Thursday, May 31, 2012

Untold Stories About Stories Untold

That’s a beautiful gadget, isn’t it?

The motto of Canon’s cinema line
of products is: “Leave no story untold”

They haven’t announced the price of this yet
but the model with less features than this
costs sixteen thousand dollars with no lens.

Some years back independent filmmakers
discovered handheld Canon cameras
could be used for so-called “real” filmmaking.

And then professionals got on board, too.

So Canon introduced new equipment
designed with cinema bells and whistles
for amateurs and pros making movies.

It’s a beautiful gadget. I wonder
if it’s a gadget that can tell stories
or if it’s a gadget so beautiful
that it would become the story itself.

But I wonder: Are those other stories
just mechanical approximations
or even synthesized re-creations
of a beautiful gadget being used
to tell a story that’s about itself?

I see myself pointing this at Juli
but then Juli says some improvised lines
and not, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,
you’re my only hope.”
So then I say, “Cut.”

And I wonder: Are those other stories
just mechanical approximations
or even synthesized re-creations
of a beautiful gadget being used
to tell a story that’s about itself?

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

It’s A Photograph And This

A Fun Offering To The World Gadget

Limits Of A Gadget: A Love Story

Secret Gadgets And Gadget Secrets

Beautiful Queen Of All The World’s Gadgets

The Dragon With The Girl Tattoo

Christmas Witches: Sound Synthesis

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Transit Of Venus

Last week I grabbed a photo of Venus above the donut shop:

That was a bit of a lucky break because over the last few days Venus has begun swinging closer to Earth and in just a few days, on June 5, Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun, so Venus has been getting lower and lower in the western sky. Soon Venus will become a morning object, rising higher and higher just before sunrise in the east.

This happens (almost) every year. Venus is an inner planet and travels in orbit around the Sun faster than the Earth. So almost every Earth year (every 584 days) Venus will swing around the Sun, from our perspective, and pass between the Earth and the Sun.

From our perspective here on Earth the Sun is only, roughly, a disk one half of a degree across. So when Venus makes the transition from an evening object to a morning object, usually Venus passes, from our perspective, either above the Sun or below the Sun.

Here are some recent paths, from an interesting Sky and Telescope article, Transits of Venus Explained:

I’ve written about Venus a lot, and often about Venus changing from a morning to an evening object, or an evening to a morning object. Back in 2010 I even grabbed a picture when Venus was low in the evening twilight, getting ready to transition to a morning object.

Exactly As Beautiful To Us

Venus was so hard to see that I had to post a copy of the photo, with Venus circled.

All that being said, however, I am not particularly excited by this year’s big event, of Venus passing in front of the Sun.

It’s just a accident of perspective, and it isn’t a very visual event. When Venus passes in front of the Sun the planet’s silhouette appears very small, smaller than many sunspots. And with space probes and other modern equipment, unlike hundreds of years ago, so far as I know there is little or no real science to be learned from this event in the contemporary world.

There is a website devoted to the event:

So those are a couple of good resources, the Sky and Telescope article and the website.

But, really, there isn’t much to see. I am much more interested in the change-of-state aspect of the situation as the planet moves from the evening sky to the morning sky. And I am concerned about people risking their eyesight to attempt to see the transit.

Really, there isn’t much to see.

It is NOT worth risking your eyesight over, and looking at the Sun can be very dangerous.

At the TransitOfVenus website there will be live coverage of the event. Planetariums and amateur astronomy groups across the country will be hosting viewing parties. These are the safest ways to view the transit.

So I wanted to say something about this event, even though I’m not all that excited by it. Venus changes from an evening object to a morning object almost every year, and it is just an accident of perspective that, this year, Venus will pass in front of the Sun. And it will look like a tiny black dot. That’s all there is to it. Be safe.


I don’t mean to be depressing about this, but it is unsettling to me the way pop culture sometimes pays attention to astronomy, and most often doesn’t.

As I said, Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun almost every year. And, every night, now, Mars and Saturn are very beautiful sights. But pop culture—and, more to the point, pop media—couldn’t care less, and devotes no time at all to astronomy.

But Venus passing in front of the Sun will create an “image”—a high-contrast image—and the media and pop culture love images, especially high-contrast images. And the transit only lasts a few hours, with a well-defined start and a well-defined finish. The media and pop culture love stuff that has an easy-to-understand start and finish.

I don’t mean to be depressing. I mean, I love this stuff: She Asked, “Why Are You Looking...”

And the question: Have you seen the stars tonight? is one of my favorite questions ever.

But what pop culture and pop media do to astronomy, and science in general, depresses me. I’m not even going to talk about Star Wars. I’ve promised myself that here at the blog I will not do a Star Wars post.

But I’m not a fan of pop culture or pop media. When I see pop media coverage talking about Venus passing in front of the Sun, this is what I think about:

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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Preliminary Notes For A Space Opera

“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding, he sings.”

[Alban] Berg is remembered as one of the most important composers of the 20th century and to date is the most widely performed opera composer among the Second Viennese School. He is considered to have brought more human values to the twelve-tone system, his works seen as more emotional than Schoenberg's. Critically he is seen to have preserved the Viennese tradition in his music. His popularity has been more easily secured than many other Modernists since he plausibly combined both Romantic and Expressionist idioms. Though Berg's Romanticism at one time seemed a drawback for some more modernist composers, the Berg scholar Douglas Jarman writes in the New Grove: "As the 20th century closed, the 'backward-looking' Berg suddenly came as [George] Perle remarked, to look like its most forward-looking composer."

Berg died in Vienna, on Christmas Eve 1935, from blood poisoning apparently caused by an insect-sting-induced carbuncle on his back. He had been reduced to near-poverty and it is said that to save money his wife carried out an ill-advised operation using a pair of scissors. Later he was taken to hospital, although too late to prevent the onset of blood poisoning. He was 50 years old.

Alban Berg’s Wikipedia page
describes how he got stabbed in the back
(well, ‘operated on’ by his wife)
but doesn’t say if before dying
he sang a song. He wrote operas,
including one that he called “Lulu.”

“Lulu” starts with her husband dying
when he finds Lulu cheating on him.
Later Jack the Ripper kills Lulu.

There’s a genre of science fiction
called “space opera” that typically
doesn’t include music or singing.

