Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Wish For You On This Snowy Day

"May the fresh sprinkle of care snow all over you" ~ Bjork

From the liner notes of her Vespertine CD

As I take the time to read more and more of Bjork's lyrics, I am often touched or tickled by her use of language. When I saw what she wrote about the "fresh sprinkle of care", I knew I wanted to use that. Today is the day, because it is snowing, and it is light, soft, the snowflakes dancing, coating everything with white loveliness. The way love and care should coat our lives.

The image comes from

Thanks to whoever created it

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Dental Minute

Yesterday the dentist shoved some stuff in my mouth and said he needed me to hold still for "just a minute." Then he corrected himself. "Well," he said, "Actually more than a minute. I mean a dental minute. " I nearly choked on my wad of cotton. Rendered mute, I could only sass back to the doctor mentally, sending surly thought waves in response. That's all you can do when you're in the dentist's chair --make your thoughts as loud as possible, even if you're the only one hearing them. Earlier, while he had been drilling, I had thought-yelled, "I'M ALRIGHT! I'M OKAY! I'M ALRIGHT! I'M OKAY! "It was strangely comforting to do that. Now I silently wailed about the length of a dental minute ---as swollen as my anesthesized lip, the seconds stretching out like the sticky caramel I was warned not to eat. Oh to have a New York minute in the dentist's chair. The prodding and poking would just be a fantastic blur. The dentist's intrusions would come and go as rapidly as stations flashing past on the subway line. But a dental minute is the antithesis of all that. And as my dentist cheerfully pointed out--much, much longer than a minute.

Steve Martin in "Little Shop of Horrors"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wake Vortex

I was poking around in some websites that provide public domain photographs, and found this beauty on the NASA Image Exchange.

This was part of a Wake Vortex Study done by NASA in 1990 at Wallops Island. (Wallops Island?). The air flow from the wing of the plane is made by a technique that uses colored smoke rising from the ground. The swirl at the wingtip traces the aircraft's wake vortex, which exerts a "powerful influence" on the flow field behind the plane. For that reason, the FAA requires aircraft to keep some distance between each other when they land.

NASA and the FAA conducted the Wake Vortex Study to find out how close planes could land together, with the aim of boosting airport capacity. That was 19 years ago. I did a little research and found that they're still trying to find ways to get more accurate data on wake vortices. They do have some sort of Lidar system that works pretty well, but is sensitive to rain and fog. A conference paper from 2008 says: "knowledge about the safety issues caused by wake vortices has to be improved."

This falls under the category of Things I'm Better Off Not Knowing About. I've grown increasingly reluctant about flying in recent years, and don't really want to imagine all the air currents that are swirling about the wing tips of my airplane. I'm an asphalt hugger of the first order. Give me an open road and a jalopy. I've realized that I'm probably never going to be a world traveler, and God forbid I should get famous and have to go on tour. (Must try to make sure that doesn't happen.) As much as I love clouds, and consider myself somewhat an ethereal being, I prefer the dear, firm earth to hurtling through the sky.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Funnies

These cartoons are brought to you by my two budding artists, whose drawing abilities keep growing by leaps and bounds.

Lilah drew the above cartoon figures from the Valentine's Day card I gave her. Annabelle's drawings are below.

Annabelle drew these Spongebob characters off the TV, by pausing the DVD she was watching. See her Krabby Patty robot below.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Clash Pastiche

So I was washing dishes last night listening to the new M.I.A. cd, Kala, that a friend loaned me. And as I was listening to "Paper planes", I realized that the keening synth wailing in the background was nothing new. I'd heard that before. It was from a Clash song, called "Straight to Hell," off their Combat Rock album. I'd owned that LP in the 80's.

I checked M.I.A.'s liner notes to see if they credited the Clash for use of their music. They did. The note said, "This song incorporates an element of "Straight to Hell", written by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones", Nicky Headon and Paul Simonon. Actually it'd be more accurate to say that the whole backbone of the song is the Clash's music. It's the Clash riff that makes the song catchy and appealing, and creates the sonic atmosphere for Maya's rapping. But it's not hers. So is this a failure of creativity, or a triumph? Is this a clever reference to a song that is like-minded, or a rip-off?

