Friday, August 31, 2012

Solving A Mystery In The Dark (W/Photos)

Today’s post is kind of dumb, especially for what I think of as a “Friday” post, but it gives me a chance to talk a little about how I’ve been feeling lately and it relates a little to an older post and I’ve got a couple of photographs for illustrations and I get to use the word “dirigible” again so, dumb or not, I’m going to do this post.

I’ve been feeling under-the-weather a lot lately. I think it’s a combination of different kinds of allergies. I’ve been eating some food that has wheat products. And it’s the change of seasons around here so leaves are falling and there might be a high mold count or something. Anyway, some days my sinuses really ache. Other days I believe my left or right TMJ seems to swell up a little and pinches a nerve in the side of my jaw. Or something like that. So I’ve been feeling under-the-weather a lot lately.

I haven’t had any attacks or anything. And Benadryl always clears up whatever issue I sense might be coming on.

However, every now and then from either the sinus issues or the Benadryl I just lay down and doze off and I sleep so deeply that when I wake up there is sometimes a moment of, “What? What time is it? What day is it? Is it day or night?”

It’s like that moment I wrote about in Waking Up (Not) Lost In Space.

I’ve had a few of those lately.

One time I fell asleep early in the evening with the TV on. I was just lying on my bed, fully dressed, with the bedspread still on under me and everything in place. I just laid down and dozed off.

When I woke up it was dark outside and the TV was still on (playing some Smallville DVD) but in the darkness of my room I looked to the left and I saw glowing letters up near the ceiling.

It was as if there was a blimp or dirigible overhead advertising with bright white lights.

I had fallen asleep with my glasses on so when I opened my eyes not only could I see the strange glowing letters overhead but I could read them. They said: “SONY

So I laid there thinking, “What the hell is that?”

The TV was on the other side of the room. I don’t even own any other SONY products I could think of offhand. So I couldn’t figure out what the glowing letters were.

But I thought the letters looked picturesque and I wondered if I’d be able to capture the oddness of the moment with my camera. So still not knowing what the letters were, I reached to the other side of my bed and grabbed my camera. In the dark, I switched on my camera and pushed the knob that extended the zoom lens a little.

I tried to frame the glowing letters but my modern gadget camera doesn’t have manual focus so lying there in the dark I had to press the shutter button halfway to make the camera try to focus. Then, sure enough, I captured the four letters glowing somehow up near the ceiling of my room.

See. I can prove it. I have a photograph:

(It really does look like lettering on the side of a blimp, doesn’t it? I mean, if I had heard dirigible motors humming I might have tripped off into some kind fugue state.)

I still couldn’t figure out what the hell it was. So I sat up on the other side of my bed and switched on the table lamp.

When I looked back I immediately knew what it was.

The headphones I use when I play my keyboard late at night were up on the highest shelf of the bookcase against the wall. The raised silver brand letters were catching light from the television and reflecting it, glowing, like advertising letters on a blimp or dirigible up in the sky.


It was a mystery in the dark. But it was a reasonably easy mystery to solve. (Too bad all mysteries in the dark aren’t that easy to solve!)

And it made me think of my post about ‘Sony electric clouds,’ Three Clouds Overhead Started Shouting At Me.

Anyway, so that’s about all I have for today.

I wish I had more for a Friday and for the end of the month. But I don’t. Next week I hope to have a stop-motion movie, but it all depends on how I’m feeling. And a couple of days ago I updated the operating system on my “Beautiful Impossible Math Thing.” It’s still impossibly complicated but I can’t seem to give up trying to learn to use it. At some point I’ll say more about that. And I believe I’ve discovered an interesting way to interface my guitar to my keyboard even though my guitar is not a MIDI-equipped guitar. At some point I’ll say more about that.

Now I’m going to sleep. (And wake up tomorrow peacefully, I hope!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Impossible Places: Guitars And Flutes

Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.

Pindar, Tenth Pythian Ode
translated by Richmond Lattimore
quoted at Hyperboreaat Wikipedia

... neither by ship nor on foot would you find
the marvelous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.

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

Walk to Mars?” she asked.

Chemicals changed to electricity.

You can’t get there by boat. You can’t walk there.

But there’s something about guitars and flutes.

And I think if a scientist declared
he was going to send a spacecraft there
everyone would be excited except
some men and women quiet in the back
who would look at each other and just smile.

Chemicals changed to electricity.

Spacecraft use both getting from here to there.

Lava flows. Strange rains and stranger snows fall.

Scientists send spacecraft from here to there
to study the lava and rain and snow.

But there’s something about guitars and flutes.

Fingers on strings. Breath against a thin tube.

Where you can’t sail to and you can’t walk to
lava and rain and snow I think are sounds
fingers on strings breath against a thin tube
and planets and moons move I think they dance.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Quick Enceladus Note, And Other Stuff

Triton is the largest moon of the planet Neptune, discovered on October 10, 1846, by English astronomer William Lassell. It is the only large moon in the Solar System with a retrograde orbit, which is an orbit in the opposite direction to its planet's rotation. At 2,700 km in diameter, it is the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System. Because of its retrograde orbit and composition similar to Pluto's, Triton is thought to have been captured from the Kuiper belt. Triton has a surface of mostly frozen nitrogen, a mostly water ice crust, an icy mantle and a substantial core of rock and metal.

... Triton is geologically active; its surface is young and has relatively few impact craters. Although Triton is made of various ices, its subsurface processes are similar to those that produce volcanoes and rift valleys on Earth, but with water and ammonia lavas as opposed to liquid rock. Triton's entire surface is cut by complex valleys and ridges, probably the result of tectonics and icy volcanism. The vast majority of surface features on Triton are endogenic—the result of internal geological processes rather than external processes such as impacts. Most are volcanic and extrusive in nature, rather than tectonic.

The Voyager 2 probe observed a handful of geyser-like eruptions of invisible nitrogen gas and entrained dust from beneath the surface of Triton in plumes up to 8 km high. Triton thus joins the Earth, Io, and Enceladus as one of the few worlds of the Solar System on which active eruptions of some sort have been observed. (Venus, Mars, Europa, Titan, and Dione may also be volcanically active.)

