Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Playing The Dawn (Or To The Dawn)

Above a dark street
Below a streetlight
That switches off

Played on a guitar
Sung in a soft voice
Measures time at night

Comes from the music
Or with the music
And night retreats


So recently I made up that little melody on guitar. I usually harmonize it simply, something like:

G G E F#
G G E F#

But the fun of a simple melody is playing it out, then modifying the rhythm a little and then maybe a little more and seeing just how much you can change things around or add substitution chords while still keeping the basic sense of the melody and harmony.

After I made up the melody on guitar I moved over to a keyboard for a while. On the keyboard I could play this with automated accompaniment and experimenting with all manner of instrument sounds.

But after not too long at the keyboard I switched it off and went back to guitar.

I like technology and I love all the amazing options a keyboard workstation provides. But at the same time I experience—just subjectively I mean, just personally I mean—I experience the same intensity of pleasure musically just sitting on my bed finger-picking my guitar and singing along as I play.

And the world seems to turn toward dawn just as fast regardless of if I’m strictly acoustic or if I’m keeping time along with digital signal processors.

Sometimes if I don’t play or sing anything at all I get the feeling—just subjectively I mean, just personally I mean—that time has slowed down or even stopped and dawn will never come.

It’s especially nice on those kind of nights just to pick up a guitar and stay acoustic and play something and maybe sing something. It seems, then, that just fingers brushing against steel strings and just six thin strings vibrating can make the whole Earth get to spinning around again.

A digital workstation, unlike an acoustic instrument, can record a performance very easily. But pressing PLAY, then, is entirely different from actually playing something.

Or so it seems just subjectively I mean, just personally I mean.

I wonder about that last thing. I actually mean it objectively and not just subjectively but it is hard to think of how or to imagine how I might prove it so I guess it’s best to phrase it as just a subjective, personal observation.

But the mad scientist in me would be happy testing it, somehow—

Maybe in a mad scientist type of laboratory overflowing with sparking gadgets that buzz and hiss, and a wild-eyed scientist crafting together the most complicated digital recorder anyone has ever imagined, and pressing the PLAY button, and having the whole Earth grind to a halt, or having the crust start slipping around the core, and mountains crumbling, and oceans sloshing over continents.

I’d just give a mad scientist laugh and spread my arms and yell, “See!”

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

On the Cover: The Rise of Deadmau5
at Rolling Stone

Deadmau5 Clarifies 'Press Play' Comments About Fellow DJs
at Rolling Stone

“we all hit play”
at the Deadmau5 Tumblr


Merica Uns On Unkin

The Mad Scientist And The Dawn Chorus

On The Edges Of A Dawn Chorus

Aberrant Forms

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Many Faces Of Mary (Elizabeth Winstead)

Uncertain Mary

She’s a paleontologist and a famous scientist asks her to drop everything and join his team in Antarctica. But all he can tell her is there is a structure and a specimen. And she must decide right then and there if she will accompany him.

Amazed Mary

The structure under the Antarctic ice is revealed to be a huge spaceship. All she can do is stare at it.

Professional Mary

The specimen is revealed to be an alien creature frozen in the ice some distance from the spaceship. Mary studies the situation and tells the scientists she can excavate a block of ice with the creature in it in less than a day.

Sad Mary

The other scientists want to drill into the block of ice she excavates to get a tissue sample of the creature. Mary advises against it but they won’t listen to her.

Grief-Stricken Mary

The creature has broken out of the ice and killed a scientist. If only they had listened to her.

Puzzled Mary

If the creature was simply eating the scientist how did the metal surgical appliance become detached from the scientist’s arm bone?

Suspicious Mary

The strange pieces of metal look like dental fillings. Did the creature take over one of the other scientists and expel the metal dental fillings from its new body the way it had started to expel the metal surgical appliance from the first scientist it ate?

Horrified Mary

If only she had figured out the dental fillings mystery in time to warn the helicopter pilot before he took off and got attacked by the creature he wouldn’t have crashed.

Vindicated Mary

Now that they’ve had to use a flame thrower to destroy three more of their party who were half-human and half-monster, everyone believes her and they agree to use science to destroy the creature.

Fighting Mary

Science hasn’t helped as much as everyone had hoped it would. Now there is only life and death and fighting.

Desperate Mary

The hand grenade will destroy the monster and start a chain reaction that will blow up the spaceship. Now there is only running.

Cunning Mary

The only other survivor used to have a metal earring in his ear. Now he doesn’t. That can only mean one thing. Luckily Mary still has her flame thrower. Now there is only Mary.

Existential Mary

Mary has killed the creature and destroyed the spaceship. But what will become of her? She knows she can’t go back to civilization herself because she knows she herself might not be human anymore. What is she and what will become of her?


The 1951 version of the “The Thing” is a great movie, a cinema classic. Great writing, great acting, great filmmaking. An extraordinary film.

The 1982 version directed by John Carpenter of “The Thing” is less good, but stylish and fun to watch.

The 2011 version of “The Thing” is really awful. One or two of the computer special effects somehow manage to look worse than the special effects from the 1951 version. But the actors and actresses give it their all, trying to make the best of the almost nothing the writer and producer and director have given them. And, of course, it does have Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

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

Limits Of A Gadget: A Love Story

In that post “Limits Of A Gadget: A Love Story” I say:

I like gadgets. Gadgets seem to like me.
That is better than being a creature
from another world stuck at the North Pole
with military men and scientists.

I know the difference between the North Pole
and Antarctica! But the 1951 version of

“The Thing” for some reason was set
up north and the other versions were set
down south. When I make a reference
to this as a mythos I never know which setting
I should refer to. I sometimes use
the North Pole just because the 1951
movie is the best, and because
“Frankenstein” (I know, a different
story, but also a story about
an intimate confusion of
creatures) the narrative ends
“...the most northern extremity
of the globe.”

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Failed Post (And A Little Something Extra)

Today’s post didn’t work out the way I’d planned. Big fail. I feel the internet let me down.

I had planned a post comparing an actual, real bit of reality to a famous bit of fake reality that was presented as realistic.

So today’s post was going to be all philosophical and, almost predictably for me, I was going to say a lot about the young woman in this image. Without looking at the paragraph below the picture, does everyone recognize her?

That’s a young Cindy Crawford, of course, in a Victor Skrebneski photograph for an old Chicago Film Festival poster. That’s from somewhere in the early 1980s (the guy is Dolph Lundgren). I found the photo at this website.

In today’s post—the way I’d planned it—I was going to compare a famous fictitious photographer and his fake work, to the particular point in Victor Skrebneski’s career when he made Cindy Crawford famous (or when Cindy Crawford made Skrebneski even more famous, whichever way that worked).

But I ran into a problem.

Apparently because of the big falling-out between Cindy Crawford and Victor Skrebneski when she decided to let other photographers take her picture, a great deal of their relationship has been—to use the modern term—‘scrubbed’ from pop culture. It is hard to find classic Skrebneski photographs of Crawford on the web. His Wikipedia page only mentions her once. Her Wikipedia page only mentions him once. And as far as I can tell at their personal websites (his is Skrebneski Photographs and hers is Cindy) they don’t mention each other at all.


