Friday, December 30, 2011

“When All My Words About Britney Disappear”

The only art instruction book I’ve read
that builds its entire approach to sketching
around careful shapes and careful values
with a result something similar to
the black and white sketches of Georges Seurat
will be published in a new edition
in the second quarter of the new year.

It’s an old book that has been out-of-print
for many decades. Around here just one
library had a copy. They tossed it.

I’m looking forward to the new release
even though I’ve read the book many times
and made photocopies of some sections.

I’m trying to get better at drawing.

Of course reading books won’t make me better
at drawing careful shapes, careful values,
and reading a book I’ve already read
seems particularly inefficient.

But if I was after efficiency
I’d use a camera—they’re good gadgets.

And if the words and drawings in a book
are themselves careful shapes, careful values,
reading such a book again and again
might carefully shape and shade my thinking.

That doesn’t make me better at drawing.

But if I do get better at drawing
the only way I will recognize it
is if my thinking is shaped and shaded
carefully—like a Georges Seurat drawing.

This new year I’ll be reading an old book.

The twenty-first century doesn’t care
if I can draw. I own a camera
and libraries, now, throw away old books.

But soon enough it is going to be
the twenty-second century and then
everyone now will wish they’d learned to draw
because these kinds of things skip centuries.

I’m trying to get better at drawing.

This new year I’ll be reading an old book.

A twenty-second century woman
will look up when she hears dirigibles
and that’s what she will see—dirigibles!

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


The Real World In Georges Seurat’s Notebooks

Things Libraries Throw Away

The Lost World Of Stacy And The Llama

Digging Britney Redux

When all my words about Britney disappear
a woman remains—stripped because of the heat,
curious, looking up to see what’s coming,

on guard, crouching with her cat and with a spear.
Above, there’s sound,
like a song, musique concrète—
That sound is dirigible engines humming.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Catastrophic Failure (With Music)

Today’s post is going to be a little ... disjointed.

Basically, today’s post is about the catastrophic failure of a post idea.

Usually when I get a clear, specific idea for a post I am able to work through the steps of making the idea real without too many problems.

Sometimes, every now and then, I’ll hit some snag where the idea doesn’t seem as good once I start actually doing the work. Maybe a cartoon doesn’t seem funny or interesting. A story doesn’t seem to have any entertaining element. Some hoped-for bit of logic never materializes. So then I usually try to change whatever my original thought was into something that I can use. Instead of a cartoon maybe I’ll try a stop-motion video. Or instead of a stop-motion video I’ll try just sitting down and playing something on guitar. Almost always I can end up finding a way to use my original thought.

Every now and then, however, no matter how I try, some idea just will never fit into any form that I feel works here at the blog. Then I have to just abandon that idea. I try to put the thought out of my mind and hope that someday it will come back when I can make use of it properly.

That’s happening right now.

I don’t really want to abandon this idea, but since the year is running out I also don’t want to drag a troublesome idea into the new year. So for today’s post I’m just going to put up what I have and explain what I was thinking and make it a standalone post all by itself. Maybe someday I’ll come back to this and use the raw material in another way or something. I don’t know.

Here’s the deal.

A few days ago I had an idea for a new stop-motion video for Little Plastic Doll. The basic idea was that it would be a sequel of sorts to “Ha, Ha, Rubber Lizard Loves Taylor Swift.” The backstory was going to be that Little Plastic Doll was kind of jealous of Rubber Lizard singing to the picture of Taylor Swift, so Little Plastic Doll was going to write a “Taylor Swift-type song” to show Rubber Lizard that she could write a girl’s country song, too.

Right away I hit my first snag. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never actually heard a Taylor Swift song and I don’t want to listen to any. So I was going to just have to guess at what a “Taylor Swift-type song” would sound like based on what I’ve heard people say about them. It’s not good to write about something based on guesses, but I was going to do it. I’ve heard her songs are sort of almost always about a young woman’s fantasy of meeting a cool guy. So I turned that into an idea about a young woman who meets a guy who turns out to be a superhero and she’s just pissed off that he never calls because he’s always somewhere saving the world.

Then I hit my second snag. The song was way too long for a stop-motion video. The software I use (right now) to make those stop-motion videos is terrible and really only works for things that are about a minute long. The song I came up with has six verses (I’m an idiot) and even if I was going to make it no matter how I tried I couldn’t think of how I’d fit the story of the song into any of the “locations” I use for making videos.

Then I hit my third snag. I couldn’t think of any way to change the basic idea so that I could use it. I didn’t want to sing the song myself because it’s clearly a “girl’s song.” And although I can draw a single cartoon, I can’t draw well enough—or certainly not fast enough—to create a comic book-style series of images to go along with an illustrated video of the song. And just the lyrics of the song, without any context around them, didn’t seem all that interesting.

So I was screwed. This seemed like one of those idea that I just had to abandon.

But I kind of like the song, and it still seems kind of fun to me, this notion that a young woman would just be pissed off and sing because she was angry at a superhero for not spending enough time with her instead of saving the world.

And that is pretty much the backstory to today’s post.

The year is running out and I don’t want to abandon this stuff, yet at the same time I don’t want to drag it into the new year with me. So I’m typing up this endless explanation, and now I’m going to insert a graphic of the music for the basic melody and then put up the lyrics for the song I came up with.

That’s today’s post.


This melody isn’t exactly perfect. I was still experimenting with changing things around here and there. But this is the basic idea. A simple repeating structure for each verse, and the last line of each verse tells the story and maybe drags out the time a little, a bit of free-form rhythm to the general eight-bar structure.

