Friday, November 30, 2012

New Socks In Darkness And Light

“I retain from nature a certain sequence and a certain correctness in placing the tones, I study nature so as not to do foolish things, to remain reasonable—however, I don’t mind so much whether my color corresponds exactly so long as it looks beautiful on my canvas, as beautiful as it looks in nature.”

Van Gogh
quoted in “Painting with the Impressionists”
by Jonathan Stephenson

Later, Hitchcock would make a sad boast to interviewers: an actual clause had been inserted into his Universal contract, he said, stating that he could make any film for the studio that he wanted, as long as it was budgeted under $3 million—and as long as it was't Mary Rose.

I bought socks today. Well, I ordered them
from Amazon. Twelve pairs of argyle socks.
Because I walk a lot I wear out socks
but twelve pairs should last me through the winter.

I read a book about Hitchcock today.
Hitchcock always had wanted to direct
a ghost story based on James Barrie’s play
called “Mary Rose” but the studio head
thought no audience would want to see it.
Hitchcock, so the Hollywood legend goes,
would slightly change the ending for his film
and instead of ending with the ghost’s fate
would have a narrator guide the viewer
back to the real world of mundane events.
And Hitchcock wrote the narration himself,
at least so the Hollywood legend goes,
a simple list of everyday events
contrasted against ghostly goings-on.
And the final words as Hitchcock wrote them
were the narrator’s sigh: “You understand.”

Next week when my new socks are delivered
I’m sure I’ll be writing things wearing them
and I’m hoping to do some painting, too.
I’m struck by the connection between words
and what words represent, and images
and what images represent. I think
there is something else, too, some other thing
behind whatever gets represented,
whether it’s done with words or images,
in the same way what gets represented
is behind the words and the images.

I’m sad Hitchcock never filmed “Mary Rose.”
He lived an event-filled life. I wonder
how Hitchcock’s life would have shaped a ghost film.
I don’t want to be foolish about ghosts
but I think if you are reasonable
the more closely you look at the real world
the more you see. Shifting, translucent things.
See-through things. I’m trying to understand.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The New Soap Dish Post (And TV Painting)

Okay, fair warning, today’s post is going to be something darn close to, umm, really stupid. But I’m kind of excited about it. I have just a couple of very unrelated things, but they both are related to some old posts and they both came about today sort of completely by themselves. So today is just going to be a kind of very old fashioned blog post where I simply talk for a moment about a couple of things that happened today. But the couple of things made me kind of excited.


I should say, too, that I don’t know exactly why—possibly too much sugar and caffeine, or possibly too much processed food with hidden wheat products, or possibly all those things—but I’ve been kind of under-the-weather for the last couple of weeks. I have had some feeling good days, but I also have had some days where I’ve been running a fever and some days where various muscles and joints have been hurting me and some days where my stomach has been upset and some days where I’ve had a splitting headache. I suspect it’s a combination of some kind of allergy reaction and, generally, just getting old.

I’m talking about my health because today I’ve been feeling pretty good so my getting excited over two little and completely obscure personal things may be more about my health than the actual things that have gotten me excited. I don’t know. But there you go.


Okay, first of all, I’ve talked about soap a few times here on the blog. And in real life I now and then talk about soap, too.

Forgot To Buy Soap (Distracted By Fantasy)

Leptons, Quarks, Gauge Bosons And Britney Spears

The Old Gypsy Woman Said Dirt Is Coming My Way

A couple of years ago I looked around all over trying to find one of those little plastic containers for traveling with a bar of soap. I couldn’t find one anywhere. Finally I think I found one at some dollar store and I’ve kept a bar of Coast soap in the container pretty much non-stop. I shower every day and I take long showers and I go through a lot of soap. But Coast doesn’t cost much. (FYI, Coast soap is celebrating being around for thirty-five years.)

But the little plastic container I finally found apparently was made of cheap plastic or something and it had little ridges and ribs embossed into and onto its surface and it became impossible to keep clean. That sounds kind of bizarre—it’s in the shower every morning getting wet, it has soap in it all day. But my little plastic soap container was getting rank with dirt and maybe even mold or something. No matter how carefully and how hard I tried to wash it, the little grooves in the surface created crevices that dirt and whatever could stick in. I just couldn’t clean it and it was bugging me.

But look. New soap dish:

Today I was in Walgreens and in the back they had a bin with a whole selection of soap boxes in different colors. My last soap box was yellow, so this time I went with clear.

I’m so happy. It only cost $2 and it’s almost like having a remodeled bathroom for me. A perfectly clean soap dish, and the surface is all smooth with no patterns, so I’m guessing it will be easy to clean.

This is the kind of thing that excites me.


This is another kind of thing that excites me.

Although I’m feeling okay today, I’ve had a tough couple of weeks and when I’m feeling down I usually watch a lot of old episodes of the TV show “Smallville.” I’m not exactly proud of liking the show as much as I do, but nobody’s perfect.

Anyway, my favorite seasons of Smallville are seasons three and four and I usually go through them in sequence, episode by episode, as I get free time. So I’ve seen both of those complete seasons many times. An uncountable number of times.

But today I saw something that I’ve never seen before!

Not only have I watched all those episodes many times, but I’ve specifically watched certain episodes, and I’ve even posted screen-grabs from certain specific episodes. But from one of those episodes where I’ve posted two or three screen-grabs, today I saw something that I’ve always missed even though I once specifically posted about the very subject.

Before I show another screen-grab, look back at my post Lana Lang And “The Supervillain’s Nightclub” and notice the picture of Lex Luthor in the background. That’s a scene from when Lana is supposed to be studying art in Paris. (It’s some Canadian city doubling for Paris.)

And in my post Motion Beyond The Witch Point I talked about how when Lana was in Paris she does a rubbing of a tombstone in a church. I singled out that episode because I thought it was cool that the series actually showed someone making art.

Okay, that’s background.

