Thursday, June 30, 2011

No Lights In My Kitchen (Or Anywhere Else)



Today will be a very old fashioned kind of blog post.

This is what’s happening right now:



That’s a flashlight shining on my Scooby-Doo poster.

There’s a flashlight lighting up the place because we have no power.

A couple of weeks ago we had a giant flood where the streets were underwater and through all that we never lost power.

Today was a hot, sunny day all day. Then late this afternoon some real intense storms blew past Chicago, east of Chicago, and we hardly got any rain at all. Just a couple of little drizzles.

But tonight—buzz, buzz, zap—our power went out.

So, while my laptop batteries hold out I can do a short post.

This is it.

Tomorrow—if power comes back—I’ll have Little Plastic Doll’s music video. If nothing goes up Friday, check back over the weekend. Sooner or later, I’ll get it completed and posted.




The wild flowers growing
out in the wild are strumming
acoustic guitars.












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



I Can’t Sleep In My Kitchen


Exciting Waveforms



















Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Almost Invisible Bokeh



In photography, bokeh (BOH-kə, Japanese: [boke]) is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light." Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—"good" and "bad" bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.










Bokeh is not real the way a wild flower is real.

Even if a camera doesn’t take its picture
the wild flower is still out there in the wilderness
or turning a parking lot into wilderness
just by being a flower and just by being wild
and growing up through a crack in the parking lot.

Bokeh is light in the out-of-focus background
of a photograph, a kind of kaleidoscope
caused by the lens aperture and lens elements,
sometimes subtle, sometimes garish, kind of random
but always a construct of lens technology.

Bokeh is not real the way a wild flower is real.

I’ve always tried to be aware of depth-of-field.

I’ve always liked almost invisible bokeh.

The technology construct I want to create
is an image of wilderness, a flower, somewhere,
creating wilderness just by being wild there.

A kaleidoscope is just a trick played with light.










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


A Behind-The-Scenes
Note: Coming Attractions



I usually don’t like to tease up-coming posts—because, you know, “We can never know about the days to come”—but every now and then I do it and this is one of those times because, frankly, I’m a little nervous.

Friday will be a new little music video.

Little Plastic Doll has written a love song. She calls it a ‘philosophical love song’ and she’s going to try it out on Rubber Lizard.

Little Plastic Doll has been feeling kind of Mary Shelley-ish, I think, ever since I mentioned Bram Stoker in that post I did on “The Lair of the White Worm.”

So she’s been, you know, nineteenth century, philosophizing and talking about God and all. Hmmm. The landed-gentry lady at leisure.

I’m a little nervous.

We’ll see. Tune in Friday. The post will be called,
“Hold Me Forever: A Doll Philosophy.”

















Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ha! Man Throws Away Library!



For a while I thought I was going to have nothing to post about today. Ha!

Okay, before I get to the good stuff—before I get to the guy who threw away a library!—here are a couple of little things related to earlier posts.


Tennis

Maria Sharapova has gotten to the semifinals of Wimbledon.

The big story at Wimbledon this year is on the men’s side, with Andy Murray having a chance to get a title for Britain. I wish him well. He’s a strange player, sometimes fun to watch, sometimes awful to watch, but he has beaten—once or twice—everyone who remains on the men’s side and, of those remaining, Murray probably has the best game for grass. So, I won’t jinx him by wishing him luck, but I’ll be watching his remaining matches.

Maria Sharapova is in a situation similar to this year’s French Open. All the remaining players are youngsters. She is by far the favorite to add another Wimbledon title to her record. Again, I won’t jinx her by wishing her luck, but I’ll be watching her remaining matches, too.

Thinking Of Mountains Redux

Tennis, French Scumbags, Classic Science



Nuclear Accidents

I should have included this yesterday but—believe it or not—I just kind of forgot about it [?!] when I was typing up the post.

The sociologist wrote that people are swayed by images and there is an ‘appeal’ to analogies. Well, one very bizarre and interesting similarity between Fukushima and Fort Calhoun is that they both had helicopter crashes within a few days of each other. The Fukushima crash was a small, remote-controlled drone that crashed onto a reactor roof. The Fort Calhoun crash is stranger. The ‘official’ story is a copter company from Iowa was contracted to fly over the Fort Calhoun scene—even though there is a no-fly zone there—to ‘survey electrical lines.’ (Those thin lines stretched against the sky!) Anyway, the copter developed what was simply reported as mechanical difficulties and crashed. It was reported as an emergency landing, but look at the picture, it looks like a crash:



Who knows what the hell is going on in Nebraska?


*


Okay.

Now, about this guy who threw away a library...


First, everybody who loves books has noticed, for years, that libraries all across the nation have been throwing away good, old, content-rich books and acquiring ridiculous, demographic-driven, worthless, modern so-called ‘books.’

[Edit today, Wednesday, for two serious notes: 1) This, of course, is really a global issue: The University of NSW is throwing away thousands of books and scholarly journals as part of a policy that critics say is turning its library into a Starbucks.. 2) The way modern “professionals” have been dehumanized into kind of free-floating, generic cultists, generic ideologues, is the topic of a book by a physicist [!]: Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives.]

Things Libraries Throw Away

Everybody hates the practice, nobody supports the practice, but it’s the 21st century, it’s the Jetsons’ world, nothing makes sense and decisions are made by ideologues who have allegiance to Cthulhu and the Great Old Ones.

Or something like that.

Anyway, libraries suck now, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.


Unless you buy a library and convert it into a monster-hunting lair!


Let me take just a half-step back.


Just a few days after I did my last Loch Ness post—Loch Ness Apocalypse—there was a pretty good sighting of the “monster” by some Loch Ness regulars. Here is that story:


FOYERS shop and cafe owner Jan Hargreaves and her husband Simon believe they caught a glimpse of Loch Ness’s most elusive resident — Nessie.

