AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

24 September 2015

Dark.

From a million miles away, a NASA camera shows the moon crossing the Earth. The lesser-seen ‘dark side of the moon’ is dimly illuminated by the sun as it passes over the Pacific Ocean near North America. The north pole is in the upper left corner. The images were taken by the Dscovr spacecraft’s Earth polychromatic imaging camera (Epic) and telescope.

CONNECT

22 September 2015

Taj Mahal, "Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes"

Chasing.


I have never cared about setting world records, or filling my boat with fish, or, for that matter, even catching fish. I go for the experience of spending six hours in the arms of the ocean, never thinking of a single thing except chasing fish.

Jimmy Buffett

21 September 2015

Happy birthday, The Hobbit.


On this date in 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was published.

When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark as with them shut. No one was anywhere near him. Just imagine his fright! He could hear nothing, see nothing, and he could feel nothing except the stone of the floor.

Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything: nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves. His head was swimming, and he was far from certain even of the direction they had been going in when he had his fall. He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment. He did not go much further, but sat down on the cold floor and gave himself up to complete miserableness, for a long while. He thought of himself frying bacon and eggs in his own kitchen at home—for he could feel inside that it was high time for some meal or other; but that only made him miserabler.

He could not think what to do; nor could he think what had happened; or why he had been left behind; or why, if he had been left behind, the goblins had not caught him; or even why his head was so sore. The truth was he had been lying quiet, out of sight and out of mind, in a very dark corner for a long while.

After some time he felt for his pipe. It was not broken, and that was something. Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was something more. Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that shattered his hopes completely. Just as well for him, as he agreed when he came to his senses. Goodness knows what the striking of matches and the smell of tobacco would have brought on him out of dark holes in that horrible place. Still at the moment he felt very crushed. But in slapping all his pockets and feeling all round himself for matches his hand came on the hilt of his little sword—the little dagger that he got from the trolls, and that he had quite forgotten; nor fortunately had the goblins noticed it, as he wore it inside his breeches.

Now he drew it out. It shone pale and dim before his eyes. “So it is an elvish blade, too,” he thought; “and goblins are not very near, and yet not far enough.”

But somehow he was comforted. It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.

18 September 2015

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "Mystery Man"

Happy Friday!

Desire.

Manutius, Erasmi Roterodami Adagiorum Chiliades tres, ac centuriae fere totidem, 1508


‘How many books do you have?’ asked Meggie. She had grown up among piles of books, but even she couldn’t imagine there were books behind all the windows of this huge house.

Elinor inspected her again, this time with unconcealed contempt. ‘How many?’ she repeated. ‘Do you think I count them like buttons or peas? A very, very great many. There are probably more books in every single room of this house than you will ever read – and some of them are so valuable that I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot you if you dared touch them. But as you’re a clever girl, or so your father assures me, you wouldn’t do that anyway, would you?’

Meggie didn’t reply. Instead, she imagined standing on tiptoe and spitting three times into this old witch’s face.

However, Mo just laughed. ‘You haven’t changed, Elinor,’ he remarked. ‘A tongue as sharp as a paper-knife. But I warn you, if you harm Meggie I’ll do the same to your beloved books.’

Elinor’s lips curled in a tiny smile. ‘Well said,’ she answered, stepping aside. ‘You obviously haven’t changed either. Come in. I’ll show you the books that need your help, and a few others as well.’

Meggie had always thought Mo had a lot of books. She never thought so again, not after setting foot in Elinor’s house.

There were no haphazard piles lying around as they did at home. Every book obviously had its place. But where other people have wallpaper, pictures, or just an empty wall, Elinor had bookshelves. The shelves were white and went right up to the ceiling in the entrance hall through which she had first led them, but in the next room and the corridor beyond it the shelves were as black as the tiles on the floor.
‘These books,’ announced Elinor with a dismissive gesture as they passed the closely-ranked spines, ‘have accumulated over the years. They’re not particularly valuable, mostly of mediocre quality, nothing out of the ordinary. Should certain fingers be unable to control themselves and take one off the shelf now and then,’ she added, casting a brief glance at Meggie, ‘I don’t suppose the consequences would be too serious. Just so long as once those fingers have satisfied their curiosity they put every book back in its right place again and don’t leave any unappetising bookmarks inside.’ Here, Elinor turned to Mo. ‘Believe it or not,’ she said, ‘I actually found a dried-up slice of salami used as a bookmark in one of the last books I bought, a wonderful nineteenth-century first edition.’

