senryu

While exploring journal entries from 2007 (as part of work on the grand history of my own computer entanglements) I came across responses to a question posed by Gardner Campbell: what kind of poem are you? Here’s my response:

senryu is me
enigmatic smile wrapped in
clever doubletalk

and here’s Broot’s, much more elegant:

my weakness – senryu
wryly observing humans
skirting the unkind

and that was July

Once again I’ve got only a single blog posting for the month. The photostream records a succession of grill-watching evenings:

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(Kate does the grilling, I having no genes for that activity.
She includes kohlrabi and green beans and zucchini as regular grillage,
and it seems possible that ALL garden produce can be grilled…)

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Organizing projects in shop and Library Annex proceed:

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I bought a couple of professional-grade book carts to facilitate the Library (re-)organization process:
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…and it proceeds slowly, arranged by my own idiosyncratic and ever-morphing categories:
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It’s been very pleasant to spend afternoons sitting here dipping in and out of a succession of rediscovered books.
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In Convivium space, I spent quite a while thinking about the Future. On other frontiers, lots of books read, music played, videos watched, trash picked up. Quite content to be mostly At Home, going from thing to thing.

A busy month

dear old Dad

If I don’t do something soon, June will get away from me unrecorded, so here’s a precis of the month’s doings:

a return to Home Kitchen Cafe:
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A lot of garden marvels, new vistas pretty much daily:

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New rock creatures, even one right in the back yard where it’s been (I suppose) hiding in plain sight for 16+ years:

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Color infrared experiments

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There’s Another New Instrument (Daddy’s Day was my excuse this time).

And a lot of work (reading, writing, cogitation) on Convivium questions centered on memory.

There’s a Project just taking shape to make better sense of the welter of books on language, linguistics, lexicons, lexicography. That will probably enliven July, and necessitates a reorganization of the Auxiliary Library in the barn. And of course the piles of books on divers subjects grow and totter, delightfully.

And 25-30 miles a week of St. George peninsula roadside trash continues to be picked up on an almost daily basis (well over 140,000 cigarette butts in the four years since we started counting).

Fungi and Education

The London Review of Books is a continual delight, every issue replete with surprises and challenges, lambent writing, and things I had no idea I was interested in until I started reading. This week’s case in point: a review by Francis Gooding of Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds And Shape Our Futures, which I was reading and listening to (via Audible) about a year ago. This (summarizing “what we know of mycelium and its habits”) is from the last paragraph:

The explosive growth of interconnections, the development of flexible new relationships, the filling of spaces with a tangle of new pathways, novel and powerful exchanges and flows of information coursing through an electrically excitable network: what else but this would a fungus do if it really did seize hold of your mind… an entanglement of intimate, sudden, pulsing fresh connections between the things around it?

What a marvelous characterization of Education, I thought, and how very like what I experienced (mostly outside of classes…) with friends in the halcyon days of 1969-1971 at Stanford, and now and again in the years since (though the “electrically excitable network” didn’t really bloom until the 1990s), and mostly on my own in 16 years of retirement. Perhaps the greatest pleasure is never knowing when and in what modality the next inspiration will present itself, but they keep coming.

Marshall Point again

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Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the familiar territory of the rocks of Marshall Point, and (as usual) discovered scores of faces and creatures I’d never seen before, alongside old friends I’d captured on earlier expeditions. As I clambered over the rocks I tried to pay attention to what and how I was seeing, and to respond to the intensity of visual stimuli.

Most of the images from a day’s shooting convey the insight of a fleeting moment, an accident of light and angle: there’s a face, or the elements of a face, as if it was waiting for the photographer to come along and notice it and engage; seemingly, nobody else ever has.

The post-processing of images can focus the viewer’s attention on features as seen by the photographer. Such actions include cropping and rotation, tweaking Tone and Presence, judicious removal of distracting bits, vignetting, dodging and burning—all have plentiful precedent in traditional analog photography.

Quite a few of the processed images remain obscure to most viewers, who may wonder just what the photographer saw to inspire the framing and the exposure itself. A slim few pose no such challenge to the viewer: the physiognomy is palpable to anybody, and all agree that the face is real and actually there.

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The latter are clearly the most ‘successful’ images, but the whole set from a given day tells us more about seeing than we can learn from the obvious successes alone.

Many of my rock portraits allude in a general way to the studio photographs seen in Abandoned Ancestors and Bluenose Physiognomy—a head framed in a rectangular space, features more or less in the expected places, displaying a grin or a moue or a grumpy frown.