It was while taking a break on the store’s front decking — looking out to the loch — when Mrs Hargreaves and kitchen worker Graham Baine spotted an unusual figure cutting a strange shape through the water.

“We were standing looking out and saw something that looked bizarre,” said Mrs Hargreaves.

“I said to my husband to come and have a look.

“We stand here all the time and look out and we see boats and kayaks but it didn’t look like anything we have seen here before.”

Despite the unidentified creature being quite a distance from their vantage point, 51-year-old Mrs Hargreaves said it had a long neck which was too long to be that of a seal and it was black in appearance.

“It went under the water and disappeared for probably 30 to 40 seconds and then came back up again,” said Mrs Hargreaves.

“It was around for a good four to five minutes. It was just so strange.”

Keen to stress she is not seeking publicity, Mrs Hargreaves does firmly believe what she saw was the Loch Ness Monster.

“It was so exciting,” she declared.

Since August last year, The Waterfall Cafe and Foyers Stores with post office, opposite the village’s famous Falls of Foyers, has been run by Mr and Mrs Hargreaves.

Nessie hunter Steve Feltham, who lives in a former mobile library turned research centre on Dores beach, said he heard about the possible sighting when he popped into the store last week and believes because it was from residents rather than tourists, it is more credible.

“I’m excited by the fact it was locals who had seen it,” said Mr Feltham.

“It’s quite a distance from the shop to the water and they watch everything that goes on there.

“For them to be impressed then there is a possibility it could have been Nessie.”

What particularly excited Mr Feltham was that it was from the exact same vantage point where Tim Binsdale shot the best footage of the legendary creature back in 1960.


(More at the link)





When I read that, I saw the great quote about the old monster hunter who lives in a converted mobile library. Here is his picture:



And—bravo, monster hunter!—here is his story, as reported a few years ago in Britain:


Steve Feltham gave up his girlfriend, his house and his job to search for the Loch Ness monster. Seventeen years on, does he have any regrets?


To say that I am a patient man would be an understatement. Seventeen years sat watching and waiting on the shores of Loch Ness for one decent sighting of the monster has to be considered dedication in anybody's eyes. To me, however, it is more a dream come true: this subject has fascinated me since a family holiday in 1970, when I was seven. It was then that we visited the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau, a team of volunteers who each summer set up a makeshift camp on the lochside near Urquhart Castle, from where they mounted round-the-clock surveillance in the hope of filming Nessie. What really caught my imagination was the platform they had built, on which they had mounted a cine camera and tripod; the lens alone must have been a metre long. Grown men looking for monsters? Fantastic.

Noticing my interest, and knowing that it would be a long drive back home to Dorset, my father bought me the bureau's information pack, a folder that I still have, filled with copies of sighting reports and reprints of iconic photographs. I was hooked. Over the next decade my interest grew, fuelled by classroom debates and several more family holidays to the Scottish Highlands.

I would return to the loch many times, first as a child and then, when I was an adult, on two-week "expeditions", armed with a very basic camera and my grandfather's second world war binoculars, fully expecting to be able to solve the mystery before I had to return to work. Little did I realise that it could take a lifetime.

I might have been content to visit the loch periodically, get my fix of monster hunting, then return to work, had I remained in the creative occupations that I pursued for the first eight years of my working life, first as a potter, then as a bookbinder and finally as a graphic artist. However, by 1987, when I was 24, I had a house and a steady girlfriend, and when it was suggested that I join my father setting up a company installing burglar alarms, I jumped at the chance to make some serious money.

Pretty soon, I realised I was in the wrong job, but the thing that got to me most while working in people's homes was the number of retired folk who would say, "Oh, I wish I'd gone and lived in America when I was your age", or climbed Mount Everest, or whatever. What would I regret not having done when I reached 70?

It was obvious: I knew where I was at my happiest, and what I was most interested in. So I quit the relationship, and put the house on the market.

To make absolutely sure that what I was planning was right for me and not just a pipe dream, I loaded up the works van and, in the summer of 1990, went on a three-week hunt to the loch. I had the time of my life. The day the cheque from the sale of my house went into the bank, I told my parents I would be leaving the, by now, lucrative family business. "Oh, and by the way, I'm going to search for the Loch Ness monster instead."

"Told you," my mother said to my father.

I needed something to live in. Within days my brother had located the perfect thing, a 20-year-old former mobile library, wood-lined and with a potbelly stove. In this, I would be able to move around the loch between vantage points, and follow up any new sightings.

On June 19 1991, I arrived at the loch and became a full-time monster hunter. I had never been happier.

To fund myself, I hit on the idea of making little Nessie models out of modelling clay, sitting the monsters on rocks gathered from the shore. I was sure that tourists would buy them, but in the first year I found it hard to sell any. The problem was that nobody knew what I was doing, or why.

Fortunately, while planning this quest, I had phoned the BBC for advice about which video format I should use if I wanted my results to be broadcast-quality. I was put through to the team making the Video Diaries series. Spotting the potential for a good story, they kitted me out with enough equipment and batteries to film the whole of my first year in my new life.

As soon as this programme, Desperately Seeking Nessie, was aired in August 1992, I knew that everything would be OK. People started turning up wanting to buy a model from the guy who had given up his comfortable life to follow a dream. I still get visitors who remember it.

I never set a time limit, but I suppose I thought that within the first three years I would surely see and film something. I now know that was a wee bit optimistic. The loch is more than 23 miles long and, realistically, one man can only be looking at about a mile of it at any time. I have tried other methods of hunting over the years; using a boat with some fairly decent echo sounders on board I have had contacts with objects in mid-loch that appear to be much larger than the resident fish. But an echo sounder will never reveal what it has found, but just give a rough idea of how big it is. I have also got a good friend who owns a microlight, but it is not much use when you are looking for a very dark object in very dark water.

So nowadays I watch and wait mostly from the shoreline. I would love to have my own boat, but to generate enough money to buy one, I would first have to film Nessie.