I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life. I’ve loved photography almost my whole life. This is how I remember the Victor Skrebneski/Cindy Crawford business. (Or affair. Or business and affair, whichever way that worked.)

In the early 1980s Victor Skrebneski and Cindy Crawford were the very biggest thing happening in the photography world. The images—so far as I know—never were considered ‘art’ the way, for instance, Ansel Adams images were considered art, but they were the most popular pop photography images of that era. They really created and defined that high-contrast, up-close, sexy and beautiful style of image making. Skrebneski had already been a successful commercial photographer but he became, for a while, a house-hold name like Peter Max or Leroy Neiman. (Almost exactly like them, in fact.) Cindy Crawford went from being an almost unknown young nobody to be being the era’s defining supermodel. She wasn’t an actress, she wasn’t a celebrity. She was just Victor Skrebneski’s model and those still images alone—his images of her, the way he saw her—turned her into a supermodel.

Then Cindy Crawford—apparently always the businesswoman, always Cindy, always thinking ahead—decided that it would be foolish to allow her images to be associated with only one photographer, one approach to her look. So she decided to leave Chicago and work with other photographers.

And Victor Skrebneski got upset and, so far as I know, the feud lasted a very long time. I have no idea if they are friends now thirty years later, but it is certainly hard to find documentation for their amazing work together.

So now it is just an episode from real-life pop culture that happened, but, in a way, the reality will be lost to young people since a chronicle of those events doesn’t exist in any easy-access place on the internet. (I suppose the most easily available account is in Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women but I haven’t read that in a long time so I don’t remember how detailed it was.)


And I couldn’t really use it as an example for today’s post since—for all practical purposes now—it never happened.

It makes me think of my post: A Squirrel And A Donut For Ever And Ever


So that’s why today’s post failed. I just assumed I could find lots of Skrebneski photos of Cindy Crawford to use and I just assumed I could find lots of accounts of their relationship I could link to, but when I looked around I found almost no references to them that I could use at all.

Maybe someday I’ll come back to this. There are a lot of people who appear to me to be something like con men—they make up prattle about this-or-that approach to entertainment and build their prattle around this-or-that kind of commitment to what they call realism but their prattle is just exactly that: Prattle. (I don’t mean Skrebneski and Crawford were con artists—just the opposite, I meant to use them as examples of what is real, actual realism.) It bugs me and someday when I find other illustrations from actual real-life reality that I enjoy talking about as much as Cindy Crawford and Victor Skrebneski I will return to this topic and re-build this failed post.


I do have something extra since my real post didn’t work out.

I’m not exactly sure what this is, but it has been knocking around my awareness for something like two years so it is about time I put it here on the blog so I can get it out of my mind.

One of the very first brand names I talked about here at the blog is the North Face.

I like many of their camping products and I own a (red) North Face jacket that I like a lot. And I posted about an unpleasant moment I had with someone who didn’t like North Face jackets.

I also mentioned the brand in: Ephemera And Antiphony


A couple of years ago North Face popped up in a place I never thought I would see it. It was, sort of, in a political context. Or, more exactly, an espionage context.

I don’t much like politics. About the only time I like politics is when it touches on something that seems impossible or, at best, unbelievable. When I think of politics I think of posts like these:


Turning Away From A Bookshelf

This Bright Old World Of Ours As A Rune

Distance From Paris To Berlin

The Monster Thought Of The Waldensians

The Application Of Beyond Understanding

A couple of years ago North Face popped up in a real-life news story about the bizarre murder of a wiz-kid British spy.

The guy was found naked, folded up, and stuffed into gym bag and the gym bag was found pad-locked from the outside and placed in the guy’s bathtub.

And who made the gym bag? I bet everyone can guess. Yep.

It was a North Face gym bag.

I didn’t mention the story at the time because, well, it was just so bizarre. But I’d always remembered the reference to the North Face.

It’s worth pointing out that the very phrase “north face” typically refers to the north face of a famous mountain in Europe, the Eiger, and a very famous spy novel was written about a spy trying to climb the north face of the Eiger, “The Eiger Sanction.”

So anyway a couple of years ago a dead British spy was found folded up inside a North Face bag.

The story was back in the news a couple of months ago when WIRED magazine, for some reason, did a pretty detailed follow-up of the original story.

I’m mentioning it now for two reasons.

One reason is because it is related to the other mentions I’ve made of the North Face. So it something like a loose end.

Secondly: When the police searched the dead spy’s apartment they found a bunch of weird stuff. In classic espionage, so-to-speak ‘fan’ mythos, his death scene had elements which are ‘traditionally’ associated with CIA activity—i.e., weird sexual paraphernalia.

One item listed just sounded absurd two months ago. Today, after the Colorado so-called Batman shooting, and the almost endless media pictures everybody has seen of the apparent shooter and his bizarre orange hair, that one item now seems something more than bizarre.

This is something on the other side of the application of beyond understanding.

Here is an excerpt from the WIRED story, and a link to the complete story (I’ve added emphasis to one phrase):

Williams flew up to four times a year to the U.S. to the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade HQ. His uncle, Michael Hughes, told the British paper the Mirror that Williams would mysteriously disappear for three or four weeks.

“The trips were very hush-hush,” Hughes said. “They were so secret that I only recently found out about them – and we’re a very close family. It had become part of his job in the past few years. His last trip out there was a few weeks ago, but he was regularly back and forth.”

He is believed to have returned from a trip abroad on August 11, 2010. He was last seen alive on August 15, eight days before his body was found.

Investigators, however, said they have ruled out that Williams’ death was related to his work, although they have not revealed how they arrived at this conclusion.

There were rumors leaked to the press that the coder’s death had to do with sexual play. The browser history on Williams’ computer and one of his phones showed that he had visited bondage sites, and former landlords testified that they once found the coder tied to his bed wearing only boxing shorts. He told them he had just been “messing around” and had tied the bindings too tightly. Investigators also found more than $30,000 worth of women’s designer clothes and accessories in his apartment, as well as a woman’s brightly colored orange wig.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tours Of Intimate Confusion

The Turn of the Screw is a novella written by Henry James. Originally published in 1898, it is a ghost story.

Due to its ambiguous content, it became a favourite text of academics who subscribe to New Criticism. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive. Many critics have tried to determine the exact nature of the evil hinted at by the story. However, others have argued that the true brilliance of the novella comes with its ability to create an intimate confusion and suspense for the reader.

The Turn of the Screwat Wikipedia

SARA: “Turn of the Screw” isn't really a horror story. It's more of a mystery. Did the governess kill the little boy or did the ghost do it?

GIL: Well, it's only a mystery if you believe in ghosts.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
“Turn of the Screws,”
Season 4, Episode 21

I recently read a book—not “Turn of the Screw”—in which the author, something of an academic, describes ancient mysteries from around Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

I’m not going to promote the book by naming the title or the author or even the subject matter. Those would be, so to speak, dead giveaways.

