2.21.2008

`c vsswcaA`

On Tuesday I left my laptop open; Phoenix was milling about on my desk and when I returned, she had done a Google search for the above term (quotation marks hers).

Nothing came of it, although Google did have this suggestion:

Did you mean: `c nyswcaa`

I really want to know what my girl is up to - do we need to have a talk about boys? Drinking? So I clicked on it. She seems to have developed an interest in the New York State Women's Collegiate Athletic Association. I hope this is a passing fancy - New York is far away - but I do have to say I'm proud of her ambition. It's just all happening way too fast. Last week she went into heat. This week she lost a tooth ... it's rough being a cat mom. You're putting baby teeth under her pillow, and your progeny is ready to flee the nest.


(The Tooth Fairy brought us some cat treats, by the way.)

I have lots of art shows to talk about, but for now I'd rather play scrabble.

So here are some pictures I've collected, which otherwise don't have anything to do with one another.

spoon chandelier.



a nightstand made of picture frames, or facsimile picture frames .. I think it's from anthropologie.


a cozy reading room that desperately needs cats but has a fantastic chair (i have a chair thing. this one is probably my favorite so far, but more chairs here and here)



a room more modern than I'd generally go for, but I love the seafoam couch, and the green shadow in the windows


Audrey Hepburn shopping with her pet deer ..


brilliant artwork, source more or less unknown .. *

{i got it here, attributed to Belarusian artist Mikolka-Parovoz; a French blogger credits him with the work as well, citing this page (in Latvian - no help there) as a source; but I can't find a damn thing about this cat in English, other than in blogs citing the blog where I found it as a source. And to confuse things further, apparently Mikolka-Parovoz is a movie, which makes me wonder if the information is erroneous in the first place. shame. a bummer of a dead end.}

Alright, well I'm going to go eat dinner, but I thought I should add that while I was typing up this post, Phoenix changed the title to `c vsswcaA`98 .. I'm sure that clarifies things.

If not, this certainly will.

(don't be scared. it's just a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon.)

Yay! It's raining.

hey, new color. is it good? is it too white? does it look like it's been through the wash?
I thought it looked good with the spoon chandelier ..

* late breaking news!! (5/8/08) .. anonymous tip, which I'm very happy to have received: the artwork above is called Machine (III) and is by Vladimir Tsesler and (the late) Sergey Voichenko

2.13.2008

illusion

You have perhaps been sitting in a car at an intersection, spacing out. The car rolls backward - you're driving a stick, and have accidentally let your foot off the break. Whoah! Better drink some coffee.

Then a bus next to you has rolled away, and you can see your surroundings: you're not moving at all. And very suddenly, it doesn't feel like you're moving anymore either. You thought you were moving, actually felt it, because of the visual cues telling you that you were.

I don't know about you, but a little thing like that can freak me out all day. I remember as a kid scraping up my knees in a bicycle spill, and not feeling anything until I noticed I was bleeding, then screaming out in pain. I always thought it was one of those little kid things, magical thinking or whatever. Not so, I don't think. I have a huge cavity in one of my back teeth, right this second, and it was only after I discovered it that I realized I'd been having toothaches.

In a way it is my expectation that is causing this experience.

So let's agree that very realistic motion/sensory hallucinations can happen (to sane & sober people - I was going to say "unaltered," but that makes us into pets that still need to be neutered, and ruins the eerie effect) quite easily, and that pain can actually be prompted, or at least heightened, by the right visual cues. We all know also that some other physical sensations can be provoked solely by visual cues, and the visual cues need not necessarily be realistic ones. Characters in video games will do, allegedly, for some people. I digress.

Still with me?
I have noticed when I manage to keep the same cell phone for awhile, that my ear is trained to pick out its ring amid a barrage of background noise; that I actually sometimes "hear" the phone ringing in the music I'm listening to, when it's not there. I hear something similar, and my mind fills in the gap. Maybe we can call that a sort of auditory hallucination. Whatever we'll call it, when we take all of this stuff into consideration at once we recognize that what our brains feel it necessary to do is gather bits of information from our environment and leap to conclusions about what those clues mean. What's the point of this, if we can so easily be tricked?

