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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Art Interpretation

I'll be filling in for your regular Art History instructor today ---hmmm, all these notes seem to be scrawled in Crayola, or I've forgotten my glasses. Can you tell me what period you're studying now? Ah, Baroque. I'll work from memory. Oh, and we have a slide --lights off please.

According to a professor I once had in a hypnopedia class (and I must admit I didn't give the thing my entire attention), the French word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco", meaning irregularly shaped pearl. This magnificent and dramatic painting is the work of Paolo de Matteis, around 1700, depicting a large group searching for the irregularly shaped pearl in a silo of cotton balls.


If we examine the search party carefully, we see some soldiers in armor and  representatives of the clergy trying to keep things orderly but most  participants are rather poorly turned out. They  got dressed in a hurry. Some just wrapped up in their blankets and towels and dove in.

Obviously the pearl was worth something and nobody knows where it is. I can make out the words, "Il trionfo...", on the slide frame, so there was a "triumph" involved for somebody. Questions?

Yes, that would imply the pearl was found and sold for a good price, but for everyone else it reinforced a lament still heard among the masses today. Yes, question?

The lament? Oh, I'm surprised you haven't heard it before: Baroque until payday.

Now who threw that Crayola? Ouch! Class dismissed! Ouch. Stop that!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Entering The Side Gate

There is an airfield eleven miles from here used jointly by the military and several air-freight companies and we have got used to it somewhat. In fact, until 15 years ago, we enjoyed a building moratorium on one of its flight-paths --our property being grandfathered into the area early in another century. Still, we get the occasional low-flying behemoth for which we have to open our front and back gates.

It's at least inconvenient to wait for a Boeing C-17 or Lockheed C-5 to find its way through our yard, so we installed some side-gates to avoid them by ducking and scampering. We are very good at ducking and scampering. Here I am using a side-gate now:
I am coming in after affixing a new registration sticker on our '71VW bus. It's still good, even though I had to remove its roof rack in 1983 to accommodate air traffic. On this blustery day, Norma took candids of things in the yard. I am such a thing. Candid means truthful. Just because I once told a kid about an inventor who discovered anti-gravity by attaching a rope-ladder to his hat doesn't mean I'm untruthful. Another photo:
Haven't seen Norma and her camera yet --seem to be turning toward the woody path. I was going there to see if any valuable air-cargo had fallen into the forest. This is routine vigilance  attendant to property management. Sometimes they forget to shut doors and freight falls out of airplanes and UFOs.
Now don't tell me some guy told you there are no such things as UFOs for freight to fall out of. I know that guy and he never looks up. While I'm out there I will think about important inventions that are real, like the fermata. Your anti-UFO guy won't know about fermata, a musical symbol suggesting we hold a note beyond normal duration. It looks like the top half of the CBS Eye.
There is some part of me trying to prolong attenuated time --to keep my candid photos from showing such an old man. Not that I mind the privilege of age so much, nor do I reject compliments or dithyrambic praise on my blood pressure and state of preservation. But arguably, much of adulthood is spent trying to complete childhood, so who can fault a fellow in the forest fossicking for fermatae fallen from freight-planes and UFOs?  I don't know, do you?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Understanding Lunar Dragons

A long time ago, back before the ease and versatility of digital cameras proliferated --and rendered my photographic skills obsolete-- I took a telescopic picture of the moon. I remember it involved removing a telescope's eyepiece assembly and aiming through the objective lens from six feet back. As with many things done a long time ago, I look now and wonder --how the heck did I do that?
At the time, I was felling and bucking 70-foot-tall eucalyptus trees that overhung the house --how the heck did I do that?-- and found this knot where a limb had rotted from its branch-bark ridge and left a hole. I made a frame of it, an eye, a dragon's eye --a moon dragon. Here is what a whole moon dragon looks like:
Ok, I just doodled it an hour ago, but it's got to be accurate because I never heard of such a creature before making an eye for one long ago and --how the heck...never mind. I am now making a long arm and unshelving my volume of J. E. Cirlot's A Dictionary of Symbols.
Señor Cirlot says dragons are linked with color symbolism, that red ones are guardians of higher science and "...the white dragon is a lunar dragon". This, of course, sends the serious scholar straight to the moon. Cicero noted that "Every month, the moon completes the same trajectory completed by the sun in a year." This makes the moon very useful as an instrument of prophecy --much like the minute-hand of a clock, or a clock to a calendar. But you need dragons.