Meggie couldn’t help giggling, which naturally earned her another stern look. ‘It’s nothing to laugh about, young lady,’ said Elinor. ‘Some of the most wonderful books ever printed were lost because some fool of a fishmonger tore out their pages to wrap his stinking fish. In the Middle Ages, thousands of books were destroyed when people cut up their bindings to make soles for shoes or to heat steam baths with their paper.’ The thought of such incredible abominations, even if they had occurred centuries ago, made Elinor gasp for air. ‘Well, let’s forget about that,’ she said, ‘or I shall get overexcited. My blood pressure’s much too high as it is.’

She had stopped in front of a door which had an anchor with a dolphin coiled around it painted on the white wood. ‘This is a famous printer’s special sign,’ explained Elinor, stroking the dolphin’s pointed nose with one finger. ‘Just the thing for a library door, eh?’

‘I know,’ said Meggie. ‘Aldus Manutius. He lived in Venice and printed books the right size to fit into his customers’ saddlebags.’

‘Really?’ Elinor wrinkled her brow, intrigued. ‘I didn’t know that. In any case, I am the fortunate owner of a book that he printed with his own hands in the year 1503.’
‘You mean it’s from his workshop,’ Meggie corrected her.

‘Of course that’s what I mean.’ Elinor cleared her throat and gave Mo a reproachful glance, as if it could only be his fault that his daughter was precocious enough to know such things. Then she put her hand on the door handle. ‘No child,’ she said, as she pressed the handle down with almost solemn reverence, ‘has ever before passed through this door, but as I assume your father has taught you a certain respect for books I’ll make an exception today. However, only on condition you keep at least three paces away from the shelves. Is that agreed?’

For a moment Meggie felt like saying no, it wasn’t. She would have loved to surprise Elinor by showing contempt for her precious books, but she couldn’t do it. Her curiosity was too much for her. She felt almost as if she could hear the books whispering on the other side of the half-open door. They were promising her a thousand unknown stories, a thousand doors into worlds she had never seen before. The temptation was stronger than Meggie’s pride.

‘Agreed,’ she murmured, clasping her hands behind her back. ‘Three paces.’ Her fingers were itching with desire.

Cornelia Funke, from Inkheart

Happy birthday, Foucault.


Jean-Bernard Foucault was born on this date in 1819.

The stars appear to move in circles about a line through the poles of the earth. An ancient explanation of this (probably predating classical Greece) is that the stars are attached to a sphere, which rotates about the earth. Aristarchus of Samos (third century BC) explained the apparent motion of the stars and planets by proposing that the earth turns on its own axis and also travels around the sun. Hipparchus (second century BC) and Ptolemy (second century AD) rejected this view for two reasons. First, one cannot feel the rotation of the earth. Second, one cannot (without powerful telescopes) see annual changes in the relative position of the stars. The earth-centred view dominated European science until the seventeenth century.

Whether or not the earth moves used to be an important question for Christians, as well as cosmologists. Giordano Bruno taught that the earth moved. He held a range of heretical views and was charged by the Holy Inquisition in Venice. He was sentenced by Pope Clement VIII and was burned alive, with his tongue gagged, in 1600. Galileo also taught that the Earth moved. He was charged with the same heresy in 1633 but he was spared on condition that he renounced his views. (The Vatican has since changed its position: in 1992 Pope John Paul II officially expressed regret at the church's treatment of Galileo.)

The observation of Hipparchus and Ptolemy that one cannot feel the rotation of the earth is correct. However, the rate of rotation required for the heliocentric picture (0.0007 revolutions per minute) is so slow that one would not expect to feel it. How can one measure such a slow rotation? In 1851, Jean-Bernard-Leon Foucault suspended a 67 metre, 28 kilogram pendulum from the dome of the Pantheon in Paris. The plane of its motion, with respect to the earth, rotated slowly clockwise. This motion is most easily explained if the earth turns.


16 September 2015

Limitless.

Magritte, Sixteenth of September, 1956


Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo's song beckons me to return home;
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back;

But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.

Lao Tzu

Honest.


The toughest thing is facing yourself. Being honest with yourself, that’s much tougher than beating someone up. That’s what I call tough.

Joe Strummer

Live.

Ryder, The Lorelei, 1896


The artist needs but a roof, a crust of bread, and his easel, and all the rest God gives him in abundance. He must live to paint and not paint to live.

Albert Pinkham Ryder

Looking.


