Maybe if enough of us link to him, we'll overcome the other Joe the Plumber.
So. What have I been doing, while not writing? I'm in lazy summer mode, even though we've had only a few days that qualify. I've been reading science fiction and mysteries, and watching television (science fiction and mysteries.)
The human imagination is a marvelous and limited thing. I've read two sci-fi novels recently, both written in the last decade; both positing a near future of technological marvels. But neither imagined a present in which airlines no longer serve meals.
This weekend I read Obama's The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. I decided it was time I learn more about him. And I'm impressed. He can think; he can write. I've added his first book to my to-read list.
Speaking of books, if you like ravens, buy this one: The Raven: Soaring Through History, Legend & Lore, by Lynn Hassler from Rio Nuevo Publishers. It's charming, it's informational, it's entertaining -- and there's my Raven poem, tucked into a chapter on Ravens In Literature, along with quotes from some of the greatest writers. I.am.awed.
I notice with pleasure that Dave Pollard has included me in what he calls "MY GRAVITATIONAL COMMUNITY: People who have inspired or informed me frequently over the past few months." If I am able to inspire or inform Dave, I must be doing something right. Even if I don't know what I'm doing.
Our neighborhood is coming up: Hartman Place, Where green meets green. Actually, the neighborhood has been coming up for awhile, but still is a nice mix of students and grown-ups. This project has been in the works for some time, and I'm looking forward to seeing it go up.
Speaking of going up:
Have I mentioned that I have a cousin who's a rocket scientist? I do have a cousin who's a rocket scientist! He's the Technical Program Manager for General Dynamics, on the NASA-GLAST team:
GLAST is a powerful space observatory that will explore the most extreme environments in the universe, and search for signs of new laws of physics and what composes the mysterious dark matter, explain how black holes accelerate immense jets of material to nearly light speed, and help crack the mysteries of the staggeringly powerful explosions known as gamma-ray bursts.
I wonder what Robb would think of my sci-fi addiction? Does he share it, or might he think it, um, illogical? How can science fiction compare with what Robb is actually doing? With the questions his work seeks to answer?
Patiann Rogers once said (I'm paraphrasing) that it's the poet's job to explain science to readers, where it was once our job to explain religion. I -- an undereducated American -- don't do very well at this, I think. I look at the NASA website, and am overcome by the depth of our ambition, as humans, to understand this universe.
This unmeasurable universe.
There was a time when no one knew what they looked like. Unless they happened upon a well lit, quiet pond, they knew themselves only in the responses of others. What would that be like? To know, by sight, one's hands, one's feet -- but your own face would be a mystery. Your only clues would lie in the faces of others; perhaps in the face of your mother, or father, or siblings -- if you knew who they were. In the faces of your tribe.
There would be no practice of gestures and smiles in the dressing room mirror. Dancing, you would move your body in response to the bodies of others, not in response to something you had seen reflected. Would these people have been less self-conscious? Would they have given more attention to others, and less to themselves?
They say, now, that we are hard-wired to recognize beauty, symmetry, in the faces of others. But I can't help suspect that beauty might have been more fluid then. If some person were gifted -- as some are -- with unusual sensuality, with power and charisma, would their appearance -- whatever it might be -- become a standard of beauty to their people? Would the tribe slowly find beauty in round faces, or short limbs, or a gap between the teeth?
Instead of "I am beautiful" or "I am ugly", would one think: "He finds me beautiful", "She thinks I'm ugly"? Would any attempt to alter that opinion involve, not examining oneself in a mirror, but changing one's behavior with that person?
Of course, on the other side, if the whole tribe agreed that you were ugly, you would find no reassurance in the mirror. But, in those cases, we seldom find reassurance there, anyway; we find confirmation. Even today, the mirror is not so powerful as to entirely overcome the opinion of the tribe. At least, not the punishing opinion.
We are still mirrors to one another, even with glass hanging in every room; even with reflective surfaces everywhere: shop windows, the burnished metal clothing of modern buildings, the shiny bodies of cars. Still, we look at one another and think: You are beautiful. You are smart. You are neurotic as hell.
Sometimes, we transfer ourselves, our highest hopes, our deepest fears, whole onto the face of another. We call this falling in love. If you stand between two people who are doing this to one another, you are likely to disappear altogether, in the brightness of what they call love. You will vanish; you will become invisible.
Until you find someone who will accept, who will reflect, your own image.
But then, too, you disappear.