Someday I’ll write a space opera
in which a space musician gets killed
when his space wife stabs him in the back
with a deadly pair of space scissors.

The whole rest of my space opera
will be the space musician singing
with everyone else on the spaceship.

Before he dies recounting his woes
and his triumphs, he’ll forgive his wife
even though she’ll sing with someone else
and the theme of his forgiveness song
will be that the distances of space
are so vast when humans travel them
humans cannot hope to remain sane
but he’ll forgive his wife because love
he will sing makes music possible
during the rare moments when people
temporarily defeat distance
even the vast distances of space
and somehow remain close together
just long enough while sanity lasts
to sing a song with one another.

Someday I’ll write a space opera.

The cast all dies. Except the spaceship.
But that’s okay. Spaceships can sing too.
At least in science fiction they can.

Someday I’ll write a space opera.

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

“Lulu” at Wikipedia


The Evil Light In Perkins’ Eyes

Clown As Supervillain

I Don’t Know What Lost Means Any More

The Muse Ship

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Picking Out A Piece Of The Sky

It’s very hot here in Chicago these are my shirts
fresh from the laundry room and hanging in my closet
ready to go you can’t tell from this composition
which of the shirts are tee shirts and which shirts have long sleeves
and I desaturated the color a little
although in real life all of the colors are grayed down
but in real life it is very easy to sort out
which of the shirts are tee shirts and which shirts have long sleeves
I knew a woman who had a very big closet
and every piece of clothing was sorted by color
so when she opened her closet it was a rainbow
and when she took out a piece of clothing to put on
it was like she was picking out a piece of the sky
to wrap around herself but she didn’t think that way
she picked out ‘tops’ to make her breasts look this way or that
and ‘bottoms’ that would make her butt look this way or that
it was like she was picking out a piece of the sky
to wrap around herself but she didn’t think that way.

It’s very hot here in Chicago these are my shirts
fresh from the laundry room and hanging in my closet
ready to go you can’t tell from this composition
which of the shirts are tee shirts and which shirts have long sleeves
but in real life it is very easy to sort out
which of the shirts are tee shirts and which shirts have long sleeves.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday In Paris Before It All Starts

Friday in Paris before it all starts
is media day at the French Open
tennis tournament and then play begins
Sunday but on media day players
talk to reporters and get photographed
and fans try to guess who looks in good shape
and which player has the best attitude.

The official media day photo
of Maria Sharapova shows her
looking away from a camera but
she almost smiles at whatever she sees.

At the French Open tennis tournament
independent artists work on the grounds
and for a fee tourists can get painted
or sketched by an artist who works quickly
by hand without using a camera.

I don’t think Maria Sharapova
is looking away from the camera
and watching an artist draw a picture
maybe of a pretty woman tourist
so I don’t think Maria’s expression
is a tight smile putting up a façade
as she thinks, “I wish he was drawing me!”

I don’t think that. But that’s what I pretend.

Play starts Sunday there. Here it never stops.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“I’m Against It”

I don’t know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway
Whatever it is
I’m against it
No matter what it is or who commenced it
I’m against it

from one of Groucho’s songs
in 1932’s
“Horse Feathers”

Today’s post is pretty stupid, but I want to do it anyway.

I’m a very opinionated and judgmental person.

I have been for as long as I can remember. That having been said, however, I really enjoy when there is some issue, or some occurrence, or some anything, whatever, that I feel no particular engagement with, so I feel no particular opinion about it and I make no judgments at all about it.

I can just sit back and enjoy it however it comes out.

Times like that are rare for me because I have—usually dubious—opinions and judgments about almost everything.

However I’m not really a comic book person so, in general, I don’t have a lot of involvement with comic book movies. In general.

For instance, I don’t much care one way or the other about the series of Christopher Nolan films known as the “Dark Knight” trilogy.

However something caught my attention about the up-coming film, “The Dark Knight Rises” and now I have an opinion.

First of all, everyone probably knows that Anne Hathaway plays Catwoman in the new film.

At first I just thought this was funny. So far as I know—and I’m kind of a film buff and I usually talk to one or two other film buffs every day—so far as I know nobody is a fan of Anne Hathaway in anything so she seemed an odd choice for such a high-profile role. But, in general, I didn’t care.

Then I saw the first few trailers for the movie and, in general, I didn’t care. The movie seemed almost insanely dark and pretentious but nowadays that is just how filmmakers telegraph and underscore that they are “serious.” Like I said, in general, I didn’t care.

But I was surprised because I thought Anne Hathaway was playing Catwoman with some energy and she looked interesting and not flat-out laughable so I was staying neutral on the Catwoman casting issue.

Then, just recently, the filmmakers released to the internet the latest TV teaser for the movie.

You can watch it here: New “Dark Knight Rises” TV spot

First of all, clearly the studio is trying to lighten up perceptions of the film by including a little bit of humor—or attempts at humor—in the new spots.

Fine. I don’t care.

But look at the last joke.

Bruce Wayne goes to get his car. The parking guy tells him his wife said he’d be taking a cab home. Bruce Wayne says, “My wife?” Cut to Catwoman driving Bruce Wayne’s car.

That’s what passes for a joke nowadays but: It makes no sense.

Bruce Wayne is a famous millionaire businessman. Everybody in Gotham City knows all about him. He’s a celebrity. And he’s something of a playboy. Everybody in Gotham City knows Bruce Wayne isn’t married. So it would be impossible for any woman to pretend to be Bruce Wayne’s wife and drive off with his car.

It’s a perfect example of stupid Hollywood scriptwriting. They need something “light” so they stick in some cornball schtick about a woman pretending to be the hero’s wife. Even though every fan will immediately frown and cringe because the joke makes no sense in the context of the story.

The filmmakers posture as being all serious and pretentious, all dark and dealing with heavy issues like terrorism and what makes a good citizen. But the filmmakers are so uninvolved with the content of their story that they make “jokes” that have no connection to the presumed reality of the story.

So I’ve gone from being neutral about this film to hoping it bombs.

It’s one thing to be awful and pretentious and insanely dark, but when you combine that with bluntly and obviously bad writing, totally uninvolved writing, it becomes too much.

So I feel bad for Anne Hathaway because I had kind of started to enjoy the energy she was bringing to Catwoman. But that pretend-wife-steals-car schtick is so stupid, so out-of-place, that to my eyes this movie deserves to bomb as big as all the other recent big-budget bombs.

