My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Fri, 30 Nov, 2007

Mystical Toothpaste

I bought a tube of toothpaste just for the box design. I was overcome by its enthralling images and words. Every so often, this happens to me. I find a piece of mundanity that is, either by the intent of marketers and designers, or unintentionally, filled with mystical and poetic spirituality. Personal care products, detergents, and over-the-counter medicines are particularly prone to this kind of packaging. Here is the beautiful panel from the Colgate toothpaste box.

The background is a metallic, iridescent blue-violet with rainbow reflections in strong light. The diamond image is also layered with "diffraction" prismatic reflecting film. The red "Colgate" logo and the rest of the box is also a metallic red. It looks like a Christmas ornament.

The name of the product immediately suggests divinity: "Luminous." And what the copy text promises seems equally religious, translated into dental metaphors. "Strengthening…Shinier…Reinforces weak spots…lifts off stains." This is traditionally what good redemptive religion is supposed to do, and not just to your teeth. So the regular and prayerful use of Colgate Luminous may lead to a closer, uh, taste of God.

And as for the other world, note the slogan and logo to the right of the main design. "Experience the delight of "Paradise Fresh." You can't get more eschatological than that. The divine practice of cleanliness and devotion will lead to a taste of delightful and ever-new Heaven, in this world and possibly the next as well. "Paradise Fresh!" In the logo is an image of what appears to be a blue flame in front of tropical waters and a palm tree. The calm sea and the palm tree have often been used as images of "Paradise," and both are often found in the scriptures of religions such as Judaism and Islam as spiritual metaphors. The blue flame is actually a stylized representation of a brushful of the toothpaste, implying luminosity.

I opened up the toothpaste and put some on my humble toothbrush. The first thing I did was shut off the lights in the bathroom to see whether "Luminous" glowed in the dark. Alas, it didn't. But the paste itself was a visual wonder. It is purplish and translucent, and throughout its depths it glitters with tiny silvery and multicolored sparks. It looks more like a festive candle than something you put in your mouth. I brushed my teeth with it, expecting my mouth to glow. I expected some exotic taste of melon and herbs, but it tasted rather like any other toothpaste, minty and refreshing. And yet even a toothpaste can be a holy communion, a foretaste of Heaven in a lowly bathroom.

Posted at 3:43 am | link

Thu, 29 Nov, 2007

Fake Snow

I'm back from DarkoverCon, and I haven't gotten sick yet, but there's always time. I had lots of fun there with many of my friends. Much wine was consumed at "Salon Pyracantha," the private room party that I host for my convention friends. There was plenty of merriment and a little bit of money earned. I didn't have any art in the art show, which perplexed many of my "fans." I did have a few prints and one original work at a dealer's table, and some of those sold. This convention has long since ceased to be an actual fantasy convention and has devolved into a private reunion party for a community of friends. And that's not bad, because many of these folk I only see once a year at this event.

Some of my friendly mathematicians were there. I had to explain to them that I was not doing math at this time due to other obligations. I confessed to my "mathematical Father Confessor" that I was not doing math. He gave me absolution in the name of the Ordinate, the Abscissa, and the Z-axis, that is, the three-dimensional Trinity of the Cartesian Coordinates. At that point the symbolic implications became so clear that I had to stop myself from creating a new mathematical Christianity at that very moment. It is bad enough for my Christian imagination that one of my friendly mathematicians at the convention brings a bread machine and wanders around the convention giving fresh bread to people — and he looks just like Jesus, long hair, beard, and all. He gave me a loaf of multigrain mathematics to take home with me.

DarkoverCon celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year, and believe it or not I have been to 28 of its 30 yearly meetings. That's an awful long time for a convention to run, especially since the same people have been running it the whole time. Now a new convention is about to start, run by my friends in the Order of St. Michael. It is called "DeryniCon" (website is not yet fully constructed) dedicated to fantasy literature and the work of author Katherine Kurtz, who is also the Abbess of the Order of St. Michael. See how things fit together? Well, there are two artist guests of honor for this one, and one of them happens to be me. The convention, if all goes well, will be on Columbus Day weekend, October 11-12, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I suppose I should do some fantasy art for this one, in the upcoming year. I don't want to disappoint them.