As embarrassing as that word is —“inspiration”— I do think it corresponds to my experience. A poem comes looking for me rather than I hunting after it.

Richard Wilbur

Walking.

The rites of A Journey To Avebury are not so much of fertility or traded sacrifice but of the simple act of walking.  Jarman captures a sense of great place (and therefore its history) through the measured use of a subjectivist perception of the landscape.  The ritual isn’t so much a pulp tie to the function of the stones and the fields around them but of turning the imagery of them into a captured, fragmented memory; the sacrifice, if any, being the slaughter of adherence to reality and the worship of the mind’s eye and its will over all.


A Journey To Avebury ...

The Map Makers.

A map is more than a geographical representation of a land. It is an image which mirrors a society's political, religious and cultural vision of itself. The Map Makers tells the story of maps through history and explores major developments in map making.

"The Waldseemüller Map (1507)"


"The Mercator Map (1572)"

Paul Weller.

Poem.


... [T]his isn’t just any poem. It’s “The Road Not Taken,” and it plays a unique role not simply in American literature, but in American culture —and in world culture as well. Its signature phrases have become so ubiquitous, so much a part of everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets to graduation speeches, that it’s almost possible to forget the poem is actually a poem.

15 September 2015

Happy birthday, Cooper.


James Fenimore Cooper was born on this date in 1789.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore.

James Fenimore Cooper

Absorb.


It occurred to me some years ago that a poet or a writer, wherever he is, should know it biologically, botanically, historically, geographically. On my aimless aim of non-directional driving all over the United States, which I did for years to refresh myself, part of the fun was to research or really look into different places. I wrote a couple of novels based in Nebraska, for instance. It was really quite overwhelming to learn that area, where the last of the great conflicts between cultures, us and the Native American, took place, sort of ending with Wounded Knee. But understanding where you are, it’s a little more difficult now for many poets because so much of poetry I would have to say has become somewhat suburban. I’ve never cared for the suburbs. I like the country and I like the city. The in-between, it kicks your ass. But once you really look into a place, in my case it was northern Michigan, or wherever I travel. If you go to Toledo, for instance, in Spain it’s much more interesting if you know a lot about the history. If you’re in Seville walking the Guadalquivir River that’s exactly where Garcia Lorca walked a hundred years before. That adds resonance. Or if you’re in Paris, you think of Rilke walking in the Luxembourg Gardens. We absorb each other that way.

Jim Harrison

11 September 2015

Eddie Money, "Gimme Some Water"

Happy Friday!

Brothers.

The FDNY 9/11 documentary, Brothers on Holy Ground ...

Courage.


You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.

Thomas Merton

10 September 2015

Happy birthday, Purcell.


Henry Purcell was born on this date in 1659.

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

Henry Purcell

Exalt ...

Joy.


Don't Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.


Mary Oliver

Better.


The way you get a better world is you don't put up with sub-standard anything.

Joe Strummer

Happy birthday, Ragged Glory.

Crazy Horse's best, Ragged Glory, was released on this date in 1990.

Here's the first cut, "Country Home" ...

I'm thankful for my country home
It gives me peace of mind
Somewhere I can walk alone
And leave myself behind

09 September 2015

Jackson Browne, "Rock Me on the Water"

Now everyone must have some thought
That's going to pull them through somehow
Well the fires are raging hotter and hotter
But the sisters of the sun are going
To rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water
Sister, will you soothe my fevered brow
Rock me on the water
I'll get down to the sea somehow 

David Lindley, slide guitar ...

Curse.


For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not,
this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him.
Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted.
Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution.
Let bookworms gnaw his entrails … when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.

Curse on book thieves
From the monastery of San Pedro

Barcelona, Spain

Look.


Tall Ships

Give us a wreck or two, good Lord;
Winter along this coast is hard.
Grey frost creeps like mortal sin,
No food in the larder, no bread in the bin.

One rich wreck is all we pray,
Busted abroad at break of day
Broken and splintered upon the reef,
Bread and wine to calm our grief.

Lord of rocks and tide and sky,
Heed our call, hark to our cry!
Bread by the bag, beef by the cask,
Food for poor hearts is all we ask.

On the skyline the tall ships sail by,
Bound for London, their decks piled high;
Fruits of warmer lands,
Passing through our hands,
So we look for the storm in the sky.

Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies,
Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain;
We've received orders for to sail back to England,
We hope in a short time to see you again.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar all on the salt sea.
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England;
From Ushant to Scily is thirty five leagues.