And here are the lyrics. It was supposed to be Little Plastic Doll singing her version of a “Taylor Swift-type” love song. (I also like this because in “Hold Me Forever: A Doll Philosophy” Little Plastic Doll sang about how much she loves it when her phone rings and here she is singing about how much she hates it when her would-be boyfriend’s phone rings. But this is just way too long. And there really should be an instrumental verse before the last lyrical verse, so this would be even longer.)

After we danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
But you were off doing something

We danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
But you were fighting supervillains

We danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
But you were saving the whole world

We danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
Then my dream came true

We danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
Now it’s me and you
(Until your phone rings!)

We danced
I waited for your call
After we danced
I waited by the window
After we danced
I waited for you
Now it’s me and you
(Until your phone rings
And you have to save the world

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Woman And That Song: Apologies

So once I knew this woman who said
all men owed her an apology.

But when she said it she was smiling.

I don’t have that as a video
and I don’t even have a sound file.

As it happens I have a cartoon
and a poem about the moment.

Where do songs go after we sing them?

Through a microphone and interface
and into a computer sound file.

I just played and sang a song without
switching on a recording device.

And I didn’t sing it to someone.

Where did that song go when I sang it?

Is it here in this poem somewhere?

If I say it’s nowhere and I’m wrong
then who would I apologize to?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another Look At Another Venus

The astonishing man was Ravel, of whom we always think in terms of lush orchestrations. He was a very fine pianist, and—with the exception, I think, of his Piano Concerto—he always wrote his compositions as piano pieces first of all. Then he orchestrated them. I find this very curious. If I’m writing an orchestral piece, I write straight for orchestra. But Ravel, who was one of the greatest orchestrators of all time, and the musician I admire most of all, performed what I think was an extraordinary operation on almost everything he wrote.

I’ve never much liked orchestral music. I haven’t heard a great deal of it, but I’ve had opportunities to hear it and because I’ve never felt any engagement with the form I’ve never followed up on most of those opportunities.

On the other hand I’ve always loved small groups, things like chamber music, where you get to see traditional orchestral instruments in simple settings, playing music where you can watch and listen to individual musicians playing parts and follow the individual voices. I love all stuff like that.

I wonder what the future of orchestral music will be?

For people who like it, to my eyes the future looks bleak for at least two reasons.

One is that some advanced synthesizers now can automatically generate orchestral scores. That is, an 88-key keyboard can be sectioned off into octaves and when a musician plays something on the keyboard, parts in the low octaves will be played by orchestral instruments with a low range and keyboard parts in the high octaves will be played by orchestral instruments with a high range. This can happen in real time and, after a piece is played and recorded, a musician can go into the score and manually rearrange things however they choose. But I strongly suspect commercial pressures to get music written and recorded will cause musicians to work quickly and simply accept default choices made by the machine with little tweaks here and there. So, orchestral music as a true expression of an individual composer’s personality will vanish, and be replaced by orchestral music that just exemplifies a composer’s superficial style choices.

A second reason is that as people are raised with simplistic art and entertainment, their expectations change and their very thinking about art and entertainment changes. A friend of mine once read “Atlas Shrugged” and when he finished he said he didn’t think it was good or bad, just another novel, but he asked me, “Why was it so long?” He said he kept on imagining the story could have been over after each section, rather than keep going to a new sequence of events. I said the story is plotted something like an orchestral piece of music, where each character has his or her own theme and conflict and story-arc and the themes and conflicts mirror each other and illuminate each other and everything plays off everything else, a sequence of small crescendos building to the actual climax where the main transcending themes are resolved. He thought I was nuts, and he thought I was just rationalizing, just making up excuses for Ayn Rand’s—in his eyes—arbitrary decision to make the novel so long. As more and more people never develop the ability to conceive of complex art and entertainment as fun and satisfying in a personal way, fewer people will create it and those who do, I strongly suspect, will approach their work in a very insular way, isolated from the mass-market, from pop culture. And without feedback from participation in the overall culture, art and entertainment becomes vastly less than it could be, even if it is created sincerely.

Or so it seems to me, at least.

I think the future of orchestral music is disco.


Linda went off to a new age workshop
and before she left we went to dinner
and I said, “New Mexico sounds peaceful
but everything I’ve heard about these things
is that the so-called ‘workshop day sessions’
are just a socially acceptable
excuse for people to hook up for sex.”

Linda made a face and sighed a big sigh
and said, “You think everyone thinks of sex
all the time just because that’s what you do.”

So Linda went off to New Mexico
and instead of coming back late Sunday
she came back early Friday afternoon.

Linda said, “You know I hate to say this
but oh my God I can’t believe how right
you were about everyone having sex.
We were supposed to be talking about
meditation but at every session
people would pair off or join up in groups
and the only thing people talked about
was whose room haven’t they done it in yet.”

I asked her, “And did you have a good time?”

She made a face, sighed, said, “I drove to town
and spent the whole week in the library.
At night I drove back and locked my room’s door.
Finally I just quit and came back home.”

I said, “At least you got some reading done.”

She said, “Air fare. Room and board. Car and gas.
All that money and I sat reading books.
Do you know how much that fucking week cost?”

I pointed at her. I said, “‘Fucking’ week.”

She said, “I said you were right, I was wrong,
you don’t have to rub it in. Oh— Shut up!”