For most of the first decade my van remained mobile, which gave me the chance to move between three or four lochside villages. However, I increasingly found myself drawn to the village of Dores, on the south shore, from where I had the best view of Loch Ness that anyone could wish for.

About 10 years ago the van failed its last MOT, and so I decided it was time to become static. The Dores Inn car park was perfect, backing on to the beach as it does and, thanks to the owners' kindness, I had permission to spread out a bit, build some decking out of old pallets, and incorporate a large piece of driftwood to display my models on. Utopia.

Now I have my perfect lochside base, as well as my own postcode and council tax bills. There is no running water or electricity, but the pub has an outside tap, and car batteries charged by a solar panel enable me to run my lights, radio and laptop. My shower consists of two buckets of loch water and a saucepan heated on the stove. The loch deposits driftwood for my stove right outside my door, (much needed, as I've seen temperatures reach minus 17C) and a great big concrete patio table on my "decking" makes sitting out on a summer's day my favourite pastime. I breakfast at this table, put my models out for sale, and wait to see what adventures will turn up.

Tourists arrive to ask me questions, friends come to sit and chat, then maybe there is a Mediterranean-style buffet, an evening campfire, a starry night sky, and, best of all, sometimes the northern lights. Then, when everyone has gone and I have the loch to myself again, I stand at the shoreline and feel the energy that pours off the place, before retiring to watch the night sky through the skylight above my bed. That, to me, is a perfect day.

The Highland weather does not always permit such joys, in which case I find that I can keep myself admirably busy inside my van. I make a few models, possibly do a watercolour painting that I can later sell, read, listen to the radio, maybe even watch the occasional osprey feeding right outside my door. As soon as I feel boredom coming on, I change tack, and anyway I have long since realised that in this life the unpredictable is never far away, be it the Chinese State Circus dropping by for a photo shoot or Billy Connolly inviting me to be a guide for half a dozen of his A-list chums for a day.

Film crews and journalists from all over the world turn up on a regular basis, and I answer all their questions, but they are invariably focused on one subject: is there a monster, or isn't there? Which is perfectly understandable, but it frustrates me that I never have the chance to get an equally important point across: that if you have a dream, no matter how harebrained others think it is, then it is worth trying to make it come true. I'm living proof that it might just work.

Have I ever regretted my decision? Never, not for one second.























Monday, June 27, 2011

Nuclear Accidents, Sociology, The Word ‘Bistre’



Before I Begin

I need to follow my own advice. Late this afternoon I went to two kinds of places I know I shouldn’t go and unpleasant things happened in both of them.


First of all, I went to a craft store. Gads, what’s wrong with me? But I wanted a very specific thing—a set of Winsor and Newton water miscible oil paints—and it was such a simple purchase I figured what could go wrong? Ha! At the checkout, the computer rang up the paints for $20 more than the price listed on the shelf. So I caught the error, pointed out the mistake and the checkout girl used a headset device she wears [!] to call someone walking the floor to check the price. Sure enough, the computer price didn’t match the shelf price. So the checkout girl re-totaled my purchase for the shelf price, but told me I was lucky because the computer price was correct. The store can’t coordinate their shelves and their computers and I’m supposed to feel lucky (or, I guess, guilty).


Then—in fact, right after that—I visited a library. [Sighs.] Again, I was getting one specific thing, a book about Ray Harryhausen. I had checked the computer catalogue online so I knew the book was on-shelf. When I got there, however, the book wasn’t on-shelf. A very friendly librarian looked up the title and said, “Well, it hasn’t been checked out in five years. That usually means a patron has absconded with the book.” So, yeah, some patron stole a book and that library’s catalogue which listed the book on-shelf stole two gallons of gas out of my tank.


However something unexpected and cool did happen on the way home. I was stopped for a red light and I saw on the sidewalk next to my car a beautiful woman taking a young girl for a walk. Right next to my car, the woman screamed. I looked over and she was picking up the young girl in her arms and jumping off the sidewalk into the street—because a big garter snake (I think it was just a garter snake) was slithering across the sidewalk from one patch of grass to another. The woman saw me looking at her and we both laughed and both said at the same time, “I’ve never seen that before!”

Suburban snakes on the move!


Anyway. On with today’s post.



Nuclear Accidents

The last time I used this headline it was about Fukushima. Not today.

This is a photograph of the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station in Nebraska:



Now, officially, everything is safe. Politicians and nuclear experts say the flood waters haven’t inundated the two nuclear power plants in Nebraska and all the safety systems at both plants are functioning properly.

However, around the internet—of course—just about every scale of conspiracy theory is available.

I’m not going to link to anyone because they are all—to one extant or another—kind of crazy. However, I’m going to kind of summarize things from my own points of interest.

The general conspiratorial belief about nuclear power plants, today, to my eyes seems to be this: 1) Some global ‘elite’ power bloc is intent on a vast depopulation of the planet, taking the population down from around seven billion to about one billion or less; 2) Nuclear disasters will provide one portion of the large-scale death toll; 3) Nuclear disasters will be caused by a two-part process; 3a) The Stuxnet computer virus first will infect the control systems of nuclear power plants either alone or along with very high-tech nano-sabotage technologies; 3b) Climate-control technologies will then cause seemingly ‘natural’ disasters which push the physical systems of the nuclear power plants beyond their control range causing fuel melt-downs which cannot be stopped.

All this, I guess, makes sense in a kind of James Bond Villain sort of way. However, so far as I know, there is no way a computer virus can disable all the control mechanisms of all nuclear power plants. And climate-control technologies are, again, so far as I know, just an internet techno-myth.

