Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Keyboard Notes

That’s a little phrase I made up recently. When I play it on keyboard I usually play it something like this.

Playing the melody is pretty easy, even with the sixteenth notes. And playing the chords (Em7, CM7, F#m7b5, D7) is pretty easy, too, even if you make the chord rhythm more interesting than this. But for me getting both of my hands to work together and keep time for this is, depending on my mood, either really fun or really challenging.

Right now this is my favorite kind of thing to practice with on keyboard. It’s interesting to my ears and it’s simple enough for me to get through. And it’s simple enough for me to move from key to key and practice the whole keyboard.


I like making up stuff to practice with rather than use scales or old songs. It’s so tempting (for me) to get technical or to live in the past that making up stuff is a kind of meditation drill to keep in the now and stay present (as new age types used to say).

Pete Townshend famously wrote the lyrics “I hope I die before I get old” (in “My Generation”) and for better and worse he managed to stay alive. But now he seems to completely live in the past, re-hashing his old triumphs and, too, being none-too-humble about it. I recently re-read this bit about Pete:

The song is about alienation, pollution, and a cold, heartless big brother—“only teenage wasteland.” It also features a duet between Townshend on ARP 2600 and Dave Arbus (formerly of East of Eden) on violin. Originally, Townshend had intended the song to be a twenty-piece orchestral and synthesizer work, but in the end he went with a demo track he had prerecorded in his own studio on the ARP 2600. As “blue eyes” himself puts it, “This definitive classic seventies rock song actually came from an indulgent experiment in electronic music.”

that excerpt is
Analog Days
by Trevor Pinch
and Pinch got
the Townshend quote
Behind Blue Eyes,”
by Geoffrey Giuliano
--they’re talking about

Baba O'Riley

One reason I’ve been thinking about this living in the past nonsense is because something frightening happened to me last weekend.

For reasons I don’t want to get into I watched an old video on YouTube. The video isn’t from the seventies, but rather one decade later and by people a generation or two younger than Townshend.

By some twist of fate, I actually remembered (I think) seeing the clip when it originally happened.

When I first saw it I could only think how ridiculous all the performers looked, how awful everything was—the music, the idiotic club dancing. Now, watching the clip decades down the road, the only thing I think is how sexy the two girls look, in white and red, and how sexy their dancing is.

Have a scare:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vanity Fair Magazine In A Book Store Café

Yesterday I went to a library
and then I walked through an arts and crafts store
and then I walked over to the building
where there used to be a Borders book store.

It’s empty now but it looks like someone
is remodeling the interior
to open as some new kind of business.

Looking inside where there used to be books
I didn’t miss the Borders store at all.

The only book store that I’ve ever missed
is a used book store up on the north side.

I don’t get up north much anymore so
I don’t even know if it is still there
but I used to live just a few blocks east
so I’d visit it once or twice a week.

All they sold were used books—no comic books
or movies or CDs or magazines
or any of the other worthless junk
used book stores always seem to sell these days.

Of all the book stores I’ve ever been in
that used book store from up on the north side
had the most respect for the books it sold.

Borders used to sell a lot of junk too.

Now they’re gone and they don’t sell anything.

Walking through the nearby arts and crafts store
in the paint section I met a woman
I know looking at watercolor paints.

She told me she was starting to work through
an instructional watercolor book
and the author suggested she purchase
a brown pigment but didn’t say which one.

“What do you think?” she asked me. “Raw Umber?
Burnt Umber? Sepia? Is one the best?”

I shook my head. “They’re all pretty,” I said.
I asked her, “Do you ever use Payne’s Gray?”

“I love Payne’s Gray,” she said. “And the book said
I should use Payne’s Gray to darken colors.”

I said, “Consider the Sepia then.
Sepia is a mixture like Payne’s Gray
but instead of being cool it is warm.
Payne’s Gray is blue mixed with a little black.
Sepia is brown and a little black.”

“I think Payne’s Gray is beautiful,” she said.
“I’ll give Sepia a try. I’m so glad
we bumped into each other. How do you
know these little details about the paints?”

I said, “I read all the little writing
in the tiny print on the paint labels.”

“You would!” she said. “Thank you for helping out.”

She used to go to Borders all the time
and sit in that little café they had
where you could read magazines and drink tea.

The last time that I’d met her in Borders
she’d been sitting in that little café
reading a Vanity Fair magazine.

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

Fluorescent Lights On A Book Of Shadows

Things Libraries Throw Away

Monday, February 27, 2012

Talk Outside The Donut Shop

Leaves change from green to red and then fall off.

The donut shop always keeps its color.

The trees talk about the donut shop but
the donut shop doesn’t notice the trees.

The donut shop has cars and customers
and coffee and donuts to talk about
and there’s green in the donut shop all year
because customers park cars in the lot
and go inside and money changes hands.

I saw grade school kids leave the donut shop.

They were on lunch break from a nearby school,
walking back, talking and eating donuts.

Between big bites of donut, one boy asked,
“Did you guys study puberty today
in Family Values class with Miss Stanley?”

Boys and girls, donuts in hand, all yelled, “Yeah!”

Adults drive to the donut shop. Kids walk.