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

Another Venus

Fluorescent Lights On A Book Of Shadows

Monday, December 26, 2011

This Bright Old World Of Ours As A Rune

I was drawing a cartoon
about a woman who played
with monsters, monster games made
to play out under the moon,

not described in word or rune,
where blood is black, colors grayed
by full moon light, blood is trade
by new moon dark, death a boon.

Real monsters took a woman away.
I didn’t know her. I knew her art.
She tried. Played what no one wins. She lost.

I wish more than anything today
we could help each other win our part.
We can’t. We’re alone with monsters. Lost.

I saw the waxing crescent Moon tonight.
It was only a day and five hours old.
Venus was in the west too, bright and bold
just south of the Moon’s thin, dim, orange light.

Bright Venus and a young thin Moon. The sight
made me think of Amy Winehouse. She’s cold
as the night now, but close enough to hold
as a thought. A twilight thought at midnight.

Did Amy ever look up at the stars?
Did she ever know anyone who knew
which star is Venus, or where’s the young Moon?

If nothing else this bright old world of ours
took those people away from her, the few
who know such things, and made her world a rune.

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

(I wrote this in the early AM hours
of Monday, 12/26. But for me
it was late Sunday night. And I
was still thinking about seeing
the beautiful 2% illuminated Moon
just after sundown late that afternoon.)


The Difference Between Clouds And Conquistadors

I’m Sorry The World Did This To You

Kate Moss (And Why My Life Is Derailed)

Never Having Kissed Amy

The World And The Supervillain’s Nightclub

Ode To The Concept Of Cotton Candy

Amy Winehouse In The Sea Of Crises

Expedition To Amy

Posh People Squabbling

Amy Winehouse Makes It Official

Pretty Blue Flowers At The Gates Of Hell

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Witches: Sound Synthesis

Static on a TV screen tuned to an unused channel.
The flat white of a snow-covered parking lot with no cars.
Raindrops from a storm splashing on the surface of a lake.
Noon sunlight on a single puff of cloud in a clear sky.

“Clouds and rain and snow are all water,” the green witch said. “But
static on a TV screen is only technology.”

“Water turns into these things,” I said, “when acted upon
by the forces of nature. And a television screen
becomes an infinity of things when acted upon
by the force of a finger pressing a remote control.”

The green witch started to say something, but stopped, then started
to say something else, but stopped. She remained silent, thinking.

“Our lips can speak or not speak,” I said, “when acted upon
by the force of our mind pressing against our skin and bones.”

The green witch looked at the words silently, then looked at me.

For a moment we looked at each other without speaking.

Then the green witch said, “I’m thinking about what happens when
one person touches another person.” She stared at me.

“Did I just touch you?” I said. The green witch smiled. And she laughed.

A guitar is a mechanical approximation
of a synthesizer that can sound like any guitar.

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

Christmas Witches I Mean Wishes

Christmas Witches: A Present Of The Past

Christmas Witches: Ogres And Showgirls

Thursday, December 22, 2011

“The Primitive And What Came After”

The green witch said, “She’s in Los Angeles doing what you call villainy.”

I said, “It won’t be the same without her.”

The green witch smiled and asked, “If she were here, what do you think would be the same?”

random holiday talk

De Santillana and von Dechend state in the Introduction to Hamlet’s Mill that they are well aware of modern interpretations of myth and folklore but they find them shallow and lacking insight: “...the experts now are benighted by the current folk fantasy, which is the belief that they are beyond all this - critics without nonsense and extremely wise”. Consequently, de Santillana and Deschend prefer to rely on the work of “meticulous scholars such as Ideler, Lepsius, Chwolson, Boll and, to go farther back, of Athanasius Kircher and Petavius”. They give reasons throughout the book for preferring the work of older scholars (and the early mythologists themselves) as the proper way to interpret myth; but this viewpoint did not sit well with their modern critics schooled in the “current anthropology, which has built up its own idea of the primitive and what came after”.

that quote is from
Wikipedia’s entry on “Hamlet’s Mill”
and the quotes within it
are from
“Hamlet’s Mill”

My guitar is like prehistory now
because my fingers have traveled through time
and can play on keyboard synthesizer
chord voicings similar to the voicings
I use in arrangements for my guitar
and the synthesizer can synthesize
acoustic or electric guitar sounds
so my fingers all modern and high-tech
can make sounds not exactly the same but
so similar that if you close your eyes
or even if you keep your eyes open
wild dogs crying out in the night might not
be able to tell the two sounds apart.

At least that’s my current folk fantasy.

My guitar is still right next to my bed.

My room wouldn’t be the same without it.

But if my guitar could talk would it say,
“I’m here, but what do you think is the same?”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Parsimony And Aberrant Forms

An avalanche of more than 100 apples rained down over a main road in Keresley, Coventry on Monday night.

The street was left littered with apples after they pelted car windscreens and bonnets just after rush-hour.

The bizarre downpour may have been caused by a current of air that lifted the fruit from a garden or orchard, releasing it over the junction of Keresley Road and Kelmscote Road.

One driver said: "The apples fell out of the sky as if out of nowhere. They were small and green and hit the bonnet hard. There were other cars on the road at the time too and everyone had to stop their cars suddenly."

... Keresley parish councillor Sandra Camwell said a freak black-out happened on the same road last year.

She said: "Strange things do happen in this part of the world. I think it's highly likely that apples did fall from the sky. We're in an area with a spooky history, where there have been witches for centuries, after all."

Coventry is in central England
north of London and apples fell there
seemingly from nowhere from the sky
hitting cars and disrupting traffic.

Assuming there wasn’t a grounds crew
working a couple of blocks away
cutting down a stand of apple trees
using an industrial shredder
spewing apples out into the sky
falling apples hitting cars is strange.

