Sunday, May 17, 2009

At The Opera

Gerry Springer The Opera.

I assure you, had this not been an event of the Emmanuel Center I would never even have considered attending. I went out of loyalty to the organization, and if I had any curiosity it was only to discover what in fact Rev. Werntz and Rabbi Berman could possibly do with this in their "Talk Back" session afterwards. We hadn't left "Blackbird" with a very high opinion, Dr. Funk decided to sit this one out, and I left home out of a sense of duty.

I was surprised to find the house packed, and even more to find myself in constant hysterics from the first number to the end of the show. The music is brilliant and the staging is brilliant and the actors are brilliant, and there would have been a long standing ovation except that the audience was so exhausted by laughing that at the end we could hardly clap.

Gerry, in the first act is in tension with his "inner Valkyrie" (she appears in the upper corner of the set to taunt him in her helmet and shield.) This is appropriate because the music is a very imaginative pastiche of Wagner- along with jazz, Busby Berkeley, Jerome Kern, Sondheim, and I think Papa Haydn was stirring the pot at one point but it gets hard to sort out about midway in the first act. 

Amongst the challenging questions asked by "Gerry Springer, The Opera" are these. Can two jealous women fighting over a man be a valid premise for a soprano duet? Obviously, yes, even if they are redneck sluts fighting over a Ku Klux Klan member- I should have included Leonard Bernstein in the list above. Can a Wagnerian chorus be built on the text "we eat, excrete, and watch TV?" again, yes, but more surprising. Most surprising indeed is that "Gerry Springer The Opera" pulled this sort of thing off with great craftsmanship. 

And then Mozart- Gerry, like Don Juan, takes a trip with Satan to warmer climes- and decides he'd rather stay there "I'm less confused here" and bring a balance of sorts between Satan and Jesus, and the God "it's not easy being me" and the inner valkyrie is reconstituted as St. Michael.- we even have Milton poking around here. The show is a tour de force of "Reducio ad absurdem" and I recommend it heartily.

You can, by the way, bring your pretensions, they will probably survive, not quite intact but perhaps a little better for the workout!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

May Seventeenth

Would I had someone to wed this day

Too long in coming for my life’s pure love,

Snatched by fate and death from me

With nothing to keep my hope

And body from the winds of fortune,

Which too easily severed the tie we made.

Too long in coming to stay those fickle hearts

Left so free that whim could wreak

Destruction of a life and home.

Too long coming to give me future peace

Though I kept my bargains with care and toil

Loyal, faithful, beyond all calling, tending the

Heart and garden of my lovers’ lives,

Seeing in their happiness my own.

Now the parade of ghosts marches through my past;

Would wedded one of them have stayed at last? 

May 17,2004

Colorful Science

This rather pretty diagram is my result on the Farnsworth Munsell 100 hue test. I took it because a friend who is a scientist was discussing with me the inevitability that my 61 year old eyes had yellowed and that I must have lost my ability to discriminate finely between colors. That possibility was a terrible shock to me, especially as I consult with people about color. I felt that if my color vision was skewed I had better know about it, hence the test. The result is very reassuring "My guess is that your color discrimination is substantially better than 99% of normal people of any age. So do not worry" says my friend who scored it.

I won't! 

There is something so elegantly beautiful about the circular chart. Color is a paradox to me. It is a thing we who have color vision simply assume as part of the physical world. It seems so empiric, so definite, yet it so subjective. We experience it as a quality of the objects around us yet it exists only in our brains. Just this morning the old question about a tree falling in a forest came up. If no one is there to hear it, is there any noise? The same question applies to color- is the field green if there is no one there to see it? The answer to both these questions is no. When the tree falls the event will send mechanical waves through the medium of the air, and an ear and brain working together interpret those waves as what we call sound if they each them, but that is in our heads, not in the forest.

When we "see," electromagnetic waves which are reflected off of a surface reach our eyes and are interpreted as a representational "vision." The sun shines upon the field, showering it with the remnants of energy waves that have not been blocked by the atmosphere. The sun, in it's seeming endless roiling of atomic explosion radiates on the fragile atmosphere which envelopes this tiny planet. The atmosphere fragments it into the glow of blue that we call sky. The energy that now has substance to interact with becomes visible as light as it energizes the air and irradiates the grass to give it the energy of life, and those wave lengths that the grass doesn't take in are reflected to our eyes and we experience a wave length, one that is not absorbed by the grass, and we have decided, as a group, a culture, to call that sensation green.

It seems to me that this agreement is rather like the "as if" approach to religion. Some of my friends in our theology discussion group will recognize what I am referring to. That we agree to participate "as if" it is all true. In the case of color, we agree to name it "green" as if we are all experiencing the same thing, but in fact all we know is that we each of us has that wavelength available to us if we are observing under the same conditions. It has passed through the air, been bounced off the grass, passed through more air, some glass perhaps, and now passes through our very probably yellowed cornea, thence to stimulate a now motley collection of much worn rods and cones and then the resulting stimulus winds it's way through the rather quirky maze of the individual brain to create that experience that we call green, which we treat as if it were identical for us all.