Back from DarkoverCon I returned to the whirl of holiday preparations at work. This includes a large amount of food sampling. At my job I am paid to eat goodies and taste wine. After all, how else can I recommend things to customers? There was also an employees' party to decorate the store for the holidays (or "horridays," as I call them). At this party, employees hung glitter and snowflakes and Christmas lights, including eye-blasting new-fangled LED lights. I didn't participate in this, since I was already doing signage. They put piles of cotton fluff "snow" over the tops of cabinets, signs, and shelves. I grew up with snow, and I regard it as an abomination. Why would they want to give a tropical-themed store a coating of fake snow? It makes my brain hurt to see representations of palm trees, Hawaiian beaches, and snowdrifts in the same display.

Posted at 3:42 am | link

Wed, 21 Nov, 2007

Here come the horridays again

Yes, it's time to forge ahead into the dark whirl of spending and overindulgence that we Americans call the "Holiday Season." I have gone over why I detest this season in previous Electrons so I will not be repetitive again. Let me quote from the cover of a well-known home goods catalog:

"Dreaming of an old-fashioned Christmas? We offer everything you need to create a warm, true holiday filled with surprises and delight."

What is a "true holiday?" I don't know any more. I have nothing against the Vermont Country Store, and I sometimes buy their excellent stuff (fragrant soap!). I am not going to self-righteously decry the holiday consumerism and overeating because I intend to do some of that myself. It's just that I am now complicit in the myth-making, since I do retail graphics and advertising. What would happen if an ad appeared that sounded like this:

"Dreaming of a futuristic Solstice unlike anything you've ever experienced before? Leave those old cliche's behind and have a spacey, myth-filled holiday in our CyberWinter virtual-reality-enhanced resort. Vegan meals available. Gay couples and artificial intelligences are welcome. No snow sports are required. Sign up now and forget the candy canes."

I can imagine myself enjoying the low, dim days in a glass bubble above a pristine winter landscape, as the cold winds blow outside. Meanwhile the illusionmaking and whipping of cream is ramping up, for the big feast coming in a couple of days. I intend to have me a very fine real Thanksgiving among my real friends and their laptops. Wireless turkey, software side dishes, and cyberwine will be served. Have a happy festivity, everyone. I'll be away for the weekend at the annual fantasy convention I attend every year, and I'll be back here, if all goes well, next week.

Posted at 3:55 am | link

Sat, 17 Nov, 2007

White Dwarf World

I continue to experiment with Photoshop, hoping to build up enough skill to make cityscapes, landscapes, and even character portraits. My latest attempt is a space landscape. The science fiction scenario behind this picture is this: Long ago there was an advanced civilization on an Earth-like planet, under a more or less sun-like star. They had faster-than-light travel and many other exotic technologies based on advanced physics. But unfortunately there was a great cataclysm involving almost the entire interstellar network, and it caused the sun of this planet to go nova. The inhabitants had foreseen this possibility and had dug complex underground refuges beneath their cities. When the disaster happened, those in the most protected refuges survived and were later rescued by explorers from undamaged regions. The planet was abandoned and the star, after the nova explosion, became a white dwarf.

Many thousands of years later, refugees from another civilization came to this planet and found the ruins above and the refuges below. The surface of the planet had been stripped of most of its atmosphere and biosphere, and was not only burnt but frozen as well as irradiated. The crumbled, blackened ruins of the old civilization remained, but there was no possibility of living on the surface any more. The new refugees settled in the excavated underground complexes and made them their own, until another escape option became available to them. They called their adopted planet "Amgyal," which in their language meant "Grey-land."