Today I put in the DVD with that episode on it and hit play and I went over to take a photograph of my new soap dish while the episode was playing. And from the corner of my eye I saw the camera pan away from Lana-in-Paris to show some scenery and there was a close-up—just in passing—of a woman painting a picture!

She’s doing an en plein air painting with an easel setup outside and she has a palette on her hand and everything. Look (the image is a little blurred because the camera is literally panning past the artist to follow Lana walking behind the post):

And I just stopped what I was doing and hit rewind and freeze-frame and stared and thought, “What the hell, how have I missed this?”

I mean, I did a whole post talking about moments where characters are shown doing art, and somehow I missed an actual depiction of a woman creating a painting.

I know it’s probably impossible to think of anything more pointless than a passing camera move from a TV show that has been off the air for years (except maybe a new soap dish) but I was pretty excited to notice that bit of action in the episode.

Here in real life—such as it is—I’ve never seen anyone actually doing an en plein air painting. Not anywhere in Chicago like around the Art Institute or along the beautiful lakefront or at any of the museums or other tourist attractions.

But it’s cool seeing someone pretending to do a painting. It would be more cool to me if the modern world had stuff like this happening much more often in real life. Maybe we’ll get back to it someday. I don’t know.

I’m happy enough that my fantasy life got a little richer with a pretend image of someone doing art. It’s better than nothing.

Although I wonder about that. I’ll probably come back to that thought—is good fantasy better than bad reality?—and talk about it again.


So, that’s what I have for today!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lights Above The Garden Shop

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.

Before closing time at the garden shop
there are bright lights above all the buildings.

The two lights at the top of this photo
are really at the top of this photo.

They are really above the garden shop.

That’s the Moon with Jupiter above it.

My camera had some difficulty
with this wide range of luminosity.

Street lights just a few feet away from me.

The garden shop a hundred yards away.

Two hundred and fifty two thousand miles
to the Moon. And the planet Jupiter
three hundred and seventy million miles.

The snapshot captures a lot of distance.

The planet Jupiter is the largest
planet in the solar system but here
it’s smaller than the Moon and it’s smaller
than the lights surrounding the garden shop.

Images are always in perspective.

The snapshot captures a lot of distance.

A plant growing inside the garden shop
that is trying to understand science
a flower doing astronomy work
without eyes might know about Jupiter
because Jupiter is active across
the whole electromagnetic spectrum
and shines in more than just visible light.

Images are always in perspective.

The snapshot captures a lot of distance.

I wonder what that scientist flower
with no eyes and no sense of perspective
thinks about the distance to Jupiter?

I wonder if that scientist flower
can reach out and gently push a petal
through the ochre clouds around Jupiter
and make a little vortex or a swirl
and enjoy the feel of Jupiter’s clouds
something like viscous against its petal?

I wonder what that scientist flower
thinks about the distance to Jupiter?

Something makes the clouds around Jupiter
swirl and flow into wild and random shapes.

I wonder if plants in the garden shop
think about distance the same way we do?

Something makes the clouds around Jupiter
swirl and flow into wild and random shapes.

Are we in perspective? Can we get out?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Pigeons Inside My Head (Return To)

Getting technology to work doesn’t scare me.
I’m not scared by theory, or practicing technique.

For me that stuff is like throwing bread to the birds.

People scare me. And I wish I could fly away
the way pigeons fly away when people scare them.

That’s what it’s like inside my head.

Usually when I get out in public in the real world I have this kind of general uneasiness, a kind of vague—and I know irrational—sort of suspicion that, so to speak, everyone else has read the script and everyone else has been through rehearsals but I’m just waking up in the middle of the scene with only the foggiest notion of what’s going on.

I'm usually like one of those pigeons you see with its pigeon head nervously bobbing around, nervously looking around and constantly taking off flying at any little sound or movement.


But every now and then something wildly unexpected happens to me and then I get almost the exactly opposite sensation.

Today I have two almost completely unrelated little stories that are only related because they are examples of those rare moments when I don’t feel ludicrously out-of-place. One story is older, and one just happened. The second story, too, is a kind of loose end or a conclusion to a blog post from last year and I had no idea the post was unfinished!


This first story happened about a year ago, I think. I can’t believe I haven’t told this, but according to the Blogger search function, I don’t think I have told this story yet.

I was standing around in a grocery store. A middle-aged woman was standing near me by her very filled-up shopping cart and she was studying a handful of coupons. Very carefully she was leafing through coupon after coupon. Two young children, a boy and a girl, both about ten or twelve years old, were waiting impatiently behind the woman and making exasperated faces at each other.

I thought to myself, “My Mom used to stand around reading coupons, too. It was so annoying.” And then I thought, with mental italics, “I hate coupons.”

As I thought that, the woman put her coupons in her purse and pushed her shopping cart past me. The two kids made relieved faces at each other and didn’t exactly hurry to keep up.

As the woman passed me, a coupon fell out of the top of her cart onto the floor next to me.

I looked down, and I thought, “No. I hate coupons. I’m not going to pick that up and give it to her.”

As I was thinking that, the two kids started walking to catch up to the woman. The young boy bent down and picked up the coupon the woman dropped. He said to the young girl, “Look. Your Mom dropped a coupon.”

The young girl made another face and said, “Here. Give it to me.” She took the coupon from the boy, crumpled the coupon up and threw it behind some products on a shelf. Still making a face, she turned back to the boy and said, “I hate coupons.”

And she said it with italics! She said the words with exactly the tone of voice that I had thought the words!

I thought, “Wow! I’m not the only person in the world who hates coupons! And this kid hates coupons in exactly the same way I do! Cool!”

I don’t often feel that kind of connection to the world around me. I didn’t even mind the thought that my reaction was somehow similar to a ten or twelve year old child. It was an okay moment.

It was sort of like a Charles Schluz “Peanuts” strip came to life around me and I was Linus instead of Charlie Brown.

That’s what it’s like inside my head.


This second story is a sequel to my post I’m An Idiot—Episode 748 and I didn’t even have to try to write it!