I read a lot myself. And I have a reasonably good memory. While I was reading the book I noticed that, in describing many ancient so-called mysteries, the author was using quotations from books sometimes without the context around the quote that would have changed the very meaning the author was reporting. And I noticed that the author sometimes used translations of texts where one or two words were the author’s own or obscure translations of words rather than the commonly accepted translated words.

And I noticed that readers can call their travel agents and book cruises and tours built around the author’s books because throughout the year the author leads groups to the various places he writes about and lectures about the various mysteries from his books.


I think about that book and the author and his lecture tours a lot when I’m clicking around the internet.

And I think about this link from Wikipedia: Snake Oil

GRISSOM: “There are three things in human life that are important. The first is to be kind; the second one is to be kind and the third one is to be kind.”

SARA: Henry James.

GRISSOM: Very good. Author of one of the greatest horror stories ever written. Turn of the Screw. And I'm looking for one.

SARA: A screw?


NICK: Oh, well, technically these are eccentric shafts, not screws. (GREG hands him a container full of screws)

GRISSOM: Well, as long as you can screw a nut on it, it's a screw.

SARA: Turn of the Screw isn't really a horror story it's more of a mystery. Did the governess kill the little boy or did the ghost do it?

GRISSOM: Well, it's only a mystery if you believe in ghosts. (SARA gives him a look. He holds up a screw) End threads are stripped.

NICK: Means the nuts were loose. Excessive play on the screws would have worn down the threads.

GRISSOM: And the nuts would have popped off.

GREG: Nuts just don't pop off by themselves. (GRISSOM gives him a look)

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Season 4, Episode 21
“Turn of the Screws,” at TV.COM

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

“Did Lightning Hit This Tree?”

Regionally, ComEd spokesman John Schoen said, more than 300,000 customers had lost power at one point, including more than 40,000 in the South Region.

“It wasn’t a long event, but it was a powerful event,” Schoen said. “The high winds and lightning strikes caused a lot of damage.”

Airlines cancelled at least 100 flights at O’Hare, and delays of up to 45 minutes were reported at Midway on Tuesday morning.

The power was out all day at the village hall in Homewood, as well.

Oh but it’s hard to live by the rules
I never could and still never do
Rules and such never bothered you
You call the shots and they follow

“Talk of the Town”
Chrissie Hynde

I place my hand against the inside of the tree.

The tree is ripped in half, torn straight down the middle.

Half of the tree is in the street. The other half
somehow is upright, taller than a nearby house.

I place my hand against the inside of the tree.

“Are you trying to take its pulse?” a woman asks.

I say, “Was it wind? Or did lightning hit this tree?”

“I think it was only the wind,” the woman says.
“We were just over there in our back yard. The wind
had the tree bent in half, scraping against the street.
I looked away. So I didn’t see it happen.
When I looked back the tree was split, half in the street,
half standing up, still waving around in the wind.”

My hand is on a spot where the wood is pure black
and rock hard, not fibrous and shredded like the rest.

I say, “It looks like lightning hit where the wood’s black.”

“I think it was only the wind,” the woman says.

Her husband points at a house. “The guy that lives there,
he and his family are at Disney World right now.”
He points at the tree in the street. “When that guy’s home,
he parks right there. This thing could have been so much worse.”

I am wondering if lightning had hit the tree.

My hand is still flat against the black patch of wood.

Am I touching, I wonder, a spot where lightning
had come down out of the sky and destroyed the tree?

“The winds were eighty miles an hour,” the woman says.

“The guy parks right there when he’s home,” her husband says.

The tree is ripped in half, torn straight down the middle.

I say, “It looks like lightning hit where the wood’s black.”

“I think it was only the wind,” the woman says.

I’m touching the wood. But she was there when it split.

Maybe tomorrow
Maybe someday
You’ve changed
Your place in this world

“Talk of the Town”
Chrissie Hynde

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

The Iceberg Addendum: Atlantis Iceberg

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eccentricity: A Note On Yesterday’s Photo

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that it was the third month in a row that I grabbed a photo of the young Moon, although the photo I took Sunday started with me being interested in the outline of a tall tree.

But another thing happened three months in a row, too.

In May when I took the photo from “The Moon And Venus Beyond The Fox Point” a man and woman walking behind me struck up a conversation about what I was doing.

In June when I took the photo from “People Born Illuminated” a car full of young women slowed down and the girls yelled, “Cheese!”

Sunday when I was taking the photo for “Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat” a middle-age woman stopped her pickup truck alongside me and watched me taking the picture. She smiled and said, “Didn’t God send you a beautiful picture? It’s nice of you to appreciate His work.” (I just kind of smiled and made polite small-talk and she chatted for a bit and then drove off.)

I don’t know that this means anything, but it seems to me that a person standing around taking a picture has become such an odd thing that people feel a little imperative to comment on it. The act of picture taking has been reduced to being considered normal and acceptable in situations like taking pictures at parties or for special occasions. But people taking pictures just for the sake of taking pictures doesn’t seem to be all that common any more.

I didn’t consciously, explicitly notice this until the woman stopped her pickup truck Sunday. But I think I noticed this at some visceral level in some unconscious way a while ago and that is why I felt so uneasy about trying to take a photograph of that praying mantis in the parking lot that I decided not to do it. (And thinking back, I may have started noticing this years ago when I stopping wearing my orange hat: My Orange Hat In Theory And Practice)

Being eccentric used to be something about trying to have fun and something about trying to be creative. Now being eccentric seems to be the mark of unpleasant lunatics and disgusting bums and posturing bores.

This makes me uneasy because after half-a-century of effort I seem to have gotten a little relaxed trying to be eccentric and that means the best I can hope for in the modern world is to be a posturing bore.

I need to give this more thought.

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

Songs For Hippies Don’t Scare The Pigeons

Change: Sudden, Incomprehensible And Deadly

Monday, July 23, 2012

Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat

It looks almost like the mast of a sailboat.

The wires look a little like standing rigging
keeping the mast upright as it drives the boat.

It’s not a mast. It’s a utility pole
holding up an electric line or phone line
under a tree and clouds and sky and young Moon.

The Sun below the horizon still colors
the sky as if it were water changing depth.

This looks far away. Farther than Hollywood,
farther than France. It looks like a pretend place
so far away only imagination
can make it real like movie special effects
or modern hyper-realist painting techniques.

It looks like a boat and it looks far away.

It’s the view from a corner three blocks away.

I’ve been there. So far away. But I came back.

“Is this a new hobby?” she asked. “Moon pictures?”

Wondering if it was the truth, I said, “No.”

She looked at me. She made one of those faces.

I said, “No, really. I saw the tree’s outline
against the sky and I knew I could expose
for the Moon, turn the tree to a silhouette,
and then the irregular tree silhouette
would look like a coastline against an ocean
and the blue sky would look like bays and inlets,
but with the Moon there next to the tree, the sky
would look like the regular sky. Then the post
would look like a post or the mast of a boat.
I thought I could show an impossible scene
that was real, just the view from three blocks away.
That’s what I was thinking when I photographed
the young Moon. It wasn’t just about the Moon.”

She looked at me and made a face but this face
was a different face than the first face she made.
“That post,” she said, “does look like a sailboat mast.
Tomorrow, will you take me to that corner?”