The donut shop doesn’t notice the trees
but the trees talk about the donut shop.

I wonder if that one tree is asking,
“Did any of those kids with the donuts
ever fly a kite that got tangled up
in your branches? Or a model airplane?”

And are the other trees laughing, saying,
“When was the last time anybody saw
kids flying kites or flying model planes?”

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

Maggie And The Fish Head

What Is Electric Sugar?

The Book Of Love In The City Of The Dead

The Time Of The Dinosaurs

Friday, February 24, 2012

Naming Things: Hippie Girls And Monsters

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

Look— That’s my Sony Discman. It still works.

I was listening to Joni Mitchell
from a CD in my Sony Discman
while watching “It Came from Beneath the Sea”
from a DVD but the Sony thing
that plays DVDs isn’t a ‘Discman’
in fact it doesn’t have a name at all
it just says ‘Sony DVD Player.’

I wonder why Sony stopped naming things?

That’s Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” CD
in the picture with my Sony Discman.

The movie and the album both have names
and all the songs on the album have names
but the giant octopus wasn’t named
like Godzilla or Mothra or King Kong.

Seems like everything’s better with a name.

Anyway so the giant octopus
was wrecking San Francisco’s waterfront
and Joni Mitchell was singing folk songs
and I thought that made a better soundtrack
for the movie than scientists talking
to Navy tough guys about torpedoes.

Nowadays the Navy has torpedoes
that modify their boundary layer
so they can travel under the water
at many hundreds of miles per hour.

The music business doesn’t mass-market
hippie girls singing folk songs any more.

I was listening to Joni Mitchell
while watching “It Came from Beneath the Sea” —
To me that’s like a documentary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

She Asked, “Why Are You Looking...”

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

There’s an interesting thing going on in the sky lately and it’s one of those things you don’t need a telescope to observe.

If you look to the southwest right after sundown, the brightest star there, the very bright white star, isn’t a star at all, it is the planet Venus.

A few hours later, if you look to the southeast, the very bright red-orange star also isn’t a star at all, it is the planet Mars.

Venus and Mars are the two planets closest to the Earth. Venus is the next planet nearer to the Sun than the Earth, and Mars is the next planet farther from the Sun than the Earth.

The view in the sky now is one of those situations where the positions of the astronomical objects aren’t tricks of perspective or alignment but are exactly what they look like. As the Earth turns, when an observer on Earth rotates away from the Sun, they see Venus just off to the side, so to speak. Then as the Earth continues to rotate and the same observer gets a view of deep space away from the Sun, Mars becomes visible.

In the southwest after sundown, the second bright star in the sky, the bright star near Venus, isn’t a star as well, it’s the planet Jupiter. Although Jupiter to the eye appears close to Venus, that is simply a trick of alignment and perspective. Jupiter in the solar system is the next planet out from Mars, so really Jupiter is very far away from Venus.

I always ask myself: What’s the difference between knowing this stuff and not knowing it?

Does it matter in any way?

(When Paul McCartney wrote the beautiful two-part song “Venus and Mars” he didn’t know those planets were closest to the Earth. He just liked the way the words sounded together. But later when he learned the astronomy bit, he thought it made the song more interesting and made everything fit nicely.)


I need a new pair of pants and new shoes.
I have two pairs of jeans. One has a hole.
And both my pairs of walking shoes have holes.

I’ve known people who cut holes in their jeans.

I pointed and asked, “Did you cut that hole,
or was it in the pants when you bought them,
or did it happen accidentally?”

She asked, “Why are you looking at my thighs?”

I said, “You have a hole right by your crotch.”

She didn’t say anything, she just laughed.

But like science I investigated
and discovered she cut the hole herself.

I walk a lot and get holes in my clothes.
It’s wear and tear, it’s not calculation
toward a fashion statement of principle.

Venus is white and Mars is orange-red.

Science is what we do inside our head.

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


Dinosaur By Moonlight: A Puppet Show

Planetary Colors And The Grail Quest

Moon Dust In Waltz Time

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Notes From My Vampirella Expedition

I don’t often go to comic book shops
but now and then I do. I like writing
and I like drawing. Now corporations
seem to define the entire comics scene
even the so-called alternative press
but sometimes I go to comic book shops
just to see what’s new. Sometimes I look for
something old. The last time I visited
a comic book shop someone had told me
there was a Vampirella re-release
with the original Frazetta art.
I couldn’t find it. The owner helped look.
He couldn’t find it either but did find
“Crimson Chronicles—One,” the re-release
of the original Vampirella
stories that has all the inside artwork
but no covers. Not the Frazetta art.
I didn’t really want it but after
the owner was nice enough to help look
I bought it anyway to be polite.
The artwork’s still better than today’s stuff
even though it wasn’t Frazetta’s work.

At one point when I was looking around
the woman who works there was shelving books.
Walking in front of me, she dropped a book.
She kneeled down to pick it up and a space
opened up between her jeans and her back
and presented a sexy, shadowed scene
looking down at her butt and lingerie.

I wondered: Did the woman drop the book
just so she could kneel down in front of me
and show off a bit of her pretty butt?

