Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 3rd Quarter Index

September 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 2012 3rd Quarter Index

Friday, September 28, 2012 - Pumpkin Are Free (Reprise)

Thursday, September 27, 2012 - On-Set Injury Report: Lizard Down!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - Refuge, Sanctuary And Asylum As Synonyms

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - The Real Lesson Of The Gargoyle Arrow

Monday, September 24, 2012 - Pumpkin Are Free

Friday, September 21, 2012 - Puddle Monsters: Terror In The Distance

Thursday, September 20, 2012 - The Sinkhole, The Supervillain, And The Plan

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - Synthetic Arcadia And The Hole

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - Orchestra By Piano Light

Monday, September 17, 2012 - In Louisiana The Bottom Fell Out Of A Swamp

Friday, September 14, 2012 - Jupiter Impact: A Postscript

Thursday, September 13, 2012 - Synthetic Hyperborea, Liminal Entities And Scripts...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - Steampunk: A Postscript

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - Astrophysics Versus Steam-Punk Musicians

Monday, September 10, 2012 - A Piece Of Paper Above An Asteroid

Friday, September 7, 2012 - When The Light Is All Reflections

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - Two Donut Shops

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - Weather (At The Fox Point)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - Weather (Or Not)

Monday, September 3, 2012 - Dinosaur Girls And The Night Behind Me

August 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012 - Solving A Mystery In The Dark (W/Photos)

Thursday, August 30, 2012 - Impossible Places: Guitars And Flutes

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - A Quick Enceladus Note, And Other Stuff

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - All The Issues Of Perspective

Monday, August 27, 2012 - Candy At The End Of The World

Friday, August 24, 2012 - The Occult Technology Of Guitars And Keyboards

Thursday, August 23, 2012 - Clouds Want To Be A Secret Book

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - Memories Are White And Yellow Against Green

Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Monday, August 20, 2012 - Changing Something That Can’t Be Changed

Friday, August 17, 2012 - Indigo And Sepia: Sparrows In The Sun

Thursday, August 16, 2012 - A Universe Of Colors And Adding What We Can

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - A Personal Tower Of Babel?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - Death, Dancing, Death-Wise For Real

Monday, August 13, 2012 - Sixteen Seductive Ounces

Friday, August 10, 2012 - Pretty Flowers With The Loch Ness Monster

Thursday, August 9, 2012 - This Makes Me Think Of “The Swan” Too

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 - A Telescope For Tartarus

Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - A Secret Book Of Dark Writings

Monday, August 6, 2012 - Magic, And Amy As Only A Memory

Friday, August 3, 2012 - The Loch Ness Monster Versus Pretty Flowers

Thursday, August 2, 2012 - The Fons Et Origo Of Lost Worlds

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 - Dead From Golgotha

July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - Playing The Dawn (Or To The Dawn)

Monday, July 30, 2012 - The Many Faces Of Mary (Elizabeth Winstead)

Friday, July 27, 2012 - A Failed Post (And A Little Something Extra)

Thursday, July 26, 2012 - Tours Of Intimate Confusion

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - “Did Lightning Hit This Tree?”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - Eccentricity: A Note On Yesterday’s Photo

Monday, July 23, 2012 - Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat

Friday, July 20, 2012 - Associative Editing Techniques

Thursday, July 19, 2012 - A Cool Kaossilator 2 Tip

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - Pluto’s Fifth Moon Has No Name (Yet)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - They Throw Away Desks, Don’t They?

Monday, July 16, 2012 - Mystery Four Thousand Miles From France

Friday, July 13, 2012 - Praying Mantis In A Parking Lot

Thursday, July 12, 2012 - Watermelon Rain?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - Change: Sudden, Incomprehensible And Deadly

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - Machines Of Rapacious Hate

Monday, July 9, 2012 - Iterations And Interruptions To World Domination

Friday, July 6, 2012 - Models Of Mind, And Grammar

Thursday, July 5, 2012 - Seven-Segment Displays

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - A Spider-Man Note

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - Lucy Thought It Was Just Odd Dreams

Monday, July 2, 2012 - “Underwear Distance Of Love” (Reprise)

Sunday, July 1, 2012 - 2012 2nd Quarter Index

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkin Are Free (Reprise)

SIDNEY: “Casey Becker? She sits next to me in English.”

TATUM: “Not anymore.”

Casey doesn’t sit next to Sidney in English
anymore because Casey’s family decided
to buy an old spaceship, fix it and fly to Mars.
The family had such an interesting time on Mars
that they continued outward bound and visited
a settlement in the asteroids. Nobody
in the family really wanted to return home
so they continued even farther outward bound
to visit a research station on Saturn’s moon
and see for themselves the beauty of Saturn’s rings.

In fact I think on a blog or something like that
Casey’s grandmother Hazel wrote about their trip
and the family meeting where they all talked about
going on to Saturn rather than return home.

“Why? Why does anybody want to go anywhere? Why did the bear go round the mountain? To see what he could see! I’ve never seen the Rings. That’s reason enough to go anywhere. The race has been doing it for all time. The dull ones stay home—and the bright ones stir around and try to see what trouble they can dig up. It’s the human pattern. It doesn’t need a reason, any more than a flat cat needs a reason to buzz. Why anything?”

“When are you coming back?”

“I may never come back. I like free fall. Doesn’t take any muscle. Take a look at old Charlie. You know how old he is? I did some checking. He’s at least a hundred and sixty. That’s encouraging at my age—makes me feel like a young girl. I may see quite a few things yet.”

Dr. Stone said, “Of course you will, Mother Hazel.”

Roger Stone turned to his wife. “Edith?”

“Yes, dear?”

“What’s your opinion?”

“Well ... there’s actually no reason why we should go back to Luna, not just now.”

“So I was thinking. But what about Meade?”

“Me?” said Meade.

