Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dinner Doodle


The other night I met Mom for dinner at our favorite Chinese place, and this 'figure' was formed out of the discarded straw and chopstick covers. Too bad neither one of us ordered noodles. 'Noodle Doodle' would have been an awesome title.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dead Hummingbird

This afternoon coworker Binh returned from her break and came over to tell me about a dead hummingbird she'd come across. She knew about my interest in hummingbirds and figured I'd want to check it out. It was just lying in the middle of the sidewalk, as if it had just fallen there, she said.

I half-walked, half-ran to the location, anxious to get there before it was carried off by some cat or dog, or worse, stepped on by an inattentive -- or malicious -- human. And to my relief, as I approached the spot I could see it from across the broad, four-lanes-plus-one road, just a tiny dark speck on the sunlit pavement.

It was lying there with its partly-open wings catching the breeze and causing the little body to roll from side to side repeatedly. I took the shots below, then I wrapped it up in some tissue and brought it back to the office. I placed it in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator in the staff lounge (no worries -- this was done only after it was securely wrapped up, taped closed and rolled up in a small tote bag). After work I brought it home and it's now in my refrigerator, to stay there frozen solid, until I figure out what to do with it.




Actually, this is the third dead bird I've brought home. The first was a pigeon I found at USC when I was a student there. It had flown into a glass door and probably broken its neck. I brought it home, cut off the wings, drained and dried them. They were very interesting and mysterious, looking rather like tools of magic from a shaman's kit. Later I traded one wing for a rabbit skin, which I still have.

The second one was also at USC, but it was one of my professors who found it and informed me of it. And I brought that one home, too, and placed it in the refrigerator and sort of forgot about it, until my mother came visiting one day, and as mothers will, decided to clean her son's dust-laden atelier for him. You can guess what happened -- she got a nice little shock when she happened across the little frozen mummy I'd forgotten about. I don't know what I did with that one. Which probably means I disposed of it after the incident.
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Below is what I tried to do for the hummingbird's spirit -- help him on his journey to his destination, wherever that may be, by slightly manipulating one of the photos so that it shows him flying on.



EDIT: It occurs to me that this may be the very bird I saw so often in the tree that I came to think of as the 'hummmingbird tree' over the last few years. If that's the case, my hummingbird photos will most likely have come to the end of the series.

EDIT: I have since learned that hummingbirds are protected by law and one cannot keep them, not even dead ones. I guess I could put it back right where I found it, so nature can take its course (although, most likely something 'unnatural' will happen to it there -- like the gardener chucking it in the trash along with mowed grass...).

Some Intimidating Dude

That I passed the other morning. It's probably not that close a likeness, but I had fun drawing him.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Still More Old Art

SCARY ANTEATER


A dark room, guarded by an intimidating figure -- but outside the window, a strange landscape bathed in a nostalgic yellow glow -- *I think it's a metaphor for dreaming. Above, stored in the 'attic' position, are objects that were found in dreams. Whether they are later re-creations or the originals brought out of the dreams, I don't remember.

*Why "I think", when it's my own work? Truth is, I don't necessarily understand my own reasons and motivations for doing things in particular ways. I can only try to interpret them after the fact, as if I were analyzing someone else's work.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Vanishing Building

THE SECOND OF TWO FOLLOW-UPS TODAY (RE 10-23-2010)

Today I had to drive out to the Hollywood area to pick up a prescription. The trip turned out to be particularly interesting -- in quick succession I sighted: #1. another screwy cloud (previous post); and #2. another shy building (below), which seems to be merging into the sky.



Edit: Hmm -- I thought this building was part of the Church of Scientology, but it may be that it's actually a separate building, adjacent to it. I'll have to find out next time I'm in the area.

Another Twisty ConTrail

THE FIRST OF TWO FOLLOW-UPS TODAY (RE 07-19-2010)

Seen today -- a corkscrew of a cloud over Sunset Boulevard.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ladybug On My Thumb



Rather an uncharacteristically cute & cheery photo from Sam today^.

BTW, that nail that looks oddly overgrown off the side, isn't really overgrown. It's actually the opposite -- the nail looks too large because a chunk of my thumb is gone from that side, the part that would normally be above and in front of the ladybug; I accidentally sliced it off with a matte knife in sculpture class a long time ago. The cut just missed the base of the nail, so it still grows full-size even though now there is no flesh under the interior edge of the last joint (of course this entry wasn't going to be ALL cute & cheery^).

Oddly, I don't remember much pain. Maybe that's because John, my sculpture professor, who was a big burly guy, was holding the base of my thumb tight to stanch the blood as he walked me across campus to the infirmary.

Once we got there, the doctor checked out the wound and sent John right back with a cup of saline solution to fetch the cut-off piece of thumb, while I tried to remain philosophical about the fact that I'd just seen a small portion of my own living skeleton.

John came back presently with the piece of flesh. Despite the fairly messy state of the sculpture studio the task had taken hardly any time at all, as he'd got the other students to help him look for it. One of the girls found it and picked it up using two pieces of wood as makeshift chopsticks, he told me.

Then the doctor set to work; he cleaned the flesh, scraped out the subcutaneous fat and whatnot, and sewed it back onto my thumb to serve as a kind of ready-made bandage -- he actually burned tiny holes in the nail to pass the sutures through. Of course, with so much of the inner padding gone, it was essentially just a piece of skin and did not do anything to restore the original shape of my thumb; the side of the digit therefore remained flat, and looked rather mechanical with its nearly triangular tip.

Over the following days the piece of skin dried out and hardened, darkening until it was nearly black (I attributed that to the dried blood on the inside, not gangrene -- gangrene would have been bad).

Finally, after ten days the stitches came out, followed by a small amount of pus (ew-www^), for which I was given antibiotics. The dead skin was allowed to slough off naturally and I began the long wait for some of the flesh to fill back in. That never happened to any meaningful extent, however. Even though the tip of the thumb rounded out some and after a long time the ache finally went away for good, to this day my left thumb remains significantly smaller than my right thumb.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Custom-Made Hells

NOTE OF CAUTION: Some disturbing personal visions of hell are described below (maybe I was still thinking about the photo in the last post). They are not gory or anything, but they do contain frightening and unpleasant verbal imagery. I wrote them down only in order to exorcise them out of my head, not to afflict others with lasting, unpleasant ideas in the name of literary entertainment. If you are easily disturbed by thoughts of psychological horror, and especially if you suffer from claustrophobia, it might be best if you skipped this post.
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Movies and other works of fiction that include scenes that take place in hell -- for example, Constantine; What Dreams May Come; Spawn; the Hellraiser movies; and even TV's Angel -- tend to present hell as an adventuresome place that's filled with interesting scenery and events. Those who are trapped there may be suffering and miserable, but at least their lives -- afterlives? -- are filled with excitement so they are never bored. Dante's hell certainly was chock full of drama. Usually it's heaven that's conceived as boring (although I myself attribute this cynical attitude to a failure of imagination).

The only description of hell that I know of, as a -- well -- hellishly boring place, is in an Asimov story I read once -- it may have been 'The Last Trump', but don't quote me -- in which the dead are resurrected and at first people think the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, but then literally everything else, including the landscape, starts to crumble away, condemning humanity to an eternity of nothing but each other, and they realize they are in hell.

But for me personally, the most truly effective -- frightening, that is -- depiction of hell is the one that comes, appropriately enough, at the end of the Michael Fox movie The Frighteners. I've only seen the movie once, a long time ago -- I don't recall the characters' names or even the scene very well -- but the evil psycho couple get their just deserts when the space they are standing in metamorphoses into a giant throat and they are swallowed down into a very confining and personal hell.

That scene stayed with me because being trapped in a tight space is one of my worst fears. Seeing someone buried alive in a coffin, and seeing it from their perspective, as happened with the characters played by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 2; Jennifer Garner in an episode of Alias; and Brad Pitt in Interview With The Vampire ("Eternity in a box!") is just about the worst thing I can think of seeing in a movie. I once read of a mafioso being welded into a drum barrel, and sincerely hoped they'd at least killed the guy first. A similar scene is shown in Tank Girl, in which the heroine is passed through a transparent pipe that narrows until she can hardly move or even breathe.

My worst, most horrifying fantasy combines elements of those scenes with a very personal fear. In this nightmare scenario, a group of demons are digging a narrow hole in the floor of a cave. They dig it miles deep, or perhaps light-years deep. Then a victim is brought in. He is bound tightly and his eyes are held open with wire. He is forced into a steel capsule, a cylinder just wide and long enough to wedge him in tightly, with a small glass window at eye level. The demons seal the capsule tight, then turn it upside down and drop it down the hole, which is just wide enough to allow it to slide down. There is a small light inside the capsule so that the victim, unable to move and nearly choking from the cramped, upside-down position, can -- must -- see through the window the wall of earth sliding past him as he drops. When the capsule comes to a crashing stop at the bottom, the demons fill up the hole, smooth the earth over it so it cannot ever be found, and leave. Inside the capsule, the light never burns out or runs out of power, so that the victim is forced to look at the earth inches from his eyes forever, unable to even close his eyes and imagine he is somewhere else. The final flourish (not really necessary, but the movie in my head is still playing) -- the camera pulls back and back, eventually revealing that now the entire universe consists of solid rock, and the prisoner entombed in the tiny bubble of space is the only object that exists in it.

As if that weren't enough, I came up with another version of hell today (well, yesterday -- it's past 1:00 AM now). This one is not as immediately, urgently restricting, but it's also very confining in its own way.

In this scenario, you find yourself in a long, narrow corridor. It's so narrow that you have to draw your arms in to keep from grazing the walls, or stand sideways. And it's very long. In fact, it stretches on and on and on, perfectly straight and antiseptically smooth, forever. There are no windows, doorways or any features other than a continuous line of lights overhead, lighting the infinite corridor with a bright, even light.

You look down the corridor and see that it really does stretch on endlessly, the corners converging toward a point that's far too distant to see clearly. You turn around and look in the opposite direction, and you can see the corridor goes on forever that way, too -- except, way off in the distance, far far away, maybe there is something there..?

Curious, you start to walk toward it. After a little while though, you realize that it seems to be closer than it should be; at the pace you're walking, it should still be far away, but it looks much bigger than it did before and now you can sort of make out some ominous features on the thing. Is it moving toward you? You stop, a little alarmed, and watch.

After some moments you are certain that, yes, the thing really is coming toward you at a steady clip, and soon enough you can see exactly what it is and the fist of sudden terror claps itself around your chest as you realize that it's your worst fear made loathsome flesh. Maybe it's a rotting zombie with arms outstretched to grab, or a mutant monster with big misplaced eyes and a gaping mouth full of fangs; a walking skeleton trailing grave-dirt, a man-sized mass of spiders and maggots, or even a pale Asian girl ghost with long, disheveled hair obscuring her face, walking with an odd, jerky gait and making a garbled attempt to say your name in a choked voice.

You whirl around and start running, bumping into the walls and scraping your arms raw. You run and run until you're out of breath and you have to slow to a walk, nursing your aching side. You look back to check and note with panic that while the run has increased the gap between you and the thing, you are tired and must walk slowly, while your pursuer is still coming for you at the same relentless pace. You turn and start to half-walk, half-trot, with the dismaying knowledge that you will never be able to stop.

Avidya (Again)


The central mask, intended to serve as the collective realization of all the different forms of ignorance expressed by the 999 little faces surrounding it, four of which are shown in this detail.


EDIT: I also rescued a worm! It looked to be in serious distress, as it was covered in dirt and debris and its skin was not wet/slimy-looking at all; but when I tried to pick it up it resisted vigorously, so I think it probably was strong enough to recover once it was safely back in the soil.

Number of worms rescued so far: 30

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fairies, Neologisms, And Photographic Anomalies

I COIN A NEW PHRASE, BUT DARE NOT USE IT -- FOR FEAR OF FAIRIES

Today I was at my tax accountant's office (not that I'm rich enough to require tax dodges; far from it -- it's just that I have no head for figures and prefer to avoid the drudge work) to pick up my copies of this year's tax documents. But there was a bit of confusion initially as to just where they were; the receptionist thought the accountant was keeping them in her office, and the accountant was certain they were in the file cabinet in the reception area.

It turned out my accountant was right; they were in the file cabinet. When the matter was resolved and the receptionist apologized for the delay, I jokingly said to her that it was all right, this sort of thing happens around me all the time -- it's because "the fairies are jealous of me" as I signed page after page of legal forms. It made the receptionist smile.

I thought it was pretty witty, too. I think it would fit in nicely alongside such other folksy Celtic expressions like "Och aye" and "She had me waiting for three mortal hours" (but I don't know why Americans tend to associate fairies with the British Isles so much, since other European countries have fairies, too). But on the other hand, I don't know if I'd use it again anytime soon -- the fairies must have heard me and decided to teach me a little lesson about being properly respectful, because minutes after I had driven away from the office, the accountant lady called me on the cell phone; it turned out I had overlooked one of the documents I was supposed to sign. I had to drive back a couple of miles and take care of it. I don't know how it could have happened, as the receptionist and I both checked to make sure I didn't miss anything -- but anyway, there you are.

And to make certain I understood it was not a chance happening but a trick played on me by them, the fairies left me with a little mystery. As I was driving away (the first time) I photographed some nice noonday clouds hanging over Westwood. Below are the first two photographs from that set, taken six seconds apart (12:55:09 and 12:55:15).



Notice the two little squiggly whatsis in the second photo, low in the first quadrant. They do not appear in the first photo, nor in any of the subsequent shots. I have no idea what they could be. They don't look like bugs or floating motes of dust (apart from their appearance, bugs and dust motes are not likely to come in pairs traveling in identical trajectories; althought it's certainly not impossible in principle, I've never seen such occurrences in either real life or any spoiled shots I've seen before). Nor are they spots or reflections on the windshield, since they do not appear in any other shots. Anyway, although I cannot be certain, for my money they don't look like they are inside the car; I think they really were 'out there'. Probably closer than the clouds, but certainly a goodly distance away from the car. For now I'm calling them UFLOs -- Unidentified Fairy-Like Objects.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Yesterday's Hummingbird Photos

(Click to enlarge image)





Yes, there IS a hummingbird in each photograph. In the first photograph it's sitting on a branch at the top center.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Truly Absurd Synchronistic Event (#14)

Just now I was reviewing last week's post (April 8th) about the heart-shaped glass box. I lingered over the last photo especially -- I find that image of a red heart contained within a glass heart quite beautiful, and synbolically meaningful as well. It's also a little amusing to me in that it kind of looks like a bleeding heart with a lace border -- very Mexican, if you ask me.

I then opened another tab in my browser in order to visit some other blogs. The first blog I went to was one authored by a Filipina woman who lives in Seoul, Korea. Her latest post happened to be about a really fancy ladies' room in some public venue in Seoul. She'd put up some photos and teasingly challenged her readers to guess where it might be located. I was curious, so I clicked open the comments -- and I saw this (the rest of the blog's contents have been blurred out):



Here's a cropped and enlarged view of that unusual graphic:



Compare it against the photograph I was looking at just before I visited her blog (image shrunk for better comparison):



Writer Damon Knight, in his biography of Charles Fort, the iconic iconoclast and comfort-zone-challenger, wrote: "If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?"

I guess one could as easily ask, "If there is a universal mind, must it be awake, rather than asleep and dreaming?"

A photograph of a red foam rubber heart inside a heart-shaped glass container -- followed by an emoticon in the form of a red heart contained within a nearly heart-shaped border... Had I gone on browsing the blogs, would I next have come across an image of a bleeding heart in a religious icon, a Purple Heart in a box, or a Valentine's Day box of chocolates? Perhaps a heart-shaped face in an oval frame?

In Fort's organic view of the universe, nothing possessed a separate identity entire to itself; no such thing as an independent, isolated object existed. Everything blurred at the edges and bled into its neighbors, which also blurred into their neighbors, and so on, so that everything was really part of everything else.

One red heart bleeding into another red heart; a universe-algorithm that makes two heart-files intersect at a folder marked X (for Xenolithic!^^)...

In one of his manuscripts Fort recounted an incident from his boyhood. His father pressed him into service one day to help out at the family store, stripping factory labels off canned goods and attaching the store's own labels.

At some point the young Fort ran out of all but peach labels. When he faced a pile of canned apricots, he thought, Well, is not an apricot a kind of peach? So he started putting peach labels onto cans of apricots. Then when he was done with apricots, he began to paste peach labels on other canned goods -- in order of decreasing likeness, surely -- such as plums, cherries, strings beans, succotash. There is no mention of how, or if, it affected business.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Crime Of Negligence

I haven't come across any stranded worms lately. I still see dried-out, dead worms now and then, but it's been a long time since I've encountered living worms struggling on the sidewalk.

Which is why I stopped carrying the water-filled syringe. It wasn't by conscious decision -- it just slipped my mind one day, and because that day passed without incident, as did the next day I forgot, I gradually became used to being lazy and it stopped bothering me.

Until today.

This morning I came upon a worm on the sidewalk. It looked dead, but as I walked past it I thought it moved slightly. I turned around and watched, and sure enough, it moved again. It was obviously on the very verge of death. Its skin had turned dark and looked leathery, and when I picked it up it was so dehydrated it didn't even flop.

Full of contrition, I dug a little hole in the soil beside the sidewalk and placed the worm in it, taking care to cover it up well to hide it from birds.

I don't know if being doused with water would have saved that worm. To be truthful, I rather doubt it -- it was probably past that point by the time I found it. Nevertheless, I felt guilty. Maybe water would at least have lessened its suffering a little.

In the afternoon I set out again, carrying the syringe this time. And of course, there were no worms in need of my help.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Yesterday's Thrift Shop Purchase

ANOTHER GLASS HEART

A certain dramatic life-episode happened to me a few years ago. Although it was fairly brief in duration, it was a very intense experience that's left me with a deep, indelible mark that still acts up at unpredictable intervals -- sometimes it gladdens, sometimes it stings, but it always leaves me feeling wistful and wishing things could have been different somehow.




EDIT: BTW, that red heart is a foam-rubber squeeze-ball from the Red Cross where I donate blood^^ You keep squeezing it in your fist to keep the blood flowing briskly. Little did I know when I asked if I could keep it that it would some day fit so perfectly into a future blog post!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another UFO Sighting(!)

[EDIT: This is the second of three UFO sightings; you may check out the other two posts (March 18th and July 13th) by clicking on the UFO tag at the bottom of this post]

NOTE: I strongly advise you to EXPAND these photos for viewing.


Photo #1a



Photo #1b (zoom) - I have to say, this one looks very like the first close-up from the previous sighting



Photo #1c (detail with enhanced contrast)



At lunchtime I went out for my walk/cloud hunt as usual. There were no clouds to speak of, although the sky was slightly misty. Still, I had my camera with me and I scanned the heavens hopefully. As I turned my gaze toward the southwest, I saw this shiny object flying at a fairly leisurely pace from left to right, seemingly not so far away. I did not hear any engine noise, but it did look very like a helicopter or perhaps a small airplane -- meaning it was elongate rather than round, and had a big front end and a thin little back end (more about this later).

This time, however, I did not hesitate to photograph it, just in case -- even though I was even more certain than I was the last time that this was a conventional aircraft. I should note here that the glare of the noonday sun and the smallness of the object conspired to prevent me from actually seeing the object in the LCD screen of the camera -- I had to judge the location of the target blindly, in relation to the condensation trail next to it; which is why I didn't zoom in any closer than a couple of clicks. I snapped off three shots, then lowered the camera to try and re-orient myself by sight, but by then the object was nowhere to be found.

This was odd, because at the rate the object was moving it would have required a much longer period of time to simply fly out of sight. And it could not have gone behind a cloud, because there were no clouds. The inevitable conclusion: it disappeared by some other means. In fact, photo #3 seems to show the object in the process of vanishing. Yes, that sounds weird.

When I checked the images in the in-camera review mode, I could not see the object. I was severely disappointed, but I figured the blind zooming caused me to lose my bearings, too bad. Still, I came home and downloaded the photos anyway, and well -- imagine my delight!


NOTE: Again, I strongly advise you to EXPAND these images for viewing


Photo #2a (zoom)



Photo #2b (zoom 2)



Photo #2c (detail with enhanced contrast)



Photo #3a



PHoto #3b (zoom)



Photo #3c (enhanced close-up) - Looks like the object is kind of fading out here -- it's quite faint and the upper half of the 'outer ring' is gone -- but what the Sam Hill is that dark quadrangle next to it (just barely visible in the un-enhanced photo above)? Is it just a graphic artifact? It has the shape of a doorway or window; but it couldn't possibly be that, could it? That would literally be cartoony, like Wyle E. Coyote painting a tunnel on a boulder... yet that's just what it looks like. Or maybe that 2-D flying diamond thingy from the original Superman movie, that General Whatsisname -- Zod? -- and his cohorts were locked up in. Weird and preposterous... and Looney Tunes.



One thing I find strange is the fact that to my naked-eye vision the object had an elongate shape, yet the photos show a discoid or lenticular object. On the other hand, it looks like it could very well be the same shape as the previous UFO -- maybe even the very same object!

I am aware that reporting this sighting will probably cause some people to react negatively; after all, I imagine it's highly unusual for someone to make two UFO sighting reports, within a few weeks' time too, and involving what could be the same object -- I've already had a number of people insist that it must be a distant airplane or a speck of dust in front of the lens, or just laugh the whole thing off without even expressing curiosity(!). Yet I choose to disregard the prospect of doubt, ridicule and perhaps accusations of fraud, because everything I stated above is true, and I sincerely believe that UFOs represent a true, unexplained phenomenon that deserves to be investigated with the same dignity and curiosity scientists apply to other subjects.

P.S. I just realized that the appearance of this object follows the same pattern as that in the previous incident: in the first photo it appears as a bull's-eye shape (maybe a core surrounded by some kind of aura?), then it is seen as a fat discoid or shallow cone, followed by abrupt disappearance. Just a coicidence? I guess it must be...

EDIT: It is now the evening of April 8, three days later, and I have just uploaded photo #2c. While enhancing the image for better viewing, I noticed that there is what looks very like the beginning of the 'dark quadrangle' which is more clearly seen in photo #3c. It is in the same position relative to the object (which means it has moved with the object -- which implies that the object is its source), but the earlier version is smaller and less distinct, and its shape is not unlike that of the object itself, almost as if it were the object's shadow. Does this mean the dark quadrangle is really a kind of graphic artifact? My answer is no, since in photo #3c it does not resemble the object at all. What it does suggest, however, is that the dark quadrangle was caught in the process of forming. So first, the object is clearly seen and the dark quandrangle is small and faint (#2c), seemingly in the process of forming; then in the next photo (#3c), the relationship is reversed; the dark quadrangle has grown larger and more distinct, seemingly having formed more fully, while the object has become smaller and fainter, seemingly in the process of disappearing.

What this could possibly mean I cannot say, but it certainly is intriguing.
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Daimones

With the advent of warm weather, I am seeing more and more daimones among the shady trees that line the path I walk every day at work. I wonder where they go in the winter? I do not think they are directly affected by the weather, not being made of vulnerable flesh like we are, but rather I think they just prefer the life-engendering properties of a warm, lush environment.

I cannot tell them apart, so I don't know if it's the same ones from last year returning; although some do look rather familiar, that could just be due to their generic similarity. I suppose they do look individually different to each other.





Monday, April 4, 2011

A Wonderful Discovery

GIUSEPPE GIACOMINI, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

I love opera. I confess I don't know the first thing about its technical aspects -- I just like listening to my favorite singers singing my favorite passages and arias. I guess I'm missing out on the finer points of appreciation because I'm not an educated listener, but I do try to learn the lyrics where I can, and like any true fan I insist on my right to love and hate with irrational whimsy.

[I write the following with apologies in advance for fans of Caruso, Björling, Pavarotti, Domingo, Fleming and Te Kanawa -- forgive me, I'm an uneducated listener, like I said]

Take the first time I ever heard a Caruso recording, many years ago. I no longer remember what the song was, but I do remember being disappointed; I had come to think of Enrico Caruso as The Legend, the gold standard -- after all, wasn't an entire episode of I Dream of Jeannie devoted to Major Nelson suddenly singing like Caruso and shattering glass with his voice? But what I heard sounded to me thin and reedy, and rather too pretty, not at all like what I expected(although, to be fair, the tinny old recording could have been partly responsible). The old-fashioned way of ornamenting the melody(if that's what it was) with exaggerated flourishes didn't do anything for me, either. It was almost like listening to a highfalutin' version of early white jazz singing, which I can't stand.

I was somewhat familiar with Mario Lanza at the time because my father had an LP of his role in 'The Student Prince' in his collection, and while I know Lanza had his detractors because he was a Hollywood-Personality-Not-A-Real-Opera-Singer, I much prefer his voice -- the man just sounds manlier.

Gradually I came to realize that I just prefer thick, muscular voices, even in tenors, to bright voices. Which is why I'm also not into Jussi Björling and Luciano Pavarotti (I also can't stand Placido Domingo, but for a different reason).

In female singers I'm more accepting of sprightly, pretty voices, but my favorite gals are still those with just a touch of darkness to their voices (just not to the murky depths of a Renée Fleming or Kiri Te Kanawa). I love Dawn Upshaw, for example; and even though I don't understand all those weird tuneless modern songs she likes to sing, I admire her for her wide repertoire. And for a time I was kind of infatuated with Mirella Freni -- when my dormmate at USC remarked, upon seeing her face on my album, that he thought she was 'ugly' (which is not true!) I was shocked, shocked, I tell you! Pitiable boy, he had no idea that it was the face of the woman who sang the most entrancing and heartfelt rendition of "O Mio Babbino Caro" since baby Schicchi squeaked his way into the world(Bidú Sayão did -- possibly -- the second best version).

Anyway, a little while ago I was eating dinner in front of the computer, perusing YouTube for various renditions of Vesti La Giubbba, when I came across a name I had not seen before -- Giuseppe Giacomini -- and thought I'd give him a listen.

Was I amazed! Here was the most full-throated, deep-chested tenor I'd ever heard -- in fact, he sounded more like a baritone. Wow, I was incredulous. I listened spellbound as he approached the climax, and suddenly my fist started clenching all by itself and my eyes were welling up with tears. That's right, I literally cried over my bowl of chicken-and-dumpling soup as I listened to Giuseppe Giacomini sing "Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto--"

Here is a still I stole off a video of him singing it live:


[Some minutes later] Wow, while looking up Bryn Terfel -- for comparison with Giacomini -- I came across a video of Terfel singing a Welsh lullaby, "Suo Gân", in a live performance given in S. Korea -- and how beautiful it is! Isn't it wonderful, how one marvelous discovery leads to another, and another, and still others on the internet? I cannot wait for the day when we'll be able to have super-mini computers directly implanted in our brains (supposing hack-proof quantum computing becomes available before then). Goodbye, studying; hello, Borgassimilation (there probably aren't many people who view the Borg civilization in a positive light, but I do -- kind of)!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

At The Doctor's Office

Last Monday I saw my doctor for my twice-yearly checkup.

While waiting for the doctor I thought I'd put the time to good use and practice the lightning-bolt-from-the-fingertips move from the dream(see previous post).


I wasn't too hopeful that it would work in waking life, and indeed it didn't at first, but with some hard effort I was finally able to get off one small blast -- what a rush!

But now that I've had time to reflect, I realize it was such a dangerously stupid thing to do in front of a mirror! I'm lucky I didn't blow myself to smithereens like 'The Man with the Power' (see March 26 post).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Other Self Images (Pt. 2)

Once I dreamt that I could shoot bolts of lightning out of my hand like a cartoon superhero.


In the dream it was quite easy and natural, and I remember vaguely thinking that this is so easy, I should be able to do this in waking life from now on. Oh, well.

Anyhow, I realized today that while one is free -- perhaps even morally obligated in some way -- to continually strive to improve oneself throughout life, it may ultimately be necessary to accept *that one may never rid oneself of some traits that one would rather not have*.


But perhaps the very act of recognizing that you'd like to be something better than what you are, already makes you morally a little better than what you are?

Or does it make you worse, in that you know how you could/should be better, but have not made the necessary changes?

Oh, well.


*I'm not confessing that I'm living a secret other life as a vampire or a psycho killer (vamps and psychos don't WANT to change, see?).

Other Self-Images (Pt. 1)

Just now, as I finished uploading the last blog post and returned to the general view mode, something went wrong with the profile photo on the right and my old photo was replaced with a random image.

So I started to re-upload the old photo of myself as a toddler ("This just shows my mental age"),


then I thought maybe it was time to replace it with a new one.

In the photo that's up now I'm slightly older. I'm not sure where it was taken, but possibly it was in the building next to my grandfather's house.

Below are the other photos I considered using. The first one was taken some years ago when I was teaching a drawing course at USC. I had taken the class to Santa Monica beach for a morning of outdoor sketching. The second is more recent; I'm in a hotel room at Hakone, Japan, getting ready to go down for a dip in the natural hot spring.



This one isn't a photo, but what the hey, it's still me. I thought about using it.


I also kinda sorta thought about using this one, but thought (lots)better of it. It just didn't say "Darling, it's you!" to me.