Awful stuff.

So I’m against it.

(For what it’s worth, I very much enjoyed and admired the low-budget film, “The Devil Inside.” It’s almost unbelievable to me that careful writing and careful filmmaking like that gets ridiculed just for having an out-of-the-ordinary ending. It’s really good low-budget stuff.)

Anyway, I’m against “The Dark Knight Rises.”

But then I’m against most things on principle anyway, and the principle was put into song more than seventy years ago!

Here it is:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Clouds Want To Be Close To Us

Scientists at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analyzed the first 10 years of global cloud-top height measurements (from March 2000 to February 2010) from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft. The study, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, revealed an overall trend of decreasing cloud height. Global average cloud height declined by around one percent over the decade, or by around 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 meters). Most of the reduction was due to fewer clouds occurring at very high altitudes.

... I never
kissed Wisconsin I wish I’d kissed
Wisconsin every time it rained

Clouds want to be close to us. But who can say why?

If they want to talk to us I want to listen.

Maybe they want to rain on us but if they do
that’s certainly trying to tell us something too.

Some people believe there’s a natural process
happening now, a geophysical process,
where the deep, hot biosphere of the Earth’s mantle—
down where the crust goes when the crust gets subducted—
is venting methane and other gases upward
changing the composition of our atmosphere:
Messages of love from the deep, hot biosphere.

It’s possible I suppose the clouds will be sad
to see us go and they’re crying all over us
when they come down to where we are and rain on us.

Nice clouds. I can’t think of anything we can do
to make this difficult time easier for them
although I’m trying. I’m drawing and writing more
in notebooks. When we’re gone and things start to crumble
notebooks will be just lying around on the ground.

Then the wind will blow and flip open our notebooks.

Then the wind will blow and flip over the pages.

Then the wind will blow and clouds will read our notebooks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Moon And Venus Beyond The Fox Point

That is the donut shop at night over-exposed
to get a good image of the Moon and Venus.

When there’s a storm at night electric lights look bright
and street lights and business signs illuminate rain
making raindrops shine against dark clouds overhead.

When the sky’s clear at night electric lights look small.

They’re still bright but electric lights against clear skies
look small, hardly like illumination at all.

When I took this photograph I took five pictures
because with a zoom lens and a long exposure
it’s difficult to hold the camera steady.

Taking five pictures to get one steady image,
I heard a man and woman walking behind me.

“What’s he taking a picture of?” the man whispered.

“Look,” the woman whispered. “See the Moon there so thin?”

“I would have missed it,” he whispered. “That’s beautiful.”

I couldn’t tell if they knew the star was Venus.

I would have told them but I had to concentrate
on standing still and they were both in a hurry
to get into the donut shop to buy donuts.

I once saw a fox run through that same parking lot.

I have no idea what the fox saw that night
but the fox was running as if he saw something.

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

When I got home before I wrote up
this post I checked the phase of the Moon
at Wolfram|Alpha. When I took this image
the Moon was only 3.8% illuminated,
only about two days old.


The Sign From Arby’s At Night In The Rain

Motion Beyond The Fox Point

Wild Dogs As Acoustic Holdouts (Redux)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Drawings Stay Flat Falling Into Reality

The things you don’t remember
are the criterion of your madness.

from Mimsy Were The Borogoves

(from the great 1943 short story
written by husband and wife team
Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore,
not the horrible 2007 movie
‘adapted’ from the story by
filmmaker Robert Shaye)

“Leia was unconscious a lot,” she says. “And I wanted to be unconscious; I have an affinity for unconsciousness. I thought I could play that very well. But I also wanted to be involved in all of it, with Wookiees, with monsters in the cantina. ... They taped a rehearsal and they taped another one, and there was very little direction—and I thought, There is no way that I have it. I didn’t hear anything for about three weeks, so I thought, Well, I’m not going to get to have lunch with monsters.

Carrie Fisher
quoted in The Making
of Star Wars

I remember drawing a color pencil cartoon
of a British blues singer and it still makes me smile.
I bought some new kinds of pastels to add to the pile
of stick-based media I’m going to work with soon

to draw images of a scientist and a tune
derived from birdsongs and a monster lost for a while
but found—dug for unearthed brought to the surface: like oil.
Drawings stay flat. They’re not kites. They’re not a child’s balloon.

A husband and wife team wrote a story about kids.
They wrote that the things you forget as you become old
define your madness as if age is moving away

from a place—a balloon rising or the pyramids
falling into reality out of legends told
by words in lost books or a princess in a screenplay.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Sail Away Thing

ANN DARROW: “What do I have to do?”

CARL DENHAM: “Just trust me and keep your chin up!”

It was a hand-shake deal. No memo. No contract.

A conversation over dinner explaining
his plan, just in broad outline, and then the hand-shake.

And then a boat to Skull Island and the monster.


To take you away
a boat’s the thing or one thing
a sail away thing.

Finding a lost place
starts by leaving a found place
a sail away thing.

Monsters and romance
create monsters and romance
a sail away thing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mandy Moore In Traffic

I know a young woman who is careful
and always crosses streets at a crosswalk.

The last time I talked to this young woman
she was sitting at her desk and frowning
at a beautiful woman’s photograph
formatted for a magazine cover.

I said, “She’s really pretty, isn’t she?”

Frowning, the young woman said, “I don’t know
who she is. I’ve never seen her before.”

I said, “That’s Brooklyn Decker. She’s the wife
of Andy Roddick. He’s a tennis star.”

The young woman shrugged. She said, “I know him.
For a while he went out with Mandy Moore.”

Mandy Moore! I almost wanted to cheer.

I said, “That’s right. But they broke up and now
Andy is married to Brooklyn Decker.
She’s a model. And she’s an actress, too.”

Still frowning, the young woman said, “Of course.”

I said, “Mandy Moore is still around, too.
She did the voice in the movie ‘Tangled.’
And she got married. To a musician.”

The young woman frowned, sighed and rolled her eyes.
“Married a musician. Of course. What else.”

I didn’t point out it could have been worse.

Out there in the world there are failed writers.

That’s worse than marrying a musician—
It’s like trying to cross a busy street
in the middle of a block through traffic!