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A few have specific resonance with images from a lifetime of eidetic image memory. Some enter new territory in proposing a neo-Cubist assembly of fragments to create a novel and subjective reading of face or body.

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A few beg to be brought to life by mirroring.

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And some are simply enigmatic, for readers to make of what they will.

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Their charm and purpose lies mostly in how viewers read them, and I’m sometimes surprised by variant interpretations that I’d missed myself.

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early April

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It’s been quite a month of photographic explorations on the St. George peninsula, with a gallery of Charming Manifestations (constructed near the end of March) and then several more Flickr Albums in the fortnight since.

The sands continue to fascinate:

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Rapunzel:
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two marvelously lissome dancers
with a portly Easter Bunny supporting:
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and headgear reminiscent of Tenniel’s Duchess:
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I am not much closer to an understanding of the meaning or significance of such legerdemain, but it seems to keep happening will-I-nill-I.

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Addendum:
This just rolled in and I thought… well, why not? the Veil Nebula as imaged by the Hubble Telescope. I snipped out a portion and did the copy-flip-join thing to produce

Veil Nebula detail mirrored
which clearly shows a red-eyed Elemental (none too pleased, I think) in the center of the image.

Earlier today John-the-son sent a link to a Scientific American article Confirmed! We Live in a Simulation: We must never doubt Elon Musk again (Fouad Khan). The date is April 1, which may or may not be relevant, but here’s a bit of its bite:

Pretty much since the dawn of philosophy we have been asking the question: Why do we need consciousness? What purpose does it serve? Well, the purpose is easy to extrapolate once we concede the simulation hypothesis. Consciousness is an integrated (combining five senses) subjective interface between the self and the rest of the universe. The only reasonable explanation for its existence is that it is there to be an “experience.” That’s its primary raison d’être. Parts of it may or may not provide any kind of evolutionary advantage or other utility. But the sum total of it exists as an experience and hence must have the primary function of being an experience. An experience by itself as a whole is too energy-expensive and information-restrictive to have evolved as an evolutionary advantage.

…There is nothing in philosophy or science, no postulates, theories or laws, that would predict the emergence of this experience we call consciousness. Natural laws do not call for its existence, and it certainly does not seem to offer us any evolutionary advantages. There can only be two explanations for its existence. First is that there are evolutionary forces at work that we don’t know of or haven’t theorized yet that select for the emergence of the experience called consciousness. The second is that the experience is a function we serve, a product that we create, an experience we generate as human beings. Who do we create this product for? How do they receive the output of the qualia generating algorithms that we are? We don’t know. But one thing’s for sure, we do create it. We know it exists. That’s the only thing we can be certain about. And that we don’t have a dominant theory to explain why we need it.

So here we are generating this product called consciousness that we apparently don’t have a use for, that is an experience and hence must serve as an experience. The only logical next step is to surmise that this product serves someone else… The simplest explanation for the existence of consciousness is that it is an experience being created, by our bodies, but not for us. We are qualia-generating machines.

And John’s reply to my querulousness about qualia:

…why dismiss the grindings of imagination? when you tear things apart with symmetry or other challenging art, all kinds of interpretive possibilities suddenly spring up in the observer’s strained mind as it grasps for meaning and sees (for me) a vulture, a jackal, and a beetle stacked totem-wise gazing expectantly. You’ve become expert at tearing apart an image just so that it creates the most potential of interpretation, and another degree or so it would again collapse into baffling noise that is torment to the mind that seeks to grasp at meaning everywhere. And if we’re in a simulation, the possibility that that meaning created might indicate something greater or hidden significance being revealed seems all the more tempting, no? Rather than just flecks of mica rearranged by water.

The yashmak

In the present climate of peril with respect to things one mustn’t say or think, some delightful stuff is fated to be forced underground. A case in point has to do with masking and veiling: masking is now (in 2021, not in 2019) de rigeur in some settings and circumstances, but a bone of contention in others. Veiling is deprecated in some settings and circumstances, but obligatory in others. One mocks with care, and with an eye peeled for the culture police, and never quite knows where the edges are today. A case in point is packed into this image:

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which I’ve described as “the yashmak of her wildest dreams” (well, it’s really ‘yaşmak’, in Turkish).