Triton at Wikipedia

Today I was reading about Triton, the moon of Neptune, at Wikipedia (wasn’t everyone?) and when I got to that part about Triton being one of the few places in the solar system along with only the Earth, Io and Enceladus where volcanism has been observed, I felt kind of proud—I mean that here at the blog I’ve done a post about Enceladus, Enceladus Was A Child Of Gaia.

And that reminded me that I had posted about “Gaia” in two different contexts, first as the name of the cool Roland synthesizer in Little Complicated Things And Stuff, and then as one of the Titans in The Occult Technology Of Guitars And Keyboards.

All that got me thinking that I haven’t said much about the moons of Jupiter, and I don’t think I’ve posted anything about the moon Io at all. I’m not sure why I’ve never posted about Io, because there are some interesting things there:

Io is the innermost of the four Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter and, with a diameter of 3,642 kilometres (2,263 mi), the fourth-largest moon in the Solar System. It was named after the mythological character of Io, a priestess of Hera who became one of the lovers of Zeus.

With over 400 active volcanoes, Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System. This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io's interior as it is pulled between Jupiter and the other Galilean satellites—Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Several volcanoes produce plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide that climb as high as 500 km (300 mi) above the surface. Io's surface is also dotted with more than 100 mountains that have been uplifted by extensive compression at the base of the moon's silicate crust. Some of these peaks are taller than Earth's Mount Everest. Unlike most satellites in the outer Solar System, which are mostly composed of water-ice, Io is primarily composed of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron or iron sulfide core. Most of Io's surface is characterized by extensive plains coated with sulfur and sulfur dioxide frost.

Io at Wikipedia

I’ve posted about volcanism here on Earth, even in off-hand ways, like in When The Planet Convulses And Glowing Lava Flows. But I haven’t said much about volcanism in the solar system.

In fact, this has sort of underscored for me that I seem to be more interested in exotic snows than in volcanism in outer space.

Pluto In Magic And Alchemy

Dragon Storm: Ammonia Snow

Exotic Snows And An Ink Drawing Of Plants

And in addition to Enceladus I’ve certainly posted about the moons in the outer system. Just recently I posted about Pluto’s moons, and I enjoyed writing about Miranda, both the woman and the moon of Uranus:

Pluto’s Fifth Moon Has No Name (Yet)

Prospero I Know At The End

Miranda And Miranda And Miranda

The Moon Miranda (A Note)

So, anyway, there is a reason I was reading about Triton today but I’m not going to get to that now. Now I just wanted to review this business about the outer moons, and to note that I am more interested in exotic snows in outer space than volcanism in outer space.

Whatever that might say about me.

Finally on this topic of the outer solar system in general I’m going to end with one other link.

I’ve been fortunate to actually observe Neptune and Uranus in real life—although only through small refractor telescopes, a 2.4 inch and a 4 inch. Someday I hope to get back out there, so to speak, and observe them with a larger telescope.

And one of my favorite posts about this topic is: A Bird Who Could Fly To Neptune

Someday I still hope to meet that bird, too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

All The Issues Of Perspective

Dinosaurs and hippie girls is a world
but Georges Seurat’s notebooks is a world too
and Beethoven is a world but worlds change.

Dinosaurs changed and became Beethoven.

Beethoven changed to Georges Seurat’s notebooks.

Georges Seurat’s notebooks changed to hippie girls.

Hippie girls changed to what we have today.

Black and white birds on wires changed to color.

Chemicals changed to electricity.

I have a page torn from a magazine
a photo of a pretty French actress
and I was going to draw it freehand
and then talk about evaluating
the scene’s eye-line and the vanishing point
and how all the issues of perspective
the photographer juggled consciously
or subconsciously to create his scene
impose themselves on a freehand drawing
and even if you choose to ignore them
that choice is still them imposing on you.

I changed my mind. I took a photograph
of hippie pigeons on some wires out back
and spent my time playing with the color
rather than drawing a photo freehand.

Beautiful French actress changed to pigeons.

If I were some kind of supervillain
and some superhero defeated me
when they carted me off to a nuthouse
and locked me away without my camera
I’d laugh a supervillain kind of laugh
and I’d shout, “I can still draw, you bastards!
You’re making me stronger!”
Then I’d laugh more.

I admire supervillains because they
always keep their worldview in perspective.

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

This is a very old fashioned kind of blog post, it’s just
me writing about how I spent my afternoon today—thinking
about drawing, taking a picture instead, and then writing
about thinking about drawing and taking a picture.

In case anyone’s wondering, that photo is Marion Cotillard.

Love Sonnet With Piano Wreckage And Worms

This Woman From The Canals Of Mars

Dinosaurs And Hippie Girls Is A World

Songs For Hippies Don’t Scare The Pigeons

Change: Sudden, Incomprehensible And Deadly

The Real World In Georges Seurat’s Notebooks

The Torn Picture Of A Guitar

Associative Editing Techniques

Monday, August 27, 2012

Candy At The End Of The World

Like many of Jackson's writings, The Sundial ends with a number of unanswered questions and unsettling speculations: it is uncertain if the world will end after the storm has passed, but if it does, are these unpleasant people to inherit the earth? Jackson offers no certainties.

... Jackson herself was fond of joking of an "architectural gene" that cropped up in her family once every few generations, and the house presented in The Sundial might foreshadow the infamous Hill House in The Haunting of Hill House. In both Hill House and Sundial, there are many striking similarities between the two houses: both Hill House and Halloran House were built by husbands as gifts for wives who died shortly before or shortly after seeing the house for the first time, and both houses become the source of conflict between various family members who disputed the house's ownership. The "mathematically perfect" grounds and the jarring sundial might remind readers again of Hill House, where all the floors and walls are said to be slightly off-centre. Halloran House, while never openly "haunted" in the sense that Hill House claimed to be, is the site of at least two ghostly visitations.

The Sundial, like the earlier Jackson novel The Road Through the Wall, contains a great number of characters, none of whom are very sympathetic. An abundance of unpleasant characters — in addition to the eleven main characters, there are several other minor characters who appear throughout the novel as comic relief — populate the narrative.