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

The Once And Future Mandy Moore

Unrequited As A Cosmology

Gain Joyful Expressions

Leaving Mandy Moore

Notes From My Vampirella Expedition

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Machines Of Loving Grace

At the time, there was a general belief in the stability of natural systems. However cracks started to appear when a study was made of predator-prey relationship of wolf and elks. It was found that wild population swings had occurred over centuries. Other studies then found huge variations, and a significant lack of homeostasis in natural systems. George Van Dyne then tried to build a computer model, to try to simulate a complete ecosystem based on extensive real-world data, so as to show how the stability of natural systems actually worked. To his surprise the computer model did not stabilize like the Odums' electrical model had. The reason for this lack of stabilization was that he had used extensive data which more accurately reflected reality whereas the Odums and other previous ecologists had "ruthlessly simplified nature." The scientific idea had thus been shown to fail, but the popular idea remained, and even grew as it apparently offered the possibility of a new egalitarian world order.

from “All Watched Over
by Machines of Loving Grace”

not the poem by Richard Brautigan

but the 2011 BBC documentary series
by filmmaker Adam Curtis

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
will hold a summit this weekend in Chicago.

I’m guessing already there are a lot of drones
flying over Chicago watching over us
giving us the benefit of their loving grace.

I’d feel safer if the sky above Chicago
was filled with Richard Brautigan poetry books
and they were flying around and sometimes falling
and hitting people on the head but books are light
so nobody would get hurt and when a book fell
and hit somebody on the head they would look down
and find a book of poetry on the sidewalk
and they could keep the book and continue reading
even when this weekend’s NATO summit is done.

Sort of like sombreros but without the fighting.

I don’t know. We had Richard Brautigan for real
and that didn’t stop today’s world from happening.

In today’s world books will not fall out of the sky
but they will materialize on a Kindle
and it is as if they’ve fallen out of the sky
but they don’t leave even a small bump on your head
and they don’t leave even a small book in your hand
just a change-of-state in a Kindle computer.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
will hold a summit this weekend in Chicago.

I’m guessing already there are a lot of drones
flying over Chicago watching over us
giving us the benefit of their loving grace.

I don’t know. We had books and wars for real but now
they’re loving grace and electric sugar nightmares.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Forbidden Planet: An Introduction

This is what the captain of a spaceship looks like.

The beautiful woman knows he can protect her.

That particular captain is protecting her
from her own father. Her father built the robot
that is carrying the captain’s unconscious friend
to help around the house and be a companion
for his daughter who had to grow up by herself
far from Earth on a planet of the star Altair.

The captain of the spaceship has a fancy gun
but in fact he won’t need it because her father
will commit suicide when he realizes
his love for his daughter is going to kill her
rather than let her fly away on the spaceship.

And after the beautiful woman’s father dies
the robot he built himself will help his daughter
fly away on the spaceship with the brave captain.

A lot of the men who report to the captain
die particularly gruesome and painful deaths
and the beautiful woman’s father dies, tortured
by the knowledge that his love made him a monster,
but the brave captain and the beautiful woman
have each other and all the stars and the future.

Of course some stars go nova or supernova
and don’t get to participate in the future
but that’s just astrophysics: That’s only science.

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

Okay. So, I’ve mentioned the movie “Forbidden Planet” four times (well, now five) here at the blog:

Martha And The Alchemy Of Doors

Throwing Rocks At Tin Cans

Where The Scorpion Sits Down For Tea

Everything Is Out Of Order

Here’s some background. When I was younger—I mean like a pre-teen kid, and then later as a teenager—I watched “Forbidden Planet” a lot. It came out in 1956, so it was already on TV when I was growing up.

But I had never watched the movie since I was a kid. I mean, I’ve talked about it a lot with other science fiction fans and I’ve read a lot of reviews and discussions of the film, but I hadn’t actually sat down myself and re-watched the movie in a very long time.

But since I’ve posted so often about the film and since I anticipated doing more posts about the film, I went over to Amazon a couple of weeks ago and bought the special edition, two-disc anniversary edition of the movie.

And to be honest I was a bit shocked when I watched it.

I had remembered it as a “science fiction” film. I remembered, of course, the plot of the father’s id creating the monster and all that. But mostly I remembered the technology.

When I watch the movie now, the movie seems almost insane.

The entire story is built around grown men acting like, say, thirteen year old boys.

And I’m sure grown men do, a lot, act like thirteen year old boys. But not all the time, and not in emergency situations.

It is so weird to watch a movie as an adult when you have strong memories of how you reacted to the movie as a kid.

In the science fiction world, there has always been a kind of friendly rivalry between fans of a film called, “This Island Earth” which came out in 1955, and fans of “Forbidden Planet” which came out one year later in 1956.

I’d always taken sides with “Forbidden Planet” because I had remembered the interesting parts of the plot about the ancient civilization that had destroyed itself and the cool spaceship and the beautiful girl.

Now, however, having watched both films again, I am a bit at sea.

“Forbidden Planet” now just seems insane to me, with these characters behaving in ways no real human beings would behave. But, on the other hand, art and entertainment isn’t really expected to be a documentary. Characters don’t have to act “real.”

So I’m going to be giving this more thought.

But I wanted to do another post about “Forbidden Planet” to sort of bring things up-to-date.

And that’s where things stand right now. I’m kind of chagrinned, that as a kid I never noticed how weird the actual story was here. Certainly some science fiction fans had questioned this movie, especially when compared with the real “nuts and bolts” characters in “This Island Earth” who built interocitors and didn’t let their love turn them into monsters.

I don’t know. Some things take time to think through.

Pretty soon the Summer Triangle will be high in the sky, and the real star Altair will be bright in the south.

I’ll be giving all this more thought and I’ll do another post sooner or later.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Celebrity-Talk, And The Epistemology Of Hippie

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: How many Taylor Swifts does it take to change a light bulb?

RUBBER LIZARD: I’m not going to do this. Go away. Leave me alone.

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: No. Come on. It’s just a joke. You have to play along.

RUBBER LIZARD: It’s mean-spirited. And it’s hurtful. I do not have to play along.

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: It’s not mean-spirited and hurtful. She’s a celebrity. She likes it when people talk about her. She doesn’t care what they say. She’s a celebrity and she wants to be talked about.