Hazel put in drily, “They’re thinking you are about husband-high, hon.”

Dr. Stone looked at her daughter and nodded slightly. Meade looked surprised, then said, “Pooh! I’m in no hurry. Besides—there’s a Patrol base on Titan. There ought to be lots of young officers.”

Hazel answered, “It’s a Patrol research base, hon—probably nothing but dedicated scientists.”

“Well, perhaps when I get through with them they won’t be so dedicated!”

Roger Stone turned to the twins. “Boys?”

Castor answered for the Team. “Do we get a vote? Sure!”

Roger Stone grasped a stanchion, pulled himself forward. “Then it’s settled. All of you—Hazel, boys, Meade—set up trial orbits. I’ll start the mass computations.”

Oh, damn, I got that wrong, that’s why Meade Stone left school.
I remember what happened to Casey Becker.

Casey doesn’t sit next to Sidney anymore
because Sidney’s boyfriend Billy murdered Casey.
Not just murdered. Billy splatter-movie killed her—
hung her from a tree, her insides on the outside.
Billy killed Casey as part of his larger plan
to also kill Sidney and her Dad and frame it
on Sidney’s Dad as a murder-suicide spree.
Billy wanted to get revenge for Sidney’s Mom
having an affair with Billy’s Dad and causing
Billy’s Mom to leave, breaking up Billy’s family.
Billy got the idea for the murder scheme
when Sidney’s own illegitimate half-brother
came by and killed Sidney’s mother the year before
because she disowned him while still loving Sidney.

I always mix up those two kids’ stories. My bad.

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

Okay—Please!—nobody sue me.

The Sidney Prescott story is from
the famous kids’ movie, “Scream
directed by Wes Craven.

The Meade Stone story is from
the famous kids’ book, “The Rolling Stones
written by Robert Heinlein.

I wonder what stories
the next generation of kids
will be entertained by?


Pumpkin Are Free

You Damn Punk Kids

Ancient Cities Of The Moon

The Name “Gillian”

Preliminary Notes For A Space Opera

A Bird Who Could Fly To Neptune

Thursday, September 27, 2012

On-Set Injury Report: Lizard Down!

“Real knives freak me out. So I had to cut through duct tape. I kept thinking I was going to pull up too hard and stab myself in the face. It took almost like ten times or something before they had to cut the duct tape so it was only a thread that I had to cut through.”

Actress Emma Roberts
“Scream 4” commentary track

“One time I was looking around his [Ray Harryhausen’s] garage and up in the rafters of the garage something was sticking out. There was like the skull of something going behind some boxes. I couldn’t see what it was. It was all in pieces. It was the dragon from “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.” I just thought: Oh, what a sad end for such a wonderful creature.”

Dennis Muren
quoted in Two Dragons

A movie set is a completely controlled environment. Nobody ever should get seriously hurt on a movie set.

Not even a doll.

I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a new little stop-motion film, and I’ve mentioned that it is going to be about the Louisiana sinkhole. (I’m imagining a kind of follow-up to “Where Did The Cows Go?”.) I’d hoped to complete it for my Friday post, but there is a delay.

Rubber Lizard is injured.

It may not be clear from watching stop-motion films, but these things put a lot of pressure and wear-and-tear on the “actors.” Even a very short stop-motion film requires hundreds or possibly thousands of individual images. Every image, every single image, requires the dolls to be handled and manipulated. Dolls get lifted, squeezed, twisted around, dropped. During a long sequence the animator may get sweaty hands. And unless dolls are custom-built, the material that is used in dolls often simply degrades over time all by itself. And Rubber Lizard and Little Plastic Doll have been working hard at these things for more than two years. In the stop-motion world, that’s something like retirement age.

Anyway, the current project Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard are working on has a couple of scenes with a little action to them, and Rubber Lizard’s tail developed a bit of a tear. And when the tail tore, one or two little sections near the tear started to fragment a bit.

(FYI, Little Plastic Doll ripped her dress a little, too, but she’s being a trouper about it and not complaining. She’s devoting herself to trying to keep up Rubber Lizard’s spirits.)

So I had to stop and work out a plan to save Rubber Lizard.

In stop-motion work this is not uncommon at all. For instance, King Kong was repaired almost daily. And I mentioned how the dragon from “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad” eventually sort of went to pieces.

It’s not uncommon, apparently, but it is very disturbing when it actually happens to you. Or, you know, I mean, to one of your own “actors.”

My stomach was, a little, tied into knots worrying about this.

So I considered all sorts of things but eventually settled on a very, very simple fix.

Modern “rubber” is usually some kind of advanced, flexible plastic. And acrylic paints are really just advanced, semi-flexible plastics with pigments suspended in them.

So I very, very carefully mixed up some of my best Liquitex heavy-body acrylics and did something like a craft project.

I layered-on and built-up a new surface where Rubber Lizard’s tail had started to fragment. And I layered-on the acrylic to where the tear had started and then pressed the torn portions together so the acrylic could—I hope—act as an adhesive. When all that dried, I coated the entire area of the tear and fragmenting as a kind of sheath, which I hope will unify the repairs and help hold everything together.

Acrylics dry quickly, but since some of the areas I built-up are slightly thick, I’m going to let this dry over the whole weekend before I attempt to start filming again.

I’m very nervous because everything looks like it went reasonably well. (And a fringe benefit of using acrylic paints is that I could match Rubber Lizard’s color pretty carefully.) I’m hoping everything holds together when Rubber Lizard has to start moving around and acting. As I said, this type of filming puts a lot of pressure on an “actor,” and the dolls really work hard.

Time will tell.

I’m not sure what’s up for tomorrow now.

