Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mystical Hummingbird

All of a sudden, it's summer.

I was out for my morning walk, and as I passed by this tree on my way back, I seemed to suddenly become unusually aware of my surroundings. Things seemed to jump out of a hazy background into crystalline focus, and I saw how the sun was blazing away in a sky that was a perfectly clear blue without a single wisp of white, how the air was oddly quiet and still without a breath of wind, and how the heat was beating down on my shoulders and back even though it was only mid-morning. I could smell the heady perfume from the flowering trees bordering the courthouse parking lot that I'd just walked past. It was very like the 'mystical noon' scene from the fantasy movie that's continuously playing in my head -- that as-yet-untitled epic that contains a relevant scene and a shot for everything in my life -- which features a long-range shot of an ordinary, quiet neighborhood street bathed in the unrelenting brilliance of a noonday sun in summer, with a brass censer sitting in the foreground, a thin tendril of bluish smoke curling upward from an incense stick; the very air seems charged with an air of expectant calm... oh, and with slow, low-register Thai music playing in the background.

Anyway, I then realized it was 'hummingbird weather', to borrow from a favorite expression uttered by a character in the only Truman Capote story I've ever read. It was the perfect setting for the neighborhood hummingbirds to make an appearance -- I looked up hopefully at the topmost branches of the tree... and hah! I saw it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just Odd

A picture, split down the middle.

That's me on the left, the short light boy in the dark jacket, in the light half of the picture, standing next to the tall dark boy in the light jacket, in the dark half of the picture.

Everything's the opposite, like we're each other's secret alter egos.

Weird. Is he my evil twin?

Am I his evil twin...?

And what's weirder is, I remember the other boy's name, but I have no idea who he is or why I knew him, and neither does my mother, even though the original photograph has the date written in the lower margin in her hand. For some reason I used to think he was a distant relative, but now I'm not sure.

Does he have this photo too? Does he wonder who I am?

Is he even real? Maybe I'm the only one who remembers him.

If he is my other half in some sense, were we born on the same day?

Will we die on the same day?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wonderful Scary Cloud

Driving to Norwalk to meet Scott and Andrea yesterday, I saw this dramatic, ominous cloud hanging over the horizon. It was a remnant of the stormfront still lingering over So Cal -- what a beauty!

1. It made me think of the big-budget space invasion movies turned out by Hollywood in recent years, like 'The War of the Worlds';

2. Couldn't help but notice the resemblance of the last two photos to the 'tunnel of light' you read about in accounts of near-death experiences. Maybe souls that are ready to move on to the next world see something like this superimposed over the earthly landscape? :)

3. It also reminded me of one of my all-time favorite episodes of the original Outer Limits TV series, "The Man with the Power"; it's about a much put-upon doormat of a man who finds that the experimental brain implant he received enables him to channel the omnipresent energy of matter fields. Unfortunately, the anger and resentment he keeps bottled up find a deadly outlet through this new power, and his unconscious mind destroys the people he hates, without his conscious knowledge. It's a wonderful story -- to my mind it's right up there with "The City on the Edge of Forever" from the original Star Trek, except it doesn't have the extra pull of a tragic romance with a beautiful, doomed woman (Korean TV dramas, anyone?^^). Check out the cool 'energy cloud' special effect from the show (courtesy MGM Digital Media) -- very nicely done, especially in view of the fact it's from television in the 60's:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yet Another Precognitive Dream? (#3)

Today I went to see the movie Sucker Punch with friends Scott and Andrea. Man, whatta depressing movie -- aren't these manga/anime-based (or -inspired, in this case) 'magic girl/superhero girl' fantasies supposed to have upbeat, or at least hopeful, endings? I think the real sucker punch was how it betrayed audience expectations.

I suppose it could be seen as a valid aesthetic exercise in playing with genre conventions, but the sudden switch of narrative perspective introduced in order to make it possible was jarring and left me feeling a little cheated. Just my two cents' worth.