This picture shows the surface of "Amgyal." The white dwarf shines in the sky through a very thin atmosphere. The ruins of a city can be seen in the distance. In the foreground is a metallic strut lit with small lights, possibly sensors of some kind. That bar might be the only surface feature of one of the underground refuges. It probably wasn't a very nice place to live.

"Amgyal Surface," Photoshop; 7" x 10" print size.

A note to readers:
Science fiction images and scenarios aren't really appropriate content for ELECTRON BLUE, but I hope to present more of this kind of material elsewhere on my site.

Posted at 4:13 am | link

Wed, 14 Nov, 2007

Electronic Music Resurrected

Last week I heard something I hadn't heard for many many years. During my high school years, I did a lot of electronic music in the Brandeis electronic music studio, where my father was the director. The equipment there was, for the late sixties, state of the art: a Buchla modular synthesizer and large professional-grade Ampex tape recorders. During off hours, my father would let me into the studio to do what I wished there, and over the years 1968-1971, I produced a fair number of tapes full of Buchla sounds. Some of them were arranged into coherent "music," others were just explorations of sounds that the Bucha could make. During my active time there, I spliced together compositions (there was, of course, no digital editing or digital anything in those days). I also played duets with my dad on the piano and me on synthesizer, and a few other instrumentalists as well.

All this music, stacked in old reel-to-reel tapes, had sat in a cabinet in my dwelling for decades. It had taken up space in my old Cambridge house, and it took up a dusty space in my current place in Northern Virginia. At one point in the early 90s, I made a half-hearted attempt to play some of these tapes on an almost equally old reel-to-reel tape deck which is also sitting in a dusty closet. I managed to transcribe some of the electronic pieces onto cassette tapes, but after that I put it all away and didn't look at it for perhaps 15 years. I figured that by now the tapes would be so deteriorated that they would not be able to be played.

But just recently one of my ambient/electronic friends, who is an experienced sound engineer and who has a working reel-to-reel tape deck, persuaded me to unearth these tapes and send a couple to him for digitizing. I sent him, with much hesitation, two of my better tapes. These were the originals…the same tapes which I had loaded into the Ampex back in 1969 and 1970. I hoped that the splices, which were made of mere sticky tape, would not have disintegrated, and that the tapes would play.

To my surprise (and my friend's) the tapes were in more than adequate shape and he was able to record all the music and electronic noises off the tapes securely into digital form (MP3's). Not only that, he was so pleased with them that he played them on his internet radio show! This show was heard by only a very limited audience, but as far as I know, until then no one but I and perhaps my father had ever heard these sounds. Since the sounds had been retrieved so well, I am now planning to send all the electronic music tapes to my friend for processing.

Hearing the sound of the Buchla brought back vivid memories of my time at the Brandeis studio, despite forty years' (!) distance. In 1968, the campus was full of racial and political tensions. I was not yet a college student and kept away from the demonstrations, though on some days I could see the students marching with their placards in the distance, through the studio window. I wasn't totally uninvolved, though, because I did the electronic soundtrack for a summer school play about Black self-awareness. I hope to find that soundtrack on one of those tapes. I remember the technical difficulties of using the unwieldy Buchla machine to make music. The modules were connected by "patch cords" … wires which often had loose connections and would fall out during a session. There was no keyboard to speak of, just a small bar of touch pads which would often go off without any touch at all during humid weather. And nowhere could the Buchla be tuned to any conventional scale. It was always a microtonal adventure playing this machine.

I was impressed by the sounds I made back then; they were full of energy and humor and confidence, despite the fact that I was a whiny, morose, self-absorbed teenager. But once I finally went to university as a student, I never touched the Buchla again. I was no longer able to work in the studio after hours as a special guest, and I just didn't have the time anyway. Now, forty years later, I hear this music and find that the internet listeners, and my ambient/electronic friends, are fascinated and impressed by it. And I'm embarrassed. Guys, I made that when I was sixteen years old. How can anything by a sixteen year old who is not some "prodigy" be any good? My friends want to hear more, not only from the archive, but from me now.