The topic of so-called scalar physics is all over the internet but I have never seen anyone—either a professional physicist or amateur physicist—ever demonstrate that ‘scalar physics’ is even real! The whole idea seems to be that vectors, or even quaternions, which describe an electrical or magnetic field can be deconstructed into their component magnitudes, their scalar quantities, and those scalar quantities can be manipulated to do just about any magic you want to imagine—project power to a distant point, control the weather, cause earthquakes, create Star Trek-like tractor beams, etc., etc., etc. It sounds cool, but so far as I know, it is not real! It is all a techno-myth with no basis in the real world at all. Nothing.

The only reason I’m paying any attention at all to this is because Japan is a society that really is well-run. I’ve known people who lived in Japan and they tell me that living in Japan is very different than living anywhere else. In Japan “experts” really do know the stuff they’re supposed to know. In Japan politicians really do look after the stuff they’re supposed to look after. And in Japan things in general work.

So it is very strange to me that Fukushima happened in Japan.

Also, although the mainstream press speaks in passing about Fukushima backup systems failing, from the little I know about nuclear power plants, some backup systems are very, very blunt. For instance, heat from an un-cooled core can drive turbines which pump cool water over the core. Even if electricity fails to a plant, there are blunt mechanical backup systems like that.

So it is very strange to me that Fukushima now has (at least) three reactors in uncontrolled melt-down.

I never would have believed that could happen.

If I could have been wrong about that—and I was—then I might be wrong about, say, scalar physics, too.



Sociology

The mainstream press has done a pretty bad job—to my eyes—covering Fukushima (not to mention the Gulf of Mexico!). That strangeness from the mainstream continues now from, of all places, the magazine called “Psychology Today.”

A sociologist—we are told, in fact, he is “a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow”—writing at “Psychology Today” looks at the nuclear power plant situation in Nebraska and sees it only as an example of modern global media rumor mongering and the power of images:


...When a contemporary disturbance can be linked to a well-known disaster, the public mind churns into overdrive. Seeing these images of flooding and aware of the fire, the analogy was powerful. Flood and fire equal disaster.

One Pakistani English-language online newspaper, citing Russian sources, described the accident at Fort Calhoun as "one of the worst" in U.S. history. The report suggested that President Obama tried to clamp down on news reports and ordered a no-fly zone over Fort Calhoun because of the danger of radiation plumes. Conspiracy claims blossomed, charging that, because of government inaction, residents were in danger of a nuclear catastrophe. Reading from the incident in Fukushima and the lack of timely response from the Japanese power company, the possibility that the administration might underplay the real danger seemed all too real to many. The rumors kept spreading, a spark away from panic.

But at this point this panic has not occurred. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission assured us that there was little danger, insisting that radiation has not been released. Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the agency, recognized that "the rumors have been as difficult to combat as the rising floodwaters," condemning false information on blogs and social media. The Omaha Public Power District wisely placed a page on their website that served as "Flood Rumor Control." The water is slowly receding and so are the rumors.

Not being a nuclear engineer, I have no independent knowledge as to the denials; however, I have read no credible evidence that suggests that the good people of the heartland are in danger. Warren Buffet can breathe a sigh of relief.

Still, the episode reminds us of how rumors are generated. People judge potential dangers in light of what has happened previously. Images speak volumes in organizing how we think and what we believe. People routinely engage in evaluation through what social psychologists speak of as "comparative contexts." A dramatic visual impression primes us to judge images that appear similar through that cognitive prism. Thanks to Japan we know what a nuclear disaster looks like, even if it doesn't. And so as of today the residents of Omaha seem safe and secure. The fire and the flood have spared them - this time.




I hope that’s all correct. Nebraska is only one state away from Illinois and the normal wind patterns blow almost directly from there to here.



The Word ‘Bistre’

Back when I talked to people in the real world, I knew some people who attended the School of the Art Institute and we would sometimes talk about painting. When we used the word ‘Bistre’ we knew that it originally referred to a kind of dark ink.

But we all used the word to refer to a kind of dark, neutral gray created by mixing three primaries.

It was a fun way to sketch/paint because you could do quick monochromatic images, but by controlling the ratio of red/blue/yellow you could make the monochrome a little cool or warm or even introduce little bits of color. And, if you decided to change the sketch into a color rendering you had all the primaries there to mix any color you wanted.

When I look around the internet now I don’t see the word ‘Bistre’ used this way at all. In fact, on its Wikipedia page there is no mention of ‘Bistre’ as a kind of mixed gray at all.

Hmmm.

This is pretty strange because when we used the word conversationally everyone just “knew” what everyone meant. ‘Bistre’ was a mixed dark.

Oddly, although I’ve never seen the word ‘Bistre’ used on the internet the way I always used it, I have seen it in one book—and only one book—used exactly as I used it.

In Ettore Maiotti’s “The Waterolor Handbook,” apparently writing from a European tradition, Maiotti writes:


... If you want it as dark as possible add a little Cadmium Yellow to the Ultramarine Blue plus Carmine. If the three colors are mixed in equal proportions you will get a genuine painter’s black, or Bistre. When diluted to varying degress, Bistre will give you shades of gray quite different from those obtained by using black, which produces a dull and heavy effect.


This is interesting to me. I and painters I grew up with used this word, ‘Bistre,’ to mean a “mixed dark,” what Maiotti called a painter’s black, but I would be hard pressed, today, to “prove” that the word ever had such a meaning. Other than this one reference in one book.

I don’t think there is any deeper meaning here. But it is remarkable to me that I often take the internet to be a kind of final arbiter on usage because people from all over the world—different cultures and all that—contribute to the internet’s content. But every now and then some little fragment of reality that I hold to be an actual fragment of reality, seems to have no existence within the internet cosmos.

That’s kind of disconcerting to me. It doesn’t worry me, but it makes me wonder just how good a job—in the big picture, in the existential picture—the internet does at representing real life, since for many people a great deal of the so-called bricks and mortar reality is being deconstructed and people are living much of their life here in this internet, ummm, fabrication.