In the meantime, Little Plastic Doll and Tina are staying with Rubber Lizard, keeping him company while he’s on-the-mend. This is a picture of everyone, with a little blob of the final green paint I blended over the repairs:

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

Freedom From The Wild/Lost In Metonymy

Kite Flying In America (With Trout)

What Is A Toy?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Refuge, Sanctuary And Asylum As Synonyms

Deep is wild, with beasts one meets
usually in dreams. Here the giant octopus
drags in its arms. We meet it.
We are hungry in the upper air, and you

have the sea-spear that shoots deep;
you fire accurately, raising a conflagration
of black ink. The animal grabs stone
in slow motion, pulls far under a ledge
and piles the loose rock there as if
to hide might be enough. It holds tight,

builds sanctuary, and I think cries
“sanctuary!”—it dies at your second shot.
We come aboveboard then, with our eight-armed
dinner and no hunger left, pursued by the bland
eyes of fish who couldn’t care, by black
water and the death we made there.

from Underwater
by Michael Schmidt
quoted in Underwater This Is The Cathedral Sea

I don’t have a lot for today, and in particular I don’t have a real point for this post. But this is something I think about a lot so I’m going to do this post anyway.

This is a scan I found somewhere on the internet of an Andrew Wyeth painting called, “Refuge.” It is considered the “last” of the Helga paintings:

It’s not my favorite of the Helga images but I like it a lot.

I’ve been thinking about these images a lot because over the weekend just for fun I looked through the book, “The Helga Pictures.”

A long time ago when I looked through the Wikipedia entry for the paintings I was struck by this observation:

“For art critic James Gardner, Testorf "has the curious distinction of being the last person to be made famous by a painting".”

I suppose that’s true. But in my own mind I always think of the Helga paintings—just because of when they came out, around 1986—as being comparable in some difficult-to-define way to the photographs Victor Skrebneski took of Cindy Crawford.

I wrote about that business very briefly in, A Failed Post (And A Little Something Extra).

I know one was art and the other was advertising. I know one was painting and the other was photography. But they were roughly contemporary images and I think of them both as being the last two examples of models made very famous (mostly) just by images.

(And I know, of course, a lot of it is simply media dynamics. Some advertising catches on in the context of an era, some doesn’t, and a person could make the case that it is really the context that does the defining and not the content. So Skrebneski’s beautiful graphic portraits of Cindy Crawford may not have made such a fuss in a different context. And some people in the art world regard the set (“suite”) of Helga images as media manipulation from start to finish—after all, many artists create a series of a model. But, nonetheless, it seems to me that these two cases are examples where critics may have a point, but the reality of the content has a point, too: Both I think are examples of art that really does stand out even once the criticisms have been acknowledged as valid. At least that’s my subjective response, just my opinion, and that’s why I don’t think I’m wasting my time thinking about this stuff.)


So I’ve been thinking, again, about the differences between photographs of a person and drawings/paintings of a person.

Two things stand out to me right away. I can still remember how beautiful Cindy Crawford appeared in Skrebneski’s photographs. Obviously lots of photographers have photographed her, but to my eyes Skrebneski captured something unique, something almost magic, in his images. So I believe photography as a medium can capture amazing portraits. And I still remember how excited I was when I learned somebody had discovered and published a photograph of Victorine Meurent, Manet’s famous model. In that case, I don’t think the photograph captured anything special, anything unique, anything almost magic comparable to Manet’s images.

But it occurred to me a couple of days ago that although I have loved the Helga images for decades, I have never felt any imperative at all to ever see a photograph of Helga Testorf, the Helga model.

Once I thought that, of course, I made myself look around the internet. I checked out a couple of photographs of Helga Testorf. And I only shrugged. In photographs I just see an anonymous woman, nothing of the almost magic Wyeth captured in his drawings and paintings.

This is very interesting to me.

Many “drawn” images these days—illustrations and comics and graphics novels—are blunt copies of photographs. Many are, in fact, tracings of photographs, or hand-corrected (or “corrected”) digital variations of photographs that a software algorithm has rendered “in the style of a drawing.”

This is very interesting to me, and I can’t really even say why. Maybe it’s because it seems possible for some images to capture something like a spark of life to them, something almost like real life magic.

Photographs can do it, but almost never actually accomplish it. Drawings and paintings can do it, but almost always nowadays essentially force themselves to forsake the quality and, rather, to embrace the trivial superficiality found in most photographs.

The net result, of course, is that contemporary culture is to a large extent completely missing out on an essential content-component of what for centuries and centuries has been called, “art.”

(And I think about one other thing too, but I’m going to mention this quickly and parenthetically: In a very tangential way, a very internet sort of way, I once crossed paths with a young woman who very much wants to be a celebrity. In many ways she is succeeding. But I am always struck when once or twice a year I look in at her Tumblr. She seems to be always putting up photographs of herself. They seem to be always modern, extreme close-ups of herself. But there is no “almost magic” in these images at all. They are images that present the appearance of what simply might be just another, say, Kim Kardashian wannabe. So I think to myself: Why would a woman do that to herself? Is it because in our modern culture that essential content-component of art—the “almost magic” element that an artist, exceptional photographer or competent painter, can somehow sometimes capture—has become completely lost, and it never even occurs to current generations to look for it? I don’t know. It’s disconcerting and depressing and discouraging and, probably, other “d” words that I don’t want to think about.)

So that’s today’s post. Just an old fashioned kind of blog post—me rambling on about stuff I’ve been thinking about lately.

Looking for refuge
I think I’m lucky I’m not
in an asylum.

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

Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

All The Issues Of Perspective

Anna Kournikova’s Face

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Real Lesson Of The Gargoyle Arrow

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

I stopped to look in at my cactus plants
and outside my window saw a gargoyle.

I took some photos through the window glass
rather than make noise and scare the gargoyle
by trying to slide open the window.

When I was drawing the gargoyle arrow
in Microsoft Paint I had time to think
and I realized I should have opened
the window regardless of any noise.