Just a couple of days ago I was walking past a convenience store and I looked in and saw that they still had a couple of containers of Hostess cupcakes on display.

I was still feeling a little sick and sugar isn’t good for me when I’m sick, but Hostess cupcakes are no more so I didn’t want to pass up a chance to have two final farewell cupcakes.

So I went inside and picked up one of the containers of cupcakes—there are two cupcakes per package—and got in line.

And I immediately began grumbling to myself because there were like three or four people in line in front of me and the line was moving slowly.

And I remembered that it was the same convenience store a year ago where the line had stopped moving because a young woman was looking through her purse for a dollar and I gave her a dollar and, after she’d left, the clerk had told me she was only looking for a dollar because she hadn’t wanted to break a fifty dollar bill she’d had.

So I was standing there in line grumbling to myself that I was waiting in a slow line just to buy some cupcakes.

And as my eyes wandered aimlessly around the store, right there on the floor in front of the check-out counter where someone was paying their bill, I saw a $5 bill.

It wasn’t even crumpled up or anything. It was a $5 bill just lying there on the floor and a whole line of people were standing around somehow not seeing it.

I wondered if the person paying had dropped it. I didn’t say anything, but I waited for the person at the counter to pay their bill and leave, just in case they were going to look down and see the five dollar bill and pick it up.

But they didn’t. They paid and left.

Nobody else in line had noticed the money on the floor right there next to them!

So I just walked forward, bent down and picked up the five dollar bill and returned to my place in line.

And I thought to myself, first, “Holy cow! It’s like the universe is going to buy these cupcakes for me!”

And then I remembered, again, that this was the store where I had given a young woman a dollar bill. And I thought, “Holy cow! It’s like the universe is giving me back my dollar, plus interest!”

When I got home boy did those cupcakes taste good!

That’s what it’s like inside my head.


That’s all I have for today, but this all reminds me, too, of:

Landscape With Tiny Dirigibles. Or Not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Five Parking Lots And I Wonder

She gasped, very loudly, and said, “You can’t use that picture!”

I laughed and asked, “Why not?”

She said, “It’s from ‘Prometheus’ and you said that film is stupid.”

I said, “It is a stupid film. But it’s still a science fiction film. It’s still about people trying to work out what the hell is going on. To me even bad science fiction is better than just about anything else.”

She said, “Then why don’t you buy it?”

I said, “Well, it’s still stupid, too. So I just rent it now and then. Philosophy is good but saving money is like religion.”

In this photograph, there are five parking lots visible:

At the very bottom, in the very foreground, the first parking lot is that of a medical building. Then just across the shrubbery is the donut shop. Across the street is a restaurant. Next to that the brown brick building is another medical building. In the background between that blue trash bin and the cream building beyond the brown brick building is the parking lot of an auto repair shop.

This is a satellite picture from Google Maps. A bird flying over the five parking lots and looking down at the landscape below would see them like this. I’ve added red guidelines to what the bird would see:

The very top of this view is the background of the ground-level picture. The top parking lot is the auto repair shop. Coming down in this photo is like coming forward in the ground-level scene. Second from the top is the brown brick medical center. Then the restaurant. Then the donut shop. Finally, at the bottom of this picture, is the medical center parking lot that is in the very foreground of the ground-level photogaph.

Five parking lots.

I saw a possum running from the parking lot by the brown brick medical building to behind that blue trash bin and then into the parking lot behind the auto repair shop. From there the possum disappeared behind the residential buildings north of these parking lots.

Although the residential buildings have parking lots, too, so possibly the possum was experimenting to see how far he or she could explore without ever leaving a parking lot.

Of course the possum might not understand anything about cars at all, so the parking lots might simply be landscape to the possum. Real wilderness, to the possum’s way of looking at things.

I don’t know.


Five parking lots. Or are they something else?

They’re something else to a bird or possum.

Why shouldn’t they be something else to us?

I can walk through all five or drive through them
or look down at them from a satellite
and when I do those things they’re parking lots.

But is anything we ever look at
simply the thing in front of us we see?

A TV set isn’t a plastic box,
it’s a receiver for radiation
carefully encoded with sights and sounds.

A car we see is a decorative shell
on an internal combustion engine
converting chemicals into movement.

When we see a person, they’re not the skin
and hair and clothing and things they carry,
the person is the thoughts and emotions
somewhere inside or somewhere connected
somehow to the bits and pieces we see.

When is anything we ever look at
simply the thing in front of us we see?

Why is it tempting to think parking lots
are parking lots because that’s what we see?

When is anything we ever look at
simply the thing in front of us we see?

A bird or a possum sees wilderness.

We see parking lots and think “parking lots”
even though we understand what we see
is almost never what we’re looking at.

Five parking lots. Or are they something else?

I’m guessing they have to be something else,
after all we see them as parking lots
and we never see what we’re looking at.

Five parking lots. I wonder: What are they?

And if anybody knows what they are,
what science did they use to work it out?

From a satellite orbiting the Earth
sending what it sees to my computer,
it all looks so simple: Five parking lots.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Somewhere Between Chicago And Paris

“All that we see dissipates, moves on. Nature is always the same, but nothing of her remains, nothing of what appears before us. Our art must provide some fleeting sense of her permanence, with the essence, the appearance of her changeability. It must give us an awareness of her eternal qualities. What lies below her? Nothing, perhaps. Perhaps everything. Everything, do you see? And so I join her roaming hands.”

Paul Cézanne
quoted in Painting with the Impressionists
by Jonathan Stephenson

Somewhere between Chicago and Paris
not as the crow flies I mean looking up
and seeing hearing a dirigible
somewhere between Chicago and Paris
as the dirigible flies through the space
between here and there humming like music
or musique concrète between here and there
there must be a song and a special sound
a special sound made up just for the song
somewhere between Chicago and Paris
not the ones where no dirigibles fly
I mean the ones where painters stand looking
and asking “If parallel lines are not
aligned parallel to the picture plane
if they angle away from here to there
can I still paint them as parallel lines?”

and answering themselves by painting them
somewhere between Chicago and Paris
I mean the ones where dirigibles fly
above painters painting like scientists
where industry hums like musique concrète
a man is sitting in bed writing verse
and the sound of his pen against paper
recorded digitized and synthesized
and then played but synced to another time
sounds like it’s a song from another time
a dirigible from another time
hums musique concrète from another time
somewhere between Chicago and Paris
now and then like parallel lines crossing
now and then this time and another time.