I think somebody was inspired by both the biography of Frances Farmer and the 'Normal Again' episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (to be sure, though, this escapist fantasy vs. reality thing is hardly rare; I remember walking home from school one day when I was little, uncomfortably wondering: What if all this is a hallucination -- what if my comfortable life, the high score I earned on the exam, this walk home, it's all just a fantasy and in reality I'm a mental patient stuck in a miserable dark hole somewhere, dreaming this pleasant life?). Walter Mitty, anyone?

That's all I'm going to say about the movie itself, but here's something notable: in earlier posts I noted two apparent instances of precognitive dreaming -- the Bill Nye, the Science Guy dream (02/21/11) and the Dark City dream (08/28/10). Well, today marks the third one. In one of the key scenes in Sucker Punch, a villainous character blows smoke rings while smoking a cigar. The camera, naturally, follows one of the smoke rings as it rises higher and higher without dissipating. When I saw that I remembered that last night/this morning I dreamt that I could blow smoke rings with ease. In the dream I blew one and watched as it kept going and going without dissipating. In waking life I never learned to blow smoke rings.

Each of these incidents, taken by itself, is a trivial event, just like the verbal synchronisms I continue to tally up here on this blog, and could be dismissed as a simple coincidence (although you gotta admit that the images are pretty unusual -- or at least the first two are, anyway -- #1. a goldfish carried in one's cupped hands; and #2. a big heavy weight like a bowling ball or a mini wrecking ball on a chain swung at someone's face). Taken as a group, however, there is a clear pattern. In each instance I saw something remarkable in a dream, then during the following waking period, saw the same thing on TV or in a movie. How fitting for someone raised amidst the pop visual culture explosion of the latter decades of the 20th century.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another Useless Synchronistic Event (#13)

Just now I was fiddling with the Disney-Pixar comic The Incredibles: Revenge From Below, absently listening to Coworker N gabbing with Coworker J over the partition.

I turned the comic book over to check out the back cover -- and just as I did so I heard Coworker N say "...ground". Printed at the top of the back cover was

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's Hummingbird Photos

Don't very small, very high-metabolism animals -- hummingbirds, for example -- have to feed all the time? What do hummingbirds do when it's cold and rainy all day? Do they still fly around in the rain, looking for nectar? Do they hole up somewhere and go into sleep mode?

Anyway, I found out today that hummingbirds have an unusually long lifespan for such small, fast-living creatures. The record is held by a female that lived to be at least 12 and possibly more, and wild ones are expected to live an average of 5 to 6 years.

I was a little surprised to learn that these delicate little creatures fly south to winter in a warmer climate -- but then, if monarch butterflies can make the journey from Canada to Mexico, I suppose hummingbirds can.

I wonder if hummingbirds migrate in great flocks like the butterflies. Would such a flock of them make a loud buzzing hum?

I'd love to see one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rainbows and Worms

Rain started to fall Saturday night, and it continued all through Sunday, at times becoming fairly heavy. I had some things to do so I was out driving in the rain much of the time, thoroughly enjoying the rare treat of a downpour in L.A.; however, I understand the rain caused damage in some places.

Today the weather stayed wet till midday, then the clouds broke up and the Sun came out and dazzled in the washed-clean air of the early afternoon. Interestingly, though, I could see a thick dark layer of clouds hanging low like a lid over the land, seemingly just down the street. I would say it made for a very cozy effect, if the word had a meterological application.

And I rescued 5-count'em-5 worms this morning, and that was without even leaving the parking lot (forgot to take a picture of the last one).

As I mentioned once before, worms crawling around on your palm can tickle -- I couldn't stop laughing while carrying that middle pair, and coworker Yesenia looked at me strange... she probably didn't notice the worms. I saw no need to explain.

Then I came across this thing, and just for a moment I thought it was a REALLY long worm. It's just as well it wasn't, because I would have been a little scared to pick up a worm that long.

Most of the worms I encountered today were small and scrawny -- one was so little it had to be the equivalent of a child. Wonder if worms have a calving season?

After the worms, I came across a small slug crawling across the parking lot. I hesitated a little before picking it up and putting it in the grass... I don't know why I don't particularly like slugs, since I like snails, and slugs are essentially snails without shells, but there you are. I came across another slug on the way in, but stayed away from that one. Slugs are sticky, I found out.