If the window noise had scared the gargoyle
then possibly it was just a young squirrel
sitting in the corner of the gutter.

But if the noise didn’t scare the creature
then I’d know it might be a real gargoyle.

Now I’ll never know. I have the pictures.

The arrow points at the creature I saw.

The real lesson of the gargoyle arrow
for me is next time I see a gargoyle
I’ll try to scare it then take a picture
to make sure I’m not photographing squirrels.

I’m not exactly sure what to expect
if I scare a real gargoyle. Squirrels just run.

I’m thinking real gargoyles just sit and stare.

Life is adventure. Maybe I’ll find out.

I’ll get photos. If I don’t get eaten.

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

A Squirrel And A Donut For Ever And Ever

Exerting Agency, Liminal Entities And Scripts

It’s A Photograph And This

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Are Free

Pumpkin are free. But this is the time of year
when I’m bound, when I’m shackled by fantasy,
enslaved by dreams of going back to school, too,
with the kids, but as some kind of professor,
teaching something like Poetry 101,
where I’d use “The Bonfire” by Frost as a text,
with a different student reading it aloud
every day, letting all the students hear it
every day, letting all the students learn how
every day, a careful poem is always new.

Pumpkin are free. But this time of year scares me,
frightens me, this scary pumpkin time of year,
although even as I type that I’m thinking
it must not be this time of year that scares me
even if all the colors now are like fire—
wood gathered, set ablaze, bright signs through cold air—
but rather I must scare myself, as if school
even existed anymore, as if books
even existed anymore, as if poems
even existed anymore, old or new.

I couldn’t eat anything made with pumpkin,
certainly not donuts that terrify me,
lost and bound in donut-dreams I’ve created
and set ablaze that scare me. Pumpkin are free.

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

“Oh, Let’s Go Up The Hill And Scare Ourselves...”

Let’s Go To The Library And Scare Ourselves

This Scary, Pumpkin Time Of Year

This Scary, Pumpkin Time Of Year, Part Two

The Fons Et Origo Of Mad Laughter

Merica Uns On Unkin


I took that photo early Sunday evening
and I wrote the words late Sunday night.
I haven’t completely finished with
that Louisiana sinkhole business
but I had a strange weekend
and I wanted to start the week
with this.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Puddle Monsters: Terror In The Distance

“It’s like a puddle,” she said, “this sinkhole.
A giant puddle so deep you’d be afraid
as an adult to play the way kids played
and for fun pretend at the tempter role

and dare a friend to jump it, either whole
or a narrow spot where the strange shape made
a ledge here and one there, a place to trade
a play leap for a play glimpse of your soul.”

They looked in. Some places reflected sky.
Some places were deep, changing, endless black.
Four friends moved closer, all of them seeing

that distance. Sky and depth seemed to defy
them, lure them, pull and press them, make them crack.
They helped each other turn away. Fleeing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Sinkhole, The Supervillain, And The Plan

Louisiana officials are investigating whether an underground salt cavern may be responsible for a large sinkhole that has swallowed 100-foot-tall cypress trees and prompted evacuations in a southern Louisiana bayou.

The state's Department of Natural Resources ordered Texas Brine Company, which mines the cavern, to drill a well into the cavern to see whether it caused the dark gray slurry-filled hole nearby.

Measurements taken Monday showed the sinkhole measures 324 feet in diameter and is 50 feet deep, but in one corner it goes down 422 feet, said John Boudreaux, director of the Office of Homeland Security in Assumption Parish, about 30 miles south of Baton Rouge.

It has been reported to parish officials that there was a slough-in at the sinkhole site early this morning. Approximately 25’ of embankment on the east side (closer to Texas Brine’s office building) fell into the sinkhole. Several trees were lost during this slough-in.

Rootless cosmopolitan (Russian language: безродный космополит, "bezrodniy kosmopolit") was a Soviet euphemism widely used during Joseph Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign of 1948–1953, which culminated in the "exposure" of the alleged Doctors' plot. The term "rootless cosmopolitan" referred mostly (but not explicitly) to Jewish intellectuals, as an accusation in their lack of patriotism, i.e., lack of full allegiance to the Soviet Union. The expression was first coined by Russian literary critic Vissarion Belinsky to describe writers who lacked (Russian) national character.

The trees lost in the Louisiana sinkhole
were hard-working Louisiana bayou trees,
deeply-rooted Louisiana bayou trees,
and not shifty rootless cosmopolitan trees
jetting off to Shanghai or London or New York
agitating for trees-of-the-world to unite
in a transcendental one world union of trees.

But industrial corporations still dug down
to do their business under those deeply-rooted
Louisiana bayou trees, pumping products
into and out of the geology down there,
down there in the strata of ancient salt and things
that hold up the ground itself with the bayou trees,
until the geology itself somehow quit—
maybe arches shattered or cavern walls crumbled
or pillar shapes fractured—and the geology
gave up holding up the ground and the ground fell down
into itself and the geology below.

You know one of those trees is going to survive.

Betrayed, abandoned, left for dead, its world destroyed,
that one tree will somehow drag itself to safety
and slowly regain strength, suffering every day,
becoming stronger, crafty and swearing revenge.

A supervillain tree, transmogrified by hate
and all the strange products corporations pumped down
into the failed geology it fell into.

And eventually when the government tries
to use a nuclear device to kill the tree
the supervillain tree reveals geology
has agreed to work with it, and the rocks of Earth
call down the rocks of outer space and meteors
destroy the plane carrying the nuclear bomb.

Then a General will put down binoculars
and look at a beautiful woman Scientist
and say, “That was our best hope. What can we do now?”

And the woman Scientist will look at the man
and say, “General, it’s about time you asked me.”

The General will let the woman Scientist
do what she wants to fight the supervillain tree
but he’ll wonder, “Was that sinkhole an accident?”