I nodded. “Of course. It’s just three blocks away.”

With a new face, she said, “I’ve always wanted
to go someplace impossible. You promise?”

I liked all her faces. I said, “I promise.”

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

I took that photo Sunday evening. The young Moon
was just a few hours short of being four days old. It was
about 16% illuminated. This is I think the third month
in a row I’ve taken a photo of the young Moon, but
this month I was thinking about the tree first,
I really was, I promise.

“People Born Illuminated”

The Moon And Venus Beyond The Fox Point

Wild Randomness

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat

The Margins Of Water In The Wild

Coastal Creatures

Puddle Monsters: Creatures Of The Edge

Distance From Paris To Berlin

This Bright Old World Of Ours As A Rune

Friday, July 20, 2012

Associative Editing Techniques

Don't Look Now is a 1973 thriller film directed by Nicolas Roeg. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland star as a married couple who travel to Venice following the recent accidental death of their daughter, when the husband accepts a commission to restore a church. They encounter two sinister sisters, one of whom claims to be clairvoyant and informs them that their daughter is trying to contact them and warn them of danger. The husband at first dismisses their claims, but starts to experience mysterious sightings himself. It is an independent British and Italian co-production adapted from the short story by Daphne du Maurier.

While Don't Look Now observes many conventions of the thriller genre, its primary focus is on the psychology of grief, and the effect the death of a child can have on a relationship. Its emotionally convincing depiction of grief is often singled out as a trait not usually present in films featuring supernatural plot elements.

As well as the unusual handling of its subject matter, Don't Look Now is renowned for its atypical but innovative editing style, and its use of recurring motifs and themes. The film often employs flashbacks and flashforwards in keeping with the depiction of precognition, but some scenes are intercut or merged to alter the viewer's perception of what is really happening. It also adopts an impressionist approach to its imagery, often presaging events with familiar objects, patterns and colours using associative editing techniques.

Originally causing controversy on its initial release due to an explicit and—for the time—very graphic sex scene between Christie and Sutherland, its reputation has grown considerably in the years since, and it is now acknowledged as a modern classic and an influential work in horror and British film.

I love that movie and I love that phrase
‘associative editing techniques’
although it’s been a long time since I’ve heard
anybody discussing that movie
or anybody even filmmakers
discussing editing using that phrase.

I was in high school when that film came out.

But it could have been yesterday to me.

I stood on a side street staring upward
at the marble and glass of a building
but I was making up a melody
and I was thinking about a woman
and I was thinking about the ocean
and I made up a song by that building
although the woman I wrote the song for
didn’t live in that apartment building
nearly a thousand miles from the ocean.

A small blue car drove by not on that day
but the deep blue color of the small car
reminded me of deep ocean water
somewhere sunlight cannot reflect upward
off the sea floor too far down to be seen.

In my whole life I think I’ve only known
one woman from France but if I pictured
right now a woman in a small blue car
absently singing a song as she drove
past a very tall apartment building
I’d picture someone like Sophie Marceau
or someone like Marion Cotillard.

Tomorrow or maybe the day after
I see two women laughing and one says—
“Don’t look now but I think he pictures you
as some kind of movie actress from France.”

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

Beautiful Impossible Math Thing

Orbis Non Sufficit And The Status Cow

In Shanghai We’re All Dramatic Chipmunks

Given how much I like the word
it is strange that I’ve only used the word three times
here at the blog. But that is what the Blogger search engine
returns, just three hits. I’m not sure I believe
the Blogger search engine, but here are what it returns:

Get Well Soon, Marianne Faithfull! #1: A Groupie Metaphysics

Inca Roads (Introduction)

Inca Roads: Bassoon And Marimba

Possibly someday a really high tech search engine
might ask if a search for the word “associative”
should also report hits on the word
but nowadays a person has to enter that
as a separate search manually. If we can believe
the Blogger search engine, these are my posts
where the word

The Landscapes With Figures Of Berthe Morisot #3

Freedom From The Wild/Lost In Metonymy

There’s No Pain In The Sky

Exotic Snows And An Ink Drawing Of Plants

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Cool Kaossilator 2 Tip

Today’s post is about music and it’s going to be kind of trivial, but I’m going to do it for at least four reasons. First, this is part of something that I’ve been thinking about for a very long time, in fact from way-back-when when I first started to learn to play guitar. Second, this relates to something I did a post about a few years ago. Third, this is about a new gadget I bought a few days ago and this gadget will be appearing on the blog a lot, I think, in the future. (I actually bought the gadget for Little Plastic Doll, so she can have a real instrument to play in films, but that is going to take a while to happen.) Fourth, most simply, I’m just kind of proud of myself for figuring out this little tip so quickly after buying the gadget—It’s the kind of thing that should have been mentioned in the instruction manual but isn’t because these days instruction manuals are almost always awful.

I haven’t prepared any audio or video to go along with today’s post, but at some point in the future I will have audio and video of this gadget.

I’m talking about this thing. From the Japanese company Korg, this is their second generation Kaossilator, the Kaossilator 2:

One — Why I’m Interested In This Thing

For as long as I’ve been interested in music, I’ve been interested in instruments that can approximate the freedom of whistling: Discrete or absolutely smooth transitions from note to note, total control over dynamics, and easy integration with emotional expression without requiring great manual dexterity.

Fretless string instruments like violins, cellos and various basses come closest to matching these characteristics. I posted a little about this a couple of years ago: In a perfect world I suppose everybody would play the cello. But fretless instruments require exceptional dexterity to play and a good ear. The very best musician I’ve ever known was a studio guitar player who one time played a fretless bass in a Vegas stage show. He said it was wonderfully expressive, possibly the most expressive instrument he ever played, but he simply found it difficult because it required such concentration to play in tune, especially if you needed to play two strings at once and he never attempted to play chords during a live show.

I don’t have a well-trained ear and I’m not physically talented in any way so fretless instruments are not something I’ve ever even considered for myself.

But these days technology is extraordinary and new generations of instruments are possible that couldn’t even have been imagined in the past.

Korg has a whole series of products called the “Kaoss” line that is built around performing on what is called an x-y touchpad. In the photo above, the x-y touchpad is the little square at the bottom of the device.

I’ve been paying attention to this kind of thing for a while, but I never took it too seriously because technology in the music business sort of comes and goes. The traditional stuff sticks around and usually high-tech stuff is just a fad. But since the iPad has become so popular, music companies have been developing amazing tools built around touch-screens so I’ve come to believe that some variation of x-y touchpads will be around for a very long time.

The Kaossilator 2 is a reasonably inexpensive x-y touchpad device that can do a heck of a lot and it runs on batteries so I bought one.

It’s an amazing gadget. First of all, you can experiment with x-y touchpad performing. Second, you can generate all manner of instrumental and synthesizer sounds. Third, you can record what you perform. Fourth, it can play along with you [!] because it contains looping hardware and software and many of the synthesized sounds are patterns. Fifth, it is a sampler, so any new sound you enjoy can be incorporated into all of its existing technology. Sixth, it has reasonably good output that can be routed into the line input of my current keyboards and other technology.