I first learned the term 60+ years ago, via an Elsa Lanchester song that skates awfully close to the incorrect in 2021:

The original image was pretty undistinguished, or perhaps just too chaotic,
and I didn’t process it the day I took the photo (there were much better candidates):
(see Sand for how and why)

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but later it occurred to me that mirroring might do something interesting. The first attempt:

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Hmmm. Elaborate, but not eloquent enough. So try flipping vertically:

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Closer, but no cigar yet. And then I saw those eyes:

How about if I bring them together by taking a narrower slice and mirroring…
and there you have two bewitching eyes and a marvelously ornate yashmak:

So, once again: something from nothing.

verbal and visual

A week or so ago, in response to my pants people post, John-the-son asked this question, which I’ve been contemplating ever since:

I’m curious how you observe your thoughts… Like for a complex thought do you have to struggle to transpose it into words because it’s fundamentally an image?

I don’t have the answer to this, but it got me thinking about various domains I have elaborated and how the mind navigates them. How do my thoughts about music, for instance, realize themselves? How much of my anthropological thought is or has been geographic/ecological, couched in terms of numbers and distributions (which seem fundamentally imagistic). And then what of the familiar experience of waking up with words that need to be written down, and that then unfold into texts (these days often on yellow pads, then transferred into .txt files). The process of writing out my wordly thoughts is an essential part of clarifying and then making them distributable: the old “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” keeps coming back, but with that verb see at the core. Evidence again for the visual? But much of my thinking does seem to be verbal, a cascade of words, rather than images that require to be translated into the medium of words in order for them to be expressed, recorded, transmitted, distributed.

My presumption has been that thinking is verbal, and trying to imagine what visual thinking would be like calls upon pattern and form in their visual plumage. And is perhaps exactly what I’m employing as I stalk the spaces at Drift Inn and Marshall Point. There’s little there that seems to express itself verbally—rather, a recognition of a flow of imagery punctuated by non-verbal recognition of creatures, faces, personalities that I can collect without needing to name. A pattern recognized: eyes, noses, mouths, even in their splayed and warped Cubist configuration. And the more I practise, the more easily I resolve the patterns into versions of the face, often calling upon remembered images to help to parse what’s before me.

Surely I do see things in other things; Broot has said that my photographs “make something out of nothing” where hers are more abstractive, and “make nothing out of something.” I spend a lot of every day seeing things that then reside in my imagination, as readings of sensory input.

How to account for the differences in how Broot and I see the contents of my photographs? She ‘sees’ as I do probably less than 1/4 of the time—the creatures are REAL for me, in my imagination, but often they need to be elucidated, in effect drawn out, for her to ‘see’ them. Is this just a matter of practise on my part, or ‘just’ a manifestation of the Blackmer gene for whimsy? And is whimsy a matter of manipulating, of turning up previously hidden/unobserved facets, of turning things inside out, of treating analogies/homologies as if they could be manipulated to have other readings… and is that somehow a visual/imagistic transformation?

And what of Broot’s and Kate’s highly-developed puzzle-making skills (in which I scarcely participate), an exercise in pattern-matching, a quintessence of the visual? The notions of pattern and form have very strong visual components, and are at the core of Broot’s own photography.

It’s interesting that I sometimes have to revolve an image (while processing it) in order to ‘see’ what it contains, which I might or might not have discerned in the original ‘seeing’ that prompted the digital capture/shutter release. And the process of making mirrorings and tessellations is almost entirely a post-processing activity. The thing about mirrorings is that the beings in them don’t exactly exist, but they are nascent and potential in their seed images, and once created they take on a sort of life and identity that arises in the viewer’s imagination: they are synthetic and imaginary, but recognizable as other-dimensional beings who exude personality. And they are mostly looking right at the viewer, daring the viewer to assign character and identity. The paradox that they really are unliving rock (or ice or dead wood, etc.), while appearing to radiate personality or at least personhood, is a conundrum. Mere figments? Or emergent potentials of being?

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The viewer assigns features: that depression is an eye because it looks one of the ways eyes can look. If there’s an eye there may also be a mouth, or an abstraction of mouth-ness; likewise a nose, an ear, a facial contour. The viewer reads the image as if those might-bes really are. There’s so much might-be and could-be, all of it exercises in fitting the perceived with handy templates, many of which are stored-up visual algorithms from a lifetime of image viewing. But how to fit Kian’s 7 1/2 year old view into the calculus? He has the beginnings of image knowledge, and he knows the fundamental eyes-noses-mouth face formula and can apply it wittingly, but he doesn’t have the images of Queen Victoria

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or Haydn/Bach
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or the various Cubist unconstructions, not yet. So his “that’s like…” is in the early stages of accumulative development, and coming along very nicely.

My own highly-elaborated visual memory is a resource for naming images (often whimsically) with what I see, viz: the ‘nesting pair’ of long-billed creatures in this image:

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Or consider the Cheshire Cat, in several manifestations:

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