The world is filled with noise. Am I entitled to make more of it? The Buchla has now fallen into disrepair, if it still exists at all. But in those decades of neglect, the world has changed. We have more power in a laptop than the entire Brandeis computer department in 1968. Electronic music has gone digital, and that laptop can now run the equivalent of many Buchlas using any number of "virtual synthesizers," big programs which run on a computer, such as the righteous Reaktor, which costs less now than the Buchla did back in 1967. There are others which are less costly, or even free to download. My Macintoshes come loaded with a simple music synthesizer system, GarageBand. So if I wanted to make electronic music, it's right here on the screen. The question is not availability of technology. Do I have the time to learn these programs and work with them? Did I really have more time to pursue creative projects when I was a high school student? I spend less time at my day job than I did at school. And yet I am always pressed for time now, living like a proper twenty-first century urban American.

And suppose I did have the time. Would I have the will? I now know too much about what music should be, what art should be. I know the rules and the canons of classical music making, or classical art making. I have read reams of criticism. Awareness of structure and constraint, form and balance, and a lifetime of listening to the truly great have made me reluctant to even try to produce anything new. Is it, well, "seemly" or appropriate for an older person to take up something that they did back when they were just sixteen, now that I am supposed to know better? My music friends are encouraging me to do just that.

Posted at 4:12 am | link

Mon, 12 Nov, 2007

Into the Dark

Album by Stephen Philips, Hypnos Records 2007

I hear the rain at night on a November evening, and am again reminded of my brush with Japanese aesthetics from my last Electron entry. This time the raindrops speak of a concept called mono no aware ("moh-no no awah-re") which expresses a feeling of transient and melancholy beauty. It's related to wabi-sabi but it's not the same thing. It's hard to explain in words (the linked article is only somewhat helpful, being doubled and also written by a follower of the late Sri Chinmoy). "Mono no aware" is easier to explain in sound and visuals, and a new release by ambient composer Stephen Philips, Into the Dark, is a good example.

Into the Dark is not "music" in the conventional sense of the word. It is a "sound environment," meant for creating a mood and an "ambience," thus it is "ambient" sound. "Real" music is busy and active, full of content reaching out to get you. Classical music is like a lecturing schoolteacher, reminding us of our insignificance before the greatness of past culture. Jazz, no less noisy, stuffs us with sonic food and drugs. And pop music, the noisiest of all, aims for endless hot stimulation and excitement. No "mono no aware" here. But with ambient, you take leave of the requirements of music and enter into a place where you are not expected to do anything, or even listen closely. You cannot judge ambient by the rules of "real" music. It just doesn't work that way.

Into the Dark is a long, single track of about 75 minutes, in which nothing much happens. (Not "real" music, remember?) Sounds come and go against soft atmospheric background chords. Sometimes they are bells, or muffled bass notes, or bamboo wind chimes, or a synthesizer note. That's all there is. It doesn't build to a climax and it doesn't press any meaning on you. It's background. The rest is up to you and your imagination.

I don't impose any cinematic or descriptive "program" on this piece, but I am invited to create a scene for it. A middle-aged couple, one of them disabled, sit in a garden at twilight, talking about ordinary things, before dinner. The sky darkens, the air cools, and just as they are going back into the house, the first drop of rain falls. Or another scene: a terrace with green plants on it, still outside in November as the leaves fly. Should you take them in or let them perish in the first frost? And yet another scene, as Philips' music plays: A pile of once-treasured possessions, now set aside for giving away. "Mono no aware" is quiet and devoid of showy Romantic posturing.

Autumn is the perfect time for this Stephen Philips piece. We are, in the northern hemisphere, literally going "into the dark," into winter and lack of light. You can't help but feel some of that transience and melancholy as the leaves turn colors and blow away under a grey sky. You don't need any Japanese aesthetics to feel that way. The length of the piece is just about that of a November day's twilight: if you start it as the sun goes down, it ends in the early blackness of night.