Number of Worms Rescued So Far: 29 (plus 1 slug)

Edit: When I release worms I usually dig a little pit with my finger so that the worms would have a damp place to rest and recover before burrowing in properly. One of the two worms in the middle photo was a little stubborn about settling in, and I found myself saying "Gay in drerd!". It's a Yiddish phrase that means, literally, "Go into the earth", according to writer Leo Rosten. Normally it's used as an invective, in the sense of "Go to hell!", but here I meant it literally.

Knew that little bit of knowledge would come in handy at some point in my life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A UFO Sighting

EDIT: This post is about the first of three possible UFO sightings. You can check out the other sightings by clicking April 5th and July 13th, or simply click the UFO tag at the bottom of this post.

Note: I strongly recommend you expand these images for viewing.

Photo #1a:

I noticed this bright object moving across the sky. At first I thought it was a helicopter, but as I kept watching there seemed to be something odd about it; its profile was too round and solid. I know it sounds strange, but I kept trying to convince myself it really was a helicopter, even imagining I could see the blur of its rotor blades. Too late, I decided to snap a photo of the darned thing so I could examine it later. By then it had crossed a goodly portion of my field of vision, from left to right. It disappeared from view just moments later. Which is why, in spite of the fact that the object was in view for a good minute or so, I just have these few photos.

I guess part of it was this thought in the back of mind: 'Nah-- I couldn't possibly be watching a UFO up there, just floating across the sky all leisurely-like, as if such a thing happened every day' (I could kick myself -- repeatedly).

[Jacques Vallée, the maverick UFO researcher who served as a model for the French scientist character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, mentions in one of his books that someone of his acquaintance once had a good opportunity to photograph a UFO, but experienced an odd mental block against doing so; I'm not one of those paranoid people who think UFOs control witnesses' thoughts (aluminum foil hat, anyone?), but there's an interesting parallel here in the fact that I, the compulsive sky-watcher and photo-diarist, seem to have actively talked myself out of taking more photos of this particular object, even though normally I am apt to take multiple shots of anything that I find even slightly interesting or unusual]

That was yesterday. Tonight I downloaded the photos and blew them up, and imagine my surprise.

NOTE: As I said, I strongly recommend you expand these images for viewing.

Photo #1b:

Photo #1c:

Photo #2:

Photo #3a (Yowza!):

Photo #3b (Zoom 1):

Photo #3c (Zoom 2):

Photo #3d (Zoom 3):

Looks like in photo #3 the object has changed either its angle toward me, or its shape, or both.

Edit #1: By 'yesterday' Wednesday, the 16th is meant -- I started the post late at night and didn't realize what time it was.

Edit #2: There is a video clip of me taken a few years ago for the office Christmas party, in which I am seen wearing an aluminum foil hat and declaring that I 'religiously' put it on every evening for seven minutes starting at 6:15 PM in order to keep mind-control rays at bay, or something like that; if you happen to have seen it, remember this -- it was a joke.

Edit #3: Other than cropping/resizing, these photos have not been enhanced or altered in any way -- they have not been cleaned up for noise, or had the contrast heightened, etc.

Edit #4: There was the inevitable objection that the blow-up in photo #1c looks like a speck of ordinary shmutz sitting on the lens; so I deliberately left in that piece of lint on the lens in photos #2 and #3(cropped out in #1), for comparison purposes -- just so you can see there is no resemblance between the two; in any case, it's obvious the blow-up in #3d looks nothing like #1c.

Edit #5: I AM NOT one of those people who automatically equate UFOs with spaceships (see the list of questions at the end of the December 28, 2010, entry); I do not believe in little grey alien creatures abducting/breeding with humans or sharing technology with the government in return for whatever, or Scandinavian-looking aliens bearing bland messages of peace and universal brotherhood; nor do I believe in Hangar 18/Area 51-style 'crashed saucer' conspiracies; as far as I'm concerned all that stuff is rubbish born out of the overheated imaginations of people who can't tell the difference between reality and grade-D science fiction; what I do believe is that there really are some strange things going on in the skies, and that they should be rationally investigated, like anything else.

A Very Strange Sight

The Sun had been rising slowly and majestically as usual, when abruptly he executed a very sharp, left turn. Very strange... I didn't see any obstacles in the way or anything.

