haiku, philosophy, photography, mundane miracle

Mundane Miracle — Curl

What works for one seeker of enlightenment may or may not work for another.  If listening to JS Bach’s Mass in B Minor does not work, consider something quicker and quieter.  Pay really close attention to some of the mundane miracles of everyday life.
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Portal ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #243

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One Way Among Many
|Stiff slick paper slides
|between thumb and blade to form
|a spiral portal.

humor, photography, politics

Lines Plan Their Day

«Let’s twist and ripple across the computer screen
in an exuberant pseudorandom dance
that won’t repeat for centuries.»

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«Maybe tomorrow.  Still sore from yesterday.
I pulled red line duty and
people stepped on me as they crossed.»

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«Hmmm.  Let’s just mark a few straight edges
of flat surfaces in the real world
until U feel better.»
«I’m up for that if we keep the angles simple.»

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I have good news and bad news.

The good news is that I have improved the format of some silliness posted on 2018-05-01, in response to a challenge with the word [line].  The improvements appear above, in response to a new challenge:

Line ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #240

The bad news is that the serious undercurrent in my silliness is even more topical than before.  In so many high places in so many nations, fascists and their enablers have been stampeding across red lines.  One of many recent examples in the USA is Donald Trump’s order that hospitals bypass the CDC and send COVID-19 data only to a database run by Trump loyalists.  With predictable consequences.

After a rueful chuckle about how it feels to be a red line nowadays, we can get back to disinfecting surfaces and other little chores.  Like saving constitutional democracy.

Remember in November.

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birds, haiku, photography

Light Show

The weather is warm and will soon be hot, so I leave my camera behind when I smuggle in a quick walk between chores.  As Murphy’s Law predicts, I see something I want to photograph.  While the scene itself is common enough, the way light caroms off part of it (and then to me) is not.  Oh well, for now I can write a haiku.  Maybe later I can get an image close to what I see?
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Red-winged Blackbird
|Sun shines. Bird mutters.
|Perched on power line, flicks tail.
|Day-Glo epaulets.

Hmmm.  Buy a download of a promising large image (6750×4500 pixels):

© Steve Byland | 123RF Stock Photo

Rotate it.  Crop tightly (down to 635×912).  Boost saturation and visual contrast.  Yes, the result is like the red and gold on black that I saw when the light was just right:

16607712 - male red-winged blackbird (agelaius phoeniceus) perched

Sometimes it takes a good deal of editing to tell the truth.

photography, politics

Freedom for Whom?

«Normally I let people interpret my poems as they will, but here I will be crystal clear on one point.»  So says Patrick Jennings in #236 of his Pic and a Word Challenge series, and I concur.  My poem in response to the challenge has a final couplet that could be misinterpreted, so I too will try to be crystal clear afterward.
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Freedom ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #236

Breonna Taylor and George Floyd did not enjoy freedoms that a white guy like me could easily take for granted.

Freedom?
|Freedom to be left alone,
|not be shot in my own home.
|Freedom from the nagging fear
|that a racist cop is near.
|Freedom to salute the flag,
|or to burn it like a rag?

flag_716x632

The Pledge of Allegiance ends with an aspiration, not a fact.  Maybe some flag burnings are meant to protest America’s failure to provide liberty and justice for all, but they don’t look like that.  They look like flag burnings in Tehran, like hatred of the republic for which it stands.

Tho ardent about civil liberties, I can accept prosecution of flag burners for violating local ordinances against open burning and the air pollution it causes.  Don’t give jerks who alienate potential allies an excuse to fancy themselves as martyrs for freedom of speech.

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There are respectful ways to protest with the flag.  Fly it upside down.  Display artwork that incorporates it, such as the moving “Close the Camps” stickers (designed by artist Pablo Stanley) that were distributed by MoveOn.org in 2017.

Above all, remember that the worst defilers of the flag are the bigots and plutocrats who hide behind it, while denying others the freedoms it represents.

Remember in November.

growing old, haiku, photography, tanka

Going Gray?

Some photos need color, some are better in grayscale (aka “black and white”), and many are good either way.  Here are some examples and a tanka that touches on the symbolism of color in general.  Visit the links to see more examples.
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Bare Branches
|Some go to grayscale
|when form is “all” that matters.
|I keep azure skies.
|My world will gray soon enough.
|I keep color and press on.