RUBBER LIZARD: I meant it’s mean-spirited and hurtful to me. You’re ridiculing me just because I happen to like something that isn’t all obscure and isn’t all complicated and isn’t all old.

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: I am not ridiculing you. I’m teasing you. If I were ridiculing you I’d tell this joke to Tina and then I’d laugh with her about how it would upset you if you heard it.

RUBBER LIZARD: Now you’re just being manipulative and Byzantine.

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: No, come on. It’s just a joke. You have to play along.

RUBBER LIZARD: You’re vicious. And you’re so vicious that for you being vicious is like what normal people call being creative and entertaining.

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: Oh, shut up. Now you’re being Byzantine. Come on. It’s just a joke. You have to play along. How many Taylor Swifts does it take to change a light bulb?

RUBBER LIZARD: [sighs] I don’t know. How many Taylor Swifts does it take to change a light bulb?

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: Three. One to say don’t change the light bulb because the shadowy light makes her squinty eyes look even more sexy. A second Taylor Swift to point out that in the dim light people can’t get a really good view of her sexy butt. And a third Taylor Swift to run over then and quickly change the light bulb so that everybody can get the very best view possible of her sexy butt.

RUBBER LIZARD: Happy? Are you happy now?

LITTLE PLASTIC DOLL: [laughing] Yes. I’m happy now. Thank you.

Over the weekend I was thinking about celebrities for a few unrelated reasons. Then on Sunday in a kind of pointless, obscure way—a random conversation on the internet—somebody else brought up a couple of very same things I was thinking about.

So I figured I would just jot down a couple of celebrity-related things that have connections of some kind to the blog. And this gives me a chance to tie-up a couple of loose ends.

1. Cynthia Rothrock

Last week in Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ Ends In Disaster I mentioned seeing Cynthia Rothrock in a magazine. I really did see a picture of her in a recent issue of Black Belt magazine (June 2012). She is doing some clothing designs for a new company Don Wilson is starting up. It really cheered me up to see her. She’s from near-abouts my own generation, but she always appears very energetic and busy. (And in the picture she even has two-toned, bright-color hair. I don’t want to be all cornball like Rubber Lizard, but I almost always think adult women look very pretty when they put on a little teenage-girl kind of fashion. If they don’t get weird about it.)

2. Andy Summers and Jenny Fabian

A while ago I did two unrelated posts, and I forgot I have a story about one of them, and a link between the two of them.

A Thumb Update (And Book Report)

Mice Elf Again

An Andy Summers story: I’m not a big Andy Summers fan. He seems kind of pretentious. But I once saw him do a very cool thing. Back when the Police were very, very hot, some late night TV show broadcast live coverage of some big European music festival. The Police were performing live. In the middle of some song—I don’t even remember which song—Summers was playing one of those beautiful chord-and-melody solos he built his style around and SNAP right there live on television he strummed a chord and one of his guitar strings broke. Instead of getting all shocked or panicked, Andy Summers reacted very cool and professional. And interesting. When the string broke—it was his fifth or sixth string—he just stared at his fretboard and his face got this very cool expression, it was something like amusement, something like a serene, Zen-like amusement. And without missing a beat—literally without missing a beat—he just shifted his left hand three or four frets up the fretboard and continued the chord-and-melody solo playing the exact same chords and notes, but playing them on the middle or bass strings rather than the treble strings. It was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever seen a performer perform.

Jenny Fabian and Andy Summers: Jenny Fabian was a groupie. She was a hippie girl, but kind of an unpleasant one. From reading her book, she apparently became a groupie not because she wanted to be a groupie, but because she saw a real groupie (Marianne Faithfull?) and she wanted to be like her. So she wasn’t really expressing herself, she was trying to copy what she perceived and interpreted as the creativity of someone else. So she isn’t really a hippie girl at all, or she’s a bad one, and when you read through her book that becomes kind of clear, because her story gets all dark and depressing and, more to the point, she uses people but not in a fun, creative, friendly way, just in a manipulative, exploitative way. So, for instance, Andy Summers was one of the musicians she had an affair with and in her book she “shares” personal details of their relationship in a very blunt way. Now, as I said, I don’t much like the guy, but from the stories she tells he doesn’t seem like a bad guy, and he seems like a guy who had genuine affection for her, and she just makes public the most intimate details of their affair and she tells the details for no particularly creative or enlightening or even amusing reasons, rather just because he was “somebody” and he spent some time with her. It just seems completely uncool of her, and kind of terrifying for a guy, that a woman who seems to be pleasant would turn out to be something almost the opposite of what she seems to be.

3. Pink Floyd

I like Pink Floyd a lot, and I used lyrics from one of their songs to introduce a post, Heaven From Hell, I wrote about the time when I was writing my second (still unpublished) novel.

Nick Mason, their drummer, wrote a very interesting book about the history of Pink Floyd. It is one of my favorite “rock history” books of all time because certainly Nick Mason has, as the saying goes, seen it all and done it all, yet the tone of the detailed book is very engaging and energetic and inspiring. And fun.

Not to be mean (or insane) but Nick Mason, a drummer, would have made a much, much better hippie girl than Jenny Fabian.

So over the weekend I was talking on the internet and somebody mentioned that Pink Floyd is interesting because not only were they great, but there was something just simply wonderful but almost indefinable about them and their music that really hasn’t been matched by any band before or since.

It was a kind of obscure thing to say about a band, but I agreed with the comment and it made me think, trying to get a handle on the “indefinable” part. It made me think, first of all, of the American group the Greatful Dead. I was never a big fan of the Greatful Dead, but they were unique in a way that seems to have some similarities (I’m assuming something unique can share particulars, similarities, and still be unique overall) with Pink Floyd. Both groups remained popular for generations. Both groups had fans who were interesting and nice. (I’ve met some Deadheads and, without exception, they were all nice people—the Deadheads I’ve met were hippies in all the best usages of the word.) And both groups were made up of people who started with less than extraordinary skill-sets—neither group came from the jazz or classical worlds—but the musicians were passionate and reasonably sincere and worked to develop themselves and their skills to reasonable levels.

And, to the point, both Pink Floyd and the Greatful Dead seemed to have shared a similar background—thousands of miles apart—because both groups started at the very end of the Beat Generation, during the time of the Freaks, that is, at the very start of the Hippie Era.

