27 February 2010


X-rays and their ilk were my thread of the week. Sometime the thread pans out into something useful. Sometimes not.


Stephan's Quintet in 60 Seconds from cxcpub on Vimeo.

22 February 2010


Pictures spoke to me louder than words today. This image came from a fascinating article in Wired Science about a 19th-century DIY X-ray craze:

In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the X-ray, a form of electromagnetic radiation with a very short wavelength. To the common people at the time, this was astonishing. Within three months, DIY X-ray kits were available on the market. The rich and famous had their hands X-rayed, their skeletons draped in rings. Photographers, who had access to most of the tools needed to make the images, began to train this new form of light on just about anything that might be beautiful."


21 February 2010


Ocean of Forms
Rabindranath Tagore
I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms,
hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless.

No more sailing from harbor to harbor with this my weather-

    beaten boat.
The days are long passed when my sport was to be tossed on 


And now I am eager to die into the deathless.

Into the audience hall by the fathomless abyss
where swells up the music of toneless strings
I shall take this harp of my life.

I shall tune it to the notes of forever,
and when it has sobbed out its last utterance,
lay down my silent harp at the feet of the silent.

Art: Hombre en Llamas (Man on Fire), Jason deCaires Taylor

16 February 2010


ScienceArt from Barbara Juncosa on Vimeo.

I really enjoyed this short film, ScienceArt, by Barbara Juncosa, comparing the ways an artist sees the world and a scientist sees the world, and how each uses imagination as her problem solver. In Juncosa's words:

ScienceArt is an experimental documentary that compares and contrasts the thought processes of a scientist and an artist as they reflect on common objects. I directed and produced this short in collaboration with participants at the Banff Centre's Science Communications 2009.

15 February 2010


(Satellite image of L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, by NASA's Earth Observing System.)

I never throw away any writing. Instead I dump all discarded passages into an "outs" file. This is left over from my film editing days when the outs bin was a treasure chest of previously sorted material that you knew was good enough to have wanted once, and maybe good enough to want again, maybe even better in a new context. On tight deadlines, my "outs" writing file has proven a lifesaver more than a few times. I love the feeling of recycling words.

Working on this blog, I've been going through my "outs" file more than usual and found myself saddened that some of the good stuff that really should have been included in the new book, Deep Blue Home, got dropped. Some of it I intended to reintroduce but lost track of. Oh, well. Here's part of one passage:

"The distinctive landscape of Newfoundland has nearly identical sisters on the far side of the North Atlantic. Separated by 2,500 miles of ocean, yet connected by oceanic rivers--the Gulf Stream and its northern reach, the North Atlantic Current--the heathlands of coastal northern Scotland and southern Norway nourish the same plants and animals as Newfoundland. What appear to us as disparate continents are inescapably linked by the circulating watery bands of the deep blue home."

The graphic is by Jack Cook at the Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institution. It shows some of the surface and subsurface currents of the North Atlantic connecting Newfoundland to Norway. From the WHOI site:

"Colored arrows approximate two of the major current systems flowing through the North Atlantic, with red representing the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current, and associated flows, and blue roughly representing the cooler, bottom-flowing Deep Western Boundary Current."
You can see how the waters bring the landscapes closer together, carrying messengers in the forms of marine life, birds, plant spores, insects.

This Atlantic puffin, for instance, and the fish, could be from either North America or Europe.

(Photo by Erik Christensen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

The enterprising puffin is actually from Faroe Islands. 
These landscapes, one in Newfoundland, one in Norway, look almost interchangeable.


Top: Lodalen, a valley in Stryn municipality, Sogn og Fjordane county, Norway. (Photo by Aqwis, courtesy Wikipedia.)

Bottom: Panorama of Gros Morne National Park, overlooking Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. (Photo by Tango7174, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)

Even the sheep have managed to cross the sea.

14 February 2010


The Stars Go Over the Lonely Ocean
-Robinson Jeffers (1940)

Unhappy about some far off things
That are not my affair, wandering
Along the coast and up the lean ridges,
I saw in the evening
The stars go over the lonely ocean,
And a black-maned wild boar
Plowing with his snout on Mal Paso Mountain.

The old monster snuffled, "Here are sweet roots,
Fat grubs, slick beetles and sprouted acorns.
The best nation in Europe has fallen,
And that is Finland,
But the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
The old black-bristled boar,
Tearing the sod on Mal Paso Mountain.

"The world's in a bad way, my man,
And bound to be worse before it mends;
Better lie up in the mountain here
Four or five centuries,
While the stars go over the lonely ocean,"
Said the old father of wild pigs,
Plowing the fallow on Mal Paso Mountain.

"Keep clear of the dupes that talk democracy
And the dogs that talk revolution,
Drunk with talk, liars and believers.
I believe in my tusks.
Long live freedom and damn the ideologies,"
Said the gamey black-maned boar 
Tusking the turf on Mal Paso Mountain. 