So I bought one.

Also I like the fact that it is small, so Little Plastic Doll can perform on it. And—this is a kind of extra bonus—some of the built in synthesizer sounds are classic so-called ring modulator effects so the little Kaossilator 2, almost all by itself, can pretty much duplicate the entire soundtrack of the movie “Forbidden Planet” [!] if you buckle down and accumulate the effects with a sound-on-sound recorder.

So it’s a very cool little gadget that I think will have a long future in front of it, both here with me and among music fans in general. And Korg even has a “Pro” version of the device so any routines a musician develops on the little gadget can become as elaborate as he or she may want to take them. And, as I said, iPad resources are becoming available that use similar x-y touchpad input so performance skills will have a future, too.

Two — My Kaossilator 2 Tip

The little x-y touchpad is so powerful because it can be defined and re-defined from one performance to the next, from one sound to the next, or in any style for any reason in any way a person may choose to re-define it.

For instance, the melody for that John Lennon demo song, “Free As A Bird,” can be performed simply within a single octave. So an x-y touchpad can be defined to play simply eight notes arranged from left-to-right, and motions up and down can be used to control, say, volume.

On a device such as an iPad where the touchpad is also a display screen it is easy to touch the notes you want.

On the Kaossilator, if you define the pad as two or more octaves everything is very close together. But if you set the pad as a single octave each note is roughly about the width of an adult fingertip.

(I’ve seen people put a marked rubber band around the Kaossilator 2 or a marked hair-band or bracelet or similar band to provide a reminder, visual feedback for where to press.)

But there is a more interesting issue here.

On the little gadget, the Kaossilator 2, you can re-define the x-y touchpad, but only in certain ways.

For instance, you can control the range of the touchpad, one octave, two octaves or more.

You can control the arrangement within the octave. You can have a complete scale. Or certain intervals. Or a chromatic scale. Or other arrangements.

And you can control the root note which appears at the far left of the x-y touchpad.

But real-life practicalities immediately bring up some interesting issues.

For instance I will use the wonderful John Lennon demo song “Free As A Bird” as an example.

In the key of G, the basic melody, the “free as a bird/it’s the next best thing to be” part, is roughly a descending III-II-I sequence, then a V-VI, and back to a III-II-I. So with a G-root, you need to be able to play the notes B-A-G, D-E, B-A-G. The other part, the “whatever happned to” part, is roughly VI-VII-I, and also VII-I-II, so you need a lower E, F#, G and F#, G, A.

So it’s all within an octave, but you need the octave to start at E and go up, in the key of G, to the next higher E.

The Kaossilator 2 doesn’t explicitly do that. If you set the root to E, it defaults to an E-major scale, and you can’t go in and set or reset individual notes.

However the Kaossilator 2 does allow you to set the root and then also re-set what it calls the scale type.

This is a little annoying because many people these days, even many musicians, don’t particularly know much music theory and many musicians don’t want to be, as they might put it, “bothered” with learning music theory.

So those people will have a hard time getting the most fun out of their Kaossilator 2.

However, if a person has some music theory background, they know that if you can set the root to an E and then re-set the scale type to Aeolian, you get the same notes as a G-major scale, but starting at E.

Similarly, if you want the notes of the G-major scale but starting at A, on the Kaossilator 2 you can set the root as A and the scale type as Dorian.

If you set B as the root and the scale type as Phrygian you get the notes of the G-major scale but starting at B.

A C-root as a Lydian scale gives you G-major notes starting at C.

A D-root as a Mixolydian scale gives you G-major notes starting at D.

I’ve mentioned that E-root plus Aeolian gives you the G-major notes starting at E.

Finally an F#-root as a Locrian scale gives you G-major notes starting at F#.

And of course this works for any key. You just pick the I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII note from any key, and match it to the what is normally called the mode for that step, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian or Locrian.

That gives you the freedom of setting the Kaossilator x-y touchpad to the smallest possible range (for the largest possible finger area to touch) while still giving you the ability to choose which eight notes you want available in the octave.

Obviously this is why Korg gives you the option to change what they call “scale” but most people in the West use the word “mode” to refer to the particular arrangement of half-steps and whole-steps derived from a major scale. And in the West, sadly, many musicians don’t pay much attention to modes anyway.

So it would have been better if Korg had included a section in their instruction sheet describing how you can control the x-y touchpad in this way. But they didn’t. But this is a good tip and maybe it will come in handy for someone.

The “scale” function on the Kaossilator 2 has even more options than the traditional modes, so the more a person knows about music theory the easier it is to make use of the various settings.

I certainly recommend the Korg Kaossilator 2 to anyone looking to experiment with modern high-tech performance techniques. It seems to be able to do a little bit of everything. But like almost everything else, the more you know, I mean really know, the easier technology is to control and have fun with.

The more you know, the more fun you can have.

But that’s also a selling point of a really good gadget like this. Because it can help you learn, too. It teaches you. Because the more you experiment and have fun—if you experiment carefully!—the more you learn.

I love cool gadgets.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pluto’s Fifth Moon Has No Name (Yet)

It's hard to believe, but the arrival of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft at Pluto is just three years away. The logistics of the high-speed flyby, already challenging, just got more complicated: Pluto turns out to have a fifth moon.

Although for now its official designation is S/2012 (134340) 1 — "134340" being the minor-planet number assigned to Pluto — the new find has been nicknamed "P5". (Easier to remember, don't you agree?) Its existence was announced last night by the IAU's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams

... It's no coincidence that all these moons orbit in the same plane as Pluto's equator. Most likely they formed from debris tossed out when a renegade object struck Pluto long ago. Collisions in this distant region of the solar system are typically so slow that most of the resulting fragments couldn't have reached escape velocity, which is a bit under 1 mile per second for Pluto. So most of it would have stuck around.

But that doesn't automatically lead to satellite formation. Ballistically speaking, any stuff that lingered should just have just fallen back onto Pluto itself. However, tidal interactions among the most massive chunks could have allowed enough of them to remain in orbit to form Charon and the other moons.

All the moons of Pluto are very small.

Pluto itself is smaller than our Moon.

Pluto itself is smaller than our Moon
but Pluto has five moons and maybe more.

Here on Earth our Moon is often featured
in romantic poetry and love songs.

It must be very romantic out there
with five moons always circling overhead
and the Sun so far away and so dim
that it’s always something like twilight time.

The most romantic thing to do out there
probably would be to point toward the Sun
and then a little way off to the side
and lean up against the person you’re with
and say, “See that bright blue star? That’s the Earth.”

And the five moons of Pluto would circle
around you both as if Pluto itself
were surrounding you and keeping you safe
so that you could lean against each other
and share the romance looking far away.

It must be very romantic out there
by Pluto and the five moons of Pluto
where it’s always something like twilight time
and it’s always so very far away.

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

That image comparing the Moon to Pluto
was generated by
Wolfram|Alpha by typing:

compare diameter of the moon to diameter of pluto

I’m not sure which is more amazing to me,
that we know so much about this tiny planet so far away,
or that
Wolfram|Alpha provides this kind
of wonderful resource to everyone on the web.
It’s all too romantic for words. Almost.