If somebody chooses to emphasize form and texture in a photo of bare branches by going to grayscale, I am likely to disagree with (but respect) that choice.  So far, I have always wanted to keep color in my own photos, often with minor adjustments in my photo editor.  Here are some examples where grayscale would be goofy:

Click on a thumbnail to see the full image in another tab.

While I have no qualms about really needing color in most of my own photos, there is more to be said about the ways various photographers have used color or grayscale.  Some examples follow.

A somber poem with grayness as a metaphor has been illustrated by a photo of a mostly gray scene.  But it is a color photo, and rightly so.  The subtle color is a reminder that the grayness is there in the scene, not an artifact of how the image is displayed.

Of course, I admire the photographic pioneers whose images were compelling despite then-obligatory grayscale.  Some classic photos are best left in grayscale anyway, and contemporary photographers may choose partial desaturation.  There are even a few photos that benefit from going all the way to true black and white, where every pixel is either pitch black or stark white.  Scroll down from the header image in Choices to see an example.

flowers, history, photography, politics

Memorial Day 2020

Originally a day to remember and honor the fallen in the American Civil War, Memorial Day expanded to include later wars.  Now it should expand beyond the military.  In the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers risk their lives and sometimes die, defending the rest of us from the disease itself and the societal collapse it could cause.
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In wartime, ignorant and impulsive pols can somehow make horrendous situations even worse.  So it is with the pandemic.  Medical workers (including EMT-s and hospital support staff as well as doctors and nurses) have been sent into battle with inadequate personal protective equipment for themselves and inadequate intensive care facilities for their patients.  Stockpiling such stuff would cost money.  Might even need to raise taxes on those who can work from home, if they need to work at all.  And so on.

It’s so much easier to claim that all is well until all Hell breaks loose, then claim that all will be well when the weather warms up, if we just go back to work and drink a little bleach.

The governors of some states have stepped up.  Learning from each other and from countries (like New Zealand and South Korea) that took the threat seriously, they made tough decisions.  They include a few Republicans (like Hogan in Maryland and DeWine in Ohio) and more Democrats.  It is too early to be sure, but they just might have saved the USA from criminal incompetence in the White House.  Federalism works.

The doctor in Wuhan who first sounded the alarm about COVID-19 was punished for “spreading rumors” and later died of the disease.  Remember him also today, along with our essential civilian workers and those who serve in our military.  Remember that dark money and gerrymandering and vote suppression have sickened American democracy but not yet killed it.

Remember in November.

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language, philosophy, photography, science

Emergent Leaves and More

Much more.  Careful consideration of emergent things provides some hints about how to live fully and righteously on a little blue planet in a big oblivious universe.  Does that sound too grandiose?  Let’s start small, with some spring leaves and two ways to make adjectives.
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Turning Verbs into Adjectives

While we do it mostly by adding the suffix [-ing] (and maybe tweaking the spelling), we sometimes add [-ent] (or [-ant]) instead.  There is a subtle but important difference when we turn [emerge] into an adjective.  Leaves emerge and then go about the business of growing and photosynthesizing.  It would be a little better to say that my photo shows “emerging leaves” because there is no “and then” for emergent things.  They just are emergent.  What they emerge from is still there.

For example, look again at my photo, not as leaves but as an image.  It emerges from about 700,000 pixels encoded with about 480 KB of data in JPEG format.  That matters if I want to e-mail it to somebody who pays for data flow over a slow connection.  For many other purposes, to fret about the underlying pixels and bytes is a waste of effort.  The shapes and colors and composition are not in the pixels themselves.  They emerge from the way the pixels are arranged and interact with each other and the viewer.

My mild misuse of the [-ent] suffix for emerging leaves is a point of departure for considering bigger issues, not just a bow to the exact wording of Patrick Jennings’ challenge:

Emergent ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #232 – Pix to Words

Poetic Naturalism

Once we start looking for emergent things, we find that the world teems with them.  (Water, ice, and steam all emerge from crowds of the same kind of molecule.)  We find that fretting about “ultimate reality” may well be as pointless as trying to understand my photo by always diving down into those 480 KB and never looking at the emergent image.  While some contexts demand a deep dive, others demand a shallow one.