When the moon completes these exertions in spacial-temporal-metaphysics it needs some sort of expression, some voice, and so creates the lunar dragon who says, "How the heck did I do that?"


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Information Enigma Or Even More Reasons I Am A Pacifist

I live in a crazy old farmhouse. It has wall-phones in the back porch from various eras. Some are quite old and I'm cautious about what era I phone --sometimes a pressure from without can upset an equilibrium within. One needs help, direction --directory assistance, yes, but sometimes one needs more. In the photo below, I am dialing a three-digit number familiar to everyone in the USA and Canada born after 1930: " Information. What city, please?"
"All of them. Any will do."

"Are you a Chuck Berry fan, sir?"

"Always and forever, but...what does that...?"

"Please listen to the tutorial while I connect your call, Geo.:"

Chuck Berry- Memphis Tennessee


"Information. What city, please?"

"Excuse me..."

"Yes, Geo.?"

"Wait a minute, how'd you know my name?"

"Because you once called from a Paso Robles filling station in 1969 when you misplaced Norma's phone number that year and I recognize your voice. How may I direct your call?"

"You, you're the same operator...47 years later?"

"Sir, I have been the only information operator on the North American Continent since 1930."

"So that's why you always sound the same?"

"Of course. Will you be needing further information? I do have calls waiting."

"How could that be?"

"It's because I know everything. All information comes from me, and I know why you called."

"I called because I have the jumps, ma'am."

"I know, Geo., North Korea sent a missile over the Superbowl on Sunday. Ask your question."

"Does the United States Military intend to invade my family's country of origin?"

"You mean Portugal?"

"Yes, specifically the Azores."

"They did at one time, 1940-41, under War Plan Gray.  The idea was to set up bases behind Navy blockades (oooh, you should get a load of War plan Red ), but this is classified information. However, I'll go back to some year nobody cares about and declassify it. One moment please....yes, the year all the Ford Pintos exploded, 1974."

"Mine didn't!"

"You're welcome!"

"What have you, ma'am?

"This map, Geo. I'm rather pleased with it:"
"Impressive! But how does this help?"

"I simply changed the photographic vista from nautical to aerial . Lighter shades of blue were subsequently seen as clouds instead of shallows. This took the Azores from islands in the sea to islands floating around in the sky."

"Amazing, so my great grandparents descended from the sky?"

"Information depends upon on accuracy, Geo. Whatever I say becomes true. But right now I have other information to address."

"Like what?"

"Like changing the first line of Hamlet from "Hey, remember that time in Denmark when I got so nervous?" from flashbacks to something better. Then I have to convince all life that they own the world equally with all other life. But most of all, right now, I have a search to conduct in 1959. Let's see: south side; ridge; 1/2 mile from Mississippi Bridge. Should be no problem...Hello, Marie?"

"Hello?"

"(sotto voce) Bye Geo."

"Bye Poppy."


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Giant Rat Of Sacramento

I had morning business downtown in the lower end, which occupied me 'til noon, so Norma thought we should meet our son for lunch over at  Crocker Art Gallery Cafeteria. In the side yard of the old house was an installation of the Chinese Zodiac in bronze from artist Ai Weiwei . We'd been watching schoolkids playing Redlight-Greenlight out there all through lunch and I decided to inspect these sculptures as soon as recess was over.
They weren't very talkative. I walked around rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, etc.
I was looking for my birth-year, but until I got around to the rat, there was no help.
All it took was a little imagination and he asked me what I wanted --seemed genuinely concerned: 

"So, which year are you looking for?"