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



Writers Versus Painters By The Perfume River



Rembrandt, Magic And Colors Beyond Words



















Friday, June 24, 2011

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2





“Seems like nothing ever comes to no good
up on Choctaw Ridge”




This morning I chopped up vegetables and dumped them
into a pot of boiling water. Some water
splashed against my arm and I screamed. Pam ran over,
wet a paper towel in cold water and held it
against my burned skin. She asked me, “Are you okay?”

I nodded, smiled, said, “It was so unexpected.
And, holy cow, did it hurt!” Still holding the towel
wet with cold water against my burned skin, Pam laughed.
She said, “Holy cow, did you scream!” I put my hand
over her hand, kissed her on the cheek, said, “Thank you.”
“Just be careful,” she said. “I don’t like hearing sounds
like that!” I laughed. “I don’t like making sounds like that!”

I tried to read a book, but stopped. Page after page
was one horrible sound after another, neat,
carefully transcribed into a pleasant typeface.

Thin lines stretched into a grid—straight lines of typed words,
the letterforms were like notes on a music staff
or maybe the lines were like wires against the sky.

Musicians—back when musicians could read music—
arranged notes and melodies and chords carefully
on what is still sometimes called manuscript paper.

Electric lines against the sky carry power
carefully arranged into signals but the wires
are indifferent to the data that’s encoded.

My arranger keyboard is a synthesizer
but it was built to make music not design sounds.
That’s fine. Seems like nothing ever comes to no good
up on Choctaw Ridge. And flowers don’t make any sound
when you drop them off a bridge into a river.





“And, me, I spend a lot of time picking flowers
up on Choctaw Ridge

And dropping them into the muddy water
off the Tallahatchie Bridge”


























Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #1





“Seems like nothing ever comes to no good
up on Choctaw Ridge”




My arranger keyboard is a synthesizer
but it’s not called a synthesizer workstation
because in the marketplace, as an abstraction,
it’s intended for a music organizer

not a sound designer. I think one is wiser—
The sound designer can sell his craft creation
to anyone who needs a noisy sensation.
And noise sells. Because noise is an equalizer.

Flowers dropped off a bridge into a river below
do not make any noise (but they might make a song).
Cars on a bridge like water over rocks make noise.

Sound designers play synth workstations and they know
they have a future, they fit in and they belong—
Because toys make noise and everyone loves their toys.





“And, me, I spend a lot of time picking flowers
up on Choctaw Ridge

And dropping them into the muddy water
off the Tallahatchie Bridge”












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




“Ode to Billie Joe” at Wikipedia



*



On Not Playing A Synth Workstation #2



Knobs


Pedals, Patches And A Composer






















Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birds And Three Pretty Birds



I’ve just got a couple of little things today.


Birds

Last week I posted about a new kind of bird I’ve been seeing in a large parking lot around here. I thought it was some kind of plover, but I wasn’t sure. I’ve looked around a little more and now I think the new kind of bird around here is a kind of plover called a “Killdeer.”

Wikipedia says they’re fairly common birds. I’ve never seen one before this spring, but I’ve seen a lot of them recently. I think the Killdeer is the only plover with two bands, so that seems to be the distinguishing characteristic. I’m not a birder, but I think this bird is identified.

They sure do like to run around on asphalt.




Three Pretty Birds

Against my own advice—Can We Reboot The World?—I went to a library and checked out a book I’ve been thinking about reading for a long time. This book:

I really like all three of these women. They’ve all written great songs. I think I admire the songs of Joni Mitchell the most, but of the three, Carly Simon was always my favorite. Her voice is just so beautiful and she is so pretty.

This is one of those books, though, that I’ve kind of been saving.

A Place To Read Books I’ve Never Read

I would actually kind of prefer to be reading this book when I was, say, a hundred miles offshore on a blue water cruising sailboat making waves for Africa or something.

What I mean is that I know I’m going to be really depressed reading this book and I wish I had the resources to put the whole contemporary world out of my mind and just move on to some place else where the issues raised by reading a book like this just would be a thing of the past.

What I mean is that these three women wrote and performed such beautiful music, but I know this book is going to be about how fucked up their personal lives were and that stuff is just so depressing that, in general, I would just rather not know about it.

But sometimes if you put up with all the nonsense you get some interesting back-story about the music business so it is good, every now and then, to buckle down and force yourself to wade through all the tribulations some woman had to go through just to sing a nice song.

I guess.

Anyway, I’m going to give it a try.

The reason I decided to buckle down and try to read this book now is one night I was flipping around at Amazon and I looked up this book to see what readers were saying about it. I jumped right to the complaints and right away I saw a very funny review.

The funny review kind of confirmed some of the things I thought I would discover about the book if I ever read it, but the tone of the review was so funny that it kind of gave me courage and reassurance that someone else out there would complain about the very kind of things I’d be complaining about.

Here is the review that cheered me up even before I looked into the book and got depressed myself:


I have never seen writing quite like this. Others have mentioned the mile-long sentences, the paranthetical digressions that rip apart sentences and paragraphs on almost every page and the general herky-jerky nature of the narrative. All true. But what really got to me were the author's strange use of strange new adverbs ("pioneeringly," "karmically," "welcomely," etc.) and the overuse of hyphenated composite adjectives. Surprisedly, I began keeping a list of these in-contemprary-American-English-unfound expressions. For some this might seem like nit-picking, but I don't think I've ever read a book in which the writing itself intruded so much on my experience of reading. By the time I was reading about "mountain-life-idled Carole," I was beginning to feel like "Weller-writing-addled" Daniel!