Moonlight Becomes You

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

The New Horizons Spacecraft As Julia Adams

A Spaceship That Sparks

How Pluto’s First Moon Got Its Name

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

They Throw Away Desks, Don’t They?

First she threw out the desk where her boyfriend used to sit and work.

In order to drag the desk to the alley by herself she pulled out all the drawers and threw them away. Without the drawers the desk was easy to drag along the floor. When she dragged the desk down the three concrete steps to the back yard one of the desk legs cracked away from the desk but remained stuck to the desktop. The desk then flopped over and scraped along the sidewalk with one leg sticking out to the side.

She smiled looking at the broken desk leg. She remembered that one of her boyfriend’s favorite books was an old novel by Horace McCoy called, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and the central metaphor of the book had been that when a horse breaks a leg it used to be standard practice simply to shoot the horse rather than give it first aid and the story of the novel was about a depressed woman who eventually asks her boyfriend to shoot her because she just can’t get her life together.

She dragged the desk with the broken leg into the alley and shoved it next to the pile of desk drawers.

Looking at the wreckage of the desk with the broken leg, she made a pretend gun by extending her index finger and raising her thumb. She pointed at the desk and said, “Bang! Bang! Bang!” Then she smiled and lifted her index finger to her lips and blew a puff of air at her fingertip as if she was blowing away smoke from a gun barrel.

After she threw out the desk where her boyfriend used to sit and work she vacuumed the rug. Then she stepped back and studied the wall by the corner there next to the south window. Outside through the window, past the back yard, next to the garage she could just see the edge of the pile of desk drawers in the alley.

She looked at the space there by the wall. “I could put a bookcase there,” she thought. “Or a little table with a plant. Or a floor lamp.”

She smiled, thinking, “Or I could put nothing at all there.”

For some reason that made her laugh.

“I’m going to put nothing at all there,” she said, out loud. And she laughed again.

First she threw out the desk. Then she vacuumed. Then she didn’t do anything at all.

Well, she did laugh a little.

She laughed more when she was telling him what happened to the desk.

She made a special point of describing the Horace McCoy part and hung up before he had the chance to say anything.

All he could think of was that the desk was dead and that she never even had heard of Horace McCoy before they started going out.

He blamed himself. But he thought, too, that she would be thinking that he would blame himself and that just would make her laugh harder.

A woman laughing. The wreckage of a dead desk.

And he thought, too, “I am not going to write about this. That really would make her laugh harder.”

The wreckage of a dead desk. A man writing.

A woman laughing.

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

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” at Wikipedia

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mystery Four Thousand Miles From France

The initial CIA-funded project was later renewed and expanded. A number of CIA officials, including John N. McMahon (then the head of the Office of Technical Service and later the Agency's deputy director), became strong supporters of the program.

In the mid 1970s sponsorship by the CIA was terminated and picked up by the Air Force. In 1979, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, which had been providing some taskings to the SRI investigators, was ordered to develop its own program by the Army's chief intelligence officer, General Ed Thompson. CIA operations officers, working from McMahon's office and other offices, also continued to provide taskings to SRI's subjects. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005, Atwater 2001)

In 1984, remote viewer Joseph McMoneagle was awarded a legion of merit for determining "150 essential elements of information...producing crucial and vital intelligence unavailable from any other source".

Unfortunately, the viewers' advice in the "Stargate project" was always so unclear and non-detailed that it has never been used in any intelligence operation.

from “Remote Viewing” at Wikipedia

Somewhere in Russia there might be a spy
a beautiful woman with new age skills
trained in remote viewing able to move
anywhere in space anywhere in time
and when she’s not tasked with politicians
or keeping track of global businessmen
or figuring out why Rome really fell
or why all the dinosaurs really died
maybe in her spare time when she is bored
she looks in to see how I’ve been doing.

“Vadya,” her boss might say, “are you looking
at that dull American guy again?
This is how you waste your time? Not with sports
or scientists? Not with celebrities?”

“You’d never guess,” Vadya might say, “what he
is typing on his computer right now!”

“Nobody cares,” her boss might say. “Let’s get
back to that Paris banker and his wife.
We still don’t know what’s happening in France.”

And Vadya might nod and resign herself
to getting back to work but she might look
at me typing one more time wondering
what she was seeing possibly could mean.

I wouldn’t know what she might see could mean
but I’d say, “Hi—Have a good time in France.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Praying Mantis In A Parking Lot

What do birds know about a store closing?

So what if the neighbors call the cops?
I can explain! I can explain!
Wait till they see
What we’ve caught in our traps
They’ll not be the same after that.
No . . .

Night buggin’
I’m putting on something light
Night buggin’
With that light in your eyes
It’s bright
I brought my great big jar
We could drive off in my car
To find some small cafe
So that Lydia, my dear,
We can go
Night buggin’
All night long

That quote from “Night Buggin’” is part of a song written by Canadian zoologist John Acorn. He used to have a great TV show called “John Acorn: The Nature Nut.” He did shows about all manner of natural history, but his own specialty was entomology. He liked bugs. And he was a musician, too, so for every show he would write a song about the topic and the songs were always great. (FYI, ‘night bugging’ is a phrase insect lovers use to describe night expeditions outdoors where they set up a black light against a sheet—or a similar arrangement—and the bright light, including the strong ultraviolet, attracts all manner of insects for observation and collection.)

Entomologists—professional and amateur—can look odd (sheets, black lights, spelunker headlamps) and sometimes people do call the police. This also happens sometimes to sidewalk astronomers.

Simple things can look odd.

John Acorn once described how you can sometimes find water beetles on cars. What happens is water beetles fly around looking for a pond. They look down and see the shiny paint of a car, they see the antenna sticking up like a plant, and the beetle thinks the car is a little pool of water. Bugs have tiny little brains and they often mistake one thing for something else if the general characteristics match.

Simple things can look odd to bugs, too.

John Acorn mentioned that if you collect water beetles from cars, sometimes a car alarm will go off. Acorn said when that happens it’s best to just get out of there. You can try to explain, he said, but it sounds crazy—“I was looking for a water beetle that mistakenly landed on your car thinking it had found a pond”—and even though it is true, it is easier, Acorn said, just to get away from the car and not try to explain to anyone what you were doing.


A while ago I took some photographs of a grasshopper in a parking lot.

Too Beautiful To Comprehend

I didn’t know it at the time, but a senior citizen fellow who lives near there was watching me. A few days later when I walked past, he yelled at me. He thought I’d been taking pictures of the buildings or cars and maybe I was getting ready to rob someone. He was all red in the face, really yelling at me. I didn’t bother trying to explain that I was taking pictures for a blog (I doubted he knew what the internet was). I just listened politely for a bit, then nodded, waved and walked away. He was still yelling when I walked away.

Simple things can look odd.

A few days ago I parked in the lot of a big store and after I looked around a bit in the store I walked back to my car. At some point I looked down and saw a beautiful, large praying mantis just walking along the asphalt of the parking lot.