Couple Of 'Bows Today

An Upper

And a lower

Couple of really cool bonus photos

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today's Thrift Shop Purchase

A circus egg. That opens up like a Muppet's mouth.

On the way back from the store I was carrying the 'egg' in my fist. This woman, who was pushing an old man in a wheelchair from the opposite direction, blurted out to me, out of the blue, "That there thing looks like a hand grenade!"

I smiled and said "Haha, I guess it kind of does," as I walked past her.

Then she said "And you look like James Bond!"

To be sure, I was wearing a tweed jacket and dark glasses. I don't think 007 was particularly known for favoring tweed, but I guess it was the overall impression of sleek danger and irresistibility, not the sartorial details.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Old Art Again - And More About Dreams, Lucidity and Condensation Trails

Edit: It's been so long since I painted this small panel (in a larger work) that I'd kind of forgotten, but while uploading this photo of it I realized that my interest in condensation trails goes back many years.

Anyway, here's how this post began originally:

The tiny screw that holds the right 'leg'/earpiece of my eyeglass frame in place keeps coming loose. I should go back to the optometrist's and have it fixed, but I keep putting it off. On a couple of occasions the screw came out entirely and I found my glasses suddenly sliding off my face as the earpiece became detached. Luckily, both times I was able to find the screw and fix my glasses, but next time I might not be so lucky, so these days I find myself tightening the screw every time I take my glasses off for any reason.

This morning I dreamt it happened again. In the dream I was sitting at a table when suddenly the earpiece fell off. I was, however, reasonably confident -- based on waking-life experience -- that I would find the screw; and sure enough, it was resting on the table at the far right corner. I picked it up and I was about to screw it back in, when I felt myself beginning to wake. I then became concerned that during the disorienting transition from sleeping to waking I would misplace the screw. That curious blend of dreaming and waking lasted only a moment, though, then I was fully awake.

I remember such in-between states of consciousness occurring a number of times in the past. I'm sure it's happened many more times that I've forgotten. On one memorable occasion, I knew I was about to wake, but then Robert Kennedy of all people came to me and showed me a gadget of some kind, explaining that it was a gauge for measuring one's degree of wakefulness. I don't remember what the reading was, but it must have been high, because very soon after that I actually woke up.

In the original 'Nightmare On Elm Street' there is a scene in which the heroine, Nancy, is trying to fight off the villain Freddy Krueger in a dream. During the struggle Nancy snatches Krueger's hat off his head, then upon waking up finds the hat on her bed; she has brought it out of the dream.

Playing with the dichotomy of dreaming and waking is something that I find extremely intriguing, naturally. It's something that informs my artwork continuously as a kind of general backdrop, and frequently finds more or less literal expression in the 'dreamy' details. Below is a piece that combines my fascination with dreams -- one of the moths is painted and the other is a 3-D cutout; or alternatively, one is a dream while the other is waking/real -- with my interest in Buddhism (especially of the Tibetan variety, although that part isn't really stated in this piece). I find that the two mesh together well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'Mandrake Root'

Today I had a lot of time on my hands. I couldn't think of any better way to utilize it than in the procurement of a mandrake root -- after all, who hasn't fantasized about owning their very own magic mandrake root, wrestled from the unyielding earth at the risk of being driven mad by the terrible scream it emitted when dragged out of its native habitat?

Since I had no good guidebooks to tell me where to go in Downey or Los Angeles to look for mandrake plants -- where's a witch when you need one (like this one from last year)? -- I decided to make my own. Half a dozen sheets of unbleached, recycled-paper towels were used to make this one 'mandrake root'.

The only images of mandrake roots I've ever seen are fanciful old prints that exaggerated their anthropomorphic qualities and made them look like actual homunculi, complete with facial features (like the ones in the Harry Potter movie); but I wanted to make a more naturalistic one, so my only real guide was the ginseng root, the Asian counterpart to the mandrake, with which I am well familiar. This 'mandrake root' is, therefore, really a model ginseng root more or less (still, I think it's a close approximation), with the addition of a tuft of 'hair' for effect.

