Monday, September 16, 2013

Ugly Dog on the Spine

When the editor of a new anthology of mini comics asked my brother David Lee Ingersoll which of David's many self-published mini comics should be the ONE that appears in the anthology, David turned to me for my opinion. David said he would prefer to suggest an issue of The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show, the series we co-created.

Thunder & Lightning were radio DJs we invented back in junior high. A friend who volunteered at a college radio station invited us to join him for a few shows and just being ourselves would have been too boring so we came up with characters. David was Davey Thunder; I was Jack Lightning. We added an elf and a dragon, because why wouldn't we?

When, many years later, David got to publishing his minis, caught up in the indie zine ferment of the 80s, he asked me to bring back Thunder & Lightning. He was already writing & drawing two other series -- Cheap Thrills (featuring horror stories a la EC) and The Highly Unlikely Adventures of Moe & Detritus (which continued life as a full-size comic called Misspent Youths) -- and he wanted to produce something else, something he didn't have to write. We got a few issues done before David burned out. It's not like he was making money on this stuff, right?

When the prospect of the anthology came up I got out the old issues of The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show and reread them. I liked 'em! But which to recommend? They build on each other, but as stand-alones seem pretty slight. Except for "The Ugly Dog of Heaven," which is also the wordiest. I didn't want to recommend the one that was all full of writing, even if it was my writing. I wanted to recommend something that used the comics form best. Besides, Thunder & Lightning themselves hardly appear in the story. Finally, I told David what I was thinking and he said he was inclined toward "Ugly Dog," too. So. We went with "The Ugly Dog of Heaven."

The Ugly Dog of Heaven is an angel, presumably. It patiently listens to people's troubles. It looks mangy and has watery eyes and has little wings growing out of its shoulders.

The video above features hands flipping through the Treasury of Mini Comics, vol. 1, edited by Michael Dowers, published by Fantagraphics Press. When the hands close the book and turn the book so you get a good look at the spine you will see the Ugly Dog of Heaven at the bottom of the spine. That's quite a reveal! The designer snipped the Dog from the cover of The Davey Thunder / Jack Lightning Show.

You can buy directly from the Fantagraphics website.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

grammar to the last

When I read in Alicia Ostriker's "Elegy Before the War" the following lines:

… Very little pain, lucid
Almost to the end, correcting
People's grammar
A week before
She died

I remembered this from a friend's letter (she had been attending her ailing mother-in-law):

the death was “expected” and, of course, she was old (91) … Brilliant woman.  Coherent right to the end.  She corrected [granddaughter] on her grammar the day before!

poetry from No Heaven by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

Saturday, September 14, 2013

remote viewing

If you could see trails of light left behind by the photons that are crisscrossing the room in front of you right now, they would be heading in all directions, constantly passing through each other without noticeable effect In that one room (or for that matter in your backyard if you're reading this outside) there will be visible light heading in all directions as it reflects from objects all around you.

And with all that light, somebody sees you.

I happened to be reading Brian Clegg's book while I was sitting on the back porch overlooking the backyard. Clegg saw me in his imagination. And, for a moment, it was weird, I felt I was being observed.

source: Before the Big Bang: the prehistory of our universe by Brian Clegg

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

tunneling, without passing through

You know that the sun's energy comes from fusion power, right? Atoms of hydrogen are squeezed so tightly together by the sun's gravity that they fuse and that releases a lot of energy which blasts out in every direction. The surface of the earth is warmed by this energy.

Do you know the mechanism, what brings about this fusion? Hydrogen atoms, even when pressed tightly together, don't fuse. They repel. As Brian Clegg puts it:

[E]ven in the pressure and temperatures present in the Sun, there isn't enough energy to overcome the repulsive force that keeps protons apart.

Protons make up the nucleus of the hydrogen atom.

It is only because of one of the oddities of quantum physics that stars work at all. Quantum particles like protons don't have an exact location … Each particle is spread out over a range of locations, with a different probability of being in any one of those locations.

While protons repel each other, being positively charged, they have this quantum feature of being in several places at once, even "so close to another proton that they can fuse before they bounce away from each other."

The repulsive force is so powerful that a proton cannot breach it except when it happens to be right on top of another proton, which "has a low probability of occurring," Brian Clegg says, except that "there are so many protons in the Sun that it's happening all the time … When nuclei fuse together the result is a small loss of mass which is converted into energy."

So, if you're following, protons are so powerfully repelled one from the other a proton in one atom cannot approach a proton in another atom. A proton must randomly occur at the particular point in its "range of locations" that happens at that moment to be occupied by another proton. Clegg calls this "tunneling," that is, a proton has appeared on the other side of a formidable barrier "without," he says, "passing through that … barrier."