I figured the praying mantis must have been flying along looking for a pond, saw the flat asphalt, maybe sensed heat coming up off the asphalt like heat coming up from shallow warm water, and landed thinking it had found a pond.

It was a busy parking lot so I bent down to shoo the bug away, but the praying mantis wasn’t afraid of me at all. It just kept walking slowly along the asphalt.

I thought, I should get a picture of this.

But then I looked around and thought, Hmmm, this is a busy parking lot. People are going to think I’m nuts, bending down to take a picture of something. Do I want to explain that I’m taking a picture of a bug on the asphalt?

So I didn’t take a picture of the praying mantis.

But I did bend down, very carefully pick up the out-of-place praying mantis, and walk it over to the edge of the parking lot where I could put it on the low branch of a tree so that it wouldn’t get run over.

It has bothered me ever since then that I didn’t take a picture of the praying mantis on the asphalt just because I didn’t want people to think I was weird, bending down to take a picture of a bug in a parking lot.

I feel in my old age I am wimping out, conforming, getting beaten down.

I don’t know. When I tried to shoo the praying mantis out of harm’s way the praying mantis didn’t want to give up its illusion that it had found a pleasant little pond. I had to pick it up and carry it to a tree.

I wanted to take a picture even if it would make me look silly getting the photo, but I didn’t do it. I don’t know if I should feel bad, or if I should feel that maybe that was somehow the universe’s way of gently picking up me and putting me on the low branch of a tree where I couldn’t get in trouble.

I don’t know. I’m thinking about it.

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

A Life Of Illusion (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Watermelon Rain?

In Chicago it is almost summer
but I’m wondering if next winter’s snows
will be colorful watermelon snows.

Ever since I learned about the phenomenon of watermelon snow it has sounded very cool to me. I’ve wondered if I’d ever get a chance to see red snow around Chicago.

Now I’m wondering if I might someday get the chance to see watermelon rain.

There is some controversial science going on right now, apparently involving labs all around the world. Some fringe websites have started doing reports on some of the research, but right now to my eyes Wikipedia has the most detailed and trustworthy summary of everything.

Today I’m going to quote from the Wikipedia page, link to one science reporter, and also speculate about this a little myself.

I’m talking about what Wikipedia calls the Red Rain in Kerala.

The Kerala red rain phenomenon was a blood rain (red rain) event that occurred from July 25 to September 23, 2001, when red-coloured rain sporadically fell on the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heavy downpours occurred in which the rain was colored red, staining clothes pink. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported. Colored rain had been reported in Kerala as early as 1896 and several times since then.

It was initially thought that the rains were colored by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but a study commissioned by the Government of India concluded that the rains had been colored by airborne spores from locally prolific terrestrial algae.

It was not until early 2006 that the colored rains of Kerala gained widespread attention when the popular media reported that Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam proposed a controversial hypothesis that the colored particles were extraterrestrial cells.

At a fringe science website called “Earthfiles” well-respected reporter Linda Moulton Howe interviewed one of the scientists from India in her posting: Fluorescence Mystery in Red Rain Cells of Kerala, India.

Linda Moulton Howe’s posting is very interesting and contains a lot of detail. However I’m not going to quote from it because it leaves out some details, too. The scientists from India and elsewhere who are stressing that they have not found any DNA in cells associated with the red rain phenomenon, which are typically believed to be well-understood algae of one kind or another, are passionate believers in a theory called Panspermia, the belief that life is relatively common throughout the cosmos and through various natural processes can travel even interstellar distances. Panspermia is interesting in itself, but I feel it is a whole different topic than the red rain.

Wikipedia addresses the DNA issue of the red rain at some length:

Hypothesis' authors – G. Louis and A. Santosh – admitted no explanation on how debris from a meteor could have continued to fall in the same area over a period of two months, despite the changes in climatic conditions and wind pattern spanning over two months. Samples of the red particles were also sent for analysis to Milton Wainwright at Sheffield University and Chandra Wickramasinghe at Cardiff University. Wickramasinghe reported in December 2006 that "work in progress has yielded positive for DNA, however, this identification is not yet fully confirmed, and might be considered equivocal". The absence of DNA is key to Louis and Kumar's hypothesis that the cells were of extraterrestrial origins. The team then reported in 29 August 2010 in the non-peer reviewed physics archive "arxiv.org" that they were able to have these cells "reproduce" when incubated at high pressure saturated steam at 121 °C (autoclaved) for up to two hours. So their conclusion is that these cells reproduced, without DNA, at temperatures higher than any known life form on earth is able to. The cells, however, were unable to reproduce at temperatures that earthly cells do. The team also observed the cells using phase contrast fluorescence microscopy, and they concluded that: "The fluorescence behaviour of the red cells is shown to be in remarkable correspondence with the extended red emission observed in the Red Rectangle Nebula and other galactic and extragalactic dust clouds, suggesting, though not proving an extraterrestrial origin." The controversial conclusion of Louis et al. is the only hypothesis suggesting that these organisms are of extraterrestrial origin.

Regarding the "absence" of DNA, Louis has not reported the use of any standard microbiology growth medium to culture and induce germination and growth of the spores, basing his claim of "biological" growth on light absorption measurements following precipitation by supercritical fluids. Louis' only attempt to stain the spore's DNA was by the use of malachite green, which is generally used to stain bacterial endospores, not algal spores, whose primary function of their cell wall and their impermeability is to ensure its own survival through periods of environmental stress. They are therefore resistant to ultraviolet and gamma radiation, desiccation, lysozyme, temperature, starvation and chemical disinfectants. Visualising algal spore DNA under a light microscope can be difficult due to the impermeability of the highly resistant spore wall to dyes and stains used in normal staining procedures. In order to stain the spores' DNA, which is tightly packed, encapsulated and desiccated, spores must first be cultured in suitable growth medium and temperature in order to induce germination.

So this is all very interesting stuff. It is on-going research, so findings are coming in a little at a time. And since the topic of Panspermia has become a contentious one, all reports need to be taken with a grain of salt. Some scientists will be tempted to over-state results, some scientists will be tempted to down-play results. But time will tell.

Strange stuff has been falling out of the sky for as long as there has been recorded history, and folklore of “falls” has existed since even before records have been kept. I’ve posted about such things.

Parsimony And Aberrant Forms

I want to mention two thoughts I have on this topic.

The accepted cause of red rain is spores, similar to the cause of watermelon snow. And that makes perfect sense. I don’t feel any strong imperative to disbelieve this.

However, if the scientists from India are correct in their observations of strange characteristics of the cells from the red rain, then it will become reasonable to ask where these strange cells come from.

Scientists who believe in Panspermia have done a lot of speculating about meteor and small comet input into the Earth’s atmosphere as driving causes of interesting terrestrial biology issues. I’m not going to dwell on this belief now, but it is reasonable and carefully thought-out. However it is still an open question if it actually happens.

Believers in Panspermia have to account for why something like red rain seems to recur at specific places. The traditional explanation is that the Earth passes through, for instance, specific debris from fragmented comets as regularly occurring meteor showers and similar passages through specific debris streams may cause red rain. That is reasonable, but it does not explain why specific places on Earth would be singled out. The Earth certainly passes through specific debris streams, but not always with exactly the same planetary orientation.