As for the story behind this incredible image of a star ploughing through interstellar space, complete with a bow wave of ultraviolet light (from Astronomy Picture of the Day):
To 17-century astronomers, Omicron Ceti or Mira was known as a wonderful star whose brightness could change dramatically in the course of about 11 months. Mira is now seen as the archetype of a long-period variable star. Surprisingly, modern astronomers have only recently discovered another striking characteristic of Mira, an enormous comet-like tail nearly 13 light-years long. Billions of years ago Mira was likely similar to our Sun, but has now become a swollen red giant star, its outer layers of material blowing off into interstellar space. Fluorescing in ultraviolet light, the cast off material trails behind the giant star as it plows through the surrounding interstellar medium at 130 kilometers per second. The amount of material in Mira's tail is estimated to be equivalent to 3,000 times the mass of planet Earth.

Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, GALEX, C. Martin (Caltech), M. Seibert(OCIW)

13 February 2010


This is a slow, moody, beautiful music video for the song Doppelganger by Efterklang (Danish: remembrance, or reverberation), with choppy, haunting images of familiar shorelines, familiar species, topside and underwater. Not something to watch if you're in a hurry.

Efterklang Doppelganger (official music video) from Matthew Brown on Vimeo.

11 February 2010


Those amazingly talented sisters at Raw Art Letterpress and Lulu Bug Jewelry have done it again, transforming Colette's gorgeous print into a stunning necklace by Sue:
"This piece is made of fine silver, and measures approximately 5/8" wide by a touch under 7/8" tall. The finish is brushed and oxidized and it comes on a 16" drawn cable chain. If you'd prefer 18" just note it at checkout, no extra charge."
I just ordered mine, only $36. Looking forward to wearing it as my totem and reminder.

 Here a few more of their collaborative pieces:



There's a Dog is Love, too.

And here are a couple that haven't crossed the sister mind-meld yet, but might some day:



Sue's anatomical heart necklace in silver and concrete.


There's more than one way to write a book.

Electronic Popables is from MIT's Hi-Low Tech group at the Media Lab. Here's what its creators have to say about their electrotactile creation:
"Electronic Popables is an interactive pop-up book that sparkles, sings, and moves. The book integrates traditional pop-up mechanisms with thin, flexible, paper-based electronics and the result is a book that looks and functions much like an ordinary pop-up with the added element of dynamic interactivity. Electronic Popables was built by Jie Qi, with assistance from Leah Buechley and Tshen Chew."

The Hi-Low Tech group sounds like an interesting place to explore boundless creativity.
"[the] group integrates high and low technological materials, processes, and cultures. Our primary aim is to engage diverse audiences in designing and building their own technologies by situating computation in new cultural and material contexts, and by developing tools that democratize engineering. We believe that the future of technology will be largely determined by end-users who will design, build, and hack their own devices, and our goal is to inspire, shape, support, and study these communities. To this end, we explore the intersection of computation, physical materials, manufacturing processes, traditional crafts, and design."

I like the idea of democratizing engineering.

09 February 2010


My recent post, Sunday Poetry: "Postscript," of Seamus Heaney's poem included the much-beloved photograph shot by Toni Frissell. A friend told me it was also the cover of the 1963 album by Bill Evans and Jim Hall called Undercurent. And here it is.


Well, that set me adrift and I found the photo was also the album cover for the 1988 Tears in Rain by This Ascension.

And for Osvaldo Golijov's Oceana.

And for The Beauvilles Whispering Sin.

But wait. The image was also colorized and used as a cover for the Kindle version of the novel Tethered by Amy MacKinnon.

I imagine one of the reasons this photograph is so popular (aside from it being gorgeous) is that it's in the public domain. So that got me started on Toni Frissell (1907-1988), whose portfolio was bequeathed to the Library of Congress upon her death. Here are a few of my favorites:

Frissell obviously liked to shoot around and even underwater. Wikipedia says she was a fashion photographer before WWII, the  official photographer of the Women's Army Corps during WWII, and the first woman on the staff of Sports Illustrated in 1953.

Her much-used image of the woman afloat just under the surface is called Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida. And there's where it was shot in 1947, the first year the springs opened as a tourist attraction, complete with underwater performances by "mermaids." The place became one of those legendary roadside attractions of mid-20th-century America. Here's one of Weeki Wachee's 1950s mermaids.

It turns out that the British band Supergrass shot a music video at Weeki Wachee Springs in 2005, which conveys a history of the place in and around the band playing to the mermaids (and proves that Hans Christian Andersen had it wrong and mermaids, though lovely underwater, can't sing).

The Mermaid (1911) by Edmund Dulac captures the vulnerability of a beached water being... something most of us can probably relate to.

"... The little mermaid swallowed the bitter, fiery draught, and it was as if a two-edged sword struck through her frail body. She swooned away, and lay there as if she were dead. When the sun rose over the sea she awoke and felt a flash of pain, but directly in front of her stood the handsome young Prince, gazing at her with his coal-black eyes. Lowering her gaze, she saw that her fish tail was gone, and that she had the loveliest pair of white legs any young maid could hope to have. But she was naked, so she clothed herself in her own long hair."
-Hans Christian Andersen
The Little Mermaid
Translated by Jean Hersholt

Which brings me back to one of my favorite painters, the Pre-Raphaelite, John William Waterhouse, and his A Mermaid (1901).

This mermaid was clever enough to keep both her tail and her tongue.