But it wasn't just the writing. Others have pointed out the excessive attention paid to who was sleeping with whom, and the fact that the author did not interview two of the main subjects of the book. The latter really is a problem and at times the book reads like a series of short biographies of people you have never heard of who had some passing acquaintance with one of the three subjects. In general, there is a lot of irrelevant information and I thought the author had an unfortunate tendency to name-drop. For example, in a book about these three women, you would expect to see attention paid to James Taylor. But why do we need to know that some other girlfriend of Taylor later went on to date Woody Allen and other celebrities? Who cares? Likewise, it seems like everyone mentioned in the book who went to Harvard - no matter how fleeting the reference or how irrelevant to the context - is identified as "Harvard educated." Now, I know there is a class and priviledge argument being made about Carly Simon, but who cares if the bass player who intruduced Carole King to some musician or other went to Harvard? You have the feeling that the first questions in every interview were: "What celebrities have you slept with?" and "Did you go to an Ivy League school?"

More fundamentally, though, the premise of the book is a little forced. The women are very different artists. Joni Mitchell was never a Top 40 hit-maker like Carly Simon and early-70's Carole King. When those two women were riding high on the charts, Mitchell was already artsy counter-culture by comparison. And the author does very little to explore her significance in popular music, relying instead on period reviews and cliches about Mitchell's career. A more interesting group of subjects would perhaps have been Laura Nyro, Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. But then the whole sex-partner overlap story would have been out the window.

For readers born after 1980, the book might make some interesting connections between pop music and wider cultural history. Otherwise, though, the cultural history here is pretty superficial. The 50s folk scene was dominated by men. Well, sure. The sexual revolution was a mixed blessing for women. Yep, read about that too.

Still, I read the book from beginning to end and was never seriously tempted to put it down. (If I hadn't been reading it on my Kindle, though, I would have thrown it across the room a few times!) Once I decided to take absolutely everything in it with a grain of salt, I just let it happen. My main interest was in Joni Mitchell and I think the treatment of her work was probably the weakest in the book. But I found the discussion of Carole King's environmental activism in Idaho surprising and quite interesting.

So, I cannot recommend that you not read it, but you should go into it with your eyes open.




I don’t know who “D. Watson” is, but I strongly suspect that I will enjoy that review more than I enjoy reading the book. But I’m trying to be strong.

The author of this book, Sheila Weller, apparently writes for Vanity Fair magazine a lot. Yech. I’ve mentioned Vanity Fair once not too long ago. In an internet sort of way, I know someone who works there—Things Libraries Throw Away

Still, I’m trying to be strong. So I’m trying to read this book. Maybe I’ll do another post, someday, recounting how far into the book I got before I gave up and couldn’t take all the grief and heartbreak the women think they had to put up with. Or maybe I’ll enjoy reading the book. I’m nervous, but I’m giving it a shot.
































Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Quick Megan Fox Moment



This is not one of those days when I have nothing to say.

However this is one of those days when what I have to say is not exactly earth-shaking. However I want to do this post anyway, so I’m going to do it.


Today’s post is, sort of, about Megan Fox. I’ve written about her once before.

One Quick Megan Fox Moment

I’m not a Megan Fox fan, but I’m still going to do this post about her.

Sort of.


But I want to do some background.

First of all, just the name Megan means a lot me. My first girlfriend was named Megan and I’m still amazed—looking back at what a lunatic I was as a teenager (I mean, look at me now and just imagine a kid just like me but with more energy and even less awareness!)—I’m still amazed any girl wanted to be called my girlfriend, so I will always look back on that Megan with love and I will always react to the name ‘Megan’ with fondness.

Secondly, the name ‘Megan’ has some conflict for me. There’s the fondness because of that girlfriend business I mentioned in the last paragraph. But there is also something like fear, or even soul-wrenching terror, because the young girl in “The Exorcist” was named ‘Regan’ (you know, rhymes with ‘Megan’) and that was/is my pick for the scariest movie ever made. (I still have trouble watching it, and, generally, I just don’t watch it.) I can’t even own a copy of the novel. (To make matters worse, when I went to a Catholic school, my class once went on retreat and stayed at the seminary where one of the real-life models for one of William Peter Blatty’s priest characters was living when something bad happened and the Church instructed him [!] to stop doing whatever research into the occult he was then doing. I slept in a room just downstairs [!!] from the actual real-life room that priest was doing his ‘research’ in. Holy cow!)

So, anyway, that’s some background. Just the name ‘Megan’ pushes a lot of my buttons. The old girlfriend button. The Megan/Regan button. The whole terror-of-Satan button.

One last piece of background. Here at the blog I’ve written about the way the modern pop culture business is obnoxious and brutal in its treatment of women. Even ‘Star Trek’ of all things was less-than-wonderful.

Pirates And Reality Revisionism

Star Trek And Reality Revisionism

Gender Terror And Reality Revisionism

So I’m going to do another post—this brief, brief post—about Megan Fox even though I have no particular affection for Megan Fox herself. As I said in my previous brief post about her, I’ve never even rented the DVD of her movie “Jonah Hex.” She seems really dumb and I don’t like dumb women and she has a tattoo and I don’t like tattoo women. But she has a first name that gets my attention and her particular tribulations with Michael Bay seem to me to be an example of the kind of grief women have to put up with in the pop culture business.

Okay. That’s some background. Here’s today’s post.

*


I mentioned a while ago that after starring in the first two Transformers movies, Megan Fox got fired from the concluding movie in the trilogy. Or, at least, the third entry in the ‘franchise.’

People have, for the most part, joked about why she got fired. For instance: Top 10 Reasons Megan Fox Was Fired From ‘Transformers 3′

Now, the story coming from the production side of the issue is that Megan Fox got fired by Steven Spielberg because he got pissed off at her for her idiotic comparison of Michael Bay to Hitler.

Whatever.

I’ve become kind of interested in how fans are going to react to her not being in the third film.

Now, people from my generation remember Tina Louise and 1) how we were angry at her for not doing the Gilligan’s Island reunions; and 2) how we were angry at the producers for going ahead with the reunions without her. More recently, people like me were kind of proud of Kristin Kreuk—Lana Lang from ‘Smallville’—for leaving the show when it got so horrible and then not coming back and being part of the awful final season.

So now some people are wondering about “Transformers 3.” Some people think it will be the biggest film of the summer, and might even set box office records.