The woman Scientist will know he’s suspicious
but won’t care because she has a plan of her own.

Meanwhile, a Reporter is watching them both talk...


“Just stop typing,” she said, reading over my shoulder.

“No,” I said, “I’ve got this all worked out. It’s like a soap opera.”

“A supervillain tree?” she asked. “Rocks calling down meteors to destroy a plane? Just stop typing. Tomorrow’s going to be another day. Start something else. Because this is not like a soap opera. It’s like two drunk kids talking late at night at a science fiction convention.”

I looked at her. I said, “Did you notice I dropped the hint that the woman scientist might be the real supervillain?”

She said, “Yeah. I did. I noticed that. But I didn’t care. Because it’s stupid.”

I didn’t say anything.

She said, “Don’t start that frowning thing! Just stop typing. Really.”

I gestured toward the screen and started to speak, but she interrupted me.

“No, really,” she said. “Don’t talk. Just stop typing. And come away from the computer. Really. I mean it. Here. Look. I’ll get you a Redbull. Come over here.”

I looked over. She had gotten a Redbull from the refrigerator. I thought, “She has a plan.”

She did. And it worked.

        THE END

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Synthetic Arcadia And The Hole

On November 20, 1980, when the disaster took place, the Diamond Crystal Salt Company operated the Jefferson Island salt mine under the lake, while a Texaco oil rig drilled down from the surface of the lake searching for petroleum. Due to a miscalculation, the 14-inch (36 cm) drill bit entered the mine, starting a chain of events which turned what was at the time an almost 10-foot (3.0 m) deep freshwater lake into a salt water lake with a deep hole.

It is difficult to determine exactly what occurred, as all of the evidence was destroyed or washed away in the ensuing maelstrom. One explanation is that a miscalculation by Texaco regarding their location resulted in the drill puncturing the roof of the third level of the mine. This created an opening in the bottom of the lake. The lake then drained into the hole, expanding the size of that hole as the soil and salt were washed into the mine by the rushing water, filling the enormous caverns left by the removal of salt over the years. The resultant whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 65 acres (260,000 m2) of the surrounding terrain. So much water drained into those caverns that the flow of the Delcambre Canal that usually empties the lake into Vermilion Bay was reversed, making the canal a temporary inlet. This backflow created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall ever in the state of Louisiana, at 164 feet (50 m), as the lake refilled with salt water from the Delcambre Canal and Vermilion Bay. The water downflowing into the mine caverns displaced air which erupted as compressed air and then later as 400-foot (120 m) geysers up through the mineshafts.

“Lake Peigneur”
at Wikipedia

The origin of the designation Acadia is credited to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who on his 16th century map applied the ancient Greek name "Arcadia" to the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia (note the inclusion of the 'r' of the original Greek name). "Arcadia" derives from the Arcadia district in Greece which since Classical antiquity had the extended meanings of "refuge" or "idyllic place". The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says: "Arcadia, the name Verrazzano gave to Maryland or Virginia 'on account of the beauty of the trees,' made its first cartographical appearance in the 1548 Gastaldo map and is the only name on that map to survive in Canadian usage. . . . In the 17th century Champlain fixed its present orthography, with the 'r' omitted, and Ganong has shown its gradual progress northeastwards, in a succession of maps, to its resting place in the Atlantic Provinces."

at Wikipedia

Still stands the forest primeval; but
under the shade of its branches

Dwells another race, with other
customs and language.

from Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Project Gutenberg edition
of “Evangeline” is available.
The HTML version is here.

So now we know. Arcadia is not
in Arcadia. And it’s not in France.
It’s not in Nova Scotia. And it’s not
in Louisiana. And soon enough
even Louisiana might not be
in Louisiana any longer.

The forest primeval lost its bottom.

Or rather the bottom was tricked away
by technology, cut away below
the ground below the roots below the trees.

Synthetic Arcadia is the place
that hasn’t fallen into the hole yet.

Synthetic Arcadia and the hole
both are getting larger: Other places,
other customs and other languages.

If I were writing about a woman—
the name Evangeline is a nice one
but it is a name I could never use—
she would be unhappy with the music
she hears, love songs about endless kisses,
and she would go searching for other songs
about kisses that are impossible
where everyone, everything, is falling
away from Synthetic Arcadia.

So now we know. That’s better than nothing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Orchestra By Piano Light

I had planned on doing five posts this week about the strange sinkhole in Louisiana. But I had more-or-less forgotten that the Moon was new Sunday. Late this afternoon I was walking home from the grocery store and I saw the young Moon very beautiful in the sky behind thin clouds and behind the donut shop. I took a couple of pictures, one with the Moon behind the donut shop and one with the Moon behind the garden shop. I feel it has become something like a hobby, getting a photograph of the young Moon. So today I found myself writing about the donut shop and garden shop (again—I’m trying to stop for a while) and I’m going to do this post instead of a sinkhole post. Tomorrow I hope to get back to a post about the amazing sinkhole.


Bach’s omnivorous interest in different styles leads him to many other elements of variety in his keyboard writing. One gets the impression that the composer is usually thinking, at least to some extent, in terms of something other than the keyboard itself. That he usually thinks (and takes our imagination) beyond the keyboard’s real limits is one of the factors that give his keyboard music such appeal. The performer must think in the same way, rather than merely in terms of imitating the historical keyboard instruments, and use the instrument to reflect other musical media.

Sometimes what looks at first like a purely keyboard texture involves other elements. Prelude No. 3, WTC 2, is nominally in style brisé, with a pattern of arpeggiation. Note, however, the layering of the essentially five-part texture. Over a bass suggestive of resonant notes on a continuo cello, the tenor moves in eighths like a viola pulsing along within an ensemble. Above that moves a pattern of three-note chords reminiscent of orchestral string parts as they might be transcribed for the keyboard.