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

Saturday Morning Note:

I don’t like to change a post after I post it
but this morning—even
before anyone
emailed me, I swear!—I realized that last night I
used the word “perpendicular” in a way
that didn’t make sense with what I was saying.
So I changed that line about the painters wondering
how to handle perspective to mean what I meant
and I added a line. I need to shake up
my editorial staff!


Somewhere Between Atlantis And Los Angeles

Trivial Things As Doubleplusungood

Industrial Landscape, Industrial Decay, Jazz

“When All My Words About Britney Disappear”

The North Pole Or Someone’s Garden

This Airship, This Woman, This Dream

Digging Britney Redux

Los Angeles, Nonetheless, Is

A Piece Of Paper Above An Asteroid

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Professional Folk Singer As A Phobia

Loudon Wainwright’s sporadic acting career, which includes parts in the films Big Fish, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up (for which he wrote music with Joe Henry), and the TV shows Undeclared and Parks and Recreation, began in 1974–75 when he appeared three times in the television series M*A*S*H as Capt. Calvin Spalding, the singing surgeon. In addition to acting, his job was to write songs. When asked if writing on commission is different from writing from personal inspiration, he replied, “Once you get down to it, it isn’t. I bring my toolbox, as they horribly say. With M*A*S*H, they literally put me in a room with a yellow legal pad and some pencils and said, 'We need a song about Douglas MacArthur in two hours.' I’d said I could do it, so I had to do it. It’s like, 'Of course I can ride a horse!' They gave me material to read, and told me to use words like 'Incheon.' I wasn’t even old enough to know what that was. But I found out I could do that kind of writing.”

Loudon Wainwright III
Acoustic Guitar Interview
November 2012

I have almost nothing for today, but I have one very little loose end to tie-up that has been bugging me for a while now.

One of my all-time favorite musicians is a folk singer named Loudon Wainwright III.

I’ve mentioned him a few times here, and even played one of his songs.

Quasi Una Red Guitar Fantasia

Unrequited As A Cosmology

And he was married for a while to Kate McGarrigle and I mentioned the McGarrigle sisters once here.

Something Heroic And Remote

Well, in the November issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine (which was at newstands last month) they had an interview with Loudon Wainwright III and I never posted any quotes from the interview or even mentioned it here at the blog.

I felt like I should have talked about the interview because I’ve done posts about him. But the thing is, for the last few years I haven’t been paying much attention to him or the songs he’s written lately.

Early on in his career I thought his songs were full of life and humor and very individual and almost always worth listening to. He was exactly what I thought a musician should be.

But then, little by little, I started to get the impression he was sort of just going through the motions. All of his songs started to sound very generic to me, hardly worth listening to. It was almost as if he started to parody himself.

And that’s kind of what I thought about the interview.

It all read very mundane to me. Maybe even sad. Or sad-making. He talks about writing genre songs and about being self-obsessed and how he can write songs almost to-order, such as when the producers of the TV show “MASH” would just give him a list of words to include in a song and he would go off and write a song that included those words.

The interview to me sounded like Loudon Wainwright III narrating how the whole business of being a “folk musician” just became his job.

I know professional musicians have to earn a living so they have to crank out product, like an assembly line. Very often age or exhaustion seem to get the best of such people and that is my impression of what happened to my favorite folk singer, Loudon Wainwright III.

His early albums are still great, still amazing. Certainly the first three, maybe the first four or five.

But after that something seems to have happened. It scares the hell out of me because I wonder if it happens to everybody—I wonder will it happen or has it happened to me?—and it just seems awful that people can then spend decades just coasting through life, or even struggling through life, but not really adding anything to the Big Context around us.

(Someday I’ll return to this same issue about filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock—when he was making films and indulging his own weirdness, possibly his own inner demons even, his films were remarkable. Most of those films are still remarkable today. But for some reason—possibly after the incredible Marnie”, for various reasons—Hitchcock stopped indulging himself. Or he was prevented by studio executives from indulging himself. And all his subsequent films were hardly worth watching. No more magic at all. Or something even less than magic because he often seemed to parody himself.)

Anyway, so this has been on my mind a lot and since I don’t have anything special for today I thought I’d use this post to catch up on Loudon Wainwright III and put up a quote and the link to his most recent interview. I guess it’s kind of interesting. And he sounds honest and open. But that, too, is kind of a nightmare thought—what an awful awareness it must be, if a person can be self-aware of such things—that you are honest and open and skillful but there’s nothing left inside of you of any real worth that your skill can make use of to share.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Name, A Face, An Interesting Construction

The Red Jacket
Mlle Isabelle Lambert
| 1885

The picture shows a young girl - Isabelle Lambert - who posed for Morisot several times. Morisot was apparently interested in capturing the world of the young girl combined with or given depth by the new potential for expressing sensuality that lay in the Impressionistic approach to painting.

She also often used her daughter Julie as a model and as in this picture united a penetrating experience of the model with a sense-stimulating rendering of the close surroundings. Like most of the Impressionists, who were inspired by their close environment, Morisot found a challenge in painting among other things the immediately accessible places in her own house and in the garden in Paris.

Today I learned a name that I’ve searched for,
the name of Berthe Morisot’s model
in almost all of Morisot’s paintings
where a woman’s face can be recognized.

“Isabelle Lambert” was the model’s name.

All I know about her beyond her face
is that an art historian describes
her dying tragically and very young.

She may have been Berthe Morisot’s maid.

She may have been Julie Manet’s nanny.