And I personally, very subjectively, think that may have been a key.

Because the time of the Freaks was a time about individuality, informed by the political and social consciousness of the Beat Generation but not defined by it. Rather, individuals looked inward for definitions. People became whatever they wanted to become because they tried to figure out what was in their own heart and how their own heart touched and fit in with the larger world around them.

The time of the Freaks—the end of the Beats, the start of the “Trout Fishing in America” years—was a time when an unthinkably large number of people did sort of the opposite of what Jenny Fabian the bad hippie girl did—instead of looking out at other people and trying to guess at what the other people are and then trying to mimic them, the Freaks looked inward to their own selves where introspection and honesty can find, sometimes, a little truth and a person doesn’t have to “guess” and “interpret” another person’s behavior trying to find meaning.

Anyway, so over the weekend thinking back to the early days of Pink Floyd reminded me of a passage from Nick Mason’s book about the start of Pink Floyd, a time that shaped them as a group and as individuals. I’ll conclude this post and this bit of celebrity-talk by quoting that passage written by celebrity Nick Mason about the end of a time when everybody was a star (and a comment like that could be said sincerely with no mean-spirited, vicious snarkiness at all):

The business community had latched on to the new craze for psychedelia and every pop show, dance and sing-song was now being advertised as a freak-out. The alternative spellings alone were something to behold. By mid-April Peter, Andrew and ourselves had felt obliged to run a spoof ad entitled ‘Freak Out-Schmeak Out’ to poke fun at them, but even so promoters who were jumping on the bandwagon, or just plain dumb, failed to get the joke, and their ads were still blithely using the line ‘Turn up, shell out, get lost’—a variation on the LSD guru Timothy Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out.’ The original concept of everyone making their own entertainment had already gone to the wall in favour of a commodity that could be sold.

... The crowd at UFO had changed: although Joe Boyd—ever the sharp promoter—had the Move and the Floyd drawing huge crowds on consecutive weekends in June, the audiences the gigs were attracting were now turning up to observe the phenomenon rather than participate.

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This Evening At The Stilyagi Bar®

Blows Against The (Expensive) Empire

Friday, May 11, 2012

On The Edges Of A Dawn Chorus

1. Noises in a Landscape

On the edges of a dawn chorus
the leading edge or the trailing edge
just before all the birds start singing
or right after all the birds finish
the sounds throughout a landscape are noise
and who can say what’s making the noise
although if we know birds make birdsong
and we all know what a bird looks like
then we can imagine what makes noise
since noise is sound nothing like birdsong
whatever it is that makes the noise
probably is nothing like the birds.

2. Three Graphs

She said, “I’m going to show you three graphs.
This first one represents the amplitudes
of all the average background noises
recorded before and after the birds
sing their dawn chorus. Look at the levels.
Across the entire audible spectrum
the amplitudes seem to change randomly
and math tools confirm that it is random.
This second graph is the time period
of the dawn chorus. Notice there are spikes
within well-defined frequency ranges
and while the spikes themselves appear random
you can see what appear to be patterns
in where groups of the spikes begin and end.
Those are birdsongs. We can characterize
the lengths of the groups and the silences
mathematically and it’s non-random.
I have a third graph. On this I subtract
all the amplitudes of the birdsong spikes
from the period of the dawn chorus
except during the time of the silence.
That is, I subtract the birdsong except
from the time-slices where there’s no birdsong.
And then I subtract background amplitudes
from that. So there’s no birdsong, no background.
If there’s no birdsong and there’s no background
then what do you think the third graph will show?”

He said, “I would expect it to be blank.”

She said, “Look at this third graph. There are spikes
in those time-slices that should be silent
and the spikes are higher in amplitude
than background noise. What do you think that is?”

He said, “They must just be math artifacts
from all your processing algorithms.
Or recording artifacts introduced
because microphones are non-linear
in their frequency response and change too
as the ambient temperature changes.”

She smiled and said, “Do I look like someone
who can’t sort out artifact from signal?”

He frowned and said, “What do you think it is?”

She said, “I think there’s something making noise
that’s not there before the dawn chorus starts
and isn’t there when the dawn chorus ends.”

3. Noises in a Landscape (Reprise)

On the edges of a dawn chorus
the leading edge or the trailing edge
just before all the birds start singing
or right after all the birds finish
the sounds throughout a landscape are noise
and who can say what’s making the noise
although if we know birds make birdsong
and we all know what a bird looks like
then we can imagine what makes noise
since noise is sound nothing like birdsong
whatever it is that makes the noise
probably is nothing like the birds
and imagination can conjure
so many shapes of so many things
that if there were a way to see them
should a scientist or someone else
do their science or do something else
to make these things visible and real?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some People Believe Monsters Don’t Exist

I watched a film based on an old novel
and I read a graphic novel version
derived from the book, not based on the film.

Both the movie and the graphic novel
were better than the source material.

This terrifies me. I know a woman.

She has a kind of beauty that’s like art
all by herself, as if she’s her own muse.

What if I made, say, a graphic novel
using her likeness as the heroine
then someone adapted it as a film
and someone did a novel of the script
and both the novelization and film
were way more cool than my graphic novel?

This terrifies me. If I write and draw
a graphic novel using a likeness
of this woman as the main character
this terror will be the story’s monster.

Some people believe monsters don’t exist.

I can’t even imagine how they think.

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Music At The Garden’s Edge

“Lair of the White Worm” — the book

“Lair of the White Worm” — the film

“Lair of the White Worm” — the graphic novel

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Lost Images Of Lost Landscapes

Among the elite and aristocratic classes, watercolor painting was one of the incidental adornments of a good education, especially for women. By contrast, watercoloring was also valued by surveyors, mapmakers, military officers and engineers for its usefulness in depicting properties, terrain, fortifications or geology in the field and for illustrating public works or commissioned projects. ... These stimulated the demand for topographical painters who churned out memento paintings of famous sites (and sights) along the Grand Tour to Italy that was traveled by every fashionable young man or woman of the time.

It’s not unheard of for an amateur—
it’s not common but it’s not unheard of—
to be better than a professional.

Professionals sometimes get cynical
and just go through the motions so often
that they become professional at that—
skillfully going through skillful motions.

Some amateurs keep their passions alive
and their passions help them acquire great skill.