We can never know if the experience is the same for all of us- all we know is that when we see that wavelength we recognize it's sameness to the other occasions on which it is visible to us. I am wearing a sky blue sweater, it is the color of the sky, the egg of a robin. I say it is the color of the sky "Blue" and you say"oh yes! the color of the sky, like the egg of a robin, your sweater is that lovely, light, and slightly greenish blue." But really, beyond the fact that this sweater is showering you with the same wavelength as a clear sky on a cool summer morning, and so you make that pleasant association, the experience is completely within yourself, and you are profoundly isolated within your reactions to the wavelength of light, as I am within mine, and it is only the consistency of our individual experiences that enables us to shout across the gulf of sensual interpretation that separates us, and allows us to talk "As If" the field were green, and the tree crashes loudly, and the beauty of the world around us makes us one with creation.

We are dealing with, not the wavelengths that are in the grass, but those that are not in the grass. One could say that the grass is every color except green. It has rejected the greeness, thrown it back to us. This is another aspect of the paradox, that the color the thing is "is" exactly the color it "isn't." The grass gives our eyes "green" as the left over of it's feast on the sun's life giving energy. And we see it with pleasure.
Before we move to far into the warm weather, and forget winter altogether, I want to share this photo with you. With the coming of Spring I heard many prayers at church and at temple which thanked God for deliverance from the cold and ugly repression of winter- from the grey days. From my perspective this seems odd, in the first place because I think winter is amazingly beautiful, and in the second place- well, here's that projection of myself again. It always makes me cringe if someone says they don't like something I've made, so I wonder what must God feel about those prayers? Half the year thrown away by a people absorbed in the preconceptions of what life should be that have been fostered by a material culture that only recognizes sunshine

Creation is a varied and complex thing that has a repertoire of beauties that is vast, and we can enjoy most of them without being threatened on any level. Technology keeps of safe from freezing and damp, so we can enjoy the manifestation of nature's moods without being threatened by them, yet we rush with our heads down through scenes like that above and complain of the ugliness of winter. Allow me to suggest long underwear. Thank God for for the beauty of a winter night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

another nocturn

I call these "nocturnes," for the obvious reason, I've been shooting at night. I've done quite a few of these this year, as you will see!

full moon

Another image, this from just the other night, a full moon rising over the street I live on.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

orange pink sky

Since I mentioned the orange pink sky here it is!

Spring evenings

I have been rather absent from my blog, and now "the Other Reader" has shown me up once again so I'll have to get in gear and blog (and read "Ulysses".) Life has at present certain pressures and new responsibilities that have been calling me away from my studiola and it's ambiance of introspection. But I have not been idle, and so I thought I would share a recent photograph.

Now I will write a tiny bit about making pictures. This is a photograph of the very pleasant South West Corridor Park, looking toward the Hancock Tower. 

Recently I made reference to the destruction of my house, and have also referred to some of the trials I have had to endure, but my fortune has not been altogether bad, in fact it all turned out quite well. You see this is where I live, in a tiny little room in a warm and quirky house owned by a very kind man and inhabited by interesting and caring tenants. Every journey I take starts and ends here- my door is just a few steps away, and it is wonderfully beautiful. The magnolias in the last post are just a bit further along, and the hancock tower is always there, brooding or brilliant by turns.

So you think that you now know what this is a picture of, since I have described the place I took it, but in fact there is more.

I have been using a camera as my principal means of visual expression since 2004. I phrased that carefully. I was trained as a painter- landscape to amuse myself and portraits for income. There has always been a tension in me between the fine arts and the applied arts, to use very old fashioned terms. When I was painting I was playing the dilettante at design, and when involved in design I was a dilettante painter. Of the two, visual imagery is the stronger compulsion, and as difficult as my periods of illness have been they have given me the time to focus on that aspect of my creative life. Alas, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, and in this case along with some time, I was also given peripheral neuropathy and lost the ability to control my hands. The camera had always been a reference tool for my painting, and now it moved into the primary position. Digital, computers, photoshop! You will think it odd to say, but I really feel that the excitement of learning all this new stuff gave me the impetus to survive some very bleak times, and still does as a matter of fact. It has been very rewarding, and I do think I'm doing pretty well with it.

The first group of pieces I did were a big surprise: they were totally abstract! Then I became very involved with very stylized landscape, then very romantic landscape, then another little stumbling block popped up- I became almost totally housebound last year- no afternoon rambles in the Fenway victory gardens or in the Arboretum. I was lucky if it could get the six doors to the spot you see in the photograph above. That is when I fell in love with the Hancock Tower. 

It is relatively easy to go to some absolutely beautiful location and use the camera to make a record of it's beauty. Some skill is involved of course, but you're getting a lot of help from the Big Ungendered Person who created the beauty for you to record; but when you can't get there anymore the nature of the challenge changes rather a lot, and that was what I faced last year. If I was going to make pictures I had to make them right at home.

How many pictures can a person take of the Hancock Tower? Quite a lot, as it turns out- but really the tower is a kind of red herring. These pictures are actually about the day and the time I took them. They are about the passing of the season, about fragile balances of light and air. About temperature, about darkness and rain. There are days when the sun reflecting off the tower balances almost perfectly with the sun itself and we stand with shadows casting before and behind us, the light enveloping the plants and passersby in a glow that I've only before seen at the edge of death. Snow falling under the sodium vapor lamps from an orange pink sky, or rain making a mirror of the walkway- that's what all my recent photographs are about. I'll start showing them to you.

We talk in our discussion group about prayer, and I often say that I don't pray. but really I do- with my camera.