She may be the girl at the garden’s edge.

Isn’t that an interesting construction,
the ‘may have been’, ‘may have been’ and ‘may be’?

All that Isabelle Lambert may have been
and what she still may be in the paintings
and in our minds when we see the paintings,
see Morisot’s depiction of her face,
from microsecond to microsecond
as alive in our thoughts as anyone.

I’m glad I learned her name, although I know
nothing changes—What was and what may be.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Somewhere Between Atlantis And Los Angeles

A few months ago I mentioned that Cynthia Rothrock was designing clothing with Don Wilson. That stuff has come to market, and can be purchased at Traditionz.

Just to wrap this up as a topic, and very briefly start on another, I’ve mentioned Cynthia Rothrock in three posts:

The Way Of The Intercepting Fist

Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ Ends In Disaster

Celebrity-Talk, And The Epistemology Of Hippie

And since I don’t think I’m ever going to mention Cynthia Rothrock again after today, I’m going to take this opportunity to use Cynthia Rothrock so I can write this:

Here, that is, wherever we’re at right now,
somewhere between Atlantis from the past
and the Los Angeles of the future,
I’ve probably incurred a karmic debt
just because I’ve typed the name ‘Taylor Swift’
more times than I’ve typed ‘Cynthia Rothrock.’

I have no desire to meet Taylor Swift
because I’m afraid she’d just stare at me.

That’s happened enough to me in my life.

I don’t want to meet Cynthia Rothrock
because I’m afraid at some point she’d say
she secretly likes Taylor Swift’s music.

That’s happened more than enough to me, too.

But if I had to meet one of the two
I’d much rather meet Cynthia Rothrock
because I’d like to get her opinion
of the different ways Asians interpret
‘hard’ versus ‘soft’ both as philosophies
and as practical techniques for striking
compared to Western interpretations.

But I would approach our conversation
like a street fight and control my center
and watch our distance and watch her timing
and if the topic of music came up
I’d deliver a feint, break off, and run.

I’ve looked around and I’d rather try work
than have Taylor Swift stuff happen to me.

JILL ROBERTS: “I mean, what am I supposed to do? Go to college? Grad school? Work? Look around. We all live in public now. We’re all on the Internet. How do you think people become famous anymore? You don’t have to achieve anything. You just got to have fucked-up shit happen to you.”

Monday, November 19, 2012

Trivial Things As Doubleplusungood

Alfred Sisley (30 October 1839 – 29 January 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life in France, but retained British citizenship. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors). He never deviated into figure painting and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, never found that Impressionism did not fulfill his artistic needs.

Alfred Sisley
at Wikipedia

Perceptual analysis in the 20th century has shown that at any given moment we see only a small amount. The movement of the eye gives us a bigger picture, which we assemble with memory in our heads. We see with memory. Is there not now a big contradiction between our millions of images and the way we actually see the world? Knowledge of visual perception made in the 20th century is surely having an effect. I began to be bored with the image on TV a long time ago. It was an instinct that realized this was nobody’s view of the world, an unhuman view of it. I remember seeing a Disney cartoon of the 40s about elephants in Africa. It was a drawn film about their lives, not humorous like Dumbo, but a beautifully observed picture of them moving—slowly because of their weight. I said to a friend who was watching it with me that it was far more interesting to look at than photographs of elephants, even moving photographs. Why? Because the drawn one was an account of seeing by a human being. Is this not really all that is possible for humans?

David Hockney
writing in “Secret Knowledge”

This is a painting of a train station
painted by one of the original
loose group of friends called the Impressionists:

On one hand it seems like a normal view
because we see things like this all the time—
A building at the top of a small hill,
simple perspective causing the roof lines
to angle down toward the horizon line.

On the other hand the Impressionists
almost always minimized perspective
or eliminated it completely
by reducing a view to frontal planes
stacked one on top of another for depth.

So depending on how you look at this,
this image is either normal or strange.

I can’t stop thinking about it because
it wasn’t until I saw this image
that I realized how consistently
Impressionist works flattened perspective.

It seems such a trivial thing to do—
Just moving a bit to the left or right,
or drawing a line straight that you see tipped.

It seems such a trivial thing to do
but the Impressionists almost always
moved a bit or evened things out a bit
and their paintings, for a while, changed the world.

Then still cameras changed everything back.

And movie cameras nailed it in place.

Tipped lines stay tipped now. Station points don’t move.

It seems such a trivial thing to do—
Just moving a bit to the left or right,
or drawing a line straight that you see tipped.

I wonder why technology got mad?

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

That painting is
Train Station at Sevres
by Alfred Sisley. I wonder
if Sisley was more inclined
than other Impressionists
to include explicit perspective
in his otherwise canonical
impressionist paintings
because of the
British component
to his upbringing.

of course is Newspeak


Boys And Girls And David Hockney

“Ah, That Renaissance Sunshine”

All The Issues Of Perspective

The Best Reason To Study Astrophysics

Et In Arcadia Ego

Fons Et Origo

Cordon Sanitaire

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Thin Crescent Moon—A Postscript

On the morning of August 13, 1931, French astronomer André Danjon observed a Moon only 16h 12m before new with a 3-inch refractor. Much to his surprise, the thin crescent appeared to extend only 75° to 80° along the Moon’s limb — considerably less than the expected 180° (halfway around). When Danjon compiled many other observations of this “deficiency” effect, he came to a remarkable conclusion: Whenever the Moon is 7° or less from the Sun, there can be no visible crescent at all!