It is possible to vanish into one's own reflection. It is possible to become flat and thin and empty, like a filmed old looking glass; nothing but clouded reflection.
Some scientists believe that most other animals have no sense of self; that they exist only within themselves, with no sense that they are themselves. They point to the kitten that chases itself in the glass, thinking there is another kitten there, until it tires of the pointless exercise and refuses to be fooled again. They paint orange spots on the foreheads of chimpanzees and elephants, and are amazed when the creature sees itself; points to the orange on its own head; realizes it is looking at itself.
Timothy's mother had a poodle, that, he swears, knew itself in the mirror. It would come home from being fluffed and ribboned and dyed and manicured, leap from its mistress' arms, and run upstairs to the dressing room to admire itself in the mirror. It would lift each front paw, and examine the nail polish in the reflection. It would prance and pose.
Anyone who has lived with a poodle would believe this story.
But think -- most dogs return from the groomer and go to their human for admiration: Do you like me this way? Do you still love me? Am I cute?
What shift is it that moves us from seeking such validation from our companions, to seeking it in our reflections?
That poodle is no longer a dog.
Are we still human?
A postcard came in the mail, addressed to me OR CURRENT RESIDENT:
...XX High Speed Internet
. . .
Plans as low as $24.99 per month
Then there is an asterisk *
* . . . $24.99 monthly pricing requires a 1 year service plan. Rates subject to change after one year. Modem lease required to use service, $4.00 per month.
Now we're at $28.99 per month, if my adding is correct.
* Shipping and handling fee of $12.99 applies.
Oh, plus a one-time fee of $12.99. Let's see, 12.99/12 = $1.08, so if we prorate that we're at $30.07 per month.
* Professional installation may be required depending on service area for $99 per visit.
* Additional charges and taxes apply.
* Service level and features my vary by rate plan and service area and are subject to change without notice.
* Shipping and handling and installation charges are not refundable. Uninterrupted service is not guaranteed. Additional terms apply...
So, let's see -- it's not really $24.99; it's at least $30.07 plus additional charges and taxes, and, if professional installation is required it prorates to at least $38.32 per month (plus additional charges and taxes, of course.)
And, uninterrupted service is not guaranteed. So, you agree that you may not even get what you are paying more than you'd bargained for.
My point isn't that this particular company is trying to slip something by us -- I'm sure that there are similar fine print qualifications on my own internet service contract, that I didn't even read. I didn't read it, because I needed/ wanted the service.
It's more to wonder: when did we begin accepting this practice as routine and acceptable? Not even worth notice?
Just sigh and sign.
Furthermore, much to my amusement, this fine print addition is copyright noticed: All Rights Reserved.
Well. If the company concerned wishes me to credit them, hey -- just drop me a note and I'll be happy to do so.
Wouldn't want to bend the rules by stealing your fine print copy. [Yes, I had to use a magnifying glass.]
What do you think of modern, cutting-edge, sci-fi artwork? Of how contemporary artists push the human form into almost mechanistic representations?
Like this, for example:
Bizzarie di Varie Figure - 1624
Braccelli, Giovanni Battista - author
Yes, that's the year 1624; the publication date of the book at Rare Book Room:
The "Rare Book Room" site has been constructed as an educational site intended to allow the visitor to examine and read some of the great books of the world . . .
This site contains all of the books (about 400) that have been digitized to date. These range over a wide variety of topics and rarity. The books are presented so that the viewer can examine all the pages in medium to medium-high resolution.
There is something to delight everyone here; give yourself time to peruse the stacks.
[Thanks to Peter Ciccariello for the pointer.]
Next, look carefully at this magical image from the odd neighbor:
Hints: it's called camouflage, and tagged with birds and cats. Click the image to see it bigger at her site. Finally, which direction is the dancer spinning?
Hints: it's called camouflage, and tagged with birds and cats. Click the image to see it bigger at her site.
Finally, which direction is the dancer spinning?
Clockwise? Counter-clockwise? Can you make her change direction? What does it mean?
Click to go to the Herald Sun article and extensive & contentious discussion.
[This is one of those times I'm unsure of the right & legal way to link. I could, of course, send you there without showing you the image. But you're far more likely to click through once you see it -- aren't you?]
This one is thanks to randa clay design.
Edited to add: Just after posting, I discovered this discussion on optical illusions at the flickr Utata group, which starts off with the dancer and includes links to other interesting mind-bending images. And this is by far the most interesting discussion...