It’s not common but it’s not unheard of.

I wonder: Where are those watercolors
passionate young men and women painted
to study and remember the landscapes
surrounding them as they moved through their youth?

The images weren’t political
or a cultural movement’s artifacts
and the painters didn’t need a dealer
to drum up a fashion craze for a buck.

I wonder: Is it really a surprise
these images are something close to lost
regardless of how well they were painted?

Everyone’s a professional now.

I wonder: What does this landscape look like?
Does it exist outside of photographs
or skillfully painted copies of them?

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The Real World In Georges Seurat’s Notebooks

“When All My Words About Britney Disappear”

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

It Shall Be So Madness Must Unwatched Go

She frowned, and still frowning said, “Maybe hippie girls
were gentle and pretty. But gentle and pretty
hippie girls couldn’t make their world not disappear,
they couldn’t stop this world from replacing their world.”

“Well, Shakespeare,” I said, “wrote ‘Hamlet.’ That didn’t stop
his world from disappearing, or hold back this world.”

She frowned, and still frowning said, “So Ophelia
with her flowers and her songs and her total failure
at dealing with Hamlet’s erratic behavior
is sort of a prototypical hippie girl?
Answer madness with talk of flowers and singing songs
and die with the old world to make room for the new?”

“Gertrude,” I said, “married one king, and another,
and, too, Gertrude died to make room for the new world.
Answer madness with talk of flowers and singing songs.
Or sleep with a king and then sleep with another.”

She frowned, and still frowning said, “Sleeping with two kings
is better than—” she smiled “—sleeping with the fishes.”

“Summer flowers bloom,” I said, “but they don’t try to stop
winter snows from falling around them like a tomb.”

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Songs For Hippies Don’t Scare The Pigeons

Memory Studies As A Flourishing Field

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ Ends In Disaster

ELEANOR: (Flatly, from far away) Like any thinking person, I should like to think there was—I don’t care whose or which—some God. Not out of fear: death is a lark; it’s life that stings. But if there were some God, then I’d exist in his imagination, like Antigone in Sophocles’. I’d have no contradictions, no confusions, no waste parts or misplaced elements and then, oh, Henry, then I’d make some sense. I’d be a queen in Arcady and not an animal in chaos. How, from where we started, did we ever reach this Christmas?

HENRY: Step by step.

I have a camera and some drawing pencils
and I know the two things can coexist in peace
because Frank Frazetta enjoyed taking pictures
and certainly he could draw without allowing
the trivial reality of photographs
to impose its limitations on what he drew.

I saw Cynthia Rothrock in a magazine—
she’s doing designs for martial arts clothing now—
and I was sorry I never was successful
at selling the script Derrick and I tried to write
called “Smashing Cynthia” where she could have acted
instead of being just some tough guy’s tough girlfriend.

I don’t want to go back. I remember each step
that brought me here and I don’t want to retrace them.
Rather I want to finish this like a drawing
of a beautiful tough woman like Cynthia
before everything goes to hell like England.
I like James Goldman’s Henry better than Henry.

Friday, May 04, 2012

It’s A Photograph And This

The Moon's an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the Sun

Timon Of Athens

The Red Admiral is the butterfly featured by Vladimir Nabokov, an amateur lepidopterist, in his novel "Pale Fire"

Of the butterflies Juli that could land
outside my front window this is the one
that landed this afternoon and I bet
you don’t recognize it but you know it

and isn’t it strange I recognize it
but I’ve never read Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”
but I do know what metafiction is
and I took this photograph carefully
but I do know what metafiction is
and I wish Juli we could talk about
how I could recognize the butterfly
as a Red Admiral and you couldn’t
and you could describe Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”
to me and explain all the tricky bits
so us talking about the butterfly
would be something like a commentary
if the Red Admiral in my front yard
were something like a text with allusions
but at least it’s a photograph and this
though this isn’t as carefully crafted
as the photo’s out-of-focus background
but the photo’s about the butterfly
and I wish Juli we could talk about
the butterfly or Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”
or the photo or this or anything
but when I try to see or remember
the background to this it’s out-of-focus
though you’re there in the foreground and pretty.

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Dinosaurs And Robots And Vicki’s Smile

“Indiana Wants Me” (I Can’t Go Back There)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Sign From Arby’s At Night In The Rain

Electrical wires stretched across the night
don’t glow but the things the wires connect to
shine even illuminate rain at night
and raindrops glitter around the dark wires
so there’s the night with its one kind of dark
and the wires are another kind of dark
and raindrops glitter as one kind of light
and streetlights shine more brightly than raindrops
so streetlights are another kind of light
but the Arby’s sign from a block away
that sticks up above a nearby rooftop
is so bright that against both kinds of dark
surrounded by two other kinds of light
it not only shines but shines in color.

The sign from Arby’s at night in the rain
I bet if you asked them makes the wires proud.

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

This was a fun picture to create.

This photo is more processed than I normally like, but it seems to fit the writing.

Here’s how I created this image.

First, I tried doing a simple point-and-shoot operation with my camera. But the auto-exposure tried to set the shutter for something like three or four seconds. I didn’t want to grab a tripod, so I dialed into shutter-priority mode and set the shutter for something like 1/20 of a second, which is about as slow as I can hand-hold and trust myself to keep a reasonably steady picture. And even that required a couple of tries to get it steady.

Once I had a reasonably steady image, I went into Microsoft Office Picture Manager and adjusted the mid-tones to get the best view of the rain that I could. Then I tried to color-correct a little to get the sign the proper shade of red (the streetlights warm things up, making the red too orange) but I never really got the sign the correct shade of Arby’s red.

Then I had an image that was more or less okay, but I didn’t really like it. Nothing seemed to be happening, visually. So I grabbed the ‘zoom’ knob and enlarged the whole image until the pixels became abstract artifacts. From there, I slowly zoomed back down until the pixels were still artifacts, but right on the edge of being unresolved.

Then I cut out this composition from the larger scene using screen-grab software.

So, reduced for the blog the pixels are right on the edge between being pixels and being artifacts, and the photograph to me has a ‘look’ that is something like a pastel drawing or a colored pencil drawing.

When I create a photograph like this I just sigh, because I can do something like this much faster than I could draw such a scene, and this looks—I’m pretty sure—a lot better than I could do drawing.

