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Monday, December 27, 2010

Solstice and Eclipse

The internet was originally designed to facilitate free exchange of scientific information. This was never more graphically demonstrated than on the night of December 21st, last week, when three men combined their intellects to discover an astronomical reality that had heretofore eluded human knowledge. With two observers in California and one in New York, there was adequate separation for geocentric parallax view of complete lunar eclipse. In the form of a snapshot taken that night and transcript of attendant scientific discussion, I will lay the evidence before you:

Geo.: 11:40 p.m. Perfect night for viewing here. Hope Sonoma is clear too. When I was little my big brother, Frank, tried to convince me a lunar eclipse was caused by the sun passing between earth and the moon. Would be warmer watching tonight if he was correct.

Will: Sorry we were overcast here. Got any photos of the blood red moon eclipsing? Aren't big brothers great teases? I tried to convince Paul that his name should properly be pronounced to rhyme with Raul.

Geo.: That's hilarious! How long did Paul pronounce his name pah-ool?

Will: Probably as long as you believed Frank about lunar eclipses...

Jeff: Hey Will, from the right coast you could see a crazy red tint on the lower half of the surface and green along the top edge at about 3 a.m. Through astronomical binox it looked like a combination angry Mars and Christmas ornament. These celestial anomalies always stir awe, fascination and dread, yes?. I was quite prepared for this one and still something in me cried out for a human sacrifice to stop the dragon from eating the moon.

Geo: Nice amber earth-shadow now. Tried taking a picture but couldn't turn camera-flash off, so moon just looked bright as usual.

Jeff: Will, please tell Geo. he can get great photos with the camera flash turned on, but he was probably standing too close. You want to get back at least 1,261,164,966 feet, with the sun behind you.

Geo.: I'm attaching pic from around midnight [see above] to show I wasn't standing too close. Moon looked maybe miles away. However, Jeff's earlier report that he saw the eclipse at 3 a.m. surprised me. Moon goes west and he saw it 3 hours later. Only possible with a second moon! I will share credit for this discovery with you both.

---end of transcript.

I am reminded of the quote,"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (I am human and nothing human is alien to me)," which, unless I misremember, came from Cicero or two centuries later from a tedious Roman playwright whose name escapes me. It is upon this sort of certainty I now believe our planet has two moons and don't know what can convince me I haven't seen the truth. When I boasted to my wife that this discovery was made without the help of women, she opined I might also find steady detective work sniffing out truffles. High praise indeed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shepherd's Song

Ten days ago an old friend died. He was 61 years old. When we were young, he looked a lot like the great composer, Joseph Canteloube. I have drawn a picture of Joseph Canteloube in my sketchbook. I took two turns at it.

The first muddied to where it looked like a cantaloupe, so I labeled it and left it beside the more successful likeness. That way I can always consult them when I need to tell the difference. The housefinch above both portraits was part of a flock visiting my yard last month and claims to have nothing to do with anything.

The song that helped describe what I felt is Canteloube's "Bailero", which is one of the folk tunes he collected from the Auvergne region in France. My poor translation: "Bailero, you're having a hard time; so am I. The stream runs between us and I can't cross it." That's a close description of loss.

I'm appending a recording of Madeleine Grey doing a lively version and you can make your own translation, which may easily differ from mine. But the melody nails pretty much everything all by itself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

OMGism and Holy War

OMGism is a panpsychological discipline drawn from the observation that, in an infinite universe, all possibilities are assembled --even those which are mutually exclusive. This leaves, as the only enduring and reliable constants, forces and ideas that are inconclusive.

The religious experience of OMGism occurs when the practitioner realizes humans are an expression of a universe designed to freak itself out. The only fixed doctrine of OMGism is, after epiphanies, you should probably go lie down.

It would be instructive here to address the difference between OMGism ("you ain't experienced nothin' yet") and another church, Jolsonism ("you ain't heard nothin' yet"). There was a holy war between the two factions, over which --because of huge doctrinal similarities-- neither side could work up much enthusiasm, resulting in no injuries but in Bachman Turner Overdrive ("you ain't SEEN nothin' yet") and a persistent stutter. Holy wars, like epiphanies, are bad for elocution and participants can all benefit from a nice nap afterwards.