I’ve always wondered if scientists might be looking in the wrong direction. In fact, in the exactly opposite direction to where they should be looking.

Thomas Gold has written extensively on what he termed the deep, hot biosphere. And, of course, scientists have extensively studied deep ocean hydrothermal vents. The high pressures and high temperatures within the Earth seem to be rich with odd life forms and these life forms are often consistent with the extreme characteristics associated with speculations about life forms that might arrive in comets or meteors.

If odd life forms are venting up from deep within the Earth, the vents may very well be occurring at specific locations, so it would be expected, then, for red rain to fall at one or another location repeatedly.

I personally strongly suspect if the accepted explanation for red rain—algae and spores of some kind—turns out to be false, then the real explanation might require scientists to look inward, to the deep, hot biosphere. (And even if the accepted explanation is true, these interesting algae and other odd life forms may have originated in and be most common in an exotic environment like the deep, hot biosphere, and they may enter our environment predominantly though venting from below. Time and research will tell.)

Hot Red Earth, Cold Blue Jazz

Clouds Want To Be Close To Us


There is one other thing I want to mention.

Many people aren’t aware of it, but nanotechnology has actually started to turn up in consumer products. For instance, nano-silver particles are used in some sunscreen products. (And this is happening, it is worth mentioning, as a strange medical condition called Morgellons syndrome is puzzling many healthcare professionals.) If nanotechnology is turning up in consumer products, it is reasonable to wonder what is happening in black ops labs around the world. If strange cells are found replicating without DNA, it is worth remembering that very smart people for many years have been warning about so-called Grey Goo.

Maybe Grey Goo is red.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Change: Sudden, Incomprehensible And Deadly

Today’s post is going to be a little sad. But because the sad part raises some questions that are really interesting to me, I’m going to do the post anyway. I don’t have any photos of the sad part, so you don’t have to worry about looking at the illustration that I use.

The Start

A large store went out-of-business around here a few weeks ago. That’s not too unusual and I expected the only consequence to be having to drive a little farther to buy this or that product.

That change however, the store shutting down, has had a deadly effect on some wildlife here. It’s sad, but at the same time it’s interesting to try to imagine what the wildlife must be thinking about the change.

The Location

This is a Google Maps satellite image, sort of a bird’s-eye view of a major intersection in our suburb, 111th Street at Cicero Avenue. The intersection itself is in the very lower right corner of the photograph. North is up, east is right.

I’ve added some annotations to the image to try to illustrate what I’ll be talking about.

First I’m going to describe the overall scene, then I’ll describe the change and the problem it has caused.

When this photo was taken the green rectangle at the left was a KMart store with its large parking lot to the east. Now this store has closed and the parking lot is deserted. (If you click on the photo it gets a little larger.)

Normal Traffic

One normal traffic pattern around here is to drive east on 111th Street and then make a left turn north onto Cicero. I’ve added a blue line at the bottom of the image to indicate this traffic sequence.

Sometimes the intersection gets backed up. Some drivers turn left off 111th Street and cut through the abandoned parking lot to get on Cicero at the little intersection north of the corner. I’ve added an orange line showing the path cars take when they cut through the empty parking lot. (There is a little road that connects 111th Street along the east side of the parking lot to Cicero. Now that the store is closed and the parking lot is abandoned most cars I’ve seen have ignored that little road and just cut through the empty lot.)

The Problem

For many years the parking lot was filled with cars aligned in rows and columns, and cars traveled through the parking lot slowly.

As often happens in some parking lots, large flocks of seagulls have made themselves at home on the asphalt. The seagulls, over the course of years, became accustomed to parking lot traffic. Slow moving cars traveling and parking in rows and columns.

The red arrow is the area where flocks of seagulls spend their day.

Now the traffic flow has completely and radically changed. And from the seagulls’ point of view, the change was sudden and incomprehensible—what do birds know about a store closing?

Now cars are speeding through the abandoned parking lot along diagonals that totally ignore the rows and columns the birds learned over the course of years. And the drivers, in a hurry along their shortcut, are not paying any attention to the birds.

So birds are getting hit and smashed.

Thinking About This

The birds don’t know anything about the store closing. Birds, of course, don’t even know—I guess—what a store is or what a car is.

All these seagulls know is that after years of behaving one way all of a sudden cars are behaving in a completely different way.

However that is seagulls think about cars in their seagull mind-space.

So it’s sad for the poor birds. I’m guessing that over time they will learn to avoid the south end of the parking lot entirely.

But what an interesting situation!

I mean, I wonder how much of life is like this for human beings?

There must be things happening around us in reality that we don’t understand at all, or even can’t understand. (Things as foreign to our human mind as “stores” and “parking lots” and “cars” are to a seagull’s understanding of reality.)

Seagulls can’t understand stores/parking lots/cars but nonetheless seagulls can interact with stores/parking lots/cars by making some kind of seagull mental accommodation to reality and simply learning whatever they can learn and shaping their behavior appropriately.

And for long lengths of time (many seagull generations in fact) the kinds of things seagulls can learn—for instance car-things move slowly and line up in rows and columns—function as useful seagull knowledge allowing the birds to shape their behavior to live peacefully in the parking-lot-place.

But then the store closes. An essentially trivial human event. But it is presumably incomprehensible to seagulls and suddenly everything the seagulls ever knew about car-things has become useless knowledge, or even misleading and deadly knowledge.

How much of this kind of thing happens to human beings?

There must be things happening around us in reality that we don’t understand at all, or even can’t understand. (Things as foreign to our human mind as “stores” and “parking lots” and “cars” are to a seagull’s understanding of reality.)

How many times do we get hurt or even killed because some aspect of reality completely beyond our comprehension changed in some essentially simple way that is nonetheless beyond our understanding and then we go about our normal behavior and find ourselves getting knocked about or smashed in ways that never happened to us before, or never happened to earlier generations before?

What an interesting thought!

It’s very tempting—isn’t it?—to say, well, humans are capable of abstract thought. We can make up labels for concepts that are on the fringe of our understanding and then think about those labels and create new concepts grouping them in appropriate ways so that the very scope of our thinking expands. Our ability to think abstract thoughts lets us interact with reality in a way seagulls can’t.

But is any of that true?

I mean “true” in a meaningful way!

Our very word “abstract” and our concept of “abstraction” as a process are just labels for descriptions of how we perceive our human mind to work. A seagull may have equally grandiose labels describing how the seagull mind works. The seagull is still, nonetheless, just one existent within a vast reality.

Does our thinking really give us a transcendental mechanism to see beyond the very mechanism of our self?

Or are we living within a reality as vast and as ultimately incomprehensible to us as a store-place and its parking-lot-place full of car-things are to seagulls?

Is our concept of “understanding” just a label to describe something which in a seagull we would characterize as “some kind of seagull mental accommodation to reality” that may or may not be useful?

I’m very sorry those poor birds are getting hurt. But this has given me a lot to think about!