I'm trying to see this issue from all sides. Recording artists defend sampling as a sort of musical collage. My knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Would you be justified in cutting a portion of someone else's painting and pasting it in with your own artwork?" Some would argue that the pieces being sampled echo the political messages of their songs, and that by incorporating these riffs they are breathing new life into them, perhaps even driving fans to seek out the original source material. Perhaps. But do most people hearing "Paper Planes" have any idea that the hypnotic back-drop is from the Clash? Their riff is a primary element in her song, which by the way, has been used in a film preview, a TV spot, in the popular movie Slumdog Millionaire and was nominated for a record-of-the-year Grammy. So tell me again how this is not a rip-off?

Maybe it's not a rip-off if the Clash are being compensated handsomely. Joe Strummer died in 2002 of a congenital heart defect, but Mick Jones and others are still around, as far as I know. Maybe Mick Jones is pleased that his riff has found a new audience. But how refreshing it would be to hear something that is politically relevant that isn't recycling someone else's material.

Critics love the song. The Nation called it the "masterpiece" of the CD. M.I.A. uses the sound of gunshots to break through our stupor and remind us of the ready violence that too much of the globe lives under. But would M.I.A.'s gunshots be as powerful if they didn't have the throbbing Clash riff behind them? How much credit does M.I.A. deserve for a song that works, when a large portion of the song isn't hers? Can you really build on material provided by someone else and take credit for creating something new? Now I sound like an old fart, but I was there when Combat Rock was released with this riff on it. It was another example of the Clash's inventiveness and how they didn't sound like just any rock and roll band.

The woman behind M.I.A., Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, of Sri Lankan descent, deserves praise for mixing a heady brew that combines an urban hip-hop groove with a funky jungle sensibility. A refugee of the Sri Lankan conflict, she uses sounds and instruments from Eastern and African cultures, and her lyrics are steeped in third world realities that most of us would prefer to ignore. Hip-hop's not my thang, but I give her credit for a cd that is fresh and different. Except when it's really not.

Kala, by M.I.A.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lightning Field

In reading about Walter De Maria's Lightning Field, installed in a remote desert area of southwestern New Mexico in 1977, I know that I would enjoy this work and that I could happily spend a lifetime traveling around to view this type of land art.

The Lightning Field comprises 400 polished, stainless-steel poles that are about 20 feet, 7 inches high, pointed at the top, and spaced 220 feet apart in a grid measuring one mile by one kilometer. Although the area's frequent lightning strikes can create a stunning display, lightning is not required to make the poles worth seeing. Apparently the effect of the sunset and sunrise and the changing colors of the light --pink and orange--moving up and down the poles is quite magical. The artist intended the work to be viewed over time, between the hours of sunset and sunrise. For that reason, visitors to the field must stay in a cabin on the property overnight.

Alas, the terms for seeing the Lightning Field are pretty strict. You must make a reservation and agree to be picked up in a small town in New Mexico named Quemado, which is more than two and a half hours from Albuquerque. From there you are driven to the remote cabin 45 minutes away, where a couple of meals have been left for you in the fridge. What happens if you have an emergency while out at the cabin is unclear. You are picked up at noon the next day.

Photography of the place is prohibited, and I have mixed feelings about that. I understand that it is a work of art, and is copyrighted. But at least with paintings in a museum, you can see a reproduction to get a hint of the experience of seeing the real thing. It seems to me that by the same token, some reproduction of the experience ought to be allowed. There are slides available for purchase, and perhaps that is a reasonable solution. But how many people these days have a slide projector? Does a photograph really infringe on the copyright, when it is the actual experience of being there and seeing it in three dimensions that is the true artwork? I'm not sure what the answer is, but the Lightning Field's restrictions make it difficult to share the beauty of the place. The only photograph on the official website is the one above.

I found a blog on the internet where someone posted photos from their trip there. Obviously they violated copyright, and maybe I shouldn't encourage you to take a look. But their photos of the Lightning Field at dusk --with the sun hitting the poles ---are very pretty and cool.