John G. Park, in his article "Waiting For the End: Shirley Jackson's 'The Sundial'," points to several instances of "confining narcissism" on the part of the novel's primary characters. Stephen King, in his Danse Macabre, summarized this concept as "a growing obsession with one's own problems; a turning inward instead of a growing outward." Throughout the novel, most of the characters' conversations are really competing monologues, with no one listening; moreover, both Oriana and Aunt Fanny attempt to manipulate the other adults in the same way that Fancy controls her dolls.

Surrounded by gummy fish and tennis gumballs, Maria Sharapova isn't apologizing.

She likes candy, and that's the next category she'll add her name to.

It's actually more than putting her name and face on a product. While she has worked with the likes of Nike and Cole Haan to design shoes and clothes, she has never started from scratch like she has with this deal.

Sharapova said the development, from concept to launch, has taken 18 months.

"It's like I've been pregnant twice," Sharapova said jokingly.

Sharapova is ranked third heading into the U.S. Open, which starts next week.

On Monday, the tennis star stood in front of 12 varieties of Sugarpova candy at the new retail store of her partner It'Sugar, a candy company that has 40 locations around the world.

"I've seen enough of all these athletes endorsing the latest energy drink or organic health product," said CEO Jeff Rubin, who calls himself the Chief Gummy Officer of It'Sugar. "We all know that everyone, including athletes, love candy, so what's wrong with endorsing what we all eat?"

It’s happening right now east of here
Maria Sharapova’s posing
playing tennis and selling candy
and I admire people who get out
especially when they do posing.

In “The Sundial” by Shirley Jackson
people shut themselves up in a house
and wait for a big storm to blow through
because they think the world is ending
and there’s not much candy or posing.

Will God still judge me as a writer
if I think of Maria posing
and I want to get out and draw her
rather than lock myself in with her
and haunt the end of the world with her?

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

I mean does this count for anything?


US Open Tennis Tournament website


Friday In Paris Before It All Starts

Clouds Want To Be A Secret Book

Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Occult Technology Of Guitars And Keyboards

Beethoven’s power to inspire is a matter of historical record. But to inspire what? In China, in the 1970s, his music was condemned for its representation (among other things) of “the decadent, chaotic life and depraved sentiments of the bourgeoisie.” Most western composers were vilified, but none as stridently as Beethoven. For none was more feared. No other had his power to excite, to uplift, to nourish the soul and embolden the spirit. No other so transcendently represented the triumph of the individual over seemingly insuperable odds.

Jeremy Siepmann
writing in Beethoven: His Life And Music

Gaia created a great sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to convince them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in a bush and in doing so he became the King of the Titans.

When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked Uranus and, with the sickle, cut off his genitals, casting them into the sea. As Uranus lay dying, he made a prophecy that Cronus' own children would rebel against his rule, just as Cronus had rebelled against his own father. Uranus' blood that had spilled upon the earth, gave rise to the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae, and from his semen from his cut genitalia, Aphrodite arose from the sea:

" soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden..."

from Titanomachy at Wikipedia

In the traditional Judeo-Christian story of Noah and the Flood, when God so-to-speak “cut off” the generations of mankind by the Flood, the reproductive hopes of the human race were cast onto the surging waters of the Flood in the ark, eight humans, four men and four women.

Traditional Judeo-Christian readings of Scripture focus on the men, Noah and his three sons. But the book of Genesis says a little about the relationships of men and women in those days. Godly men, Scripture says, so-called “children of God,” took their wives from among the “children of men.” So while Noah and his sons believed in what Judeo-Christians call “the one true God,” the wives of Noah may have had other beliefs entirely.

Noah and his sons according to Scripture interpreted the Flood as God’s punishment of mankind, for in those days most men embraced the human-centric civilization established by Cain.

What did the wives think?

Did one or more of the women on the ark with Noah maintain her beliefs in the human-centric civilization? She would have regarded the Flood as wanton destruction, as the actions of a vicious, hateful god destroying good humans. She would have regarded that god as a god to be derided, a god to be fought against.

After the Flood, children would have heard two interpretations of their past. One from their fathers, another from one or more of their mothers.

The children who believed their mothers would have viewed their mothers as rebels. Those children would have seen their mothers as something like glorious rebels struggling against the vicious, hateful god who destroyed the great civilization mankind had struggled to achieve before the Flood, glorious rebels struggling against the complacent men who accepted the judgments and actions of that hateful god and even continued to worship that god.

A woman who had the character and fiery passion to rebel against all that, the insight and courage to persevere, to maintain her own beliefs about right and wrong and civilization itself, to keep her beliefs alive after the Flood and encourage those beliefs, watch them grow once more and struggle once more against the beliefs of the men around her—such a woman would be regarded herself as something like a goddess.

Who could not love such a woman?

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

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

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

I don’t understand—
Are guitars and pianos
more than instruments?

Some musicians think
there’s an entire orchestra
in a piano.

A folksinger strums
a guitar one musician
alone with music.

Is an orchestra
civilization itself
man making mankind?

When guitar players
play music alone is that
something more than man?

I don’t understand
civilization or God
but I like guitars.

I like gadgets and
the easy life they bring but
I love music more.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Clouds Want To Be A Secret Book

Night clouds or noctilucent clouds are tenuous cloud-like phenomena that are the "ragged-edge" of a much brighter and pervasive polar cloud layer called polar mesospheric clouds in the upper atmosphere, visible in a deep twilight. They are made of crystals of water ice. Noctilucent roughly means night shining in Latin. They are most commonly observed in the summer months at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator. They can only be observed when the Sun is below the horizon.

They are the highest clouds in the Earth's atmosphere, located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 76 to 85 kilometres (47 to 53 mi). They are normally too faint to be seen, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth's shadow. Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood and are a recently-discovered meteorological phenomenon; there is no record of their observation before 1885.

Noctilucent clouds can form only under very restrictive conditions; their occurrence can be used as a sensitive guide to changes in the upper atmosphere. They are a relatively recent classification. The occurrence of noctilucent clouds appears to be increasing in frequency, brightness and extent. It is theorized that this increase is connected to climate change.