As I think the way to understand something is to dive further into the murk, check this out.


Although a little bit of variation occurs within each square (even unshadowed), square A and square B are the same color. Yes. But you can't see it that way, no matter how hard you try, can you? Neither can I, and I'm a painter. There is this toy at The Exploratorium in San Francisco which consists of two colored squares within two other (differently) colored squares. You have a little rollerball, like you use to move yourself around in the arcade game of Centipede (remember Centipede?) that changes the color of one of the inside squares, and your task is to roll it around until the middle squares match. It's supposed to be difficult: the color of the outer square changes your perception of the inner square. I am exceptionally good at it. I was once sent to get a quart of paint without a color chip, and matched the desired shade of lavender by memory. And I still cannot see that those squares are the same color.

This thing has driven me nuts. I spliced a bit of square A in Photoshop, and moved it to square B. Then I took a piece of square B, and moved it to square A. It appeared to change color as I moved it. Crazy. Should we be unable to do both, it is clearly much more important to recognize something as poorly lit than to recognize what it actually looks like.

This illusion was designed by (as you can see) Edward Adelson, who is (or was) a professor of vision science at MIT. (How cool is that job??)

If you want to play for awhile before moving on, here are some fantastic optical illusions:


When I was new to L.A., I ate lunch at a cafe with a raised wooden patio. Everything trembled. I thought it was a tiny earthquake and, à la L.A. Story, everyone was ignoring it. I've been there enough since to ignore the tremors myself: cars driving by cause them; people walking on the patio cause them. It's just a shaky patio. I ate there a few days ago; a girl at a nearby table was compulsively wiggling her foot, making my whole table shake. My coffee was clinking. Crossword puzzle answers leapt out of bounds. But I knew it wasn't an earthquake. How many times do we have to experience something before we're sure we know what it means? Is the first time we see or feel something the only time? After that, does whatever knowledge we acquired recede into the background, to build the framework within which we position the experience when it happens again? Or has the experience been cached? To save time - especially when threatened - do we simply recall what occurred before, without considering new information at all?

I suppose these sorts of dilemmas drive some people to philosophy.

A philosopher / cognitive scientist, on illusions and consciousness:



In German there is a word, katzefrau. It means cat woman. Also: funktionslust. Function desire, or the joy that comes from being very good at something. In English, we have a word for throwing something out of a window.

And there we go. I retire for the night.

Maybe, like a Hemingway story, what I've said will take shape gradually, after you've put it all away.

2.06.2008

lucky things

1. saying "rabbit" on the first day of the month


It's supposed to be your first word in the morning, but I sometimes make exceptions for somnolent utterances directed at bedmates - usually cats in my case, but you can imagine your own scenario and exempt as you see fit.

My family's done this as long as I can remember, but we're all space cadets and I myself am probably batting about .100, having spaced it for years at a time. While apparently lots of people besides us do this, we might be the only ones too lazy to say it twice.

If you're not yawning, you really need to see this. Note the lilliputian people actually standing on the rabbit. If you suspect this is a hoax, I assure you it is not. well, unless that news site is also a hoax.*


2. missing a plane (accidentally, of course)



Someday a plane I miss is going to fall into the ocean. I'm sure of it.

3. midgets


I know they disturb some people. But I think they're lucky.

4. the number 13


besides: everyone knows Euclid is 13th street, the 14th floor is really the 13th, and the horse in stall 14 at santa anita park is number 13.

5. odd-eyed cats


(and other animals, and people. but especially cats)

6. thrift store clothing (or purses) with money in the pockets



7. my birthday

(especially if it falls on a friday; see number 3)

To tarot readers, it's the "double death card." Scorpio is the astrological sign associated with the death card, and the death card is the 13th card in the major arcana. The death card in tarot bespeaks change (it's less about death than rebirth; it should be the phoenix card). Remember this when puzzling over my reluctance to settle on a city, a husband, or a career.

er .. if you believe in this kind of crap.