"1949." I said, "Are you anywhere close to that?"

"Why yes! 1948 was the Year Of The Rat. You want the bronze next over. 1949 was the Year Of The Ox."
"Well, Rat, now that you point him out, Ox-head doesn't look all that sociable. But I'm glad to meet you. Say, for a bronze statue you seem pretty companionable."

"Truth be told, I'm not bronze. I'm a real rat --just standing in until the rest of the installation arrives."

"But either I'm only a couple inches tall or you're huge."

"Nine feet tall, really. Remember we're only a block from the river. I jumped off a barge full of rotten apples emitting radioactive rays. My physical constitution was ratified. They got any sausages in the cafeteria?"

"I thought rats liked cheese."

"Dear human, as Harold Bell Wright said, 'Life does not come all in one piece like cheese; it more resembles linked sausages, a series of events on a string'."

"I'll go see what I can find."

"Anything close."

"Well, I can personally recommend their hamburgers."

"Ok, just don't mention it to the ox."





Monday, February 1, 2016

Poppy's Tardy Yuletide Time Travel Enigma

I was awakened from deep meditation by an unusual sound. Vintage Western Electric telephone outrang my snores. I picked up: "Poppy, is it you?"
"Uh huh. Yes Geo., I need some advice."
"Poppy, you know I don't give advice --only suggestions--so we'll do this by the book."
"Ok (sniff)."
"Now, what is the nature of your temporal enigma?"
"I don't quite know. I'm not sure."
"Alright, where are you and when are you?"
"I'm in London. It's 1905."
"And what are you doing there?"
"Well, I was monitoring and sort of assisting Nellie Bly's 1887 journalistic effort,  'Trying to Be a Servant: My Strange Experience at Two Employment Agencies'."
"On view-screen, please Poppy."
"Ok, Geo. Here:"
"Yes, I see you Poppy."
"Then I tried going uptime 23 years to see how things turned out."
"Standard procedure. I believe the first labor exchanges in the UK opened in 1910. Good job!"
"Thanks, but there's a problem."
"Again, please describe the nature of..."
"Oh shut up! Look!
"Gosh, you're five years short and kissing Santa Claus. Tell me about it."
"Well, it's still February first but only four years short. Santa  --at least I think he's Santa-- had a problem in 1905."
"Poppy, I am all attention."
"Oh, I met him when he came down the chimney in the house I rented. He said his reindeer were stolen from the roof top. We fell in love. Then..."
"Poppy, I'm a bit surprised. Time travelers aren't supposed to get quite so involved."
"What should I do? Can you fix this, Geo.?"
"Hmm, perhaps. Is  he there? Is he with you now?"
"Uh huh."
"Put him on the phone."

"Hello?"
"Hello,  uh sir, I am Geo. and would like to ask a couple questions."
"Of course, but only two questions?"
"Two should suffice. What color are the eyes of your missing reindeer?"
"Blue."
"Hmmm. What color were their eyes six months ago?"
"Goldy-yellow, sort of."

"Thank you, Santa. Please get Poppy back on the line."

"Poppy?"
"Yes, Geo."
"Poppy, he's the real deal. I suggest you take him to Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, 1851, where a student author, whose name is given only as A. B., writes of the appearance, at a Christmas party, of  'that jolly... old elf, Santa Claus... and... Mrs. Santa Claus to help him.' That is the earliest reference I can find to his female companion." 

"We're on our way."
"And Poppy, do send me some sign of your progress."

There was a slight pause, then this appeared on the view-screen:
Only a true resident of the Arctic would so readily supply the little-known differences in reindeer eye-color from winter to summer. And of course, temporal regression to 1851 allowed all concerned to circumvent the theft of that magical team. From 1851, Poppy and Santa lived happily ever after --and even after that and, of course, before as well. Good thing, too --I like getting presents.