We hove our ship to with the wind from the west, boys
Hove our ship to, deep soundings to take;
Thirty five fathoms, and a white sandy bottom,
We squared our main yard and the channel did make.

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,
We'll rant and we'll roar all on the salt sea.
Til we strike soundings in the channel of old England;
From Ushant to Scily is thirty five leagues.

Oh, the fishermen rise with the sun,
And they work 'til the day's nearly done,
Hauling empty nets,
While the cold sun sets,
And the winter is barely begun.
There's a lighthouse a mile from the shore,
That the storm-weary sailors search for,
When the wind and rain
Bring their gales again,
It won't shine for them anymore.

On the skyline the tall ships sail by,
Bound for London, their decks piled high;
Fruits of warmer lands,
Passing through our hands,
So we look for a storm in the sky.

Sweet thoughts of home came to me today,
Far too long now I've been away,
I'll stay away no longer,
Come homeward winds, blow stronger.
Stronger

I'm home bound
I'm home bound

With the first clear sight of the West Country shore,
We swear we won't go to sea any more,
Sweethearts and wives seem dearer,
As the English shore draws nearer.

Now soon their welcome will warm winter's heart,
We'll vow nothing will pull us apart,
There'll be a short time of plenty;
We'll think again when our pockets are empty.

Now a grey storm blackens the clear Western skies,
Fear and welcome join both in our eyes,
Full sail and a straining main mast,
Run with the wind; we'll fly while the storm lasts.
While the storm last.

I'm homeward bound
I'm homeward bound

As the rain blackened clouds gather round,
And the roaring gales drown every sound,
All I search the night
For that ray of light,
That warns where the black rocks are found.

I know this place, I know this place
We're running aground, we're running aground, we're running aground!

One rich wreck, or maybe two,
Food and stores to see us through,
Til Spring leaps up like break of day
And fish return to the empty bay,

One rich wreck, for thy hand is strong,
A brig, or a merchant one from up along.
Caught on your twisted tides, good lord,
Drawn by our false lights to the shore.

I rose with the morning on a rain washed day,
Early and I walked along the shore;
Watching the broken splintered driftwood come in,
I listened to the ocean roar.
Town slowly waking and I walked from the sea,
Parents break in to their children's dreams
Mothers start to call; fathers reach the stirring streets,
Wondering what another morning brings.

All they have to sell is the strength of two strong arms,
All they are standing in their shoes,
And the price of your labour in deep winter falls and falls,
Point came there was nothing left to lose.
We pay the price of winter, and we buy another year,
It's time to search the heart and count the cost,
Take the guilty conscience, and the widow's bitter tears,
And what we gain is someone else's loss.

Yesterday the gales that shook the rooftop slates
Today the breeze gently tugs your hair
And the tide that closed its fist and snapped a broad ship's back
Now softly takes the white gulls from the air,
Oh, the banker's purse is like a deep black well
For every other well bred clown,
And the merchant has a fleetful of young men's lives
He can risk one in twenty going down.

I rose with the morning on a rain washed day,
It was early and I walked along the shore;
I knelt down by the water where my brother lay,
I listened to the ocean roar.

We have families with sons on the sea,
They work the tall ships of the sea,
But our choice is made,
By these winter's days,
And the children who watch from the quay.

That wild evening the word flew around,
A tall merchant mashed into the ground,
How we shout and sing,
Glad to greet the spring,
Though we weep for the sailors we've drowned.

On the skyline the tall ships sail by,
Bound for London, their decks piled high;
Fruits of warmer lands,
Passing through our hands,
So we look for a storm in the sky.

November wind chills to the bone,
And December rain lashes the stones,
Sea that brings us life,
Take your sacrifice,
And give back the hope to our homes.

On the skyline the tall ships sail by,
Bound for London, their decks piled high;
Fruits of warmer lands,
Passing through our hands,
So we look for a storm in the sky.

Oh, the fishermen rise with the sun,
And they work 'til the day's nearly done,
Hauling empty nets,
While the cold sun sets,
And the winter is barely begun.

On the skyline the tall ships sail by,
Bound for London, their decks piled high;
Fruits of warmer lands,
Passing through our hands,
So we look for a storm in the sky.

Oh, we look for a storm in the sky.
Oh, we look for a storm in the sky.

Steve Knightly

08 September 2015

Rules.

Musical.