Danjon believed that mountains and other roughness along the lunar limb must be blocking some of the sunlit surface that would otherwise be seen, thereby clipping off the ends of the crescent. Bradley E. Schaefer (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge) has modeled the crescent's perceived length by including physiological factors and atmospheric extinction. In any event, Danjon’s 7° limit should actually be revised to 7.5°, according to a 1998 study by Louay J. Fatoohi and his colleagues at the University of Durham.

from “Seeking Thin Crescent Moons”
by Roger W. Sinnott
at Sky & Telescope

Yesterday’s post about the young Moon—Old Ghosts Haunting A Garden Shop Moon—reminded me that I’ve been writing about thin crescent Moons since even before I bought a digital camera. I posted this ink drawing four years ago in The Almost New Moon In Black And White. I still have that little drawing. I just took it out and looked at it. It’s tiny, just an ink sketch on an index card with no color at all, but when I look at it I remember standing in my back yard and looking at the Moon on the horizon, low, just above the houses and trees. I wish I had done some kind of watercolor wash, but I’m glad I did something.

I wanted to include that quote from the Sky & Telescope article because it contains a few really interesting (well, interesting to me) little references.

First of all, this enjoyment of early and late Moons is really a global pursuit. The quote above is about a French astronomer. The article also talks about an Iranian observer who holds the record of seeing the earliest young Moon, with optical aid, of just about twelve hours. And the earliest young Moon seen with the naked eye was an American observer who observed a young Moon just under sixteen hours old.

Secondly, it was interesting to me that it was as recently as 1931 that an astronomer made the remarkable discovery that there exists a threshold for what crescent size will be visible.

And that French astronomer was using only a three inch telescope when he made the observation that started him thinking about a threshold for the visible crescent.

Simple binoculars, or even the combination of binoculars and a modern computer-guided telescope, are all anyone needs to get serious about tracking down very thin crescents. Or even pursuing a record. The article from Sky and Telescope has a list of hints and techniques for tracking down the thinnest crescent possible. This is a great application for the kind of telescope I posted about in Limits Of A Gadget: A Love Story.

But even “plain” naked eye observing is very, very fun and rewarding.

And photography and drawing or painting adds to the fun.

And I find it really thought-provoking in many ways.

There is the straightforward beauty of the Moon against the sky. Sometimes there is Earth-shine within the crescent. And then there is the combination of the Moon set against the landscape. Since the Moon’s orbit changes the Moon’s inclination, the landscape under the Moon always will be a little different from month to month, not to mention from season to season.

And then there is the larger issue of images in general. Photographs can certainly capture something of the magic of the view of a thin crescent, and it’s fun and challenging to get a camera to record the scene. But so can even an almost trivial drawing. This is one of the most interesting topics in art to me—how a seemingly low resolution, sometimes even “clumsy” sketch, can nonetheless capture something, even a tiny bit, of an almost indescribably beautiful scene. In the context of learning to draw, British artist Quentin Blake described the same issue, and I quoted him in my post Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail.

One final note about observing the thin crescent Moon is that it can be, so to speak, character-building. You get two or three days before the new Moon to look for a thin crescent old Moon. Then you get two or three days after the new Moon to look for a thin crescent young Moon. And now and then clouds are going to get in the way. It’s not unusual, of course, for a cloudy spell to last a week or more. And it can be very frustrating to look up at the sky and know the beautiful Moon is back there, just behind the clouds, but there is absolutely nothing you can do but wait and hope the clouds clear up. It happens. All astronomers, professional and amateurs, know the feeling. You sigh. But such is life. It builds character. Or so they say.

But the rewards are extraordinary. No matter how depressed I might be, and even if I’m feeling kind of ill like I’ve been feeling this week, I find it impossible to look up at the sky and see a shining crescent Moon and not have the beauty of the scene make all earthly troubles seem totally insignificant.

The sky is larger than anything that can happen here.

And the beauty is infinite.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Old Ghosts Haunting A Garden Shop Moon

The Moon illuminates two kinds of shapes,
bent uneven edges of the garden
and straight hard edges of the garden shop.

As silhouettes the shapes merge together,
sky cut by garden, garden shop and Moon.

Under it all I’m a kind of shape, too,
or maybe a collection of shapes, too,
grabbing the moonlight with a camera,
more skillful in its mechanical way
than any watercolor painter’s brush.

Light cross-circuited into a picture.

It’s real in its technological way.

Sky cut by garden, garden shop and Moon.

Under it all I’m a kind of shape, too,
or maybe a collection of shapes, too.

Even if there had been dinosaur shapes—
collections of strange curves and sharp edges—
moving behind me trying to grab me
I still would have stopped to take this picture.

Come to think of it, when I composed this
I was concentrating on looking up.

I don’t know what was moving behind me.

Dinosaurs might have been moving back there,
like old ghosts haunting a garden shop Moon.

I got the picture. If the dinosaurs
want to get me they’ll have to try harder.

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

Last month we had cloudy skies around the nights
of the young Moon. I didn’t get a picture.
Yesterday I was off doing something, but today
I got a chance late to go outside a bit
after the Sun went down.

The Moon was already very low—with the clocks
pushed back it gets dark very early now—but I took
the chance of photographing the young Moon,
about two days old and 6.5% illuminated, with
different shapes from the garden shop, organic branches
and hard-edged support girders, silhouetted in
the foreground.

I love little images like this. I took this
with my zoom lens at maximum and the sky already
was almost colorless and dark. This was
almost completely handheld even with
the zoom out [!] but my camera has an anti-shake function
and I braced the back of my hand against
a vertical fence post.

I think I should have composed the shot with the Moon
away from the support girder, but the Moon was so low
that I was in an awkward position just trying to grab
this composition. I think it’s still a nice composition
of different shapes, and different kinds of shapes.


Orchestra By Piano Light

Animals That Can Rip Apart Eternity

Almost Like The Mast Of A Sailboat

“People Born Illuminated”

The Moon And Venus Beyond The Fox Point

Is There A Shadow On My Bedroom Wall?

The Girl Who Talks To Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Girls And The Night Behind Me

What The Dinosaurs See

When The Light Is All Reflections

Change: Sudden, Incomprehensible And Deadly

A Story About Monsters For Halloween

Business At The Garden’s Edge

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gadget Temptation

I haven’t bought one
of these gadget workstations
although I want one.