The very next day—the very next day—
I was buying groceries and in line
I knew the woman in front of me but
she was on her phone, I couldn’t say hi.
The line wasn’t moving. She decided
to try another check-out lane. As she
stepped away, she dropped something and kneeled down
to pick up whatever it was. A space
opened up between her jeans and her back
and presented a sexy, shadowed scene
looking down at her butt and lingerie.

I wondered: What the hell is going on?
In this Jungian synchronicity?
Did she drop whatever it was she dropped
just so she could kneel down in front of me
and show off a bit of her pretty butt?

Anyway, I never got a copy
of Frazetta’s Vampirella cover.
A lot of stuff you see today isn’t
up to the standard set by Frazetta.
But you can’t stop looking around. Sometimes
you see stuff that’s better than Frazetta.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“Britney To Razor Blades”

  1. A short course in forgetting chemistry

  2. How to count in oil and stone

  3. The mouldy materia prima

  4. How do substances occupy the mind?

  5. Coagulating, cohobating, macerating, reverberating

  6. The studio as a kind of psychosis

  7. Steplessness

  8. The beautiful reddish light of the philosopher’s stone

  9. Last words

Chapter titles
from “What Painting Is”
by James Elkins

This afternoon I was waiting in line
in a store to pay for some Benadryl.

When I drink too much Red Bull the sugar
and caffeine cause my sinuses to ache.

It must be like an allergy because
Benadryl helps get me back to normal.

The pills, and staying away from Red Bull.

This afternoon I was waiting in line
in a store and the sound system clicked in
as a manager made an announcement.

“Britney to razor blades,” a voice announced.

“Britney to razor blades,” it repeated,
“there’s a customer who needs assistance.”

I looked at the other people in line
and said, “‘Britney to razor blades’—that sounds
like a song title or gossip headline.”

People smiled. A woman said, “If it was
a gossip headline I’d read the story.”

James Elkins taught at the Art Institute
of Chicago’s school when he wrote the book,
“What Painting Is.” He taught art history,
theory and criticism, and the book
is an interesting comparison
of painting to alchemy. James Elkins
is a painter, writer and alchemist.

This afternoon I was waiting in line
in a store. The wait became something else.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Don’t Know If People Dancing Care

“Mother,” the girl interrupted, “listen to me. You remember that book he sent me from Germany? You know—those German poems. What’d I do with it? I’ve been
racking my—”

“You have it.”

“Are you sure?” said the girl.

“Certainly. That is, I have it. It’s in Freddy’s room. You left it here and I didn’t have room for it in the— Why? Does he want it?”

“No. Only, he asked me about it, when we were driving down. He wanted to know if I’d read it.”

“It was in German!”

“Yes, dear. That doesn’t make any difference,” said the girl, crossing her legs. “He said that the poems happen to be written by the only great poet of the century. He said I should’ve bought a translation or something. Or learned the language, if you please.”

“Awful. Awful. It’s sad, actually, is what it is.”

from “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”
by J. D. Salinger

“Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.

Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11:7-9

In an internet sort of way over the weekend
I discussed electronica with a musician
from Finland. He spoke English, I didn’t try Finnish.

Percussion synthesizers can generate a groove
and other synthesizers in sync can add color
in the form of cool sounds or gritty sounds or wild sounds
and a musician can adjust faders and twist dials
and slide a finger along a ribbon controller
and press buttons to manipulate the groove and sounds.

People dance to this. The musician has made music
and the process didn’t use even one instrument.

It didn’t use, that is, a classical instrument
and since many synthesizers do not use samples
recorded from a classical instrument playing
but instead generate sounds directly from waveforms
people aren’t dancing to classical instruments.

The theory is buttons, faders, dials and controllers
are instruments now. The network of synthesizers
is the instrument now. Manipulating programs
is the way a musician plays an instrument now.

But are these people musicians? Or operators?

That’s the debate. I don’t know if people dancing care
if there’s a fist-fight going on in the back alley
over the labels ‘musician’ and ‘operator.’

I do know Paul Shaffer got pissed off at Britney Spears
when Britney said Paul was David Letterman’s “DJ.”

I discussed electronica with a musician
from Finland. We typed the words into our computers
and the process didn’t require us to move our lips.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Serious Thoughts With The Lights Off And On

One night under a bright full Moon people enjoying an evening out were eating dinner in a club. Three musicians were on a bandstand getting ready for their set. Suddenly the front window shattered and a werewolf leaped into the club. The werewolf snarled and howled and slashed at the air with its claws. Everyone in the club ran to the back where the owner was trying to find the key to open the alley door.

On the bandstand, the piano player said, “Don’t worry. Music has charms that sooth the savage breast. I will save us.” The piano player began playing beautiful classical music, the opening bars of the ‘Nocturne in E flat major’ by Chopin. The werewolf howled and leaped onto the bandstand. Grabbing a leg of the piano, the werewolf hurled the piano off the bandstand and the instrument crashed against the floor smashing to pieces. The piano player ran from the stage and huddled in the crowd at the back of the club.

On the bandstand, the guitar player said, “Don’t worry. I’ll play a modern piece that is loved all over the world.” The guitar player began playing the guitar intro to ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ The werewolf snarled and grabbed the neck of the guitar, wrenching the instrument away from the musician and smashing the guitar against the bandstand. The guitar player ran and huddled in the back with everyone else.

