two “easy” stars will be like an arrow pointing right at the comet.

Comet Garradd may be dim, but it is right in the neighborhood of some easy stars. The idea is to star-hop over to the easy stars, and use the easy stars to judge the field-width of your binoculars, and the distance on the finder chart to the comet. Then you use background stars as guideposts to carefully shift your field of view from one of the easy stars, one field-width at a time, over to where the comet is.

Then you’ll either see it or you won’t, depending on the sky.

(That’s not exactly true. Sometimes you will see a little shimmering patch, a kind of haze that seems to blink into existence and then out, and all you can do is wonder—“Was that it?!” It probably was, but, really, you have to wait for darker skies or a bigger telescope to make sure.)

I haven’t taken out my four inch refractor. I’m kind of hoping to track down Comet Garradd with my binoculars. But as Hercules sinks lower in the evening sky—the constellation will become a morning object soon, but Comet Garradd still will be there in Hercules in the morning sky—I may buckle down and take out my telescope.

So there’s a comet out there in the sky, just kind of hanging around and daring everybody to find it and have a look.

To anyone who takes up the comet’s challenge and looks for it: Good luck!

And if you see it, blog about it!

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

I’ve changed some of the colors
on the blog. Fall colors.

-- Mark

Sunday, October 02, 2011

2011 3rd Quarter Index

September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011 -- A Flute Landscape

Thursday, September 29, 2011 -- Real Water Colors (With Figures)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 -- Dinosaurs And Hippie Girls Is A World

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 -- Watercolors And Dive Bombers

Monday, September 26, 2011 -- Mice Elf Again

Friday, September 23, 2011 -- The Thunderous Tragedy Of Batteries

Thursday, September 22, 2011 -- The Thunderous Glamour Of Batteries

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 -- The Equinox And The Tropics And Me

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 -- “Indigestion” (And A Victorine Meurent Update!)

Monday, September 19, 2011 -- Hood Ornaments And Exploding Stars

Friday, September 16, 2011 -- A Captain Kirk Exorcism

Thursday, September 15, 2011 -- Making Noise Between Puddles And Clouds

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 -- Passages Between Worlds

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 -- Hidden In The Shadow Of The Index

Monday, September 12, 2011 -- Japanese Train Stations Forever

Friday, September 9, 2011 -- Wild Dogs As Acoustic Holdouts (Redux)

Thursday, September 8, 2011 -- Gadget Angst

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 -- ‘Hortense Had Her Adventures’

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 -- What I Learned Today At Barangrill

Monday, September 5, 2011 -- A Thumb Update (And Book Report)

Friday, September 2, 2011 -- The Underwear Distance Of Love: A Puppet Show

Thursday, September 1, 2011 -- A Butterfly In Shadow And Everything

August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 -- Blood All Over My Kitchen!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 -- Folklore Of The Carnivore: Taylor Swift

Monday, August 29, 2011 -- In Which I Wrap Up The Cheese (Trilogy)

Friday, August 26, 2011 -- Writing About Photographing Rembrandt

Thursday, August 25, 2011 -- On Being Unhappy (And Happy)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 -- A Civilization Of Leaves

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 -- Lithosphere Atmosphere Ionosphere Coupling

Monday, August 22, 2011 -- Kangaroo Girl And The Yale Boys

Friday, August 19, 2011 -- Movies, Keyboards And Skirt Police

Thursday, August 18, 2011 -- All The Questions About Atlantis

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 -- Pretty Blue Flowers At The Gates Of Hell

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 -- The Craft Of Wreckage

Monday, August 15, 2011 -- Clown As Supervillain

Friday, August 12, 2011 -- Where The Scorpion Sits Down For Tea

Thursday, August 11, 2011 -- Throwing Rocks At Tin Cans

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 -- Beautiful People Are Courageous

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 -- The Mythic Landscape (And French Writers)

Monday, August 8, 2011 -- Where I Torment, Torture And Traumatize A Teen

Friday, August 5, 2011 -- An Albireo Question

Thursday, August 4, 2011 -- The Evil Light In Perkins’ Eyes

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 -- Distance From Paris To Berlin

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 -- Leaving Mandy Moore

Monday, August 1, 2011 -- Cool Snail Ben Safe At Second Base

July 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011 -- Expeditions And Wilderness Parties

Thursday, July 28, 2011 -- Scraps For Alison With Love And Squalor

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 -- What Is Electric Sugar?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 -- Anal Sex And Death In Los Angeles

Monday, July 25, 2011 -- This Woman From The Canals Of Mars

Saturday, July 23, 2011 -- Amy Winehouse Makes It Official

Friday, July 22, 2011 -- Big Clouds, Big Scorpions, Doing Stuff

Thursday, July 21, 2011 -- A Sketchbook Page With No Sketches

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 -- Weather, Fringe Talk And Debunking

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 -- Posh People Squabbling

Monday, July 18, 2011 -- Too Beautiful To Comprehend

Friday, July 15, 2011 -- Dinosaur By Moonlight: A Puppet Show

Thursday, July 14, 2011 -- The Library That We’ve Made Of Ourselves

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 -- Scientist At A Hamburger Stand

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 -- The Wind, Here In The Sea Of Clouds

Monday, July 11, 2011 -- Enceladus Was A Child Of Gaia

Friday, July 8, 2011 -- Freedom From The Wild/Lost In Metonymy

Thursday, July 7, 2011 -- The Criss-Crossing Of Sara’s Hair

Wednesday, July 6, 2011 -- Wild In The Parking Lot

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 -- Ode To A Flute: On Getting Blown Right

Monday, July 4, 2011 -- This Girl Like Fireworks

Monday, July 4, 2011 -- 2011 2nd Quarter Index

Friday, July 1, 2011 -- “Hold Me Forever: A Doll Philosophy”