I want to visit
a hotel for the weekend,
watch a cable film

about Hitchcock’s life
made for HBO, write stuff
in a small notebook,

maybe do drawings
or watercolor sketches
in a small notebook,

and getting away
is harder if I carry
a real instrument—

guitar or keyboard—
but a gadget workstation
can make melodies

or synthesize sounds
and record everything, too,
like a small notebook.

I like small notebooks.
I like gadget cameras
and small computers.

Maybe I’m thinking
my guitar and my keyboard
are just the right size

and getting away
with a gadget workstation
is like temptation—

If I get away
from my guitar and keyboard
and from where they’re at

maybe I’m thinking:
I’ll be happy with gadgets
and I won’t come back.

I haven’t bought one
of these gadget workstations
although I want one.

I’m saving money.
Or I’m saving myself. But
this costs something, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Other Uses Of Enchantment

“You two are supposed to be my friends,” she said. “I can’t believe you ditched me.”

I said, “Well, we didn’t really ditch you. We just, umm, went somewhere else and, uh, left you where you were.”

I shook my head and silently mouthed: That’s not going to work.

And it didn’t work. She stood up and pointed at me and yelled, “What the hell’s the difference, you son of a bitch?!”

A “found” conversation

The monsters do their best
Ripping apart the world
To keep us together

I could have used a very large monster
to step on my car or rip up the street
or knock down power lines across the street
so that I couldn’t have driven past them.

Sure, at the time everyone would have thought
we were all struggling against a monster
and fighting the creature to stay alive.

But all of us would have stayed together.

And I wouldn’t have needed an excuse.

If the three of us had faced a monster
and grappled with issues of life and death
we all would have grown emotionally
and been better prepared for the next day.

A monster that had, say, stepped on my car
isn't a remote or symbolic thing—
that is, it’s not if it really happens—
and if such a thing had really happened
I’d have been spared the socially evolved—
that is, real—alternative consequence
of her picking up my Bettelheim book
and throwing it at me and hitting me
in the head when my attempted excuse
derailed like a train outside a tunnel
or crashed like a rocket falling sideways
or, I guess, returned to the terminal
like a jet that couldn’t get off the ground.

I could have used a very large monster.

She discovered a meaning and purpose
to a paperback about fairy tales.

The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales is a 1976 book by Austria-born American psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in which he analyzes fairy tales in terms of Freudian psychology.

In the book, Bettelheim discusses the emotional and symbolic importance of fairy tales for children, including traditional tales at one time considered too dark, such as those collected and published by the Brothers Grimm. Bettelheim suggested that traditional fairy tales, with the darkness of abandonment, death, witches, and injuries, allowed children to grapple with their fears in remote, symbolic terms. If they could read and interpret these fairy tales in their own way, he believed, they would get a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Bettelheim thought that by engaging with these socially evolved stories, children would go through emotional growth that would better prepare them for their own futures.

The Uses of Enchantment
by Bruno Bettelheim
at Wikipedia

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Having A Little Fever (And Stuff)

I have almost nothing for today, but I have a couple of updates about some recent posts and about things I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. And for some reason I’m not clear on I’ve been running a little fever today. I don’t feel really ill, but my sinuses do hurt a little. We’ve had some strange weather lately—very warm, then very cold—and that might have something to do with it. I don’t know, but the pharmacist at Walgreens recommended Motrin. I’ve never taken it before, but I’m going to take two tablets with dinner tonight.


First of all, this:

“Why don’t you buy this Doctor Who episode? You have the novelization. And you talked about it last year. Buy this!”

The Call Of The Goblins
Beyond the post...

Okay, so over the weekend I gave in to some nagging and I bought an old Doctor Who DVD. This one. This is one of my favorite episodes and I have mentioned it before in the post “The Whole Earth As The Village?”.

I’ve a couple of things to say very briefly about this episode.

First, it’s very British television. On American TV, heroes almost always are defined by how they save people from terrible situations. In British TV, there’s a strange kind of subgenre, or something, where the heroes just fix bad situations and don’t have to save lives much at all. On many old “Avengers” episodes everybody Steed and Emma come into contact with investigating a case sometimes die. It’s very strange. This episode of Doctor Who is like that—everybody dies except the Doctor and his companion, Leela. It’s still interesting and fun. But it is hard imagining this as an American show.

Secondly, Leela was a great companion, possibly my favorite. One time a BBC executive singled her out in an interview, saying he’s often seen children playing Doctor Who games, but Leela was the only companion he’s ever seen girls arguing about because they all wanted to play her in the games. Leela was very popular among kids. And she was very popular among some men. But the BBC got a lot of hate mail about her, too, from many adults who felt she was too violent. And, apparently, many male fans of the show—in Britain, that is, British male fans—felt Leela wasn’t sexy at all because she often “talked back” to the Doctor and insisted on handling situations her own way, typically very forcefully.

Thirdly, just to clarify the start of that last paragraph, my two favorite companions are Leela and, of course, the second Romana. I just wrote about Romana in The Prettiest Ophelia Is An Asteroid. Romana also was very popular but took some heat from British fans. Some British fans felt that while Leela was too violent and talked back to the Doctor, Romana was too smart [!] and talked back to the Doctor.

Britain is a very strange place. (And now the head of the Church of England is a former oil company executive. Britain is a very strange place. I like a lot of things British, but I’m very happy to have written my post The Monster Thought Of The Waldensians.)