8. getting absolutely nothing in your (snail)mailbox


(but if it's because you forgot you checked it already, that's just pathetic)

9. a bird landing on your table at a restaurant


or on you, but this never happens. also: ladybugs landing on you.
bird poop landing on you=not lucky.

10. heat lightning


11. two fortunes in a cookie


... not that I can eat fortune cookies, but who cares.
you've got to take the cookie that's pointed at you, of course. the open end. like it's going to eat you.

12. february 29


a most unusual day.
One would hope you, too, would find oddities lucky if, say, your child was born with an errant limb.

13. when the moon is visible during the day


unless there are vampires flying through it, or it's silhouetting a werewolf.

And what about bad omens?
bah. what a stupid idea.
If you dread breaking mirrors, your odds aren't good. I do it at least every seven years. I've owned a black cat. and I walk under ladders regularly.

(all that and the double death card - I'm doomed.)

By the way, searching rabbit pictures on the web is no picnic (or too much like a picnic). I kept finding rabbits in soup (and PETA ads).

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2.04.2008

deus ex machina


I got an antique typewriter today, and I wonder what's been written on it. Love letters? The Communist Manifesto? The lyrics to "Macarthur Park?"

And why not leave the cake out in the rain? I've oft wondered.

Of course you'd be daft to leave cake out. Flies and pets will get it. People will think you've gone a little wonky. But what does rain have to do with it? Frosting erosion? Scared it'll catch pneumonia?

The more you think about this, the more ridiculous it gets. Exponentially. It doesn't take long to get to a walled exercise pen in a mental institution here, but we're not sure if we're visiting the person who put out the cake, or whoever penned the lyrics.

I remember, from reading it five years ago, a partially eaten ham sandwich left halfway up the stairs in The Virgin Suicides. Creepy enough when all your daughters are killing themselves, but something really went over the top when I read about that ham sandwich. The stink of death infused the carpeting. Future owners of the house wondered if they'd made a terrible mistake.

You could stick a plate of spaghetti nearly anywhere and invoke something, depending on the company: put some Italians in the room, and you've got a birthday party. Leave a kid alone with a TV tray and Magnum P.I. reruns, and you've got a single mom working two jobs. Pan from the plate of spaghetti up to a teenager making a sour face and you've got a high school cafeteria. Turn off the lights, stick your hands in it, and you've got a plateful of brains at a Halloween party .. and so on.

But eat half the spaghetti first, or take a bite out of a meatball, and you've got something else entirely: a crime scene; a phone call from the hospital; an anorexic; a seriously bad cook. A first date gone horribly wrong.

Now what happens when you leave the spaghetti out in the rain?
I don't think it invokes absolute madness, like the cake. 
It might just be a rained out picnic.

Certainly not, say, weapons of mass destruction.

Ok, now I bet you're wondering how I got from point A to point B there (the first meaning of the title, I'll give to you for free). So let me back up a second.

My imagination has been stretched to the limit. When I was a kid there was no internet. I mentioned this to a seventeen-year-old recently and he "hmphed" me. I clarified: "no, I don't mean like 'when I was your age I walked to school in five feet of snow, uphill both ways' ... there really wasn't." For better or worse, I could not have predicted this world. We can videoconference (ala phone calls in The Jetsons); a digital photograph can be sent through the air in seconds; anything we seek knowledge of is at our fingertips; but still we tolerate politicians who expect us to believe that, for example, they're not really convinced about global warming when in fact by melting the polar icecaps they're exposing new (profitable) oil reserves?


(but why stop polluting the ocean if all the fish have gas masks?)

Tomorrow I get to step into a voting booth and choose between two presidential candidates I believe in.  And one happens to be a woman, and the other a black man. Is this the same country that elected George W. Bush twice? I'd like to shake that man's hand, because if it weren't for his reign of terror, we might not be so anxious to put Politician Beta to rest, so ready to embrace the future. 


Well done, sir. I finally understand what it is you were put into office to do. Now go home, and take your mission from god with you. We've got some celebrating to do.  

You have pulled back the slingshot. You are sending us to the moon.