But people don’t really know what to expect from fans of Megan Fox.

Will her absence have no effect at all on box office?

Will enough people be upset with her not being in the film to actually cause a noticeable hit in ticket sales?

(I actually talked with one guy who didn’t know that Megan Fox had gotten fired and, when he found out she wouldn’t be in the movie, changed his plans and canceled his plans to go to see the film on opening day. Now he plans on just waiting for the DVD.)

I myself wasn’t going to go see it anyway.

But I’ve been checking out industry reaction leading up to the release and today I saw something interesting at an industry blog. I even left a comment of my own at the story. But I was most interested in something somebody said a few comments after mine. Somebody left this comment and interesting observation:


Wow…the most posted story of the day.

Sort of gives one pause…why?

So the answer to the question, “Who cares?’ is…many folks, apparently.

Megan wins!



(That wasn’t me. My comment was four comments up.)

Anyway, so it looks like a lot of people are interested in Megan Fox getting fired. And it looks like a lot of people are letting their hatred for Michael Bay influence them, at least, to have a little sympathy for Megan Fox.


Hmmm. I wonder how the movie will do, and I wonder if—however it does—I wonder if the Megan Fox business will influence the ticket sales?
























Monday, June 20, 2011

Music At The Garden’s Edge



Something like two thousand years ago, when the status quo of Roman occupation became unbearable to early Christians they were able to leave the Middle East and re-locate to the fringes of the Roman empire in Europe.

Something like five hundred years ago, when the status quo of Roman Catholicism and secular nationalism became unbearable to Europe’s Protestants they were able to leave Europe and re-locate to colonies in the ‘New World’ here in North America.

Today, when the status quo of consumerism and global corporatism becomes unbearable to Christians—or anyone else—where can anyone go?







NUMBER TWO: I am definitely an optimist. That’s why it doesn’t matter who Number One is. It doesn’t matter which side runs the Village.

NUMBER SIX: It’s run by one side or the other?

NUMBER TWO: Oh certainly. But both sides are becoming identical. What in fact has been created is an international community—a perfect blueprint for world order. When the sides facing each other suddenly realize that they’re looking into a mirror, they will see that this is the pattern for the future.

NUMBER SIX: The whole Earth as the Village?

NUMBER TWO: That is my hope. What’s yours?

NUMBER SIX: I’d like to be the first man on the Moon.








In Ken Russell’s story of the White Worm
there is no witch to reveal the secret
to a brave knight of how to kill the Worm.

And technology—that is, dynamite,
in the Bram Stoker version of the tale—
doesn’t make everything right in the end.

In Ken Russell’s story of the White Worm
the most beautiful woman is a snake.
And even if this beautiful woman
wants to murder you, music can charm her.



Music charms her. A song usurps her will
and she can only dance to the music.
This doesn’t make her happy. When music
stops, the musician often gets murdered.

But how long can a musician perform?

And how long can a recording play back?

Even nuclear power plants melt-down.
And then not only does the power stop
but the core melts through the containment site.
So recordings can’t play without power.
And the musician dies from the fallout.

The White Worm is a very old story.

A woman’s dancing at the garden’s edge.

How far away can a musician run?





















Friday, June 17, 2011

Hot Liquid Savage And A Cup Of Paintbrushes



A paint brush for years lost at sea
has been rescued and brought back home.
Brushes have nightmares of being
lost where there’s no one to hold them.
I may have imagined it but
I think my brushes read this news
last night and danced in their glass cup.






Ever wondered about how long your Series 7 brush might last? Well back in 1994, Emma Pearce, then Technical Adviser at Winsor & Newton, found out in a most unusual way.

"Like so many people, I've always had a real fascination about the Titanic, fuelled at art school by those wonderful black and white photos of the grand staircase, staterooms, 1st Class promenades and reading rooms, the construction photographs and the passengers boarding in Southampton.

The 1994 exhibition at Greenwich Maritime Museum was the first following the locating and salvaging of the great ship, the prospect of seeing actual items retrieved from those rooms and decks was really exciting, certainly one of those landmark exhibitions in one's lifetime.

So I queued and travelled round with the hoards, amazed at each exhibit; the ship's compass, a chandelier from the 1st Class public room, a printed luggage tag, a suitcase still locked, pieces of coal, a steward's jacket with his name written on, even a bottle of champagne still corked. It was fantastic.

Then I turned a corner to pore over another cabinet and saw a paintbrush, fascinating I thought. Naturally, as a painter and Technical Adviser I leaned close to have a better look. My gasp at seeing it was a black lacquered Series 7 was clearly audible to those nearby. It truely looked exactly the same as those in my paint pot! How could this have been 2 ½ miles down for more than 75 years?

Now many of us who lovingly care for our best Series 7 brushes can be using them for many years but the ability to survive in those conditions and remain usable is surely the ultimate endorsement of quality!"

“A Titanic Discovery by Emma Pearce!”

originally from Winsor and Newton
now retrieved from a Google cache
dated:
May 29, 2011 02:30:37 GMT







I wonder: Does that paintbrush want to go back?
I mean the watercolor paintbrush rescued
from the deep Titanic, a ghost ship, ghost-crewed,
where only a ghost artist down in the black

cold deep might paint in a ghost counterattack
on the black cold deep, moving in a ghost mood
to paint a ghost image never to be viewed,
endlessly drowned in the black cold deep attack.

My paintbrushes, there, on my desk in a cup
watch me record music, compose photographs,
film videos with thousands of images

on land, here, where the Sun goes down and comes up
on me arranging words into paragraphs.
Cold ghost artists haunt hot liquid savages.










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



Haunted



This Airship, This Woman, This Dream



Pretty Crates Above Train Tracks


Thinking About Watercolors, Drawings And Photos


The Lost World Of Stacy And The Llama





That image is from my little film
“Creatures of Darkness and Light.”
It took
hundreds of images to make
that brief animation, none of them
painted with watercolors or
with a brush of any kind.