Fourth—and finally—this episode is interesting because it takes place on a small island where three people are living. Then a shipwreck brings a whole cast of characters onto the island. So, obviously, a person might want to draw comparisons to “The Tempest.” I’m not going to do that for a couple of reasons. One, I still haven’t actually read “The Tempest.” I’m still saving it. Two, as I mentioned above, in this story, everybody dies. In “The Tempest” from what I’ve read, nobody dies. And that’s something I did want to mention. The famous science fiction movie “Forbidden Planet” is almost always characterized as a ‘science fiction re-telling of “The Tempest”’ but what nobody ever mentions is that in “The Tempest” the ‘magician’ is a good guy, using magic to redress wrongs done to him and to restore his daughter to her rightful place back in the world off the island. In “Forbidden Planet” the father is a bad guy—if subconsciously—who uses the advanced alien technology that is like magic to brutally murder something like a dozen people, to keep himself isolated from the outside world and to keep his daughter away from the outside world and close to him. “Forbidden Planet” in many ways is the opposite of “The Tempest.” And to whatever extent this episode of Doctor Who can be compared to “The Tempest” it has the same issue—everybody dies and the ‘magician’ figure of the Doctor stops the aliens from conquering the Earth but doesn’t save any of the actual people involved in the story. It’s very strange that a lot of people seem to be very influenced by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” but everyone seems to want to re-tell the story in a much, much more depressing fashion. I wonder why that is?


Another thing I want to mention is that last week I did a post Beyond The Horizon From Here that means a lot to me. It really did never occur to me until that day that I spend a lot of time thinking about traveling, yet my favorite artist was someone who almost never traveled at all except for a few day-trips and one or two vacations.

And in fact not long ago I did a post Pumpkin Are Free (Reprise) where I quoted science fiction author Robert Heinlein saying that cool people get out and travel around and dull people stick around one place.

And in fact the last thing I ordered from Amazon before this weekend’s Doctor Who episode (that is, right after the painting knives) was another Robert Heinlein novel called “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel.” It’s about a young man between high school and college who wins a spacesuit in a contest and, almost accidently but not accidently, gets involved in an adventure that involves him traveling to the Moon, then Pluto, then off to other star systems.


When I did that post last week it occurred to me that a great deal of the entertainment I’ve read in my life has been about the adventures of traveling, the adventures of exotic places, the thrills of GOING SOMEPLACE ELSE.

This is intriguing for a number of reasons. First of all, writers by and large are famous for not going out at all. Some writer observed that if he had gone out and had the adventures he wrote about he never would have had time to actually write the adventures. And another writer was asked if he’d had many of the adventures he wrote about and he just said something like, “Mostly I stayed home and wrote.”

So it occurs to me that I am—and everyone else is—almost endlessly subjected to something like propaganda promoting the wonders of travel. And I can’t stop wondering, now, how much of that imperative to travel is built on some real existential good that may come from travel, and how much is some kind of political or corporate pressure to 1) spend all the money traveling entails, making the corporations richer; and 2) break a person’s emotional bonds to specific places and specific communities and encourage the whole “citizen of the world” kind of mindset which so many politicians seem to promote, apparently because it creates political blocs with larger numbers of citizens in them making all the myriad and diverse pyramid-schemes of modern politics that much more lucrative.

I don’t know. But now I can’t stop thinking about it—my desire to travel and my affection for an artist who almost never traveled at all.


So that’s how this week is starting out. I’m a little sick and I’m going to take some medicine. I’ve got a Doctor Who DVD that should arrive Tuesday. And I’m still thinking about some of the things I posted about last week. (And on that topic of still thinking about things, I want to mention that I’m still thinking about stuff I talked about in my post To Make A Song To Sing About Walls. That stuff probably will come up in some way later this week although I have no idea how.)

Okay. Now I’m off to dinner and Motrin.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Business At The Garden’s Edge

Is this a junkyard church, this decay
around us, bricks, steel and broken glass?
Do rusted gears not turning say mass,
is their oxidation how they pray?

Thick clouds turn sunlight to shades of gray.
A photographer kneels in the grass,
hesitant to intrude, to trespass
the broken bricks and cut wires display.

Tiny computers, tiny motors,
focus the camera in the dim light.
The photographer just frames the shot.

Old factories. Old houses. Old stores.
Broken junk transfigures in our sight.
Tiny glories that won’t be forgot.

This is a pile of rubble
under an overcast sky
cloudy enough to turn white
but thin enough to still shine
and turn rusty metal bright.

The rubble came from wreckage
of a building coming down
where people used to feed birds
by throwing bread from their cars
despite the warning sign’s words.

People don’t feed birds here now
but hydraulic equipment
fills up dump trucks with rubble,
eating—so to speak—wreckage
like birds eat bread, no trouble.

The trucks never perch in trees
or flock on electric lines,
they drive in, load up, drive out,
and they don’t coo or sing songs—
business is all they’re about.

The overcast sky is gray
and the wreckage is dusty
but nearby trees are still green
and the orange rust seems to glow
as if the Sun could be seen

and in fact at quitting time
the Sun finds a way through clouds
and a nearby garden shop,
not wrecked but very structured,
glows orange from bottom to top.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Beyond The Horizon From Here

“These days,” I said, “you meet a lot of nuts on the road.”

She laughed, got close to me, asked, “Do you want to come with?”

I exhaled, said, “No.”

She laughed again, said, “Then shut up.”

I don’t understand distance but I know
there is here and there and I know that here
is not the answer to any question
about Atlantis. I don’t think Brazil
is the answer to those questions, either.

There is nowhere to go but
it is a magic feeling
because it is a lost world
and we can get there from here.

I love almost all Berthe Morisot paintings
and although I wouldn’t call this my “favorite”
I’ve come to suspect I think about this one most:

The composition. The colors. All the meanings.

And it never occurred to me until today
that of all the Impressionists, the rich and poor,
my favorite painter probably traveled least
although she had the means to travel anywhere.

It never occurred to me that I dream of boats
sailing around the world up and down the coastlines
and I dream of visiting Pluto by spaceship
but the artist I admire most never left home.

My two favorite images in the art world
are simply figures of women sitting on lawns.

I don't think anything can “mean” more than these mean.

If I remember correctly, even when France
went to war Berthe Morisot never left home.

Why do I dream of so many distant places—
What are the colors of the planets seen up close?—
when the only here and there that seem to matter
are simple things: What’s here? What’s on the horizon?

I don’t know. I’ve never been to Los Angeles.

It’s a place far beyond the horizon from here.

And I want to go there. Or do I? I don’t know.