Designer and science geek Luke Twyman loves all things visual—especially when it comes to the orbital frequencies of our planets. In his awesome project Solarbeat, he decided to not only visualize the planets’ trips around the sun, but turn the movement into a musical masterpiece.


Solarbeat is here.

Storm.


One hundred and fifty years ago today, on September 8, 1900, the city of Galveston Texas was struck by what today would be classified as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds of 145 mph and a storm surge of 14 feet. Somewhere between 6,000 and 12,000 people died, making it the deadliest hurricane in US history.

CONNECT

James Taylor, "Wasn't That A Mighty Storm"

Happy birthday, Dvořák.

Antonin Dvořák was born on this date in 1841.

Here's his Ninth Symphony, "From the New World," performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, under the strange direction of Herbert von Karajan ...

06 September 2015

See.


Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

Henry Miller

Elk River, "Six Organs of Admittance"

Mind.


Infirmity

In purest song one plays the constant fool
As changes shimmer in the inner eye.
I stare and stare into a deepening pool
And tell myself my image cannot die.
I love myself: that’s my one constancy.
Oh, to be something else, yet still to be!

Sweet Christ, rejoice in my infirmity;
There’s little left I care to call my own.
Today they drained the fluid from a knee
And pumped a shoulder full of cortisone;
Thus I conform to my divinity
By dying inward, like an aging tree.

The instant ages on the living eye;
Light on its rounds, a pure extreme of light
Breaks on me as my meager flesh breaks down—
The soul delights in that extremity.
Blessed the meek; they shall inherit wrath;
I’m son and father of my only death.

A mind too active is no mind at all;
The deep eye sees the shimmer on the stone;
The eternal seeks, and finds, the temporal,
The change from dark to light of the slow moon,
Dead to myself, and all I hold most dear,
I move beyond the reach of wind and fire.

Deep in the greens of summer sing the lives
I’ve come to love. A vireo whets its bill.
The great day balances upon the leaves;
My ears still hear the bird when all is still;
My soul is still my soul, and still the Son,
And knowing this, I am not yet undone. 

Theodore Roethke

Travel.


I find the fastest way to travel is by candlelight.

Neil Gaiman

05 September 2015

Jackson Browne, "Leaving Winslow"

My mother married an oxygenarian ladies man
He'd take her dancing with a tank of oxygen
The ladies kept him goin'
He'd recite for them his favorite koan
He specialized in Western Swing and Zen

Station to station, coast to coast
Not that much of anything in mind
No expectations, way less than most
As long as I got oxygen and wine

Sang.

04 September 2015

Led Zeppelin, "For Your Life"

Happy Friday!

Learn.


Those speak foolishly who ascribe their anger or their impatience to such as offend or to tribulation.  Tribulation does not make people impatient, but proves that they are impatient.  So everyone may learn from tribulation how his heart is constituted.

Martin Luther

03 September 2015

Seize.


Let us go forth, teller of tales,
And seize whatever prey the heart long for,
And have no fear.

Everything exists,
Everything is true,
And the earth is only a little dust under our feet.

W.B. Yeats

Resolved.


We live, for months, for years, acting in a certain way, not knowing whether we are free or not, doubting, not even sure when we are successfully resolved, and when we aren’t.

Yet still there are those special secret moments in our lives, when we smile unexpectedly – when all over, forces are resolved.

Christopher Alexander

02 September 2015

Go.


Riprap

Lay down these words
Before your mind like rocks.
             placed solid, by hands   
In choice of place, set
Before the body of the mind
             in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
             riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
             straying planets,
These poems, people,
             lost ponies with
Dragging saddles—
             and rocky sure-foot trails.   
The worlds like an endless   
             four-dimensional
Game of Go.
             ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word   
             a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
             with torment of fire and weight   
Crystal and sediment linked hot
             all change, in thoughts,   
As well as things.

Gary Snyder

Wind.


Other than the ubiquitous wind-chimes sounding on your balcony, there are a variety of instruments that are played only by the wind, ranging from those small enough to sit on your windowsill to massive pieces of modern art and poorly-designed skyscrapers.

While known in ancient Greece, India, and China, the Aeolian harp ("Aeolian" from the ancient Greek god and "keeper of the winds," Aeolus) was "rediscovered" in Europe during the 1650s, by Athanasius Kircher, a German Jesuit priest, and went on to become a popular feature in Romantic-era households. The idea is simple: a number of strings (usually an even number) are strung over a sound chamber, and the instrument is then left somewhere with a strong breeze. The wind does the rest.