Below is the link.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sit On This

My Basic Drawing instructors used to badger me about the unstable lines of the furniture I drew. "Could you sit in that chair?" they'd ask? "Do you think you could set down an object on that table with the legs buckling like that?" They thought they were so clever. So I'm especially fond of this table and chair set. At last, an answer to my snarky art teachers.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Triumph Of A Heart

The nerves are sending
shimmering signals
All through my fingers
The veins support
Blood that gushes impulsively towards

The triumph of a heart
that gives all
That gives all

The triumph of a heart
that gives all
That gives all

The stubborn trunks of these legs of mine
Serve as pathways for my favourite fuel
Heading upwards towards my kidneys(That celebrate)

The triumph of a heart
that gives all
Smooth soft red velvety lungs
Are pushing a network of oxygen joyfully
Through a nose, through a mouth
But all enjoys, all enjoys, which brings us to

The triumph of a heart
that gives all
That gives all


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Big Time Sensuality

Is a city, is the whole earth, big enough to hold the bigness of feeling?

This big, happy Bjork video reminds us that it is not.

Watch it:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bong Voyage

So Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps was caught with a bong. Shame, shame. Let the flood of moral outrage begin. As one blogger said, "That'll teach him to stick to alcohol and prescription drug abuse."

If there is one thing that Americans and the media outlets excel at, it's hypocrisy. Drinking is accepted, indulged, embraced as a national past-time. Prescription drugs are a fact of life. No one blinks an eye if someone needs to go on Prozac. But if someone wants to relax with a little weed then all hell breaks loose.

This is not about whether anyone should drink or smoke pot. But the criminalization of marijuana, when hard liquor and pills--both capable of destroying lives --are legal, is harsh and unjust. If there is to be any moral outrage, it should be over the hypocrisy of those expressing moral outrage. I'm sure if Phelps drank booze and took pain killers for his sore muscles, that would be just fine with everybody.

It's time for the national conversation to begin. Take the profits from dealers, save taxpayers billions and use our law enforcement for real crimes. Legalize.

"Totalitarianism is when people believe they can punish their way to perfection." -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at a President's Day Republican fundraiser, May 1998

Sunday, February 8, 2009

When in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do

I know that it's hardly Iceland here. It's not even below freezing today, but the temps did plummet from yesterday, when it was insanely warm, and people were running around in shorts. Today it's wintry again and grey, perfect conditions for a little Bjork. Her heavy accent and wailings, and the sometimes stark musical landscape backing her up, hit the spot on a cold, sunless day. I love you, Bjork. You're a true original.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cut The Crap

So Republicans say Obama is disgracing the Oval Office for being sans jacket? Andrew Card says, "there should be a dress code of respect....I wish that Obama would wear a suit coat and tie." Reuters' Jon Decker told MSNBC on Thursday morning that Bush "always wore a suit and tie in the Oval Office."
Oh really???

It turns out that in addition to Bush, Obama has a lot of company:



OMG! He's not even wearing a tie!!



It's curious that in all these years no one has ever criticized a president for this before.
This grows wearisome. Stop the madness. In case they haven't noticed, we have work to do.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bring Back Frivilous Metal

Here's a plan to create new jobs and stimulate the economy -- and make America FUN again besides. Bring back the Googie designs of the 50's and 60's.

Frivilous metal protusions, like the ones crowning the car wash above, once abounded on the American retail landscape. They were attached to coffeeshops, motels and diners to attract consumers who were fascinated with the Space Age. Resembling boomerangs, fins, parabolas, flying saucers and "starbursts", these adornments symbolized the motion and energy associated with rocket ships and atomic energy.

They were completely nonutilitarian, yes, but think of all the steel required to produce them. Think of all the manufacturing/industrial jobs behind these cartoonish hunks of metal. Workers were needed to construct them, paint them, install them, and then later, power-wash them clean. If we brought back these whimsical designs, the steel factories would be up and running, people would flock to the shops just for the novelty ---and we'd be delivered at last from the despair of the rectangular strip mall that has sucked the life out of the American soul.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

13 Fail-Safe Excuses

I'm taking a web design class, and today our assignment was to make a bulleted list of items using HTML code. So I made a bulleted list of excuses for why I couldn't complete the assignment. These are useful excuses to have on hand in any situation. Feel free to adopt them as your own and use as often as you like.

  • Bad case of the gout

  • Dog ate my internet

  • Accidental (really) ingestion of funny mushrooms

  • Summoned to White House

  • Lost in the wilderness

  • Heard a Who Down in Who-ville

  • Car trouble

  • Man trouble

  • Observing obscure religious holiday

  • Beset by lentil crisis

  • Jailed for protesting something or other

  • Meditated so hard was vibrated clear off the planet

  • Abducted by aliens