On the bandstand, the third musician, a woman with a flute, said nothing but just began playing. The werewolf snarled, howled and slashed at the air in front of him, then turned and leaped off the bandstand and ran out of the club through the shattered front window.

The club owner walked onto the bandstand. “That was amazing,” the club owner said to the woman with the flute. “That was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

The woman with the flute shrugged. “It was nothing, really,” she said. “I just started playing that Paul Desmond-Dave Brubeck thing, ‘Take Five.’ Everyone always runs away when they hear a flute playing jazz.”

“If you were going to film that
or animate that,” she asked me,
“what kind of werewolf would you use?
The classic Lon Chaney, Jr.,
kind of wolfman, or the modern
freaky animal kind of thing?”

“I would go with the classic look,
like Lon Chaney, Jr.,” I said.
“I like the human man-beast look,
where the creature still has torn bits
of clothing on him here and there.
The werewolf that scared me the most
was the Oliver Reed creature
in the film, ‘Curse of the Werewolf.’
Even though he was practically
well-dressed as a werewolf he still
seemed the most savage and vicious.
I think modern versions that use
a freaky animal werewolf
undercut the terror because
animals act like animals
so there’s nothing really shocking
about a big wolf-like creature
eating people. But a human,
that is, the classic man-beast look,
a werewolf where you’re reminded
that the creature is part human,
that is shocking, that is scary,
grabbing people and eating them.”

She said, “You’ve really thought this through.
You’ve given this serious thought.”

For a moment I said nothing.
I looked at her and then looked down.
“Maybe,” I said, “I have been forced
to think it through. Maybe the Moon—”
I lowered my voice and whispered
“—changes me. I become a beast.
Maybe this monster stuff is real.
There are things that can’t be controlled.”

I stopped talking, still looking down.
Then I looked up, quickly, growling,
and pretended to snap at her.

She screamed, all wide-eyed and shrieking
and tumbled sideways off her chair.

I caught her and, laughing, hugged her
and got her steady on her chair.

She made two fists but didn’t swing,
just sat shaking, red in the face.
She said, almost growling herself,
“I cannot believe you got me.
I’ve looked at the full Moon with you.
I know you aren’t a werewolf.
Am I a little girl, a child,
getting scared by bedtime stories?
I cannot believe you got me.”

“Bedtime stories?” I asked. “Are you
thinking it’s time to go to bed?”

“No, I’m not” she said. “In fact now
I’m thinking I want some Red Bull.”
She stood and walked to the kitchen.
“I’m taking a whole can,” she said.
“Do you want a can for yourself?”

I said, “The caffeine might change me.”

On the way back from the kitchen
she switched on all the ceiling lights.

“What’s this?” I asked. “Are you never
going to go to bed again?”

“I’m thinking about it,” she yelled.
“I’m giving it serious thought.”

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


Before And After ‘Nuts Do Hop’—A Valentine

Landscape With Tiny Dirigibles. Or Not.

Pamela At The Doorway To Atlantis

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More Night Than Just The Stars

We were both silent for a while; and as I looked towards the window I saw the first dim streak of the coming dawn. There seemed a strange stillness over everything; but as I listened I heard as if from down below in the valley the howling of many wolves. The Count’s eyes gleamed, and he said:--

“Listen to them—the children of the night. What music they make!”

from Dracula
by Bram Stoker

Music —
Is something in the music
The way music’s in the night?

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

Under the stars on a summer evening
a small telescope set up in the grass
reveals to the astronomer more night
than just the stars. Moths and flying beetles
land and rest on the smooth telescope tube.
Spiders climb up the tripod legs, and down
thin strands of silk if there are trees nearby.
Leaf hoppers, flies, mosquitoes—I’ve even
observed walking sticks and praying mantis
gathering around either the science
or body warmth of the astronomer.

The stars come out, too, on winter evenings
but there are no bugs, then, to share the night.
Bug metabolism, the chemistry,
doesn’t work as well when the weather’s cold.
But the night’s still there. The stars are still there.
And the telescope and astronomer.
Nature, so they say, abhors a vacuum.
I’ve always wondered why evolution
didn’t chance upon a mechanism
comfortable in the winter’s cold dark
as insects are on a summer’s warm night.

An eye augmented by a telescope
sees invisible things up in the sky—
Some stars are double. Some ‘stars’ are planets
circled by moons or enshrouded by clouds.
And some empty spaces between the stars
aren’t empty at all but make strange shapes
as interstellar gas glows in the void.
I’ve always wondered if a winter’s night
around an astronomer is empty.
What might the right instrument reveal? Ghosts?
Lost myths? Invisible eyes watching us?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Question For Frankenstein’s Friend

The monster continued to utter wild and incoherent self-reproaches. At length I gathered resolution to address him in a pause of the tempest of his passion: “Your repentance,” I said, “is now superfluous. If you had listened to the voice of conscience, and heeded the stings of remorse, before you had urged your diabolical vengeance to this extremity, Frankenstein would yet have lived.”