I am
haunted by this.






















Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Birds (In The Parking Lot)





Around these parts—urban and suburban areas of the Chicago south side—the bird situation is usually pretty standard. There are sparrows and pigeons. And robins, blackbirds, crows, gulls and some hawks. Sometimes you see a cardinal or a blue jay. And once or twice a year you see something odd, like an escaped canary or something else yellow or multi-colored.

This spring things have been a little odd, bird-wise.

First, starting near the end of winter, there were almost no sparrows at all around here. I’ve never seen that before.

Then, as spring got started, there were a lot of robins. I mean, a lot. People would stand in front of their house talking to neighbors about all the robins running around.

Now, lately, I’ve been seeing a whole new kind of bird running around a particularly large parking lot around here. This kind of guy or gal:



These little guys or gals spend the whole day running around the parking lot. They fly fine and if you get too close (these photos are my little point-and-shoot camera at full telephoto with digital assist) they take off easily and dart around the sky with ease. But they land and then seem to like to run quickly around the asphalt.



And they peep. Loudly. Their peeps are so loud you’d think the peeping sound was coming from a bird twice as large.

I’ve never seen this kind of bird before. After looking around some bird guides, I guess they might be some kind of plover. To my eyes they look like a Little Ringed Plover, but those are European birds. I don’t know.

I wanted to post this because I’ve mentioned the sparrow situation before. And I’ve done a picture of the robins. This is the latest odd bird thing around here. Normally a year goes by and you don’t really think about birds at all. This is the third odd bird thing in the last few months.

Parking lot birds.

They’re pleasant enough—they don’t seem to do anything bad. They just run around and make a lot of peeping noises.



Little birds watching
the big trucks driving away,
rumbling and peeping.




























Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Maggie And The Fish Head



A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in Nuclear Accidents, Beatles, Mean Snakes that I was watching a film called “Vipers”—a killer snake movie, about a resort town terrorized by hundreds of mutant vipers.

It’s not a good movie by any metric, but there is one character who is fun to watch. She is a disgruntled teenage girl named “Maggie,” played by actress Genevieve Buechner.

She is always yelling at adults and running off to do what she wants to do.

At one point she yells at her parents and storms off to be by herself. They never explain why, but she stalks down to the town docks—maybe to buy a hot dog?—and a fisherman is just catching a fish. But as he reels in the fish, something bites the fish in half. The fisherman holds up the head of the fish right when Maggie, all grumpy, is walking past. She looks at what’s left of the fish, then at the fisherman, sneers, and walks away.



Maggie and the fish head.

It’s my favorite part of the movie.



*



Damn punk kids. They don’t care about the mutant snakes
underwater biting an old guy’s fish in half.

Damn punk kids. In new blue jeans and little backpacks
walking around all grumpy, frowning and sneering.

Damn punk kids. The mutant snakes want to eat you, too,
along with the fish and the old people you hate!


The worst part of getting old like Peter Townshend
isn’t mutant snakes, it’s sneers from the damn punk kids.























Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Quick Lunar Eclipse Note



As I type this, it is Tuesday, June 14, and it is a little before 10 pm Chicago time. The Moon is visible, but the sky is cloudy. I took a couple of hand-held photos a few minutes ago. With my camera on automatic, it exposes for the clouds:


If I speed up the shutter manually, even though there are high clouds, it is still possible to make out some good lunar features. I’ve posted a Moon map in Sense Of Place. Tonight the rising Moon was 99.3% full.

You can see my favorite sequence of lunar features. Starting from the upper center at the Sea of Serenity you can follow the dark patches down through the Sea of Vapours and down farther until you end up in the Sea of Clouds to the lower left. Mare Nubium.

“Honey, we’re home, here in the Sea of Clouds.”


Tomorrow there will be a great lunar eclipse. Unfortunately for us in the West the lunar eclipse will start and end in the afternoon, Chicago time. Wolfram Alpha has the timeline for Chicago:


And Wolfram Alpha also can map who will be able to see the lunar eclipse:


(To get those graphics, just go to Wolfram Alpha
and type: lunar eclipse )

People in the Middle East will get a good view. Some Muslims believe the End Times will be “announced” to the world by two signs in the heavens—there will be a month that will start out with a lunar eclipse and end with a solar eclipse.

This will be a good lunar eclipse, but there is no solar eclipse scheduled for later this month.

So, on one hand, we would seem to be safe. On the other hand, if there IS an unscheduled solar eclipse at the end of this month, that would be a pretty darn good sign that something really big is going on in the heavens.

I think we’re reasonably safe.

I mean, at least I think there will NOT be an unscheduled solar eclipse later this month.

There is still the methane and other gases upwelling from the Gulf of Mexico, and the radiation spreading from at least three melt-downs in Fukushima.

So, you know, we’re not safe.

But we are safe from bizarre astronomy beliefs.

So, you know, there’s that.










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



Whispering On The Moon


Amy Winehouse In The Sea Of Crises



Sense Of Place



Moonlight Becomes You




















Monday, June 13, 2011

Loch Ness Apocalypse





If the Loch Ness monster can be a high-fashion sweater
or a box of tissues or an aquarium goldfish
and I think the Loch Ness monster can be all of these things
and anything else it might want or need to appear as
then I think I finally understand that young woman
and her strange interest in my interest in monsters.

On the internet nobody can tell if you’re a dog.

In real life no one can tell if you’re the Loch Ness monster.




















Friday, June 10, 2011

“The Librarian And The Painter”



“Cinéma du look was a French film movement of the 1980s, analysed, for the first time, by French critic Raphaël Bassan in La Revue du Cinéma issue n° 448, May 1989, in which Besson was lumped with two other directors who shared "le look." These directors were said to favor style over substance, spectacle over narrative. It referred to films that had a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters...”















video