Night clouds or noctilucent clouds are composed of tiny crystals of water ice up to 100 nm in diameter and exist at a height of about 76 to 85 km (47 to 53 mi), higher than any other clouds in Earth's atmosphere. Clouds in the Earth's lower atmosphere form when water collects on particles, but mesospheric clouds may form directly from water vapour in addition to forming on dust particles.

The sources of both the dust and the water vapour in the upper atmosphere are not known with certainty. The dust is believed to come from micrometeors, although particulates from volcanoes and dust from the troposphere are also possibilities. The moisture could be lifted through gaps in the tropopause, as well as forming from the reaction of methane with hydroxyl radicals in the stratosphere.

Noctilucent Clouds at Wikipedia

They’re happening right now north of here
farther north even than Wisconsin
microscopic bits of iron and ice
refracting sunlight down to our world
from outside our world from outer space.

Is more water vapor rising up
or are more meteors falling down
creating electric looking clouds
where our world meets a world more distant
or real distance itself the real north?

No one knows what they are how or why
but north of here they’re happening now
though what and how and why no one knows
iron and ice and sunlight between worlds
the real wild as above so below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Memories Are White And Yellow Against Green

Sometimes, something happens that seems worth writing about, so then I think about it and think about it but sometimes I never think of anything to write about whatever it was that seemed worth writing about.

Then I either have to abandon the idea and maybe someday come back to it or post about it without any particular focus or idea.

That happened with today’s post.

It seemed like a good idea, but I haven’t been able to think of anything specific to say. So I’m just going to post the basic outline of what struck me as interesting.


This starts with something that happened last year. Not on this exact date, but right around this time of the summer.

All last summer there were beautiful blue wildflowers growing in a lot next to a gas station near here. When poor Amy Winehouse passed away, I photographed the wildflowers and used the image for my post about Amy.

Then just a week or two later, work crews went in and flattened out the lot where the wildflowers had been growing. They never built anything there, just left it as an empty lot. Grass and some plants have grown back, but nothing as beautiful as last year. I posted about those wildflowers getting cut down.

Now this summer I posted that I hadn’t seen any really beautiful or interesting patches of wildflowers.

Then a couple of small patches grew in the narrow lots around the donut shop. I posted about them last Thursday, and then I stood among them Monday evening and got pictures of the young Moon.

“There are small patches of grass next to the donut shop
and sometimes for some reason work crews don’t cut the grass
and patches of wildflowers grow taller than the tall grass
plain white or yellow blooms against the green of the grass.”

Then Tuesday—the day after I stood among the wildflowers and photographed the young Moon—work crews went in and flattened the little lots, cutting down everything.

So two years in a row I’ve written about little out-of-the-way patches of wildflowers and two years in a row work crews have gone in and cleared out the wildflowers.

This can’t be good.

If they don’t already the wildflowers are going to start hating me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Monday evening I saw bright long bolts of lighting
maybe even meandering bolts of lightning
in the sky behind clouds above the garden shop.

Before the storm moved in the sky was almost clear
and the young Moon was bright above thin wispy clouds
and above parking lot lights at the donut shop.

Meandering sometimes horizontal lightning
looked like electricity trying to rip through
the sky itself to tear apart the sky itself.

The peaceful sky before with the three day old Moon
above the donut shop looked like eternity
crystalline forever above the man-made shapes.

Eternity was gone just a few hours later
as lightning bolts so-to-speak snaked across the sky
animal shapes lashing out in electric rage.

The storm passed but animals that can rip apart
eternity even if only for a time
are moving above garden shops and donut shops.

What shapes will replace the man-made parking lot lights
when rage cracks crystalline eternity itself
permanently and sunlight can’t shine on the Moon?

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

I took that photo Monday evening.
The Moon was about 14% illuminated.
The sky was
very beautiful with
very thin wisps of clouds and the color
gradations were
so smooth my camera
had a little trouble capturing
the colors and values without artifacts
even with no zooming, no cropping
to the image at all.


A Universe Of Colors And Adding What We Can

Changing Something That Can’t Be Changed

It’s A Photograph And This

Merica Uns On Unkin

Parsimony And Aberrant Forms

A Telescope For Tartarus

“Did Lightning Hit This Tree?”

Steam And Laughter By The Somewhere Tree

Squirrels Of Chaos And Delight

Squirrels And The Lost Mountains Of Tibet

Monday, August 20, 2012

Changing Something That Can’t Be Changed

Research findings show evidence that the phenomenon is influenced by the Earth's distance from the sun; for example, decay rates are different in January and July, when the Earth is closest and farthest from the sun, respectively.

"When the Earth is farther away, we have fewer solar neutrinos and the decay rate is a little slower," Jenkins said. "When we are closer, there are more neutrinos, and the decay a little faster."

Researchers also have recorded both increases and decreases in decay rates during solar storms.

"What this is telling us is that the sun does influence radioactive decay," Fischbach said.

Neutrinos have the least mass of any known subatomic particle, yet it is plausible that they are somehow affecting the decay rate, he said.

Physicist Ernest Rutherford, known as the father of nuclear physics, in the 1930s conducted experiments indicating the radioactive decay rate is constant, meaning it cannot be altered by external influences.

"Since neutrinos have essentially no mass or charge, the idea that they could be interacting with anything is foreign to physics," Jenkins said. "So, we are saying something that doesn't interact with anything is changing something that can't be changed. Either neutrinos are affecting decay rate or perhaps an unknown particle is."

Last Friday was the new Moon and I looked Saturday and Sunday but I didn’t see the young Moon in the west. Here south of Chicago we had scattered clouds around sunset both days this weekend.

But I looked. I’m inclined to think the looking is the more important part. The seeing is great when it happens, and it does happen, now and then, but I think the looking is the important part.

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”

1 Chronicles 28:9

I want to get this one other thing out of the way. This is kind of a loose end of a loose end, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I mentioned a few days ago that when I’m sad I almost always look to music or astronomy to find something to cheer me up. That’s true, and it’s been true for years and years.