“And do you dream?” said the daemon.

from Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley

So Mary Shelley possibly with help
from her poet boyfriend wrote a novel
and at the very climax of the book
the monster describes itself as alone
more alone even than Satan himself
who has fallen angels for companions
and the monster asks its creator’s friend
by Frankenstein’s body, “And do you dream?”

Frankenstein’s friend makes an attempt to state
the context he sees around the monster
but the monster has a soliloquy
to deliver and the ability
to define and describe its own context
and the monster with its creator’s friend
is still alone and delivers its speech
and is still alone and still a monster.

What would Frankenstein’s friend if asked today
“And do you dream?” even attempt to state—
“I like when the TV flashes bright lights
and I like when the TV yells at me” ?—

to put a context around the monster
Mary Shelley never could have foreseen
even if her poet boyfriend had helped
even if the lonely monster could care?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Before And After ‘Nuts Do Hop’—A Valentine

I stopped what I was doing
and scribbled in my notebook.


She stopped what she was doing
and read what I had written.

“Shout pond?” she asked. “No push dot?”

I smiled and she made a face.

“Okay,” she said. “I give up.”

“Come on,” I said. “Try harder.”

The face she made got harder.

“Okay,” I said. “Donut shop.
They’re ‘donut shop’ anagrams.”

Her face didn’t change at all.

She looked from me to the words
then she sighed and closed her eyes
and her face became softer.

“I cannot believe,” she said,
“I’m going to say this, but—
‘Nuts do hop.’ Are you happy?”

I wrote it in my notebook.


I said, “That is very good!
See, you’re getting good at this!”

She put her fingers over
her closed eyes and shook her head.

She asked, “What have I become?”

I said, “Even more sexy.”

She made an eye-rolling face
but I tackled her before
the expression settled in.

By our rules that means I won.

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

Pamela At The Doorway To Atlantis

Landscape With Tiny Dirigibles. Or Not.

Hen Politics, And Passages Between Worlds

Monday, February 13, 2012

Vicki Over Her Shoulder: A Sketch

She said, “I don’t know that you’ve captured the real me.
Is that really how you see me? Pink and orange?”

“It’s just an acrylic sketch,” I said. “I’m playing
with shapes. Playing with brushes. And playing with you.”

“You’ve given it a name,” she said. “And you started
by doing a rough drawing on an index card.
Ten shapes? Is that all it takes to paint me? Ten shapes?”

“I was playing with shapes,” I said. “But I can see
I made one mistake that wrecks this as a likeness.”

“What’s that?” she asked. “You mean the pumpkin orange hair?”

“In this acrylic sketch,” I said, “your mouth is closed.”

“Oh shut up!” she said. She pressed her lips together
to keep from smiling, but when she saw me staring
at the shape her lips made she opened her mouth wide
and stuck her tongue out at me. Then she turned, quickly,
so that her hair bounced brightly as she walked away.

She didn’t look back at me over her shoulder
but that’s okay. In the little painting, she does.

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

I’m trying to experiment
with ways to get a handle
on doing stuff like this
that specifically avoid
anything ‘photographic.’

This is the index card version:


An Up-To-Date Vicki Inventory

Dinosaurs And Robots And Vicki’s Smile

The Best Reason To Study Astrophysics

Repurposing Vicki

This Woman From The Canals Of Mars

Jeanne Hébuterne — Art As A Grail

Friday, February 10, 2012

Orson Welles And Miley Cyrus K-i-s-s-i-n-g

“Every radio program tries
to be more dramatic than life as every play
tries to be more dramatic than life and
every movie, not less so.”

Orson Welles and Miley Cyrus
Sitting in a tree
Orson Welles and Miley Cyrus

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

I first played this melody, these arpeggios,
on guitar where grabbing the third an octave up
isn’t too hard because of the way strings are tuned.

On keyboard playing this with one hand is a stretch,
but if you pivot fast on your index finger
and reset fast for the next root it’s possible.

On keyboard you can play the root with your left hand
making it the treble note of a larger chord,
and the rest of the arpeggio is easy
for the right hand and there’s no rushing to reset.

On keyboard, too, of course, there is extra drama
in playing the root in a low chord’s treble note
and then still playing this as written right-handed
with the necessary pivoting and shifting.

When you add in Orson Welles and Miley Cyrus,
I mean when you sing along with your own playing,
this little five-bar tune becomes larger than life.

What a movie that would be—A young Orson Welles
brought back by extraordinary special effects
in a romance with Miley Cyrus as herself
and a larger-than-life jazz soundtrack about love.

What a wonderful scene that would be—Where Orson
explains to Miley that entertainment should be
more dramatic than life, not less so. She would nod,
swoon and they’d kiss. It would be a synthetic kiss
because he would be only a special effect
but with a jazz soundtrack bringing it all to life
it would be more dramatic than life, not less so.

Orson Welles and Miley Cyrus
Sitting in a tree
Orson Welles and Miley Cyrus

The thought is more dramatic than life, not less so.

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

Orson Welles at Wikipedia


Moon Dust In Waltz Time

You Damn Punk Kids

Dracula, The Wolfman And Miley Cyrus

Women From The Ancient Cities

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Kimberly When Empires Crumble

There is a big parking lot behind a restaurant
and there are decorative pebbles between the sidewalk
and the parking lot. Kimberly and I were walking
along the sidewalk. I stopped, pointed into the lot.