Posted at 2:28 am | link

Fri, 09 Nov, 2007


Back in the early nineteen-sixties, anything English was chic: "Carnaby Street" and "Penny Lane." During the mid-Sixties, anything Indian was fashionable, including trekking off to India to sit with a guru who purported to offer enlightenment. And nowadays, anything Japanese is the rage. If you know any adolescents of a certain character or intelligence, you will find that they are consumed with Japanese comics, video games, fashions, movies, cartoons, costumes, and food. Some of these young Japanfans even want to learn Japanese, and their sketchbooks are full of copies of Japanese adventure comic or movie characters. For those who are not familiar with the whole phenomenon, the animated cartoons and movies are called anime' and Japanese comics are called manga. These two can take over someone's whole life if they are not careful.

I'm not much of a manga or anime fan, and yet I am touched by the whole Japan thing: I drive a Honda (made in the good old USA) and eat plenty of sushi (made by Korean or Thai food workers). I constantly encounter the current fascination with Japan among my co-workers or science fiction fans or many younger people I meet. There is a young man who works at my workplace who is so involved with anime that he is learning Japanese so he can read manga in the untranslated original. He even wants to go to Japan and make a career for himself as some sort of business liaison or interpreter. I've heard that the Japanese language is exceedingly hard to learn and that Japanese customs are almost impossible for a Westerner to fathom, so I wish him good luck. Meanwhile, I enjoy the fantasy TV series "Heroes," which features a Japanese main character and samurai subplot complete with improbable powers and martial arts.

This is not the first time that Western Europeans and Americans have become fascinated with Japanese culture. Back in the middle and late nineteenth century, the artistic elite found inspiration in Japanese prints and screens and ceramics, many of which turned up almost accidentally in the West. Impressionist composers such as Debussy and Ravel used Japanese pentatonic modes in their music. This Eastward-looking fashion was nicknamed Japonisme, or "Japan-ism." The craze for anime, manga, samurai, and Japanese entertainment nowadays is another wave of Japonisme. What is important to remember, though, is that anything Japanese we encounter or imitate in the West is no longer "authentically" Japanese. We can only fabricate our version of Japan, never participating in the real thing. Hence the word "Japonisme," denoting an artificial Japan interpreted through Western culture.

Most of the material coming out of Japan matches the frenetic and quick-cutting pace of our own American culture, especially things aimed at children and teenagers. You get lots of explosions, martial arts action, slashing swords, laser beams, giant robots, flame-throwing, teary romance, steamy erotica, and soap opera often with supernatural and fantastic elements. Whatever goes on is relentlessly exciting.

But there is another sector of Japanese culture which is not as popular, or visible, in Western Japonisme. This is the Japan of Zen gardens and empty rooms and haiku poetry, the culture that can make a statement with a single flower in a vase. This is the opposite, at least to Western eyes, of the frantic slashing of movies and comics. It is a cultivation of serenity and wonder, mixed with a kind of melancholy at the transitoriness of the world. The Japanese name for this is wabi-sabi, which in its untranslateableness means something like "beauty in incompleteness and transitoriness." I am much more attracted to this aesthetic than the "anime" aesthetic. Maybe this is because I am old, but I remember being enthralled by the Western version of this many years ago in Italy, when I was of an age that should have been more involved in hot action.

It means quiet courtyards with trickling fountains, or empty hallways with sunlight slanting through them, or shaded pools in mossy gardens. It looks at old broken rocks and green shoots growing up through cracks in pavement. It loves long minutes or even hours of silence with nothing but nature noises to listen to. In a world that is crammed with one shrieking stimulus after another, this is what I long for.

I have heard that there are some Japanese comic books which follow this aesthetic; no word balloons, just one evocative panel following on another in graphic silence. But I have never found any of these publications; maybe they aren't imported to the USA. Musically, though, there is such a refuge. It is not in Western or modern classical or pop music, but in the electronic and acoustic ambient that I have spent so much time here talking about. Ambient composers do not create "music" in the sense of Mozart or Beethoven or pop songs. They craft sonic environments which promote that Japanese feeling without ever being Japanese, a sound garden of white noise wind, synthesized bamboo, and electronic tea.