Such an event is highly unlikely. It happens all the time.

source: Before the Big Bang: the prehistory of our universe by Brian Clegg

Monday, September 09, 2013

Glenn Ingersoll - September 2013 readings

Sept 13, Friday, 7pm
with Rebecca Radner
and an open mic
at Caffe Nefeli
1854 Euclid Ave, Berkeley
between Hearst and Ridge, at UCB's Northgate

Sept 15, Sunday, 12noon
with Jamie Asaye FitzGerald and Kathleen Winter
part of the Petaluma Poetry Walk
at Riverfront Art Gallery
132 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma
between Western and Washington, downtown

Sunday, September 08, 2013

haole vs. aloha

This is a nice discussion of the Hawaiian word "haole":

"Haole"[,] some Hawaiians believe[,] is a sort of antonym of "aloha"[.] "Haole" is a word predating Western contact and can be used to describe nonnative plants and animals as well as people. Still, there's a popular myth that the derivation comes from the phrase for "without breath," ha being the word for breath. (As in "aloha," which can be used as a greeting or a farewell or to indicate love but literally means "the presence of breath" or "the breath of life.") This "without breath" interpretation of the word "haole" was supposedly applied to Western visitors because they refused to engage in the traditional Polynesian greeting in which two people touch noses and embrace while breathing each other in.

Breath is considered sacred in some cultures. I'm reminded of Joseph Campbell's discussion of the Hebrew word for God, which can be written YHWH; Campbell noted the resemblance of the name of God to that of an inbreath and outbreath.

In typing the quote I remembered that the "Western visitors" Sarah Vowell is talking about came to Hawaii from the East. White people came to the Americas from the East, too. In that sense all Europeans are Easterners to the New World and Polynesia. Europeans became "Westerners" by virtue of being West of China and India, the two civilizations greater than all of Europe after the collapse of Rome, at least until Europe discovered the New World and began to feed on it.

source: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Saturday, September 07, 2013

kill a whale for the moon

I don't know what to say about this.

[The] use [of whale oil] as a lubricant impervious to extremes in temperature persisted well into the space age -- NASA lubed its moon landers and other remotely operated vehicles with sperm whale oil …

I mean, it's amazing that whales produce this stuff in their bodies and that our techno cleverness wasn't able to produce an improvement -- only the law making commerce in whale products illegal ended NASA's use of whale oil -- but it's cool in the way that executed prisoners supplying donor organs is cool. That is, I don't know that it is.

source: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

"all the dreck you could ever want"

Having started with the ancient world, describing the ways the words of olden days have managed to come down to us - and the many ways they've failed to make it - Nicholas Basbanes moves on to a discussion of the contemporary world, not just how much more writing (information?) is being created but how easily and quickly this new stuff is being lost. There aren't many books, no matter how old, that we can't read. (There are some.) But information storage systems invented and used for important purposes just in the last few decades grow less and less accessible every day as technology changes. Much of what hasn't ended up in the junkyard already is running out of experts competent to keep it running. Or budgets to pay for its retention.

Blogs started out as lists of links, I understand. There's a lot of neat stuff scattered about the web, but how do you find it? Those who loved to search would post their finds in weblogs (name shortened to "blog"). In that spirit and with the sense that frequent hyperlinks would enrich my own writing, when I started DIR I often included links to more information. Over time (and not much time) I saw these links dying. In my December 2005 post about the poetry of Dorianne Laux, for instance, I talked about one of her poems and linked to a complete version posted elsewhere. The link no longer leads to the poem. Instead of enriching my writing, linking elsewhere seemed to be hobbling it. To keep my own posts readable over time (if only to me) I decided to make them self-contained. I put up fewer and fewer links. I will still link in order to provide credit for something, as in the word of the day posts of the last month where I hyperlink to the definition source. But I no longer expect that a reader will be able to rely on the links.

Basbanes' A Splendor of Letters was published in 2003, ten years ago. In this paragraph he describes one attempt at preservation:

[A] nonprofit company based in San Francisco known as the Internet Archive is using a network of sophisticated "crawling" devices to download copies of every web page that has been publicly posted on the Internet since 1996. … [T]he Internet Archive has been gathering Web pages and storing them in tape drives the size of two soda machines, each capable of preserving 10 terabytes of data … about one half of the contents of the Library of Congress. … [The] long-term goal is to "preserve our digital heritage." To do that … it is necessary "to capture all the dreck you could ever want." … [T]he average life span of a page on the World Wide Web is seventy-five days, a circumstance that explains the frustration so many "surfers" feel when their attempts to log on to a targeted site is met with an "Error 404" message, a gentle way of saying that the page no longer exists …

I've used the Internet Archive. It's still around - ten years later! I wonder if they have more soda machines.

That Dorianne Laux poem, "Aphasia," can be found if you grab the link from my 2005 post and enter it in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine then follow the Archive calendar back to its 2005 visit. Click on the hyperlink in the preceding sentence and you will be transported.

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine now provides the only access to my old website, the first LoveSettlement.

source of quote: A Splendor of Letters: the permanence of books in an impermanent world by Nicholas A. Basbanes