“Look at that pile of pebbles,” I said, “stacked up, balanced,
almost as if someone built them into a pattern.
No one did. I saw how that pile of pebbles happened.
After the last snow, a car missed the exit. One tire
drove over the pebbles and sprayed a bunch of the rocks
onto the snow. The next day the Sun melted the snow.
As the snow slowly melted the pebbles settled down
on top of each other, gently, forming the pattern.
It looks like someone arranged them but it’s just nature.
Geologists think glaciers can move boulders around
in a similar way but at a much larger scale.”

Kimberly looked down at the pebbles and up at me.

She said, “So you saw how this pile of pebbles got made?”

I nodded. I said, “Yeah, I often walk past this lot.”

Kimberly nodded, too. Then she stepped into the lot
and kicked apart the pile of pebbles, sending the stones
scattering across the asphalt. Then she looked at me.

“Now you know,” she said, “how that pile of rocks was destroyed.”

I said, “You’re still mad at me for telling you that parts
of Stonehenge were restored, like other sites, aren’t you?”

“No,” she said, still looking at me. “I wouldn’t say ‘mad.’”

I had once pointed out to her that some standing stones
in Europe had been restored by archeologists
and really had not survived intact thousands of years
the way many new age guide books sometimes present them.

Standing on the asphalt surrounded by scattered rocks,
she was looking at me. The expression on her face
was the same as just before she had kicked the pebbles.

“When your face is like that,” I said, “it kind of scares me.”

She looked at me a moment longer then walked over
and put her arm around mine. Without looking at me,
she guided us back to the sidewalk. She said, “That’s good.”

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

The Empire Of Kimberly’s Innocence

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Curious About A Curious Woman

So yesterday I did a little sketch.

I was someplace where there was a very pretty woman and I thought she looked interesting and, particularly, I thought she had an interesting expression, very curious. So I had a go at making a very fast sketch to see if I could capture something of her “curious” look.

It’s just a little sketch, and I used a cheap pencil (again!) but it was all kind of spur of the moment and unplanned. I’ve got a scan of my sketch, but first here is a photo of my notebook to give you an idea of the size of the little sketch:

The image is only about four inches by two inches. I’m so frustrated with myself. I tell myself again and again to work large and work dark, but when I actually buckle down to work I fall back into my old habits.

Anyway, I wasn’t too unhappy with the little sketch so I scanned it even though it is light and my scanner is not the best:

I thought this wasn’t too bad. It only took something like about five minutes and I was trying to be inconspicuous.

I need to throw away my cheap pencils. If I simply don’t have cheap pencils, then I won’t be tempted to use them. But I don’t know how to force myself to work larger. I keep reminding myself, but when I sit down to sketch something my first lines are always framed almost as if I were working on an index card.

But I wanted to post this image because it’s been a long time since I’ve put up a drawing. And since it really is a priority for me to get better at this I want to have examples up for myself to work against, to compare to, to improve from.


So I need to think about this, I need to come back and look at this post after a couple of days have passed.

I’ve got a couple of projects in mind where I’d like to use drawings or paintings rather than photographs. But I need to work larger and with more firmness.

I’ve got a curious expression on my own face right now because I’m wondering how well I’d do if I took more time, worked larger, and asked a woman to pose for me.

I don’t know.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Playground In Which To Grow Strong

That is one way of playing the first four bars, the first musical phrase, from Bobby Darin’s great song, “Dream Lover.”

I love little phrases like this. A lot of times I like little musical phrases more than I like the whole song that contains the phrase. In this case it’s a great song, too, but I especially like some of the little phrases like this that make up the song.

Even though this is only four bars long, there is movement and resolution and you can hear (and see, in the notation) the little interplay between eighth notes and longer notes, the way little rhythms repeat and get changed around.

There’s a word in the music world, “ostinato.” It refers to using short musical phrases repeatedly as a compositional device. Some people use it more than others. Some people enjoy it more than others.

Many people, for instance, only know Ravel from his “Bolero,” which was just a few bars long, but orchestrated beautifully. Ravel himself wrote, “Before its first performance, I issued a warning to the effect that what I had written was a piece lasting seventeen minutes and consisting wholly of ‘orchestral tissue without music’.”

I think there is a lot of music there. The music’s in the arrangement.

One of the most famous composers forever linked to ostinato as a technique is Bernard Herrmann (Pedals, Patches And A Composer).

Wikipedia has an interesting page on ostinato, and the introduction is:

In music, an ostinato (derived from Italian: "stubborn", compare English: obstinate) is a motif or phrase, which is persistently repeated in the same musical voice. An ostinato is always a succession of equal sounds, wherein each note always has the same weight or stress. The repeating idea may be a rhythmic pattern, part of a tune, or a complete melody in itself. Both "ostinatos" and "ostinati" are accepted English plural forms, the latter reflecting the word's Italian etymology. Strictly speaking, ostinati should have exact repetition, but in common usage, the term covers repetition with variation and development, such as the alteration of an ostinato line to fit changing harmonies or keys.