One of many places with examples and discussion of various emergent phenomena is Sean Carroll’s book The Big Picture, which somehow manages to be a good read (and a mostly easy one) despite dealing with deep stuff in science and philosophy while being fair to other viewpoints.

While nothing in science is nailed down as tightly as 3+2 = 5 in math, there is much evidence that we are in a tiny corner of a vast universe that goes its own way with no overall design or purpose or supernatural intervention.  Can we live fully and righteously in a cosmos that does not give a rat’s ass about beauty or goodness?  In much more detail than I can hope to put into a blog post, Carroll argues that we can.  Emergence is part of the story.

Tho a little queasy about Carroll’s use of the phrase [poetic naturalism] to name his upbeat attitude in the face of knowledge that would depress many people, I can’t think of a better name or a better attitude.

Don’t despair if love and justice seem as fanciful as unicorns when U consider only the underlying dance of atoms and molecules.  Love and justice may be real enough, but emergent.

 

flowers, humor, photography

Nothing Needed

Long ago, I bought some dwarf tulip bulbs and went thru the forcing rigamarole to get indoor blooming before planting the bulbs.  Nothing but leaves came up.  Feh.  Tossed the bulbs out back.  Guess what happened about a year later.
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Nothing ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #231

Yes, the bulbs survived and put out leaves.  And flower stalks.  Which bloomed.

Year after year, the discarded tulips bloom in spring, while I do nothing for them.  Maybe they are old Yankees like me: compulsively self-reliant.

 

haiku, photography

She Giggled

I am not just being ornery when I avoid common subjects for haiku or photos.  Seldom do I see a common subject in a context that tickles my muse with the possibility that I might say something not already said many times, often better than I can say it anyway.  On 2020-04-28, my muse giggled at the sight of a popular haiku subject displayed with a cheerful color combination that is special to me.
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IMG_4185_840x495

Seen on Green
|Swaying in light wind,
|branches only seem to weep.
|Pink cherry blossoms.

pink-green-vert_clone_840x1027

flowers, haiku, photography

Haiga with Several Time Scales

Haiku poems commonly deal with events on short time scales.  In a split second, the frog jumps into the pond.  In minutes, the sunset fades.  In days, the cherry blossoms fall.  How about decades?  How about millennia?  They can show up too, along with the split second that a camera’s shutter is open.
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mums-rock_840x674

Sunlit Moment
|Mums are good silk fakes.
|Rock is real and will outlast
|both mums and viewer.

rock_rain-splats_glow_800x582
Dunno why the WordPress algorithm for choosing “Related” posts missed the one that is by far the most closely related: Weather’s Works.

 

flowers, haiku, love, photography

Widower’s Song #4

The first three are haiku in a previous post.  This new one is a tanka in response to a CDHK prompt.  A vase with this special urn’s shape and colors would have pleased Edith, and that means a lot to me.
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Carpe Diem #1814 lost love

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Widower’s Song #4: This Urn
|It held her ashes,
|waiting until daffodils
|came for them in spring.
|Then it held one last bouquet
|of her favorite flowers.

DSCN0896_840x1234

 

haiku, history, humor, photography

Vertical Shoreline

How can a shoreline be vertical?  Well, steep cliffs can plunge nearly straight down into the sea.  There may be a cave entrance right at the actual shoreline.  Do we dare enter the cave?  Perhaps (to borrow a few words from Patrick Jennings’ Challenge #220) a beautiful light awaits us there.
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Shoreline ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #220

capri-cliffs_crop_840x1048_shrp+41

Is the sea at Capri’s shoreline still as clear now as it was when I was there in 1977?  I hope so.

capri-clear-water_crop_bri-8_bri-25_840x546

While we’re on the subject of clarity, let’s note that it is not clear whether the eponymous goats really did live on ancient Capri.  But it is clear that the island sited precursors of Mar-a-Lago for Imperial Rome’s fat tyrants.

From the outside, the Blue Grotto (Tiberius’ private pool) looks much like the (other?) grotto in my photo.  The view from inside is entirely different.