They turn off the lights at the garden shop
after closing time and the Sun goes down
but the Moon reflects the Sun. Other lights—
traffic lights and store signs—push back the night
and some details inside the garden shop
can be seen if somebody looks closely.

It’s not the world there, it’s not the night world,
but it’s the night pushed back, not back to day,
but to something that’s not night and not day.

Musicians can use one technology
to mimic or imitate another.

A piano played very skillfully
can mimic or imitate the texture
of an orchestra performing a score
composed, created, imagined for groups
of musicians on many instruments.

A piano isn’t an orchestra
but what are those details in the shadows,
what is illuminated? And what does
an orchestra mimic or imitate?

Both a piano and an orchestra
are silence pushed back. Both are revealing
something that is not them. But what is that?

The donut shop is not the garden shop.

The donut shop always appears brighter
even if there are no details to see.

Above the donut shop and garden shop
clouds move and below the Moon the Earth turns
and sometimes someone takes a photograph
stopping for a moment in the movement
that doesn’t stop, and the photographer
doesn’t really stop he just pushes back
the moment or the movement and it’s not
stopped, but everything becomes something else.

Pushed back, everything becomes something else.

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

I took those photos Tuesday evening.
The Moon was about 13% illuminated,
just about three days old.


When The Light Is All Reflections

The Orchestra As A Mythical Creature

Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat

“People Born Illuminated”

The Moon And Venus Beyond The Fox Point

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Louisiana The Bottom Fell Out Of A Swamp

Angel Heart is a 1987 American mystery horror film written and directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet. The film is adapted from the novel Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg, and is generally faithful to the novel with the exceptions being the introduction of a child of Epiphany Proudfoot conceived at a voodoo ceremony by "a devil", and that the novel never leaves New York City, whereas much of the action of the film occurs in New Orleans. ... Over the end credits, there is a lengthy sequence of a silhouetted Angel descending in an ancient iron Otis elevator cage, on his way to his execution and, ultimately, to Hell.

“Angel Heart” at Wikipedia

Drilling of the sonic rig that encountered gas at 90’ on Friday was stopped and plugged with cement and grout as they were unable to put in the water well due to the inability to control the gas pushing mud and water to the surface. DNR hired The Shaw Group engineers to redesign a well that can be placed for venting operations. The geo-probe rigs for observation continue to be placed at lower depths to check for the presence of gas. They’re currently working on the Dugas & LeBlanc property, north of LA-70 and two geo-probe wells have been placed on Triche property. DNR is currently looking for locations as well as willing individual property owners to place additional geo-probe observation wells.

The drilling rig is being dismantled and moved out today and will be replaced with the snubbing rig as we advised earlier this week. No road closures are anticipated; however, travelers may encur intermittent traffic congestion as equipment is being moved.

Assumption Parish Police Jury Blog
Sunday, September 16, 2012

I know a story about the Devil
and a magician who tries to cheat him.

The Devil hires a private detective
to find the man, the cheating magician.

The novel that tells the story is set
entirely in New York. But filmmakers
moved most of the events of the story
to Louisiana, voodoo country.

The Devil of course is always aware
the private detective working the job
is the magician, lost down in himself.

But the Devil desires the magician
to find himself again, to know himself.

The filmmakers felt Louisiana
was the proper backdrop for that story.

Louisiana is a southern state
with a coast on the Gulf of Mexico.

I know a story about an oil rig
that blows up in the Gulf of Mexico
but I don’t think anyone has worked out
how the oil rig explosion story ends.

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

Sinkhole emergency accelerates: drillers
hit gas, seismic activity


The Endless Death Of Maple White

Hot Red Earth, Cold Blue Jazz


Impossible Kisses
behind-the-scenes gossip:

Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard
are in pre-production on a little film
about the Louisiana sinkhole.
They haven’t started filming yet
because they’re unhappy with the script
and are putting the writer through hell.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jupiter Impact: A Postscript

I’ve got a couple of interesting things for today, but they’re just little things, mostly links to other blogs. But I wanted to post these because these are a follow-up to my post from Tuesday about the new impact on Jupiter, Astrophysics Versus Steam-Punk Musicians.

This is all very incredible to me. I mean, there was at time, not really too long ago, when people interested in news about science only got the “latest” data because travelers moving from one country to another would bring letters or pass along stories at dinner parties. Then international mail become more reliable and then international phone service became available.

Now the internet is simply something like magic.

On Monday an asteroid or comet—a meteor, most likely we know now—impacted Jupiter’s atmosphere. Today is Friday and a great deal of information is readily available on the internet about the apparent nature of the impact.

It’s amazing and wonderful and something like magic.


But first a note about something completely different.

I have not completed a new little stop-motion film I’ve been meaning to get to for two weeks now.

So I am officially a little behind.

But stop-motion was in the news yesterday and today. And, oh boy, I am not the only person a little behind but some people are even worse about budgeting their finances than I am.

Disney Loses $50M On Cancelled Stop-Motion Film

Disney announced yesterday that they were writing off $50,000,000 because they stopped production on a new Henry Selick stop-motion movie. Fifty million dollars!

As I type this, Little Plastic Doll and Rubber Lizard are on the bookcase behind me giving me the meanest looks you could imagine. Little Plastic Doll grumbles that she’s worked for me for almost three years and she’s only gotten one new dress out of the deal. And Disney invests fifty million dollars in a stop-motion film, and then stops production and just writes off the money. Fifty million dollars down the drain.

When I did my little stop-motion film The Librarian and the Painter, my stop-motion software screwed up and scrambled the final audio track. I had to go back and use a low-quality backup of the audio. I was so upset. I was freaking out. I wanted to throw my computer out the window. But I didn’t stop production! And that’s why that movie doesn’t sound very good. But I didn’t abandon production! I pushed it through to release!

Disney just writes off fifty million dollars. What a world!


Okay. Back to the impact on Jupiter.