If the cadence may be regarded as the cradle of tonality, the ostinato patterns can be considered the playground in which it grew strong and self-confident. —Edward E. Lewinsky

I suppose a person can be derisive of “short melodies.” It’s easy, of course, to make a case that the modern world is so fragmented, so chaotic, that our very ability to recognize or conceive of extended coherent passages in entertainment or art has been eroded.

Although that’s true, I don’t believe it is really relevant to the issue of ostinato if the phrases are well-conceived and well-arranged.

For instance, a Shakespeare sonnet is shorter than a Shakespeare play, but the shorter form is not inherently less—in any way—than the longer form. The emotional and intellectual impact and enjoyment of a sonnet can be as great as a play.

And there is a danger, too, in thinking that length in and of itself creates some kind of value. Stephen King, for instance, has written some novels that are as long or almost as long as, say, “Atlas Shrugged.” Are any of those long Stephen King works comparable in any way to the long “Atlas Shrugged” in terms of content, quality and impact? An extended work—just because it is extended—is not necessarily of any value.

Of course, a short piece is not of value just because it is short. It is almost trivially easy, for instance, to count out seventeen syllables and write a haiku. But the trick of writing a haiku isn’t counting the syllables, but rather conceiving of and embodying some kind of single coherent thought that creates a unified sense of impact.

I would say that ostinato as a technique is especially valuable in times of fragmentation and chaos.

Listening to and recognizing well-conceived and well-arranged short themes and short phrases gives us a chance to exercise our esthetic resources playfully, to enjoy a process in an easy context, so that we may later feel more confident and relaxed in a more difficult context.

As a would-be musician, “simple” four bar phrases can be much more useful in a practical way than an entire song. For instance, playing scales in all keys can be very boring, and harmonizing an entire song can take a lot of time. But taking a well-conceived little musical phrase and transposing it from, say, C to F then Bb then Eb then Ab then Db then Gb, or from C to G then D then A then E then B, can be actually fun. It is making real music, thoughtfully, rather than just firing the muscles in the fingers and making sounds.

At some point in the future I’m going to write more about this business of little things versus bigger things. But it seems fitting to keep this post about short things short.

Here is one of Bernard Herrmann’s most famous pieces of music. This is the credit sequence from “The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.” It is just a couple of minutes long, and unlike “Bolero” there is almost no development in the arrangement at all. It is just one musical phrase set against a second musical phrase, and the contrast is repeated.

Some people heard this music as kids when they were too young even to consciously separate the score of a movie from the other elements. But this music is so cool that they remembered it their whole life.

And maybe when something stands alone so passionately—the way this music does—it is such a vehement unity that it is a way of actually striking back against the chaos and fragmentation of the modern world. I think it is.

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

Dream Birds Untangle Dream Knots

Dream Lover Fantasy Update

An Orchestra That Goes In And Out

Monday, February 06, 2012

An Orchestra That Goes In And Out

V-Accordions have revolutionized the music world, and Roland has dedicated itself to the ongoing development of these amazing instruments. The FR-1x series is the newest addition to the famous V-Accordion family. These compact, lightweight models offer the same flexibility and portability as their popular FR-1 predecessors, but add significant features, including USB functionality and advanced bellows-pressure circuitry for enhanced sensitivity and precision. With new-generation speakers onboard and an expanded 7-segment/3-character display, the FR-1x piano-type and FR-1xb button-type set a powerful standard for a small lightweight accordion.
  • Full range high quality speakers on board in bass reflex box: 7 W x 2
  • USB memory port for Wave/MP3 player, new-sounds upload, data loading/saving
  • Professional look with friendly user interface and 7-segment LED
  • Standard and Free Bass modes
  • 16 Accordion Sets, 16 Orchestral sounds, four Virtual Tone Wheel presets, eight User Programs
  • Available in black or red

I’ve never been tempted to play an accordion
but Roland makes a synthesizer accordion
in fact they have an entire product range of the things
and if I ever meet a woman who has been forced
to learn to play accordion by Old World parents
I would show her these squeeze boxes to wear on her chest
because these squeeze boxes can sound like an orchestra
but it would be an orchestra she wears on her chest.

An orchestra that goes in and out and in and out.

I’ve never been tempted to play an accordion
and I’ve always been attracted to women and flutes
but the thought of showing an accordion player
an arrangement of “Dream Lover” that goes in and out
makes my eyes go wide and I have to remind myself
to blink because I start seeing that squeeze box squeezing
and the music in my head is a whole orchestra
playing along with me singing for a dream lover.

An orchestra that goes in and out and in and out.

I’ve never been tempted to play an accordion
but I have been tempted to stare at a woman’s chest
I mean a woman’s chest without an accordion
strapped to it so a woman with a synthesizer
strapped to her chest is something like the best of both worlds
and I wonder: Could this woman be the next big thing
a chest to stare at that everyone politely could
while an orchestra there on her chest played “Dream Lover”?

An orchestra that goes in and out and in and out.

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

Another Look At Another Venus

Dream Birds Untangle Dream Knots

Dream Lover Fantasy Update

Friday, February 03, 2012

Flutes In Space! Or: Landscape With Giant Moth

Mothra and the Twin Fairies
by Jonathan Case

Someday I’m going to meet beautiful, tiny
Japanese women who sing songs for Mothra and
I want to be able to play and sing along.