Posted at 3:59 am | link

Mon, 05 Nov, 2007

The Infinity Brick

During my recent trip to Boston I visited my old territory in Cambridge, and I walked down the streets that had been my path to Harvard Square for ten years. The route took me through the back lots of the biological science buildings, past the Agassiz Museum with its famous glass flowers and mineral specimens, and down Oxford Street until I reached the Science Center. This modernist edifice houses the undergraduate science and mathematics classrooms and labs.

The sidewalks of Oxford Street are paved with red bricks which match the famous "crimson" bricks of Harvard's historic buildings. They are old bricks, perhaps from the nineteenth century, and over the years they have gotten quite uneven from frost, differing pressure, tree roots, and construction projects. I had to keep my eyes on the path in order not to trip up on one of these projecting bricks, lest I trip and fall onto a hard icy surface.

One of my gifts, and my curses as well, is that I notice everything. The world is full of myriad details, all calling out to me. I don't easily tune anything out, which is one reason why I hate the noisy soundtracks in stores and restaurants. And thus with the red brick path, I noticed irregularities in these antique bricks, whether they were fashioned by people or by the circumstances of Cambridge weather. Some bricks had pits eroded by ice and sand, others were broken in place, and still others were worn down by a century of traffic. And other pavers of this antique walkway still bore the marks of the brickmakers, such as stamps or letters or other identifications, from makers long gone.

One of the bricks which I passed nearly every day was in the shadow of the Science Center. It had what I assumed was a maker's mark, which was not stamped or pressed into it but inscribed by hand while the brick was still soft and unbaked. It was in the shape of an infinity, the characteristic horizontal figure-eight of mathematics. Perhaps it was really an "eight," for after all with brick marks there is no preferential direction. But I chose to consider it an infinity, which brought to my mind even then, notions of mathematics and science practiced in the building next to it. I called it the "Infinity Brick."

I looked for the Infinity Brick every time I walked down that street. It was a reminder to me of a cosmic order that was greater than Cambridge, perhaps even greater than Harvard. I could tread on infinity, encoded into a brick as durable as anything from ancient Babylon.

Now that I know a bit about calculus, I can see that approaching and then moving away from the Infinity Brick was like moving mathematically toward and away from a limit. Just as with the tortoise of the famous paradox, I could approach the Infinity Brick in an infinite division of distance or time, and yet still get there. Then once I had gone over the Brick, I went toward the negative infinity of Harvard Yard. When I was first introduced to limits, with their traveling point on a graph, I wondered what that point "felt." It was a living thing to me, experiencing forces. And then, if the limit plummeted or rose to infinity, the conscious point was shot out of reality into a pointless netherworld. What is it like to cross the limit? Is there a place where everything disappears until your graph becomes sensible again? How do you keep from winking out of existence when the denominator gets to zero, even if it never…quite…

I say that you keep from winking out of existence at the limit by the use of memory, either your own or someone else's, or by the inscription of memory on some long-lasting medium. The discontinuity disappears if I remember where I am going. In the case of Cambridge, I had not forgotten anything, including the location of the Infinity Brick.

So I anticipating meeting again with my inscribed brick by the Science Center, to tell it how I now understood its position as a calculus limit marker. But when I got to the walkway where the Brick would be, I found to my dismay a brand new walkway, composed of Harvard red bricks that were not old, tilted, or pitted, but were flat, mechanically rectangular, and featureless. The old bricks, including the Infinity Brick, were gone. What a disappointment! Where were they now? Had the old bricks just been tossed out into some landfill, or had they been re-cycled by luxury builders into some "antique brick" structure? My durable baked clay of memory was no longer there to mark the passage. Perhaps there is some other place, another walkway or wall, where the Infinity Brick's calculus goes unnoticed as it slowly becomes obscured by ivy and the shadows of time.