On Monday, amateur astronomers observed a bright flash in Jupiter’s atmosphere. One amateur observed it visually and another amateur had gotten video of the event.

By the next day [!] an astronomer had put together a high-resolution image from the best of the video frames:

And also another astronomer had worked all night to estimate the size of the impact object from the brightness, concluding that probably the object was too small to have disturbed the cloud base and leave a visible “scar” for observers to catch.

This was all summarized online at a blog by Franck Marchis, Flash on Jupiter – most likely a meteor.

An amateur astronomer named Wayne Jaeschke was getting visible and infrared images that confirmed there was no immediately visible debris field or other “scar” visible:

And when a professional astronomer named Glenn Orton used a large aperture near-infrared telescope to peer into the clouds themselves, also confirming that no large impact “scar” was visible, that image also was posted to the internet at the Franck Marchis Cosmic Diary blog:

What a world we live in. A meteor impacts Jupiter’s atmosphere and within days everyone on Earth has access to the latest data and conclusions about the event.

What a world!

What a universe!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Synthetic Hyperborea, Liminal Entities And Scripts

Jupiter is up in the sky for free,
at least so long as the sky stays up there.

The real, complete title of today’s post is:

I Saw Her With A Flute But I Never Asked Her
To Play A Song Along With Me On My Guitar
And Now We’re Both Gone Now We’re Like Mythology

Clouds come down. Then they’re just puddles on the sidewalk.
Birds walk through them. Splash in them. Use them to wash off
dusty feathers, feathers that had become dusty
when the clouds were far away white shapes against blue,
so far away birds couldn’t even fly through them.

After it rains at night, the sky clears. Stars come out.
Stars are white shapes against black. They’re so far away
scientists can only study them with mirrors
and lenses and complicated electronics.
Spacecraft can’t fly to the stars. They’re too far away.

If the sky changes into something and comes down
what will wash away like dust when we splash around?

Mirrors, lenses, complicated electronics?

Science? Uncertainty? The distance between us?

Clouds come down. Then they’re just puddles on the sidewalk.
Birds walk through them. Splash in them. Use them to wash off
dusty feathers, feathers that had become dusty
when the clouds were far away white shapes against blue,
so far away birds couldn’t even fly through them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steampunk: A Postscript

I like dirigibles but not steam-punk

Okay, so yesterday I mentioned—just in passing!—that I don’t like steampunk (I prefer the spelling “steam-punk” but “steampunk” seems to be the modern, accepted fashion). I’ve heard a thing or two—all very polite and pleasant things—from people who do like steampunk. So I’m going to talk about it for one more post.

First of all, I don’t actively dislike steampunk. I just don’t actively like it.

I believe I kind of shrug off steampunk because I just don’t think of it as a literary genre at all. I think of it as a trivial visual genre, created by low-budget TV shows (like Wild, Wild West) and low-budget movies trying to create interesting and dynamic visual images by throwing together all manner of set designs and costume designs that don’t have to make any rational sense, but rather just have to look interesting. And steam creates trivial visual tension just by its nature of heat and pressure, as opposed to actual dramatic tension a real writer has to work to create.

In general steampunk is just irrelevant to me. I like the visual images as much as anybody, but I like real writing—where a writer tries to create something that is interesting and exciting by the nature of a story’s thematic elements and character interactions rather than superficial visuals.

[sighs] Anyway.


Today will be a kind of two part post.

All that stuff being said about me not liking steampunk, first today I’m going to talk about one visual example of a proto-steampunk story that I’ve always liked. (It is from 1964, which is long before the phrase was coined, but it has all the elements that came to be associated with the genre.) I’ve wanted to talk about this movie, too, because it’s another example—like “Forbidden Planet”—that I loved when I was a kid, but I have difficulty watching now.

And then I’m going to pass along two recent photos and blog links referencing steampunk. The second one, you’ll see, is really why I decided to do this post in the first place.


Look at this image:

That’s from, of course, the 1964 Ray Harryhausen film version of H. G. Wells’ novel “First Men In The Moon.”

The novel was very good, reasonably serious, but the movie is pretty much just fun. And it has almost everything I love. There’s the eccentric but brilliant scientist. There’s the handsome young man who wants to be a writer. And the movie, unlike the book, has a beautiful headstrong young woman who is the would-be writer’s girlfriend.

And just look at the visual: Picturesque wreckage of a beautiful old house. Diving suits up against the wall. Well-dressed people in the wreckage. And, off to the right there, lots of steam. It’s a very steampunk movie. There’s a spaceship in the greenhouse in the backyard. And I love the business of a couple of energetic and focused people taking a trip to the Moon without involving either governments or corporations. It’s just great stuff all the way around.

I have trouble enjoying it now simply for trivial personal reasons: When I was a kid, it was all very exciting to watch the story about a would-be writer trying to make a place for himself in the world and win the love and respect of his beautiful girlfriend. The stuff about the man being a failed writer turning to a harebrained scheme of flying to the Moon was all fun and laughs and excitement. Now, however, as the years have piled up on me, the stuff about being a failed writer desperate to win the love and respect of a beautiful woman is just, to me, well, frankly, tragic. It is, frankly again, too much like a documentary for me to be really entertained by it all. And, very probably, I’ll never get to take a trip to the Moon, so the real life business of being a failed writer is all just too weepy, sad and tragic.

So the movie isn’t as much fun to me, now, as it was when I was a kid. But I still like it. It’s very steampunk, but I like it.


Here are a couple of very cool real-life steampunk things people have clued me in on.

Look at this picture:

That’s not a prop from a Hollywood movie. That’s a part of the Curiosity rover on Mars. [!] Over at a science-type blog called “AstroEngine” the blogger describes seeing the Curiosity rover in real life and falling in love with the beautiful mechanics of it all, and the wonderful steampunk resonances.