But lots of things fall out of the sky
and the press always finds an expert
who blames falling fish or frogs on wind
and now an intense vortex of wind
is being blamed for dropping apples.

Meteorologists think of wind.

Coventry people think of witches.

If Christmas witches can make apples
fall from the sky disrupting traffic
can they also make dinosaurs fall?

Dinosaurs falling out of the sky
would disrupt traffic if disrupting
traffic makes Christmas witches happy.

It’s always been kind of bloodthirsty
the saying Kill two birds with one stone.

Maybe birds are getting back at us.

Or something else up there in the sky
interested in parsimony
interested in disrupting cars
interested in Christmas witches
interested in Christmas wishes
of dinosaurs wanting to come back.

If dinosaurs fall out of the sky
the meteorologists will have
a harder time explaining it than
the local people of Coventry.

In fact maybe you could even say
the meteorologists will have
a hell of a time blaming the wind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dragon Storm: The Woman Looking Away

Yesterday I talked about musical duets and a woman who played violin.

That reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what.

I thought about it all day. Then, late Monday night, I sat down and looked over at my bookshelf and went from left to right, staring at each of the books and thinking, “Is it something from that book? Is it something from that book?” all the way across the shelf.

And the method worked!

This is what I was thinking of:

“In that syrupy operetta Das Dreimaderlhaus, Franz Schubert pays court to all three maiden daughters of his patron. Paul Kammerer broke the record by falling in love successively with the five famous Wiesenthal sisters. Four of them were ballet dancers, the fifth played violin.”

The fifth played violin!

None of those love affairs worked out very well. And one of them—with the eldest sister, Grete, a dancer—apparently played some part in Kammerer’s suicide. At about the same time the evidence became available that someone—Kammerer’s assistant?—had faked the nuptial pads on the toads, Grete decided that she would not accompany Kammerer to Moscow. Apparently the combination was too much for Kammerer and he went for a walk in the woods and shot himself in the head. Reports were that he held the gun in his right hand and, for some reason, reached around and shot himself in the left side of his head.

“The only explanation of sorts was offered, not by a psychiatrist, but by an intuitive woman. Though Kammerer was an abstemious man, he might have had a few drinks to give himself Dutch courage before he set out on his last walk. Sitting with his back to the rock, he might have hesitated for a long time, then, with a sudden swinging gesture, brought his arm around his face and the gun to the left ear. There is more panache in such a gesture than in the conventional lifting of the gun, right hand to right temple. Even if not drunk, the gesture would fit an impulse of sudden desperate exaltation—and end with a flourish. His death had a touch of melodrama, but so had his life. He was a Byron among the toads.”

That’s what I was trying to think of!

“He was a Byron among the toads.”

The girl playing violin yesterday was reminding me of Kammerer and one of the younger Wiesenthal sisters. And that was reminding me of Koestler’s outstanding epithet for Kammerer: “He was a Byron among the toads.”

There are worse ways a person’s life could be summed up!


There’s a storm raging on Saturn
but we can’t walk to Saturn’s moons
and stretch out on a rock to watch
dragon-shaped clouds swirl on Saturn
and maybe strum on a guitar
improvising a song about
a knight watching a dragon grow
but holding his station sword raised
somehow brave somehow standing firm
somehow not driven mad in fear
by the dragon growing larger.

If a scientist discovered
a star-gate a portal between
everywhere and anywhere else
would that matter when a woman
right there became the only thing
he could see and she looked away
and then the star-gate stopped working
and all the scientist could see
would be dragons and all of them
would be swirling chaos growing
like clouds at night blocking the stars?

The scientist should have written
a song and closed his eyes and sang
and maybe played along without
looking at his guitar strings or
watching his fingers press down keys
and what could the dragons have done
and what could swirling chaos do
or the woman looking away
everywhere far away again
from right there from that one firm spot
where a scientist stands singing.

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

Paul Kammerer at Wikipedia


Dragon Storm: Ammonia Snow

An Unclear Story About Walking To Mars

Where The Tree Goes Into The Ground

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lost In The Villainy

For a second, for that fleeting instant,
it was as if I left reality
and for whatever’s the smallest unit
that can be used to measure time’s passing,
for whatever is a quantum instant,
I felt like I was living in Smallville
walking somewhere and Lana Lang walked past.

As small as that quantum instant might be
my hand is shaking remembering it
because I also remember clearly
being happy with Lana walking past
in Smallville and wanting to not come back.

Today’s post deals with a bit of a loose end, but only from last week.

Last Wednesday I did a post about how movies almost never show people playing musical instruments or reading books, Returning From A Walk To Mars. But since I’ve mentioned the TV show Smallville a lot here at the blog, it seems worth pointing out that show often had people sitting down and playing the piano for fun or relaxation.

I’ve already included one picture of supervillain Lex playing his grand piano in my post Love Sonnet With Piano Wreckage And Worms. I’ve always liked that moment because it was Lex talking to Lana-as-the-witch.

I’ve also always liked this moment:

Lois’s sister has come to visit Smallville and when Lex discovers she plays violin, he invites her over to the mansion. He plays his grand piano, she plays violin.

I’m sighing as I type this. Yeah. People playing music together for fun.

That’s from Season Four, episode 16: “Lucy”

Of course, in that episode it turns out that Lois’s sister is kind of a bad girl, and she’s trying to pull a con job on both her own sister and Lex, to steal $50,000 from him.