Posted at 1:52 am | link

Thu, 01 Nov, 2007

The Electron Returns

It's been a busy and taxing month for me since I last put up an Electron Entry. But I can now happily announce to Electron readers that the Blue is back in business. The upgrade is complete for now and you can see that this Weblog now has a new header logo and new sets of links. I hope that more improvements will follow.

The "calendar scene" in the photo above comes from Wayland, Massachusetts, where there are still rural estates among the housing developments. "October Colors," it might be called, where the cliche is the reality. In mid-October I was in my home state for a week, visiting the parents and attending a concert of my father's music. The concert was held in a church in North Andover, Mass. The church was founded in 1645, and had a collection of colonial-era silver, including a tankard made and signed by Paul Revere (yes, that Paul Revere of the midnight ride.). My father set to music poems by Quaker abolitionist poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who lived in that New England area back in the nineteenth century. The music was pure and clean Americana, but mixed with a more modern social and political edge following Whittier's deceptively simple verse.

I am always on the lookout for "authenticity," which is probably impossible in a globalized culture. This event in North Andover, in a white wood church surrounded by a classic New England townscape and brightened by blazing colors of autumn leaves under a brilliant blue sky, was as "authentic" as I will ever get here in America. And here I am writing about it back in inauthentic Northern Virginia on an authentic Macintosh, while drinking questionably authentic but tasty ginger tea.

I apologize for a post-less October, but there were many things I had to attend to which prevented me from giving this journal its proper due. Now October is over and the pre-holiday franticness is upon me at work. There is nothing, in my opinion, less authentic than the holiday and Christmas season, where our country and increasingly the rest of the world drowns itself in a vat of sugar and fat-loaded artificial snow.

The status of my math and science quest is still suspended. I am re-evaluating it. as I said before I put the blog on hiatus. I am similarly dragged out in the middle of doing a painting in my "Persian holy beings" series. This happened once before, when it took me almost a year to complete the Persian Angel "Haurvatat," because I had so much else to do. But it will be done, and you'll see it here.

If I had to claim anything of achievement over this year for myself, it would be that I have learned to be fairly proficient at both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, at least for purposes of graphic design, illustration, and even "fine arts." There is a lot of Photoshop which I have not chosen to learn just now, namely manipulating photographs and creating slick advertising graphics and textures. Photoshop is loaded with pre-made concepts which are already dated, and as a graphic designer I would never use them unless the client demanded it. Looking at graphics from magazines to print ads to logos and more, I can see just how some unimaginative hack poked it out on Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator using this or that pre-set. I refuse to do that, but that means I will actually have to spend hours doing real work, even creating line or greyscale drawings by hand before entrusting them to the grind of Photoshop. You have to fight the program constantly to get it to render something that doesn't look too slick. And Trader Joe's simply won't let me use it at all.

When I'm not fighting with Photoshop, I am listening to the ambient music created by my virtual circle of friends on "Stillstream" (see the music links to your left and downward) and corresponding with them online. There is also other art to be done, because I have to prepare some small sale-ables for my yearly exhibit at a fantasy convention later this month.

These things haven't been my only concerns this October. I and the rest of "Red Sox Nation" watched with incredulity as our team barreled through the playoffs (thank you, Cleveland Indians, for beating the Yankees) and then crushed the hapless Colorado Rockies in a four-game World Series sweep. Huh? TWO Series championships in four years? Where are the heartbreaking, angst-ridden Red Sox of old? Where are the misplays and blown saves and failed rallies that drove Boston to drink and tears? I am not the only Boston fan to have the horrible thought that "we" are becoming like…another overly successful team which we once referred to as the "Evil Empire." Red Sox! Don't be Evil!

I leave you with another dose of New England authenticity. Check out that rustic stone wall. It's so characteristic that I feel the need to go do some pointless websurfing in a competely prepared and artificial world. Thank you for your patience. Regular blog posting will now resume.

Posted at 3:29 am | link

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Life as a Physicist
Cocktail Party Physics
Bad Astronomy
Jennifer Saylor
Thus Spake Zuska

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