So that’s very cool.

But it’s not as cool as this.

Look at this picture:

Over at a pretty-girls-on-bicycles-type blog called “RidingPretty” the blogger posted this image of a steampunk girl from some kind of get-together I think in New York. The post also includes a steampunk bicycle but, yeah, who cares, look at the beautiful steampunk girl! (Look at her hair, she has a rubber duck in her hair. And it didn’t occur to me until I did this post, but I guess that’s a mannequin. [?] Still beautiful, though. And an animated mannequin beautiful steampunk girl would be even more steampunk than a real woman, anyway.)


So there you go. It’s a steampunk postscript. Steampunk still isn’t any kind of favorite thing of mine, but it is kind of a happening thing and it’s been happening for a long time and a lot of the stuff is very, very cool to look at. And people who like steampunk seem to be very, very nice people.

Steampunk: Infinitely more attractive and infinitely more cool than I could ever hope to be.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Astrophysics Versus Steam-Punk Musicians

A bright flash spotted early yesterday in Jupiter's swirling atmosphere was most likely due to a hit by a comet or asteroid, astronomers say. Although the impact is the fourth one seen in just over three years, the uptick does not mean Jupiter is getting hit more often, only that more people are looking.

"Jupiter has been taking hits like this for a long time," says Franck Marchis of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. "It's just that now, amateur astronomers have the capabilities to detect them."

With the speed of digital communication, the army of enthusiasts scanning the skies can connect with professional astronomers to follow up on an observation almost instantly.

Seeing real-time impacts and studying the scars left on Jupiter will give scientists unique windows into the gas giant's atmospheric properties. The events can also tell astronomers more about the impacting objects themselves, giving a better picture of the sizes and numbers of bodies swarming through the solar system.

"This is a remarkable tool for us professional astronomers," Marchis says. "We cannot observe Jupiter continuously. But now when something like this happens, we can see it."

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?

An asteroid or comet impacted
Jupiter yesterday. The old rock group
Rush is bringing their “Clockwork Angels” tour
to the United Center Saturday.

The cheapest seats there cost fifty dollars
so I won’t be seeing Rush this weekend.

Amateur astronomers I’ve talked to
say so far nobody has photographed
any after-effects of the impact
on Jupiter, no dark scar in the clouds.

Astronomers and astrophysicists
believe we’re seeing so many impacts
at Jupiter because amateurs now
around the world have such good telescopes,
and not that more impacts are happening.

But that’s just a good, reasonable guess.

Just like it’s a good, reasonable guess
that the increase in noctilucent clouds
is caused by more water vapor and not
by more meteors impacting the Earth.

I haven’t heard anyone even guess
why tickets cost astronomically more
to watch musicians than a first-run film.

And Jupiter is in the sky for free.

I like dirigibles but not steam-punk
so I don’t mind missing this weekend’s show.

But I wonder about all the impacts
at Jupiter. And very high clouds here.

I haven’t heard anyone even guess
a good, reasonable mechanism
that might deliver more meteors here
and more asteroids and comets out there.

But it certainly isn’t unheard of
for an event worth seeing to happen
without a good, reasonable reason.

Rush is playing shows every two days now
and somebody is buying those tickets
that cost ten times more than a first-run film.

Jupiter is up in the sky for free,
at least so long as the sky stays up there.

And of course if the sky ever comes down
we’ll be able to watch that for free too,
but probably people who like steam-punk
will find a way to watch the sky come down
from box seats in a very special lounge
in some corporation’s dirigible.

That’s my guess. But I can’t tell anymore
which guesses are good, reasonable ones
and which are just nuts and which are guesses
attempting to be something like a song,
that is, something like a progressive song.

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

“Clockwork Angels” at Wikipedia

“Rush is playing shows every two days now”

Rush at the United Center 9/15
for wealthy Chicago hipsters

Steam-Punk at Wikipedia


Another Jupiter Impact!

Both Touched By Something

Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Piece Of Paper Above An Asteroid

Another way-out-there milestone occurred yesterday, [“yesterday” was Wednesday 9/5] when the Dawn spacecraft departed the giant asteroid 4 Vesta after a 13-month-long stay. Pushed along by a xenon-fueled ion thruster, Dawn has been gradually escaping from the gentle gravitational grip of Vesta since May and is now en route to its second destination, the even larger asteroid 1 Ceres, which it should reach in February 2015.

While at Vesta, the spacecraft did everything mission scientists hoped it would — and then some. The original timetable had a 40-day contingency in case the spacecraft had difficulty slipping into orbit around Vesta or while operating its suite of three instruments. But mission ops went so smoothly that, once a two-month-long stint in an especially tight orbit just 110 miles (180 km) above the surface ended, the entire 40-day pad remained unused. So the team returned Dawn to a higher-altitude mapping orbit, where it lingered long enough to record regions at Vesta's north pole that had been in shadow earlier in the mission.

Dawn Bids Vesta Adieu
at Sky and Telescope

At maximum thrust, each engine produces a total of 91 millinewtons -- about the amount of force involved in holding a single piece of notebook paper in your hand. You would not want to use ion propulsion to get on a freeway -- at maximum throttle, it would take Dawn's system four days to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour.

Chemicals changed to electricity.

If I draw for instance a woman’s face
on a piece of paper the pencil point
pressing against the paper generates
enough force if applied in outer space
to move a spacecraft from one asteroid
slowly but surely to another one.

I’ve always wondered if something gets lost
when photography replaces drawing.

It’s still not clear exactly what gets lost
but that energy that used to push down
to create a drawing of anything
must have exerted in a physics way
that is an alchemical physics way
an equal and opposite reaction
and pushed the artist up whatever up
means in an alchemical physics way.

I’ve always wondered if something gets lost
when photography replaces drawing.

A spacecraft sent to study asteroids
is doing alchemy in outer space.