So Smallville did often show characters playing music for fun and relaxation. But Lex is a supervillain and Lucy was a run-of-the-mill villain. Villain’s play music for fun and relaxation.


Over the weekend I learned to play
a simple keyboard arrangement of
“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.” I first
created the arrangement playing
guitar, then worked it out for two hands
on keyboard as chords and melody.
My keyboard can split to piano
on the left, violin on the right,
so I can pretend I’m performing
with a beautiful villain hoping
to tug at my heartstrings with a con.
That’s okay. I’ve read there’s a saying
in France: In every kiss there’s one
bending to kiss, one tilting a cheek.

When two musicians play together
the villainy is called a duet.

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

Temping At Impossible Kisses: Chanteuse

Jennifer Connelly sings “The Night
Has A Thousand Eyes”

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Real World In Georges Seurat’s Notebooks

Recently I discovered a web site
built a few years back by a museum
to showcase the drawings of Georges Seurat.
They’ve even put up graphic depictions
of four of his sketchbooks that open up
and display a few pages of his work.

I’ve never liked Seurat’s finished paintings
but I’ve always liked his rough oil studies
and it’s hard for me to put into words
how much I love his drawings and sketches.
Except for some paintings by Morisot,
or as I’d want to put it ‘Morisot,’
nothing in the whole history of art
seems as wonderful—as magic!—to me
as the drawings and sketches of Seurat.

Artists before him and artists after
have sometimes made similar drawings but
Seurat was unique in his vision and
how he reduced it to values and shapes.

The craft skills couldn’t be more mundane but
the mind behind the craft made the craft art.

In my world there are the stars in the shapes
we call constellations, and the drawings
and sketches created by Georges Seurat.

There are aspirations to be the one
or aspirations to be the other.

Even if all the power grids on earth
collapsed those notebooks would still shine like stars.

Once described as “the most beautiful painter’s drawings in existence,” Georges Seurat’s mysterious and luminous works on paper played a crucial role in his career. Though Seurat is most often remembered as a Neo-Impressionist, the inventor of pointillism, and the creator of the painting,
A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, his incomparable drawings are among his–and modernism’s–greatest achievements. Working primarily with conté crayon on paper, Seurat explored the Parisian metropolis and its environs, abstracted figures, spaces, and structures, and dramatized the relationship between light and shadow, creating a distinct body of work that is a touchstone for the art of the twentieth century and today.

from the introduction
to the New York Museum of Modern Art
Georges Seurat: The Drawings

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

The sketchbook pages above are from
sketchbook IV, near the end


Is This A Junkyard Church

Edma In Heaven Laughing

“The Garden’s Edge”

Blows Against The (Expensive) Empire

I Can’t Sleep In My Kitchen


My two favorite books about
Georges Seurat are:

“Seurat: Drawings and Paintings”
by Robert L. Herbert

“Seurat and the Making of 'La Grande
Jatte'” by Robert L. Herbert

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two Women And Someday

To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time,
Without that monument of cat,
The cat forgotten in the moon;

And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light,
In which everything is meant for you
And nothing need be explained...

from “A Rabbit as King of the Ghosts”
by Wallace Stevens
quoted in ‘The Difficulty To Think
At The End Of Day’

Once I knew two women and someday
I’d like to write a book about one
and in the book I’d tell a story
about a writer who writes a book
about a woman he calls a witch
and in interviews he will drop hints
the book is based on reality
and a real woman will come forward
and say he wrote the book about her
but she will insist she’s not a witch
but the writer won’t be interviewed
with her because he’s afraid of her
and even when a TV station
offers him a huge amount of cash
to appear with her he refuses
and she gets everyone’s sympathy
but people think the writer writes well
so they buy his book and he gets rich
but people think he’s nuts and he’s mean
to portray the woman as a witch
when she’s obviously really nice
but then the plot gets complicated
when a reporter who does a piece
about the woman dies horribly
so some people say “Is she a witch?”
and some say “Did the writer do it?”
and my novel will tell that story
about was the woman a witch or
was the writer crazy all along.

Once I knew two women and someday
I’d like to paint an image of one
sitting in a lawn chair at sunset
watching a wild rabbit in the grass
and the whole painting would be for her
and even though I’d paint the rabbit
as very wild as king of the ghosts
the woman would be even more wild
and everyone seeing the painting
would say “That’s a pretty cool rabbit
but look at that woman wow artists
are the luckiest people on earth!”

Once I knew two women and someday
well only witches know the future.

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

Faux Mischa Dreams

This Scary, Pumpkin Time Of Year, Part Two

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Returning From A Walk To Mars

In the second Transformers movie, Revenge of the Fallen, when the beautiful evil robot Alice (Alice has appeared here before in One Quick Megan Fox Moment) chases the heroes, for some reason that’s never explained the heroes run and hide in the college library. Alice follows them and, of course, destroys the library. End of scene.

In Scream 2, when Sidney tries to use a computer in the college library to access some database, Cotton Weary confronts her, forcing the plain clothes cops to arrest him. End of scene.

Two popular movies with scenes set in college libraries.

Although neither scene involves books.

Sam, Mikaela and Leo only go to the library to hide from a beautiful evil robot, and Sidney goes to the library to use a computer.

I guess you can say, for what it’s worth, in both scenes there are at least books visible on screen. In one scene the books get blown up and in the other books are just background props to people using computers. But there are books visible on screen. No one reads the books, but the books are there. Books exist.

I guess you can say, too, for what it’s worth, that both scenes associate libraries with bad things: An attack by a beautiful evil robot, and a confrontation with a possible serial killer.

But both scenes do at least show books.


I haven’t studied it scientifically
that is I don’t have exact numbers for this
but I think in general movies depict
libraries more frequently than they depict
characters playing musical instruments
but like musical instruments books in films
aren’t things people spend quality time with.

Movies have movie music but they don’t show
characters sitting around making music.

And movies show libraries but they don’t show
protagonists sitting around reading books.

I read at some obscure blog that the premise
behind the Thematic Apperception Test
is stories derived from unclear images
mean more than the unclear images themselves.

Is anything more unclear than modern films?

Movies have movie music but they don’t show
characters sitting around making music.

And movies show libraries but they don’t show
protagonists sitting around reading books.

Somebody’s telling somebody a story.

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

An Unclear Story About Walking To Mars

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Synthetic Philosophy, Liminal Entities And Scripts

If a woman plays flute on a keyboard synthesizer
a modern machine will produce good articulations
and a modulation wheel will make them even better
and it’s tempting to think somebody hearing the playing
might not be able to tell a synthesized performance
from a real woman really blowing into a real flute
but there always will be one big difference no matter
how nuanced and sophisticated the synthesizer:
Sitting at a keyboard even if she’s using both hands
a woman with a synthesized flute can still talk, talk, talk.

“On a synthesizer,” she said, “I can sing a duet
and hear my voice along with the flute voice weave a texture
and both voices of the duet are under my control
and the harmony and counterpoint can be more subtle
than two musicians no matter how practiced could produce
so this mode of making song never existed before
this duet of voice and flute both performed by one singer.”

She was talking philosophy and seducing me but
to my ears the philosophy sounded synthesized and
my ears just heard: This gadget lets me play and talk, talk, talk.

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

A Flute Playing And Fog Hides The Shore

Exerting Agency, Liminal Entities And Scripts

Irving Berlin’s Piano

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Role Of Headphones In Bach’s World

But if Bach were alive now, I’m absolutely sure that he’d be working at music in the same way that we do in the business today. Above all, he was a worker and a craftsman, and he didn’t enjoy much reverence in his time. He was really hard-working; he trudged hundreds of miles to try to meet Handel, because he’d heard so much about this famous man who was the toast of London and a friend of the king. (Poor old Bach never did meet him; he missed him by a day.) He lived comfortably, but never in luxury, which was hardly surprising since he fathered twenty children by his two wives. There was no choice but to work hard, running a choir, playing the organ, and constantly writing music for his patron, the duke of wherever it happened to be at the time.

The duke would say: “I need a cantata for Sunday week because it’s the wife’s aunt’s birthday.”

Bach would say: “It’s going to take me a while to write it, your dukedom.”

But that never helped, because the reply would inevitably be: “Sorry about that, Johann, but I do need it for that day, and you do want to eat next week, don’t you?”

So Bach would go home and think: Oh, hell! What am I going to write now? Ah, I know. There was a good little tune in that string quartet I wrote three months back. I can take that out and give it to the sopranos. He would literally do this, pinching his own material, rearranging it, and then saying to himself: That’ll do. He’ll never know I wrote it before.

And when he presented the duke with his cantata, sure enough, that worthy wouldn’t recognize it, and would be delighted. “Great. You’ve done it again, Johann. Terrific.”

Bach would just keep churning it out, writing away like a film writer of today who has a deadline to meet—and God knows, Bach had plenty of those. So whether or not he’d have a regular number-one spot in the hit parade today, I’m quite certain that he’d be in there pitching.

“Did you know,” Britney says, “that Bach has twenty children, with two different wives?”

Beethoven strikes chords a little harder and pointedly ignores her.

Britney says, again, “I read on some blog that Bach has twenty children with two different wives.”

Beethoven strikes a chord progression with his left hand, and plays a melody with his right. He looks intently from one hand to the other.

“I know you can talk and play at the same time,” Britney says. “So I read on that blog that Bach is writing movie music now. You know, there’s a lot of money in composing music for films.”

Beethoven stops playing. He stares at the keyboard in front of him. He takes a deep breath and lets it out, slowly. Reaching out with his right hand, he leans slightly toward Britney.

Britney leans forward.

Beethoven’s right hand reaches under the bench he’s sitting on, and comes back out holding a pair of headphones. He plugs the headphones into a jack on the left side of the keyboard, puts on the headphones and, still not looking at Britney, returns to striking chords and playing melodies.

Britney frowns, but then laughs and leans back to watch Beethoven play even though she can’t hear him.

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

Headphones (The Good And The Bad)

Friday, December 09, 2011

In Napkin Legend — The Napkin Tetraptych

In napkin legend
scientists always scribble
some key idea

on table napkins
and artists always sketch out
some perfect design

on table napkins
and the hot girls and cool guys
jot their phone number

on table napkins
as some lonely person smiles
and rock and roll stars

write solid gold hits
by listing some rhyming words
on table napkins.

These are napkin dreams.
When somebody just spills beer
napkins think, “Oh, fuck!”

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

Footsteps Like Mad Paint Marks

Distance From Paris To Berlin

Beethoven, Britney Spears And A Ghost

Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Unclear Story About Walking To Mars

“And she doesn’t look like that woman. And neither do I.”

Norman was struck by the conviction with which Beth denied any resemblance or association to the mummified woman. “Beth,” he said, “what do you suppose happened here? Why is this woman the only one left?”

“I think she was important to the expedition,” Beth said. “Maybe even the captain, or the co-captain. The others were mostly men. And they did something foolish—I don’t know what—something she advised them against—and as a result they all died. She alone remained alive in this spacecraft. And she piloted it home. But there was something wrong with her—something she couldn’t help—and she died.”

“What was wrong with her?”

“I don’t know. Something.”

Fascinating, Norman thought. He’d never really considered it before, but this room—for that matter, this entire spacecraft—was one big Rorschach. Or more accurately, a TAT. The Thematic Apperception Test was a psychological test that consisted of a series of ambiguous pictures. Subjects were supposed to tell what they thought was happening in the pictures. Since no clear story was implied by the pictures, the subjects supplied the stories. And the stories told much more about the storytellers than about the pictures.

from Sphere
by Michael Crichton

“If you could walk to Mars,” he asked, “would you go?”

Walk to Mars?” she asked.

“I don’t mean through outer space,” he said. “I mean if there was something like what fringe people call a star-gate. Some kind of mystical portal. Maybe a lost or a secret cave. A magical doorway. If you could walk through some metaphysical passageway between this world and that one, would you walk through it?”

“Isn’t the atmosphere on Mars not breathable? In the movie ‘Total Recall’ didn’t people sort of explode because of the low pressure on Mars?”

He looked at her and smiled, tightly. “That’s at the Martian equivalent of what we call sea-level here on Earth. But just as atmospheric pressure here becomes less if you climb mountains and greater in deep valleys or cave systems or extreme construction excavations, the atmospheric pressure on Mars increases the farther down you go below the surface. So let’s say the passageway we’re talking about opens far down within an immense rift valley cut deeply into the Martian surface where the atmospheric pressure is safe for a human. Would you walk through that passage?”

She smiled and her eyes were bright. She asked, “Why are you even asking me this question?”

He asked, “Why are you avoiding answering it?”

Still smiling, she said, “Because it’s crazy?”

“Would you go?” he asked.

She sighed and said nothing. She looked away from him. Then she looked back and saw that he was still looking at her, still waiting for an answer.

She sighed again, loudly, and made her eyes very big. She asked, “Would you go with me?”

He smiled. He leaned to her and kissed her.

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

Pamela At The Doorway To Atlantis

This Woman From The Canals Of Mars

A Long Walk

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Reduction Of The Muse

The woman posing is called by the name
Amy Greenspon. She buys and sells art work.
She says she doesn’t believe that fashion
is art. She describes her own fashion look
as dress down casual with an urban
sensibility. I tore out the page
because the photo’s a tough one to sketch.
Her head is tilted but only a bit.

“The only thing deader,” someone recently said to me,
“than a book is a painting. The only paintings today
that anybody sees are the paintings in the background
of a film set or a television show set picked out
by some production designer just to be a background.”

Possibly related to the context surrounding that
comment about books being dead and paintings being dead
recently I looked through some old blog posts about painting.

This drawing of Amy Greenspon kind of leaped out at me.

I’d forgotten I drew it and I’d forgotten I planned
to turn it into a painting to explore “reductions.”

I still have the pencil drawing but not the photograph
from which I’d copied the pose with the oddly tilted head.

Poor Amy! She was going to be a painted image
but now she’s just a picture of a drawing in a blog.

Bad time to be a writer. Bad time to be a painter.

Really fucking awful time to be a beautiful muse.

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

The Lost World Of Stacy And The Llama

“The Librarian And The Painter”

Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

“The Whole Earth As The Village?”

Leela called up the stairs. “It is here, Doctor. I did it. The beast is finished!”

She looked down at the shattered body of her foe.

“Your triumph will be short-lived, Earthling,” whispered the Rutan. “Soon our Mother Ship will blast this island to molten rock.”

“Empty threats, Rutan. Enjoy your death, as I enjoyed killing you!”

The Rutan quivered and pulsed weakly. “We die for the glory of our race. Long live the Rutan Empire.”

The glow faded and died, and the Rutan died with it.

With a savage grin of triumph, Leela turned and went back to the lamp room.

The Doctor had rigged together one of his amazing contraptions, taking apart the reflector lamp and the giant telescope and re-assembling them in an entirely different order. As far as Leela could make out, the power of the carbon-arc lamp would be reflected through the telescope and finally focused through Palmerdale’s diamond, which the Doctor was now fitting somewhere inside the telescope. He made a careful, final adjustment and looked up.

“They are hard to kill, these Rutans,” said Leela.

“Been celebrating, have you?”

“Of course. It is fitting to celebrate the death of an enemy.”

“Not in my opinion, but we haven’t time to discuss morality.”

from Terrance Dicks’ novelization
of his Doctor Who script

“Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock”

So Leela had time to spend a moment chatting with the monster she just had mortally wounded and the dying Rutan had time for a bit of philosophy before passing away. But the Doctor, however, couldn’t take any time to discuss morality.

That’s the British for you. They’re always too busy with this, that or the other thing to talk about philosophy.

At least they say they’re too busy. Maybe, of course, they simply don’t have any philosophical foundation for their busy actions and they are hoping nobody will notice if they just act real busy.


I used to think the whole world was turning into Los Angeles, but maybe the whole world is turning into London, and Los Angeles is just the first city to completely change.

A philosopher named Josef Pieper wrote a book called, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, but Pieper was a German philosopher.

The British are famously busy, and the Germans are famously slackers, aren’t they?

I notice that Pieper’s book isn’t available on Kindle.

I wonder if there’s a deeper meaning there, to the lack of a Kindle edition of a famous book about leisure as the basis of culture?

I’d speculate about it here, but I’ve got to go do some work . . .

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

The Five Student Colors Of L. S. Lowry

Music At The Garden’s Edge

“The whole Earth as the Village?”

“Hold Me Forever: A Doll Philosophy”

Orbis Non Sufficit And The Status Cow

Distance From Paris To Berlin


An Impossible Kisses production note:

Josef Pieper is the second so-called
“German Catholic philosopher” I’ve
singled out here at the blog. Way back
when I talked about our local library
purging books in

Paris Hilton And The Butterflies From
Atlantis #3: Fons Et Origo

I mentioned
Dietrich von Hildebrand
and his extraordinary book
The New Tower of Babel.”

These philosophers were not
popular with the Nazis and
they’re not popular in our
current culture. Hmmm.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Looking Back: The City Or The Monster

Looking back
over your shoulder
you look away from me
drawing your face

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

“It’s really a waste of time, isn’t it?” she asked.

He sighed.

“No, really,” she said, “they make digitizing tablets that attach to a laptop, don’t they?”

“This tool in my hand,” he said, “is called a painting knife. In slasher movies, girls always get killed with a knife, don’t they?”

“I’m just saying,” she said, “that either you’re going to use that image or you’re not. If you’re going to use it, this way you’re going to have to scan it. Or photograph it. And if you’re not going to use it then, really, what’s the point of us doing this? So, I mean, if you were doing this on a tablet, you wouldn’t have to waste time scanning and color-correcting and cropping and stuff.”

He sighed, again, and continued working.

“You’re ignoring me now, aren’t you?” she asked.

He didn’t say anything.

She posed silently for a moment, then made a face—a kind of combination of pressing her lips together into something almost but not quite a frown and rolling her eyes—and turned to look over her shoulder.

“Are you looking for the monster?” he asked, almost yelling. “Or are you trying to see all the way back to Los Angeles?”

“Don’t yell at me!” she said. “This is very hard for me. In Los Angeles people don’t just sit and do nothing.”

“Yeah,” he said, “in Los Angeles people work away really hard at doing nothing.”

“Oh, shut up,” she said. “Are we done?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think we are.”

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

The Loch Ness Monster Vs. Los Angeles

A Flute Playing And Fog Hides The Shore

Song As Eternal Monster Inside Sound

Friday, December 02, 2011

Parking Lot Shadow As A Color-Space

Next, we meet

Her fashion point
is orange and her
preferred fashion area
is Shimokitazawa.

Misaki’s fashion point is orange
and she is very beautiful
and if I could buy a ticket
for a train here in Chicago
that traveled on train tracks to her
I would visit her in real life
to talk about Japanese trains.

The fashion world, mainstream or fringe,
might call my fashion point woeful
not ‘empty-lot’ but counterfeit
‘empty-lot,’ parking lot shadow
a color-space no computer
could organize and no craft knife
could cut into lines, curves or planes.

If clothing is a train we wear
and fashion is paying the fare,
I walk along the tracks and stare
at the landscape ripped up and bare
between stations, out in the air,
somehow spared from industry’s care
like empty lots: Wild flowers grow there.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Aberrant Forms

Guitierrez sighed. He looked around at the tourists at the other tables and said, “This has to be in confidence, okay?”

“All right.”

“It’s a big problem here.”

“What is?”

“There have been, uh ... aberrant forms ... turning up on the coast every so often. It’s been going on for several years now.”

“‘Aberrant forms’?” Levine repeated, shaking his head in disbelief.

“That’s the official term for these specimens,” Guitierrez said. “No one in the government is willing to be more precise. It started about five years ago. A number of animals were discovered up in the mountains, near a remote agricultural station that was growing test varieties of soy beans.”

“Soy beans,” Levine repeated.

Guitierrez nodded. “Apparently these animals are attracted to beans, and certain grasses. The assumption is that they have a great need for the amino acid lysine in their diets. But nobody is really sure. Perhaps they just have a taste for certain crops—”

“Marty,” Levine said, “I don’t care if they have a taste for beer and pretzels. The only important question is: where did the animals come from?”

“Nobody knows,” Guitierrez said.

from “The Lost World”
by Michael Crichton

Dinosaurs and hippie girls is a world
of aberrant forms, high dynamic range
and probably no wide-spread power grids.

And batteries only will last so long.

An acoustic guitar, finger-picked, plucked
or strummed, only will create so much noise.

And how hard can you blow into a flute?

Scientists will debate the important
question, Where did the animals come from?
at least, that is, until the scientists
are chased down and eaten by dinosaurs.

Somewhere, then, a gentle and pretty girl
will ask, Where is that music coming from?

The music will be very quiet but
the gentle and pretty girl will hear it.

ACOUSTIC GUITAR: Was 1979’s New Chautauqua your first serious foray into acoustic guitar playing?

PAT METHENY: In high school and even through the Bright Size Life album [1975], I don’t think I ever played acoustic guitar. Linda Manzer showed up around 1982 or ’83 with the guitar I featured on “Lonely Woman.” I didn’t know something with that kind of sound and balance even existed. It opened up a whole world for me. Around that time, I also started playing some nylon-string guitar on the record Travels. After that point, my acoustic life emerged.

But the hard reality in jazz is that the true acoustic guitar—without pickups or mics—has a very limited set of applications because of the instrument’s small dynamic range. Issues about dynamics on the guitar are pretty huge, so I kind of went at full bore on the electric side. For this record—as acoustic as it is—I still thought a lot about what mics to use and how to use the DI. All those elements are a big part of what makes acoustic guitar a viable platform for me in my day-to-day life as a musician. I spend a lot of time on mics, pickups, strings, and so forth.