I’ve met women who aren’t beautiful, tiny
Japanese women who sing songs for Mothra but
I’m never able to convince myself they’re real.

In a spacecraft orbiting a planet
there’s no gravity and a flute will float
until someone grabs it and starts playing.

That’s not science fiction. Flutes have floated
while in orbit and so have flute players.

I might be wrong, but I don’t imagine
Ian Anderson ever imagined
he’d play a flute duet with a woman
in a space station orbiting the Earth.

We know what we are, not what we might be.

We know today, tomorrow is a dream.

I can imagine two tiny women
from Japan singing to a giant moth.

I can imagine myself performing
along with them on guitar or keyboard.

If the real future is more fantastic
than what is in our imagination—
Ian Anderson did play a duet
with a woman playing flute in orbit—
not one second I invest practicing
scale construction and chord voicings ever
will be wasted. My imagination
starts with tiny women and giant moths.

We know what we are, not what we might be.

We know today, tomorrow is a dream.

Did a real Molly Malone ever push
her wheelbarrow through the streets of Dublin
while singing about what she was selling?

A woman astronaut did play her flute
from a space station orbiting the Earth.

Songs for giant moths. We practice today
so we can face the music tomorrow.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Landscape With Tiny Dirigibles. Or Not.

The pigeons walked around the parking lot
like tiny dirigibles hovering
just above the ground. The birds’ coo-cooing
sounded like small dirigible motors,
a low humming propelling the airships.

She read what I wrote. She asked, “Are you mad?
Pigeons? Tiny dirigibles? What kind
of simile is that? You mean the birds
are carrying passengers back and forth?
You mean the birds will drop bombs on London?”

“Maybe I should reverse the sense,” I said.

The pigeons walked around the parking lot.
The birds didn’t look anything at all
like tiny dirigibles hovering
just above an undulating landscape.

She said, “The landscape is undulating?
Is the landscape having trouble breathing
because of the feathers flying around?
Dirigibles getting their summer moult,
preening, pulling out their winter feathers?”

“How hard should I try to keep this?” I asked.

The pigeons walked around the parking lot.
He wondered why the motion of the birds
made him think of tiny dirigibles
hovering above a rolling prairie.

She made a face. “Do not try to keep this.
Pigeons are not tiny dirigibles.
The parking lot is not breathing heavy.
The simile was bad enough. Don’t try
to make a hot and bothered metaphor.”

I made a face. She made another face,
and exhaled an exhausted kind of sigh.
“Give me what’s left of your Red Bull,” I said,
“for energy. In case I keep working.”
She banged down the can, and then stomped away.

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

Pamela At The Doorway To Atlantis

“When All My Words About Britney Disappear”

This Airship, This Woman, This Dream

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Night Outside My Window

There is a strip mall west of where I live. A few months ago the business owners erected a new spotlight that shines on the facade of the buildings twenty-four hours a day. The light makes it hard for me to get a good view of the western horizon after sunset, but bright lights are almost always pretty if you look at them with the right frame of mind.

Here is one view of the night outside my window:

I don’t like to give titles to things like this, but if somebody made me give a title I guess I’d call this “An Improvisation In Green.”

There is green, but the other colors appear, too.

I love simple, almost accidental, stuff like this. I can imagine writing a story about this, or poetry, or music. And it is almost, but isn’t quite, abstract.

The improvisation part is because this is all pretty random. I just stood at my window and let my point-and-shoot camera pick its own settings. (That’s not completely true. The only input I gave was to select the streetlights on the far left for the automatic-focus control point, then I half-depressed the shutter button to activate the internal electronics before I physically moved the framing slightly right to encompass the spotlight.)

Then I opened the image in a very simple photo-manipulation program—Microsoft Office Picture Manager. But instead of adjusting the parameters to achieve something like a “real” rendering of the actual visual scene, I just had fun and pushed various levels to one extreme or another until something ‘looked pretty.’ Here is what the value settings looked like.

That’s all pretty silly, but I wanted to create a rich dark backdrop for the bright colors. I actually didn’t change the saturation controls much at all. When the value levels hit extremes like this it sort of enhances the hues just by itself.

I like images like this—the spaces, the tensions, the contrasts, the harmonies.

I’m not sure what is the psychology involved, but I wouldn’t be able to paint something like this even though I would have more control over the very dynamic elements that are so much fun. I’d guess it is something about self-confidence and experience and being relaxed. I have no self-confidence about anything, I have little real experience with anything, and I’m not relaxed at all about anything.

But I’ve played with photography for a long time, so I suppose that other than writing it is the only activity I can be almost a little relaxed about.

So this evening I played with the night a little bit.

(I once saw a video of the beautiful Nancy Wilson, from Heart, making faces while hair stylists and makeup artists and costume designers glammed her up for a photo shoot. She looked at the camera and shook her head, and said, “It’s all fake. All fake. Totally fake.” But it wasn’t really all fake. Just reality, a little glammed up.)

This is what the real night outside my window looked like before I slathered on the glamour for a fun composition: