Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sunny Cloud

A CLOUD TOUCHES THE SUN

Poul Anderson wrote a short story titled 'Kyrie', whose emotional ending makes it one of the most memorable ones I've ever read.  In it, the crew of a spaceship includes a rather asocial young woman whose gift of telepathy enables her to stay in constant mental contact with an alien creature accompanying the ship.

Named Lucifer, the creature is an intelligent plasma cloud, indigenous to space, with a surprisingly humanlike mind.  Eloise, the girl, and Lucifer are not just fellow explorers -- they have fallen in love with each other.  Since their radically different natures made it impossible for them to ever physically express their love, I suppose theirs could be considered the purest, most platonic of love affairs.


At the climax of the story [HERE BE A SPOILER] the ship is in danger of being destroyed by the gravitational pull of a collapsed star -- a black hole -- and in order to save his beloved Eloise, Lucifer sacrifices himself by letting himself be pulled into it.  But as Lucifer approaches the event horizon of the black hole, the time dilation effect approaches infinity, and the agonized mental scream Lucifer emits as he is killed is drawn out to an infinite length -- which Eloise will forever continue to hear in her mind.

That tragic romance has found a real-life echo -- very Wagnerian, albeit one that is less unbearably sad, I think, and even paradoxically life-affirming -- in these images of a curiously lifelike cloud which, against all good sense, embraces certain destruction in order to experience one moment of unimaginable glory -- one magnificent, indescribably beautiful, fatal kiss that lasted forever, is lasting still, and will outlast us all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being Invisible

"SAY, DID THAT HOUSE ALWAYS HAVE TWO CHIMNEYS?"


Like many people I have been fascinated by the idea of invisibility since I was little. But not with the classic, transparent-as-the-air kind of invisibility. There are different ways of being invisible, and my fascination was not so much with literal invisibility, but with camouflage -- by that I mean disguising the body to resemble either something else or the general background so that it is unnoticeable, not merely covering up or hiding.  Camouflage done to perfection is effectively equivalent to invisibility -- and I suspect a lot of people share my fascination with the subject. Why do I find camouflage-invisibility more intriguing than transparency-invisibility? I suppose one reason is that it seems so tantalizingly attainable in real life, because we see other creatures do it, like leaf insects, walking sticks, octopodes and cuttlefish, even The Thing (I refer to the mimetic monster from the John W. Campbell Jr. story and the John Carpenter movie it inspired, not the stone-man from the Fantastic Four). And of course, those wonderful photos of Veruschka disappearing, her body painted to exactly replace the background it is obscuring.


But I suspect another, perhaps more important reason is that the idea of hiding in plain sight is way more adventuresome -- deliciously thrilling if it's us doing it; spooky and creepy if it's someone -- or something -- else doing it to us. Donald Wollheim captured the essence of the latter concept so well in the short story 'Mimic', which is about the idea that weird, camouflaged creatures live openly in our midst; even though we encounter them all the time, we don't look too closely at them because some resemble 'fringe people' we'd rather stay away from anyhow; others mimic the appearance of common objects (BTW, if you've only seen the movie version (bearing the same title), run out to the library and check out the story it's based on -- the movie is just another standard monster flick, with none of the strangeness and originality of the story). Like, "Say, has that rock always been there?", or "Funny, I never noticed the Johnsons' house has two chimneys..?"(cue eerie music).


I once read that there are ant-mimicking insects that actually live among ants, protected from their enemies by the ant colony (I wonder if there are other benefits -- do they also feed on the ants? now, that would be a true nightmare). They are not absolutely perfect copies of ants; larger size is one difference that cannot be so easily hidden, but I suppose if the difference is not too great it can be distracted away by a good imitation of chemical signals. And the ones that are very much larger than the ants -- and this one I find profoundly disturbing for some reason -- are actually shaped to resemble two ants, one following close behind the other!  Imagine there was a creature that was camouflaged to look like two humans spooning -- but only the front head was real;  the other was a mockup, with spots for eyes and a wrinkle for a mouth.  If ants could think, that's how the ant-mimic would be for them

A tangential anecdote: a long time ago once, I was walking up Westwood Boulevard toward the UCLA campus. It was near the medical center, so perhaps the man I saw coming toward me was an outpatient there, but anyway I have to say he was unfortunately saddled with -- forgive me! -- the most grotesque facial deformity I have ever seen; his face was so extremely wide that it looked as if during fetal development the head had started to grow and divide into two heads, then stopped part-way. And it looked not like an image of a normal face that was stretched equally overall to twice the width -- I think that would actually have been less weird-looking -- but more like a human version of a hammerhead shark's head, because each of his eyes was normal-sized and located close to the correct spot for its side of the face, leaving a wide swath of vagueness between. I can't even imagine the kind of burden he must have had to live with, especially as a child.


Yet another, and perhaps more serious, reason is that being present yet unnoticed would allow us to flow through life's cracks without the onerous trauma of having to deal with other people. For those who are painfully shy or awkward, the ability to vanish into the background would be like an armor over their sensitive thin skin. I know I have on occasion wished I could disappear like a flounder on a chessboard. It's easy to say that this probably is not the most healthy, constructive way to resolve a social-adjustment problem, but what a boon such an ability would have been to that deformed man! And who is to say what is the best or the 'correct' way to adjust? We tend to heroicize those who confront hardships and enemies directly and emerge triumphant (we often do this even if we are in principle in an adversarial relationship with them -- for example, look at Genghis Khan and the ambiguously heroic image he enjoys in the west, despite the fact that had he lived to achieve his objective, much of the population of Eastern Europe would certainly have been decimated, and the rest would have been enslaved or at least subjugated), but is the man who conquers his enemies, suffering through toil and pain in the process, necesssarily superior to the man who cleverly manages to avoid difficulties and live and die in comfort? As long as their effects on others' lives remain comparable, who is to say which is the morally superior way? What would Machiavelli say?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Old Art Again

ANOTHER (SOMEWHAT)GRUESOME STORY


When I told one of my instructors about the time I sliced off a piece of my thumb, he told me about the time he slashed open his finger. He said that after stitching the wound, the surgeon tied on a button to secure the sutures; while his finger healed he went around with a button attached to his finger.

I don't know if he was pulling my leg or what, but he did provide me with an interesting image. So I made a 'power wand' with a finger for a tip and a brass button sewed on.

A Slightly Portentous Image

STRANGE INTIMATIONS


Above, a shark about to devour a coelacanth

Below, a window that seems broken but is not.

Living fossils, modern artifice; in actual and virtual violence.

Paper Crane Project Update


O.K., I'm slacking. Clearly the initial enthusiasm has worn off and now I have settled into a more flaccid phase. But that's fine. It was bound to happen, and I expected that there would be long periods of passivity punctuated by brief bursts of feverish activity. It was the same with the Avidya project.

Unexpected Discovery

A SINISTER DEVELOPMENT?


I just found this photo after uploading the previous post. Somehow it had escaped my notice before; all I can say is, I'm actually glad I didn't notice it at the time it was taken -- I think I would have been scared if I saw something like this among the trees.

Just going by its appearance, I would say this individual is clearly equipped for independent existence away from the trees, or at least to venture away from them for a time. This is a new and unexpected development. Will I start seeing this and other daimones like it in other places?

Daimon-May-Care

IT'S ALL IN THE ATTITUDE


I suppose I could be guilty of anthropomorphizing a bit, but with this confident, casual stance I wager this individual is probably considered 'cool' or 'debonair' among daimonkind.

More Random Order




I was curious enough to go and check out what the light patches were pointing the way to. It turned out to be a scrunched-up paper napkin. There was no secret formula or treasure map or anything like that on it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Synchronistic Event No. 17

AT LAST -- ONE WITH A COMPREHENSIBLE, IF WACKY, PURPOSE

Sometimes I'll take a few of my faces to work and set them up on the desk. After a period lasting some days I'll take them home and bring different ones, rotating them every so often. The three in the photo below have been keeping me company for the past several days.

Anyhow, this morning I was checking out the news online when I came across a mug that seemed somehow familiar.

It was a moment before I understood why, then I felt a strange sense of vindication.

[Click image to enlarge]

Monday, July 18, 2011

Flying Double


I used to enjoy making and flying paper airplanes. Especially tiny little ones.

I experimented with different designs and came up with one that worked well(sometimes, that is -- the balance had to be just so). I must have made dozens over the following months. Once I even got into a bit of trouble at work for flying them in the lobby of the building; I couldn't help it though -- they were far too light and delicate to fly outdoors.

Now that I've moved into a (relatively)huge space with plenty of room to fly little dragonfly-sized paper aircraft, I have not once done so.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Third UFO Sighting?

EDIT: To see the two earlier UFO sightings, go to March 18th and April 5th, or click the UFO tag at the bottom of this post.
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[Post begins]
ANOTHER ODD LITTLE THINGY IN THE SKIES OVER DOWNEY, CALIFORNIA

Possibly. Or it might be just an unusual kind of kite, or maybe even some balloons tied together; however, I don't think either of those possibilities is likely at all, for reasons stated below.


Today I went out for my afternoon walk as usual; almost as soon as I stepped outside the front door I saw this object or group of objects making somewhat erratic tracks in the sky to the northeast (click on image to enlarge):



Here's a close-up detail:



Another shot, followed by a close-up:




The photo below is what convinced me this is not a fancy kite or a bunch of balloons: the closeup clearly shows the topmost of the three objects has changed its shape dramatically; all three were round before -- now one has metamorphosed into a thin line segment; it also seems to be longer, although that isn't quite clear.

One might propose that it is perhaps a flat disc (as it would be if it were part of a three-part kite) that has turned sideways and is now presenting a profile view; but in that case how could the strange condition of one part of a kite having made a full 90-degree turn while the rest have not turned at all (that is, still facing me more or less full-on) be explained? -- three discs joined together as a kite would catch the wind in the same way and turn as a unit; and even if one were partly disconnected and turning haphazardly, it would be just plain odd for three ordinary discs, randomly blown about by the wind, to present only either a perfect profile or a full-on view to someone observing from a particular spot on the ground -- (although not impossible in principal). O.K., I just reminded myself of last year's 'Most Amazing Photo (Shot Out of a Toilet Window)' post (August 16, 2010).

Another argument against the 'kite-hypothesis' is that a kite consisting of three discs would normally have them stacked one on top of the other, not arranged as the corners of a triangle (however, I confess this objection may simply reflect my ignorance of the subject, since I know next to nothing about kite-making).

And of course, a balloon would not deflate to a straight, flat board and then re-inflate to a spheroid. The conclusion? This is neither a kite nor a group of balloons.

And another thing: why the constant change in illumination level from photo to photo? They all started out equally bright (at least when I first snapped them), but in the closeup below, for example, the leftmost object is a good deal dimmer than the other two. To my eyes it certainly looks like a change in intrinsic brightness, not in external lighting conditions (I mean, what could be up there to selectively shade those things?) -- in other words, they were flashing on and off.




And here is the last of the clear shots:




I kept the object in sight for a good minute and a half or so, until it literally disappeared into the distance. It retreated fairly quickly (which probably means that if I had come out even a single minute earlier, I probably would have been able to snap some really good shots, dang!) and the later photos don't show anything but a vague little spot, so the four posted here are the best of the lot.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Daimonic Evolution


Looks like I spoke too soon. Daimones are not all plant-like. It seems just some are, and others are more animal-like. I spotted this individual crouched in a fork of a tree. It did not move the entire time I was looking at it (granted, it was only for a minute or so before I had to leave), but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is the daimonic equivalent of a tree-dwelling creature, such as a prosimian.

I did not notice such divergence in type among my daimones prior to this time; is it possible that when I first began to observe them they were in a somewhat dormant, pupa-like (and relatively undifferentiated) stage for whatever reason, and now that growing season is here, they are metamorphosing into their next, more active forms, diverging in body type as a consequence?

This is all purest speculation, of course, but if my guess is close to the truth it certainly is exciting and fascinating that in nature and supernature there are parallel systems of phylogenetic development -- apparently even sprites and elementals evolve.

But individuals do not evolve, only species do; evolutionary change requires the death of individuals. So... here's an interesting tangent:

Question: Are supernatural creatures subject to birth and death?

Answser: According to the Buddhist view -- yes, they are.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Moon, Again


High Moon.

Moon

Seasonal Change In Daimones


It seems that, despite their quasi-humanoid appearance, the daimones -- at least the ones that inhabit the small groves in my area -- partake much more of the nature of plants than of animals. Since the rather abrupt arrival of warm weather after the dreary weeks of June gloom, they have undergone an explosive growth spurt, and as a result they are now looking much more like tree-men than men-trees (or should that be the other way around?)! With their outlines now a-bristle with, and even partly obliterated by, new growths, in some cases it is difficult to recognize their former partly-anthropomorphic form. Even so, I am gladdened by this exuberant display of their strength.




Wednesday's Cranes

Wednesday evening I met Mom for dinner at our favorite Korean place. Not having been there on a weeknight before, I was surprised and impressed by the long line of people waiting to get in. There were eight parties before us, so while waiting for a table I made 4 cranes (I've taken to carrying that packet of origami paper with me in my man-bag^). After we were seated, I made one more while waiting for our order to arrive.


Of course, later I had to take a photo of those five added to the latest batch.


I'm going to have to devise some different means of storing these cranes. I'm running short on space. I'd rather not just bag them away, but I can't think of anything else at the moment.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Strange Image


A feather floats above a pair of eyes -- one of them is natural and hovers in the sky; the other is artificial and planted in the earth.

I do not remember taking this photograph. Perhaps it is a waking dream I had.

Monster Daimon #2


This individual is so misshapen that I did not recognize it as a daimon at first. I simply stopped to admire what I thought to be a marvelously evocative, grown-together clump of trees and took a snapshot of it.

Only then did I see it move. Slowly, ponderously, it unwound its gnarled appendages from the branches overhead and released its grip on the trunk to its left; then its upper portion twisted in a manner that convinced me that it was turning to look at me. And I was suddenly gripped by a sense of alarm; not that I felt in any imminent danger -- I did not feel at all threatened by it -- but on the contrary, I felt I was guilty of trespassing, of doing something shameful; that I was an intruder in a place where I had no business being. And that by distracting the daimon I was interrupting something private, even sacrosanct.

Quickly I stepped back, turned the camera off and turned to continue on my way. Then, struck by a sudden impulse, I turned back toward the daimon, said "I'm sorry" and went back the way I came. Somehow it didn't seem right that I should continue blithely on my way as if this incident were simply an inconsequential distraction.

Monster Daimon #1


I don't know how daimons reproduce, or if they even reproduce at all. Whatever the case though, it seems their ranks do include occasional accidents of nature(supernature?) -- if the individual(s) in this photograph is indeed the daimonic equivalent of a conjoined pair of twins that it seems to be.

Or perhaps I'm guilty of applying my anthropocentric worldview to a realm in which it is irrelevant; it may well be that this specimen is perfectly 'normal' in its proper context. One can never tell with daimons.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Very Next Dream Log Entry

After posting the previous entry, I went right back to my dream log and continued reading -- and wow, how could I forget about this! This is the very next entry, titled 'A STRANGE AND INTRIGUING EVENT':


[Log entry begins] April 28 ~ 29, 1998

Great progress! After so many nights of trying and failing to remember to stay awake, achieved the deepest level yet of continuously maintained consciousness:

,,,
and went to bed fairly early(shortly after midnight). Fell asleep like a rock, then some time later woke up and had to go to the bathroom. Afterward lay in bed doing the ‘PA system exercise’. Was able to keep it up for a fair while this time, then smoothly, without being noticed at first, hypnagogic imagery set in. Nothing outrageously fantastic -- just me lying there and things happening. Just remember this, the last part: I was lying in bed, someone came in and threw a blanket over my head, as if to smother me. I was not alarmed, being still conscious and telling myself I was ‘dreaming’.

This in itself is major; apart from that one lucid episode last year, I don’t remember ever experiencing such clarity of dual consciousness -- experiencing a convincingly realistic image ‘from the inside’ and simultaneously observing and commenting from ‘outside’; also the prior lucid episode commenced suddenly and full-blown, in the course of an already-occurring dream(with the aid of the NovaDreamer), rather than being gradually arrived at by stages(and without the NovaDreamer). Granted, this time I was most likely not fully asleep and dreaming but rather experiencing a fairly well sustained hypnagogic vision, but that’s also a first, so far as I can recall. And a very concrete vision it was -- for a moment I really thought it was happening, before remembering(through remembering to repeat the mantra ‘This is a dream’) that I was actually in that
Dream Version of Your Bedroom(slightly different from the waking one; also I seemed to be lying in a different position in the dream bed, on my left side -- wonder why that was so).

The hypnagogic stage quickly segued into the ‘body image distortion’ state, which I had read about but never really experienced, not this clearly anyhow. Without any warning, I began to rise dramatically, experiencing a feeling of inexorable buoyancy, as if riding a rapidly uprushing column of water. Then next I felt as if I were shriveling and curving inward, like a soft-bodied bug caught in a beam of sunlight concentrated by a curious child’s magnifying glass. And simultaneously, I seemed to be horizontally falling away, or perhaps shrinking away
[the picture in my mind now is that of lying on my side on a field of ice and gliding backwards at high speed]. The sensation of bending into the fetal position was uncomfortable, but I managed to get through it without disturbance, telling myself that my body was now fallling asleep while ‘I’ was still awake. The feeling subsided shortly and only a residual vibration remained. Unfortunately, breathing began to be uncomfortable, nose and throat being very dry, and I had to swallow. That put an end to it. I could feel the difference right away -- ears began to work again and night noises returned. Next time I will force myself to stay put, no matter what.

Finally I truly comprehend what Ouspensky, Fox and other oneironauts meant when they wrote about their hypnagogic experiences. This was so similar to the account in the book Lucid Dreaming, about illusory hands on the real wall, fictitious people sitting on the real bed... It didn’t seem to take any effort at all, aside from repeating ‘This is a dream’. The imagery began unobtrusively, and I didn’t notice anything until after the event was well under way.

AMAZING! I JUST REALIZED THAT THIS IS THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THAT FIRST -- AND SO FAR THE ONLY -- FULLY LUCID DREAM (4-28-97). WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING? WOW! DID I UNCONSCIOUSLY REMEMBER, AND TRY FOR A REPRISE? TRULY THE MIND IS MORE THAN THE CONSCIOUS EGO! THE FORTUITY SURE IS SUGGESTIVE.... MADDENINGLY SUGGESTIVE -- BUT OF WHAT?
[Log entry ends]


Yes, I had had a full-blown lucid episode exactly a year previously -- I guess this means I'll have to post that entry as well.

Another Excerpt From My Dream Log

LUCID DREAMING, THROUGH WILLPOWER

I have always been deeply interested in lucid dreaming, and there was a period some years ago, when I experimented with various methods of inducing lucid dreams.

Just now I was reading my old dream log and found this entry, which I'd forgotten about:


[Log entry begins] Friday, March 27, 1998

Last night I went to bed relatively early(shortly after midnight) and made a concerted attempt to induce lucidity through sheer immersion. Probably because of the tension(I kept wandering off into anxiety over
[redacted]) it was a long time before I fell asleep, and then I woke up soon after. Thereafter, there were frequent interruptions for bathroom breaks. I lay still, counting and frequently asking [in my imagination] in a third-party voice, as if heard on a PA system, ‘Are you dreaming?’ using a sharp female voice. After some time I could feel my limbs getting numb and very heavy, but then I had to get up for another bathroom trip. Tonight I shall refrain from drinking excessively. No more beer at night.

During the course of one dream(there were several) a woman tried to let me know I was dreaming but somehow her voice was muffled and I did not understand her right away. Only after waking did I realize she was asking me if I was dreaming. And only now, while writing this log, did I realize that it was a literal continuation of the ‘PA system’ message into the dream! The method works! I will stick with it for now.
[Log entry ends]

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Synchronistic Event (#16)

Yesterday evening as I was driving home on the 5 freeway, I happened to tune in to a traffic report on the radio. Just as the announcer said "...multiple-car collision", the car next to me in the left lane collided into the rear of the car in front.

One might argue that this is a more 'serious' synchronistic event/coincidence than the usual verbal ones and therefore more impressive, and that would be true in a sense (although in another, more cosmic sense I don't know if there really is any difference), but at the same time I must confess it doesn't carry the same emotional zing, for some reason.

Is it less special because I've witnessed traffic accidents before? Or because this event was more 'public' than the verbal coincidences, in the sense that anyone in the vicinity who happened to be listening to the same broadcast would have shared in the experience, making it less personal and unique?

On the other hand, I sincerely hope this doesn't herald the beginning of an ominous new trend in the nature of the coincidences I may witness in the future. Just to be safe, I should take care never to read about plane crashes or hijackings while flying, for example, or talk about food-poisoning or terrorist bombings while dining out, etc.^

Say, maybe I SHOULD talk about (friendly)aliens landing on the White House lawn or scientific proof of magic... who knows?^ And why stop there? What about the immortality pill, cold fusion, world peace, women suddenly throwing themselves at my feet...


EDIT: Hmm... those last two paragraphs might well be summed up as 'Like attracts like' or 'Wishing/Worrying will make it so'; it seems that while musing on the serendipitous co-eventuation of acausally connected incidents in my own life, I may have stumbled onto the primitive basis of mankind's ubiquitous belief in sympathetic magic. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, yet again.^