Every now and then I have the opposite problem. Every now and then I get so happy that I feel, so to speak, out-of-balance or some such thing. Then I try to get my mind back into a more neutral mood.

Over the weekend I had a bit of an adventure that was kind of fun and someday I’ll be talking more about it. (It was like that solar neutrino stuff—impossible stuff somehow happening.) I felt I needed to calm myself down a little. Now, I know I just said I wasn’t going to talk about Smallville any more, but I’ve got this one last thing.

When I’m sad, astronomy and music almost always cheer me up.

When I’m too happy, I watch the final episode of season three of Smallville, the episode called “Covenant.” That’s the start of the story arc of Lana becoming the witch—she ends the season by leaving Smallville and going to Paris. At that point in the saga, Clark and Lex both love Lana and although she loves Clark, she has decided that nothing will ever happen with him so she is going off to begin a whole new life. She is just friends with Lex. Lex knows she’s only his friend, but he is trying to be a good friend and help her get her Paris trip together. When Lana goes to the airport, Clark is supposed to drive her, but his life is falling apart and he gets involved in something else. Lana takes a bus to the airport. Lex drives over to the airport to say goodbye. Clark finally gets there to say goodbye, too, but he sees Lex and Lana (Lexana!) embracing and doesn’t want to impose.

And over all that, a song called “One Moment More” by Mindy Smith is playing.

That always does it for me. No matter how happy I am, that always brings me back to reality. Or rather reality as I experience it. Whatever.

It has become a famous moment from the show and someone has uploaded the sequence to YouTube. It won't embed, but if you click the pic it links there:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Indigo And Sepia: Sparrows In The Sun

My favorite thing about watercolor painting
is that you think about things if you do it right.
You think about what moves you, what doesn’t move you.
And what’s important about the things that move you.
You abstract things and create a new synthesis.
Do you need an infinite palette of colors?
Do you need details, fine lines and clear boundaries?

Today I saw four birds on a sign in the Sun.
Look. I can prove it. These are the four birds I saw.

To me sparrows in the Sun always look happy.

Does it matter what kind of sign the birds are on?
I walked over and checked. It’s a parking lot sign.
Some painters might call that anecdotal detail.

To me sparrows in the Sun always look happy.

I like this image. But it isn’t a painting.

I carefully composed a foreground and background
then digitally zoomed in until artifacts
overpowered everything in the composition
then I carefully zoomed out until artifacts
and images achieved a kind of dynamic
harmony. A technological synthesis.

It’s not film grain. And it’s not pigment in water.

But it is four sparrows on a sign in the Sun.

If I painted it, it would look a lot like this.

I gave it a lot of thought. The technology
played along, indulging me, let me think with it.

I think sparrows in the Sun always look happy.

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

Passages Between Worlds

Cars Are The New Birds

A Mystery: Paintings Never Painted

A Squirrel And A Donut For Ever And Ever

Vanity Fair Magazine In A Book Store Café

Victoria’s Secret


I like this image a lot but to be honest
I spend a lot of time wondering if
an image create through photography
—even an image that is carefully
pre-visualized and carefully realized—
I wonder if an image derived from photography
really is comparable to painting
in any way, in any real way.

I don’t know. I wish I could
paint well enough to have created
a painting like this in a reasonable
amount of time, without many
false starts and wasted efforts.

But careful photography
lets me work in a way so similar
to the way I think I would work,
(I meaning thinking, thinking, thinking)
if I were painting that it is hard
for me to give up the conveniences
of working digitally.

The end results
—I mean the end results
I would get, or think I would get—
seem so similar that I just don’t know.

If anyone is interested, here is the
actual photograph I took and then
manipulated using Microsoft
Office Picture Manager to play with
the artifacts and composition. I
took the picture late this afternoon:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Universe Of Colors And Adding What We Can

Tomorrow is Friday and tomorrow’s the new Moon
and that means Saturday or Sunday the thin young Moon
might be visible in the west just after sunset
a pale orange crescent set against the still blue sky.

There are small patches of grass next to the donut shop
and sometimes for some reason work crews don’t cut the grass
and patches of wildflowers grow taller than the tall grass
plain white or yellow blooms against the green of the grass.

The wildflowers now are growing next to the donut shop
and this weekend I’ll be next to the donut shop too
and I’ll be studying the sky even though I add
no color to the scene I’ll try to add what I can.

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

This is a short post but it took me
a long time to think about before I tried
to write it. It is kind of a sequel—in a way
I can’t really put into words—to a couple of posts
from a while back that I never, until now,
thought of as being related.

To Make A Song To Sing About Walls

Associative Editing Techniques

At some point in the future I’ll be returning
to this stuff, but I’m not sure when. After
a lot more thought, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Personal Tower Of Babel?

Today’s post is a kind of loose end.

Over the years, there are some topics I’ve posted about a lot, and there are some topics I feel I’ve posted about too much. Or, rather, at least I feel I’ve said everything I’ve got to say that’s worth saying.

For instance, parking lots. A while ago I decided to do no more posts about parking lots. That decision didn’t work out very well. I’ve talked about parking lots about a dozen times since I decided to stop, but I’m still trying to stop. I just kind of figure enough is enough. Actually, I remember exactly when I decided to stop talking about parking lots. It was the day before I did a post about Taylor Swift in a parking lot. My decision didn’t last even one whole day.

Folklore Of The Carnivore: Taylor Swift

Another topic I’ve tried to stop posting about is the TV show Smallville. I mean, what the hell, it’s been off the air for a while, and I stopped watching it after season six anyway, so it’s been more than five years now.

But for one reason or another I find myself coming back to Smallville. Usually it’s some reference to Lana Lang.

The Fons Et Origo Of Lost Worlds

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan” Too

But I figure enough is enough.

Still, there is one more post I want to do about the show that I’ve never gotten around to doing. This is a pretty famous conversation—among fans of the show I mean—and it already appears on a lot of blogs. But I want to do it because it’s such an interesting bit of dialog. To my eyes this is a pretty unique scene for a television show: A flat out philosophical conversation between a father and son, between a supervillain and a villain.

This is from season four, the episode “Sacred,” when all the characters are chasing after the so-called “Stones of Power.” This is the same story arc I’ve posted about with Lana becoming the witch.

Love Sonnet With Piano Wreckage And Worms

This is supervillain Lionel Luthor talking to his son Lex, who so far is only a regular villain.

I’ll have one little thing to say about this after the quote:

LIONEL: “You have a ferocious desire to find all the answers, Son. But don’t let your search for those Stones turn into your personal Tower of Babel.”

LEX: “I’m not trying to get closer to God, Dad. I’m trying to solve the riddles He’s laid out for me.”

LIONEL: “Did you ever think there might be a reason why we weren’t given the answers?”

LEX: “To challenge us?”

LIONEL: “Or maybe to humble us? Knowledge comes from finding the answers. Yes. But understanding what the answers mean is what brings wisdom. Men who didn’t understand the difference have been the ruin of some of the world’s greatest civilizations.”

LEX: “Is that why you stopped looking for the Stones? Because you’re afraid?”

LIONEL: “No. No, I stopped because I realized that even if I find the three Stones, I’m not going to find what I’m really looking for. And neither will you.”

That’s pretty cool stuff.

And it’s pretty cool writing.

It is an interesting conversation in itself. And the two characters are both villains to one degree or another. So although it’s an interesting conversation, it is even more interesting because viewers know both characters are lying, to one degree or another.

Lex is searching for the Stones to become God-like. Lionel hasn’t stopped searching for the Stones at all and, in fact, soon will almost kill a woman to obtain one of the Stones.

So these characters, these villains, are having an interesting conversation and even though it’s interesting, it is only verbal fencing. It’s like banter, but it’s so well done that it is still worth listening to in itself.

That’s pretty cool writing.

Good writing is interesting even when the reader steps back, moves outside the context of the original text.

Cognitive Blur #4: Supergirl

You don’t really see that too much today in any medium—content working on many different levels, on the surface and then at another level after a little thought, and then, too, at another level after even more thought.

I miss the early years of Smallville. It was an extraordinary TV show. And I miss that kind of entertainment in general. Most stuff today in all media isn’t interesting on any level.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Death, Dancing, Death-Wise For Real

I have no idea if this gossip is true. I’ve looked around the web a little and I don’t see the story repeated, but years ago I read and heard this story more than once.

The story—as I’ve read it and heard it—is that Christina Applegate and someone else were with River Phoenix the night he died. The three of them walked out of the Viper Club and River Phoenix collapsed to the sidewalk and began convulsing. Christina Applegate looked down, watched River Phoenix convulsing and thought he was doing some kind of break-dancing schtick, sidewalk dancing. The story is that as River Phoenix died, convulsing on the sidewalk, Christina Applegate got down on the sidewalk next to him, and flopped around herself doing faux break-dancing schtick.

I don’t really care about the background to the story. Drugs or shallowness or stupidity. I don’t care. I’ve always been struck—almost hypnotized—but the simple reality of the story, if in fact it is really true.

Imagine dying, spazing out into the afterlife, while the most beautiful woman of your era flops around next to you, spazes out herself pretending to dance with you...

That’s a pretty cool way to die.

Maybe I’m nuts. I don’t know. But I think that’s a pretty cool way to die.

A long time ago I talked about that rumor about Christina Applegate. It is still my favorite show business rumor. At this point I don’t really care if it is true or not.

Recently I found out about an actual true show business death where a guy died in his lover’s arms and although it doesn’t have the absurd farce elements of the Christina Applegate story, it is also about as cool a way to die as a person could hope for. I’m going to post about it because it gives me a chance to tell a very short story that I think about a lot.

One time I sat with a group of people and watched Alan Parker’s film version of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” When the film was over, pretty much everybody gave me a hard time for recommending the film. I heard things like, “Why would anyone want to watch a film about a self-destructive musician who destroy all his friendships, ruins all his romances and then dies? What a waste of time.”

And I tried to counter by saying, “Well, everyone here loved Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz.” It’s the same story, but with a dancer. A self-destructive dancer destroys all his friendships, ruins all his romances and then dies. Why would one film be considered art but the other a waste of time?”

Nobody much even wanted to discuss it. That evening has always bothered me because even if I see a movie I don’t like I don’t mind discussing it and trying to figure out and explain why I don’t like it. It kind of bugged me that a discussion group didn’t want to discuss something.


I’ve always loved both movies, Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” and Alan Parker’s version of “The Wall.” In fact, the closing image of “The Wall,” where the children find the unexploded Molotov cocktail and pull out the wick and pour out the gasoline is one of my favorite images in all cinema. Wonderful stuff.

However Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” is remarkable in a different way since, more or less, it is autobiographical. And the amazing art and entertainment in the movie isn’t animation or special effects, it’s real dancers and real musicians performing their craft. More than just being wonderful stuff, it is like real life magic.

When Fosse filmed “All That Jazz” he depicted himself dying at the end. However, of course, he didn’t actually die while making the movie (although he did die of a heart problem as depicted in the movie).

It turns out Bob Fosse’s actual death was almost like a scene from a movie. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:

In 1971, Verdon filed a legal separation from Fosse (but never divorced) because of his extramarital affairs. She held him in her arms as he suffered a fatal heart attack on the sidewalk outside the Washington theatre where Sweet Charity was being revived.

Gwen Verdon at Wikipedia

That’s a pretty cool way to die, too. And it’s real.

I think I admire dancers more than any other artists or entertainers. I haven’t known a lot of dancers, but I’ve never thought of myself as being accomplished enough at anything to be, sort of, so to speak, worthy of being friends with a dancer. I’m trying to get better at a lot of things, but I don’t feel I have any skill comparable to what a dancer can do.

That’s kind of what I’m working toward. I’d like, someday, to think of myself as skillful enough at something, anything, to be able to be friends with a dancer.

Good death scenes seem to involve dancers. One way or another.