And watercolors are beautiful, but I don’t think that I have enough experience painting to use watercolors to create a scene that is both realistic and artificial at the same time.

I don’t know how I’m ever going to resolve my affection for photography and my desire to get better at drawing and painting.

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Thin Lines Spread Out Into A Grid

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Ephemera And Antiphony

It sounds like a romantic couple from Greek mythology, doesn’t it?

Ephemera and Antiphony.

It’s not though. Not so far as I know.

But, in fact, I only learned the word ‘antiphony’ a few days ago. I’ve known what ephemera means for a long time.

(I even remember that in David Cronenberg’s great 1981 film ‘Scanners,’ the drug that creates scanners is called Ephemerol. It’s ephemera trivia. [!])

Today’s post is just two little parts. First a notebook update (in which I use the word ‘ephemera’) and then a second part about the word ‘antiphony.’

1. A Notebook Update

I mentioned back in March in Ghosts Aren’t What They Used To Be that the notebook I used for everyday notes fell apart. It just ran out of sheets and the spiral binding fell off the cardboard back. So that became a crisis for me. Do I replace the notebook with something identical? Do I get a notebook with heavier paper? Do I go to a watercolor paper notebook?

For me this is a tough issue.

I’ve been using, generally, a big inexpensive notebook I bought at a grocery store until I figure out how to handle this crisis.

But I really enjoyed doing a little illustration to that post about the two women in the parking lot, If I Walk Through I Think. The inexpensive paper didn’t take the watercolor paint very well.

I want to start doing more drawing—I’ve wanted to get back to doing more drawing for a long time (this is a big topic for me, I wrote about it in This Woman From The Canals Of Mars and in The Lost World Of Stacy And The Llama and I am still trying to deal with it)—so I don’t want to keep on using this inexpensive notebook. And just recently I needed to go to something like a business meeting so I needed a “real” notebook—or at least something that looked more like a real notebook than the kind of thing you buy at a local grocery store.

So a few days ago I unwrapped one of those Moleskine notebooks I’ve talked about a couple of times. (This is a tough topic for me—the topic of brand names, I mean—because I still remember someone calling me an asshole because I really like my North Face jacket.)

Anyway, I unwrapped my Moleskine notebook that is a general sketch paper notebook, not the watercolor notebook and not the ruled-line writing notebook. I’m going to be giving this notebook a try. So far I am very happy with it. I especially like that it has a little built-in pocket on the back for little bits of ephemera.

Sometimes I carry around a lot of ephemera. For better and for worse.

So I am making a little progress on the notebook issue.

And, to be honest, I kind of like all the cultural hype around these cool little notebooks.

Cultural hype normally sucks because it’s usually vacuous and, often, even insidious advertising nonsense. But every now and then something that really is cool gets recognized for having good qualities.

For instance, a German camera company named Leica makes a point-and-shoot camera called the M9 that costs almost ten thousand dollars. [!] Only people like supermodels can afford the camera and some people make fun of the camera because, well, it is a point-and-shoot camera that costs almost ten thousand dollars. [!] But, in fact, it is a good camera. If I had ten thousand dollars to throw away, I’d own a Leica M9. Most people who know a bit about photography consider the Leica M9 a great camera—some people call it the best camera in the world—and even though many of the rich people who own it only own it as a status symbol, in fact it is actually a good camera.

So I can’t afford a Leica M9 but I can afford three Moleskine notebooks and I’m giving the sketch paper version a try now.

A Moleskine notebook comes with a little pamphlet telling the Moleskine story, and the story is also available at their website.

This is the Moleskine story:

It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is, in fact, the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket: a nameless object with a spare perfection all its own, produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

The notebook was Bruce Chatwin's favorite, and it was he who called it "moleskine." In the mid-1980s, these notebooks became increasingly scarce, and then vanished entirely. In his book The Songlines, Chatwin tells the story of the little black notebook: in 1986, the manufacturer, a small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. "Le vrai moleskine n'est plus," are the lapidary words he puts into the mouth of the owner of the stationery shop in the Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, where he usually purchased his notebooks. Chatwin set about buying up all the notebooks that he could find before his departure for Australia, but there were still not enough.

In 1997, a small Milanese publisher brought the legendary notebook back to life, and selected this name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Following in Chatwin's footsteps, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new and portable technology of today. Capturing reality in movement, glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experience on paper: the Moleskine notebook becomes a battery that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time.

Today, Moleskine brand is synonymous with culture, travel, memory, imagination, and personal identity--in both the real world and the digital world. It is a brand that encompasses a family of nomadic objects: notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories, dedicated to our mobile identity. Objects that follow us everywhere we go and identify us wherever we are in the world. Moleskine objects are partners for the creative and imaginative professions of our time. They represent, around the world, a symbol of contemporary nomadism.

2. Antiphony

So I mentioned in a post a long time ago that I like what are normally simply called “boy-girl” songs. Songs that tell a little story and often have verses that alternate between a guy singing one verse followed by a woman singing a verse.

Not too long ago in Thinking About Arranging “Layla” I said that if I were going to make an arrangement of the classic Clapton song “Layla” I would arrange it as a boy-girl song, with a woman singing the verses and a man singing the chorus.

A few days ago it occurred to me that the classic “Layla” guitar lick could be arranged as a duet, and that would reinforce the boy-girl nature of this arrangement. I played it for someone as a duet (on a split keyboard) and I described it as a “call-and-response” pattern, a musical variation of the boy-girl format.

At its simplest, something like this:

And the person I was talking to smiled and said, “Oh, you mean like a little pop antiphony.”

So then I had to bring everything to a big halt and say I didn’t know what ‘antiphony’ meant, and why hadn’t I ever heard the word before, and let’s stop and talk about the classical music usage and that went on for a very long time. A long time. That’s me and new words.

‘Antiphony’ at Wikipedia

But now I know a new word, and it’s a cool one: Antiphony.

It’s a kind of orchestral way of saying boy-girl songs.

(Or, I suppose, this: It’s the way people in North Face jackets with Leica M9 cameras jotting down notes in their Moleskine notebooks and doing little watercolor illustrations with Winsor and Newton paints say boy-girl songs. [sighs] )

Ephemera and Antiphony.

If it were a Greek tragedy, I’d be Ephemera.

And I’d be a good Ephemera, too!