A cave entrance right at the shoreline can sometimes work magic.

capri-grotto-crop_HDR_bri-32

Blue Grotto (Capri) [edited image]

Capri Shoreline, Long Ago
|Goats traverse cliffs while
|pink whale swims in blue grotto.
|Naked emperor.

food, haiku, photography

I Dig This Challenge

Photographer-poet Patrick Jennings posts a weekly challenge to create something inspired by one of his photos and a single word.  Challenge #219 is posted with a photo and an appropriate haiku (using the challenge word “dig”).  Fortunately for me, it is OK to reuse Patrick’s splendid image in a haiga with my own haiku.
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clam-diggers-mendocino_840x435

© Patrick Jennings | Dig ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #219

Low Tide at Seaside Creek Beach
|To dig for clams is why
|we are here, beneath this sky.
|No clams?  No problem!

Two Cheers 😀 😀

The first is for anybody who noticed that changing the haiku’s initial line

To dig for clams … ⇒ Clam digging …

would make the haiku comply with the 5-7-5 rule.  The second is for anybody who noticed that the version of the initial line with 6 syllables has a better rhythm.  The actual editing change was from 5 syllables to 6.  Does that seem like an odd direction to move?

The outside story says that a haiku “is” a 3-line poem in blank verse with syllable counts 5, 7, and 5.  While this story is oversimplified, it is still a good place to start.  (Some haiku poets disagree.)  The inside story is more complex.  Various poets bend or break various rules at various times for various (and often good) reasons.  Tho messier, the inside story is ultimately the better one.  Just ask the clam digger who went home with an empty bucket but a full heart.

 

photography, serendipity

Two Visual Illusions

Follow the photons.  The backstory of one illusion begins far away and ends on a window pane.  The backstory of another illusion turns day into night, but not in the same way as the challenge that inspired this post.
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A ghostly translucent squid seems to hover in midair between the viewer and nesting herons.  No, I did not combine a heron image with a squid image in my photo editor.

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The photo is of a page from National Wildlife magazine, taped to window glass and lit from the outside.  (The page blocks a reflection of the sun from a neighbor’s window.)  The squid looks a good deal closer than the herons despite being farther away, but only by the thickness of the page.  The illusion in real life is just like the illusion in the photo.

The photo below illustrates a haiku about a bright full moon shining thru autumn leaves.  Is it really the moon or just a flood light?  Neither.

Chiaroscuro_moon_443x449

The photo was taken by daylight.  The sun was above and behind me, but the light was dappled by unseen leaves (between me and the sun) before reaching the leaves I photographed.  I was hoping for some chiaroscuro and got more than expected by sheer dumb luck.  Most of the photographed leaves were in shade.  Thanks to some unusually reflective green leaves that were in bright sun behind the colored ones, those colored leaves seem to be transmitting light from behind them when they are actually reflecting light from in front of them (and behind me).

The photos displayed above were chosen from among several exposure settings, then edited only by cropping.  More extensive editing may be needed to create other illusions or to compensate for differences between how cameras and eyes see things.  In particular, consider the challenge that inspired this post:

Illusions ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #213

Here are smaller versions of the images displayed in the challenge:

Desaturating a deliberately underexposed photo turned day into night.  At any single exposure setting, a photo of the contrasty daylight scene would be either washed out in light areas or blacked out in dark areas.  (Maybe both.)  Editing merged several exposures to approximate how the scene looked to human eyes.  Visit the challenge for more details on HDR editing and a fine haiku with no technical prerequisites.

 

humor, photography

Gourd-geous Nativity Scene

The gourds in the foreground are kneeling shepherds.  No, I did not take this photo last fall and save it for the Xmas season.  The backstory is more interesting than that.  It’s a minor miracle.
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nativity_30_840x737
I took the original photo on 2019-02-25 after noticing that my display of 5 gourds and a few rocks looked a little like a Nativity display.  (I edited the photo to have more of the chiaroscuro in some old Nativity paintings.)  The gourds were the survivors from the 10 gourds I had bought on 2018-09-24, still looking good after 154 days.  Those gourds were like the temple’s oil supply in the Hanukkah story.

Sure, it’s unlikely that gourds will last 154 days.  But unlikely things do sometimes happen.  Don’t bet on when or where.

Have a Merry Xmas

and take it in stride if the New Year brings U yet another illustration of the statistical truism

unlikely-life

Unlikely Life | Word Porn Quote