(I still like that Christina Applegate one, if we get to choose.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sixteen Seductive Ounces

If this were a magazine photograph
the myth is that the glare in the glasses
the clear glasses off to the side and back
would contain subliminal messages
and while the conscious mind would read “Pyrex”
in the clear red letters in the foreground
the indistinct shapes to the side and back
abstracted into glare and shadow shapes
would contain secret letters secret words
and the unconscious would read “sex” and “death”
and if anyone questioned the reading
the project’s art director would just laugh
and say, “People see what they want to see
so you must have sex and death on your mind.”

Andrew Wyeth’s classic “Helga” paintings
were painted in a realistic style
but they weren’t hyper-realistic
nobody would think they were photographs.

And Helga wasn’t a celebrity.

I don’t have a title for this picture.

I don’t call it, “Helga’s Measuring Cup”

If this were a magazine photograph
I’m sure the caption would read something like,
“This is Drew Barrymore’s measuring cup.”

And why would anybody even dream
there might be secret letters secret words
squiggles saying “sex” squiggles saying “death”
next to Drew Barrymore’s measuring cup
if this were a magazine photograph?

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

The Helga Pictures at Wikipedia

Wilson Bryan Key at Wikipedia


Seeing Things In Christina’s World

Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat

The Application Of Beyond Understanding

Scraps For Alison With Love And Squalor

This Is Not “Fashion Bulletin I’m Yours”

Being A Writer In Drew’s World

Drew Barrymore and Eugene Ionesco

My Five Celebrity Pencil Cartoons (Annotated)


FYI— I took that photograph Monday evening
and I don’t even own a copy of Photoshop.
There are
no secret embeds of any kind.
But I did like how the glare and shadows
came out.

And that measuring cup is mine, it’s not
owned by any celebrity. But it is
getting to be a celebrity itself. That
measuring cup posed for the cartoon
in these two posts:

Taylor Swift With No Makeup

Indecision — Death By Dagny

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pretty Flowers With The Loch Ness Monster

I started to write today’s post every day beginning with last Friday—

The Loch Ness Monster Versus Pretty Flowers

Magic, And Amy As Only A Memory

A Secret Book Of Dark Writings

A Telescope For Tartarus

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan” Too

—but after I started writing, it always changed itself into those other posts before I could finish. But this morning I finally got through it and finished writing what I started. Here is today’s post which took six days to write and the real, complete title of today’s post is:

Song For The Loch Ness Monster As A Pet
Kept In A Vase Made From Pieces Of Glass
Salvaged From Broken Glass Things She Shattered
After Purchasing Them From A Thrift Store
To Make A Vase To Hold Wildflowers She Finds
And Now The Loch Ness Monster Comes And Goes
Like A Free Pet With A Life Of Its Own
Out In The Wild But It Comes To Look At
The Wildflowers She Finds And It Likes The Vase
She Made From Broken Glass So It Pretends
Sometimes It’s Her Pet The Loch Ness Monster
Kept In A Vase Made From Pieces Of Glass

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
She made the vase from cracked glass
She found the flowers some place

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
I’m not looking at the flowers
I’m looking at her face

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
I watch her put her clothes on
Thin fabric over lace

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
She smoothes a fold in her blouse
I study the lost place

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
Pencil guidelines disappear
Inked shapes do not erase

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
It’s a film about romance
It’s a book about grace

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
I’m not looking at the flowers
I’m looking at her face

Flowers in a vase
Flowers in a vase
Dressed, she kicks me, grabs my hand
She says, “Let’s blow this place.”

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

All of this is sort of an extended, jumbled sequel
to these two posts. I see that the video I embedded—
it was Amy Winehouse singing
that's where the “No, no, no” comes from—
in the second post is no longer available. I’m not
going to re-link it. It’s kind of better
this way. I mean, the last line of that second
post is:
Tomorrow there will be only tire tracks.

Amy Winehouse Makes It Official

Pretty Blue Flowers At The Gates Of Hell

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan” Too

Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy, exhibiting perfect pitch at age 2, composing his first piece at 3, making his first public appearance as a piano accompanist at 5 and his debut in a piano recital at 10. After performing a full program of Bach, Handel and Mozart, he asked the audience to choose any one of Beethoven's sonatas for him to play as an encore, by heart.

... Saint-Saëns's study of Greco-Roman mythology inspired his lush symphonic poems "La Jeunesse d'Hercule," "Le Rouet d'Omphale" and "Phaeton." He wrote music criticism and learned papers on ancient instruments, ancient theater decoration, mathematics and occult sciences. He pioneered French revivals of Bach, Handel and Rameau. As conductor he produced and funded orchestral concerts of new music by French and foreign composers. In addition, Saint-Saëns was a serious amateur astronomer, a published poet, and author both of a successful comedy and of a philosophical treatise proposing that science and art substitute for religion.

A Rich and Fertile Legacy
Too Long Misunderstood

Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2012
promoting the
Bard Music Festival
this year featuring Saint-Saëns
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

I did not think the girl could be so cruel
And I am never going back to my old school

My Old School, Steely Dan

“California crumbles into the sea
That’ll be the day I go back to Annandale”

This is from Smallville, a season five Clana moment from “Thirst.” Lana is a vampire now and she’s upset that Clark won’t have sex with her. Clark doesn’t know Lana has become a monster. He’s confused, so Lana just dumps him.

LANA LANG: “If you’re going to be all needy
and insecure, maybe we need to reevaluate
this relationship.”

One of the most fun things about this blog was my discovering the music of Saint-Saëns. I can still remember hearing “The Swan” for the first time. And it still sounds as wonderful to me now as it did then.

Clockwork Musicians

This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan”

Harps And Flutes, Swans And Monsters

Two Swans

I’ve never been to Annandale but I wouldn’t hesitate to go. I don’t think I will be able to attend the Bard Festival featuring the music of Saint-Saëns, but I would like to.


One of the most horrifying things about doing this blog was some of the context around my discovery of the music of Saint-Saëns.

The Opposite Of Washing Machine

And I am never going back to my old school.