Here's a piece of ginseng trivia:  while ginseng is found in diverse places in East Asia, I've read that traditionally the kind that grows in Korea is the most highly prized. To my mind it may owe this favored status to the physical remoteness of the Korean peninsula and the air of mystery that goes with it, as well as whatever actual efficacy the plant possesses; but in any case native ginseng is still a perennial favorite at gift shops in Seoul that cater to tourists from other Asian countries. Although most of the commercially available supply is cultivated on farms, the most valuable kind is wild ginseng, which grows in mountainous terrain.

Here's a photo I took of a ginseng vendor's display at Namdaemun market on that previously-referenced trip to South Korea, with signs in Vietnamese and Japanese. These particular roots are steeped in spirit, to make 'ginseng wine'. Expand the image and you'll see they really do look unsettlingly like little people -- I actually find that pale naked-skin color, in conjunction with some of the shapes, a little embarrassing (or maybe my mind is just in the gutter).

In Korea, mountains are objects of veneration -- or at least they were until modern times. It's all bound up with the native variety of animism, which is a loosely-defined belief system that holds that all things in nature are imbued with spirits. Animals, trees, boulders, bodies of water -- all are inhabited by spirits that can interact with humans, to either help or hinder.  Mountains, being some of the mightiest features of the natural world and sources of all sorts of valuable things, are 'owned' by especially powerful spirits ('San-Shin'/산신, literally 'mountain spirit'). In the old days, when folk had business to carry out on a mountain, they would make offerings to the resident spirit and ask for its permission before setting out, lest they offend the spirit with their presumptuousness.

I remember reading an interesting article in the paper once, when I was still living in Seoul -- I might have been ten or so. It was about a lucky man who'd gone up a mountain to look for wild ginseng and scored a particularly valuable specimen.

The man was quoted as saying that before going to bed on the preceding evening he prayed to the local mountain spirit for its blessing. Pleased with the man's devotion the spirit appeared to him in a dream (probably in the usual guise of a venerable old man, similar to the depictions below that I nicked off the internet -- although I wouldn't be surprised if it had chosen to look more up-to-date, like a university professor or corporation chairman in a three-piece-suit), and told him where to look.

[BTW, I've read that sometimes a mountain spirit is envisioned as a beautiful woman, but I haven't yet seen such an image]

Next day the ginseng hunter went straight to the place pointed out to him by the spirit, and sure enough, there he found the largest, best wild ginseng root he had ever seen.

What an intriguing story! Was he simply spinning a yarn? Or was it perhaps the man's own psychic ability that unconsciously divined the location of the ginseng and revealed the message in a dream?

As for myself, I prefer to believe it really was the mountain spirit, much as I choose to believe that my artificial mandrake root, made out of paper, really possesses magical qualities just like the natural kind.

Birds And Planes

Two of each, performing a classic diamond formation maneuver together. It's amazing how much birds, with their little brains, can be trained to do. In fact, it looks like it's one of the human pilots that's a little off his mark here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quick Synchronicity Update (#12)

Just now, I was looking something up at a DVD vendor's website. At the same time, co-worker M. was talking rather loudly to someone on the phone in her cubicle over the partition. Initially I experienced some trouble navigating the company's new menu; after a bit of struggling I managed to find what I needed, and in relief I mumbled "Finally!" to myself -- and immediately, M. said on the phone, "...finally...".

Monday, March 7, 2011

Today's Thrift Shop Purchase


This being my second Capt. Picard action figure, I decided the two of them are twins, and the other brother's name is Jean-Jacques.

I don't know which one is Jean-Luc the Starfleet captain and which one, the planetlubber Jean-Jacques, but I do know that when Jean-Luc wasn't out captaining, the brothers worked as a vaudeville act ("The Bold, Bald, Brothers Picard") performing many surprising and admirable feats of acrobatics, song and dance, and Three Stooges-like lowbrow comedy. They were very good, too -- Jeon Do-Yeon 전도연 looks positively awestruck by their act.

Edit: It seems to me this is very likely the first time ever Patrick Stewart and Jeon Do-Yeon have appeared together in anything. And I MADE IT HAPPEN! WHOOP WHOOP!ㅋㅋㅋ

Apollo's Arrow II