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

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A Telescope For Tartarus

The fall of superhuman beings punished for opposing gods also appears in Greek mythology. Homer's Iliad says Hephaestus was cast down from the heavenly threshold by Zeus and landed on the island of Lemnos nearly dead. Hesiod's Theogony recounts that the gods, after defeating the Titans, hurled them down to Tartarus (the Titanomachy) as far beneath the earth as earth is beneath the sky.

from “War in Heaven” at Wikipedia

“Does it matter,” she asked, “if the Earth is hollow?
“I mean, whether the Earth is hollow or structured,
both of these views just describe our understanding
of the representation we’re confronted with.”

She asked, “Do you hear it? That hum. In the distance.
Is that the sound made by dirigible motors?”

Almost all astronomers now and then
are struck by the appearance everywhere
you look in the sky—craters on the Moon,
jagged rift valleys on Mars, the sideways
axis of rotation of Uranus,
interstellar gas and debris patterns
of exploded stars, even the blazing
so-called active nucleus defining
what are called irregular galaxies—
the appearance of endless evidence
of an ancient vast war in the heavens.

But almost all astronomers just smile
at such an interpretation even
if they themselves find themselves thinking it.

Because regardless of how the sky looks,
how it appears and what it appears as,
physics, that is astrophysics, explains
everything more simply than battle scars.

Craters or planetary rift valleys
are caused by the impacts of meteors
or by asteroids or perhaps even
electrical discharges from immense
interactions of cosmic plasma flows.
Planets themselves can get knocked on their side
when solar systems first begin forming.
Nuclear forces make stars go nova.
Black holes and exotic cosmologies
can shape and reshape entire galaxies.

It may look like the aftermath of war.

But from a distance a small bird soaring
may appear to be an airplane on course.
From a distance a thin branch of a tree
may appear to be an electric line.
From a distance a round boulder dislodged
and sent tumbling by a random tremor
may appear to be somebody running.

From a distance as far as the Earth is
beneath the sky, the sound of wind through trees
or a waterfall or storm thunder or
even dirigible engines humming
I suppose may sound like war being waged.

From a distance as far as the Earth is
beneath the sky, I suppose though also
we might imagine we were listening to
sounds of wind or water or thunder or
even dirigible engines humming
if we were listening to the real sounds of
an honest-to-goodness war being waged.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Secret Book Of Dark Writings

Her face, like her voice, was carefully expressionless.
She said, “You would write books, if you could. And you believe
a witch keeps a journal of secret spells and knowledge,
a secret book of dark writings, a Book of Shadows.”

He took care with his voice and face to match her distance.
And he found distance, too, for what he said. He said, “No.”

As if he had told her something like a joke, she laughed.
As if she herself were telling something like a joke,
she said, “No, you would not write books if you could, or no,
you do not believe a witch keeps a Book of Shadows?”

He said, “A witch and an alchemist go out for beer.
The alchemist drinks one glass, then turns over the glass.
The witch drinks a glass, then orders up another beer.
Is the witch trying to out-drink the alchemist, or
is the witch thirsty and really enjoying the beer?”

Her eyes went wide and she didn’t hide her expression.
She laughed and her laughter was like the sound of distance,
all distance, everywhere, and then the thought of distance,
disappearing around them, leaving them, only them,
two together, as close as can be. And nowhere else.

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

Fluorescent Lights On A Book Of Shadows

“Britney To Razor Blades”

A Lost World Where Distance Is God’s Anger

Monday, August 06, 2012

Magic, And Amy As Only A Memory

As I type this, it is early in the a.m. hours of Monday. I haven’t been to sleep yet, so for me it is Sunday night.

I stayed up to watch the live NASA feed of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars. I didn’t believe the complicated descent stage would work, but apparently all the technology performed flawlessly and put the Curiosity rover down safely right on target. Before I clicked away (watching TV on my broadband connection eats up an incredible amount of bandwidth) the first rough pictures were coming in from Curiosity. I am so happy I was wrong and that the descent went perfectly. It’s almost beyond science fiction—the mission itself, and the fact that I and millions of others could watch it happening in real time, watch the first thumbnail images coming in, sitting here at a computer just like so many of the engineers at NASA and JPL were sitting at their computers watching their computer screens. The times we live in. It’s almost beyond science fiction. It is almost fantasy.


Just a couple of hours before the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars, I took a pair of binoculars out back and checked out the western sky. The sky here around Chicago is awful for astronomy, but there in the west, just a little south of straight west, there in the west was an almost perfect equilateral triangle of stars. In our bad skies, to the naked eye the three stars appeared very dim, almost hard to see unless you knew where to look.

Only one of the three stars was a real star. Through binoculars the scene becomes more clear.

The star to the lower left is a real star, the beautiful blue-white Spica. (I talked about Spica in Waking Up (Not) Lost In Space.)

Above Spica the star at the peak of the triangle really is the beautiful gold ochre planet Saturn.

The star to the lower right really is the beautiful orange planet Mars.

Over the next few weeks the motion of the Earth around the Sun will cause the planet Mars to appear to shift position in the sky and move, night by night, between Spica and Saturn. Right now my wide-angle binoculars can capture all three objects in one field of view, but they are at the very edge of the field. As Mars moves between Spica and Saturn, the threesome will become even more beautiful—gems in the sky, blue, orange and gold, all in a line.

We humans have the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. And now we have a large and capable rover on Mars.

It’s almost beyond science fiction. It’s almost fantasy. The times we live in.


It was an extraordinary experience to sit at my computer and watch the NASA and JPL engineers study the telemetry coming from the spacecraft as it lowered the Curiosity rover down to Mars.

But it is extraordinary, too, being able to go outside and look at the sky and see Mars there for real, without any intermediary computers or scientists. Just a pair of binoculars. And knowing where to look. (I think about this all the time. This knowing where to look thing. And I can’t stop—I don’t want to ever stop—thinking about Amy Winehouse: This Bright Old World Of Ours As A Rune)

The colors of Spica, Saturn and Mars are among the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. But in an objective sense they are far less intense and more dim than almost anything a person might see on a computer screen or television set.

Colorful planets spinning against the blackness of space. Scientists and their spaceships. And everybody going about their business.

To me this seems beyond science fiction, beyond fantasy and squarely in the realm of magic.

The things you see if you know where to look.