Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Nights, Starry Skies

The past week saw a return of my trusty little Meade Telescope. Taking it out one warm Carolina Summer evening on my back deck, I was rewarded with superb vistas of our neighbor the moon and of the planet Jupiter in the low southern sky. Now, from my back deck, I don't have a large sky to look, only because of the trees that surround my house. But the sky I can easily see always displays some heavenly highlights. Take a look at the picture to the right. Click it to see in the center of the picture the planet Jupiter and the object below is the star Antares, in the constellation of Scorpio. They are buddies this summer, and they dazzle in the southern sky. To the right of this duo is the moon, which is hidden by the trees. I took this picture with my Panasonic DMC-FZ5 digital camera. The exposure time was 6 seconds with an f-stop of 3.2 and an ISO of 400. Not a bad shot.

The moon also shined bright that evening. I always like looking at our satellite with this modest scope of moon. The craters and mare are crisp through the viewfinder, and it always amazes me that an object so far away - 384,000 km - can appear with such stark detail in my head, in real time. It may seem mundane, peering at the moon, but it offers some spectacular vistas through any telescope. I offer you all some pictures of this stargazing session. Maybe one day soon I will get more ambitious and lug the telescope to a better viewing locale. But there is nothing like being able to step outside my back door and visit with the night sky, however limited my horizon might be.
Here is the moon taken with the same camera, with an exposure of 8 seconds and an f-stop of 2.8. An another, a close-up of Luna, for your enjoyment:

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It was 40 years ago this summer

I was a small child when the Summer of Love, 1967 took off San Francisco. So do I even have a right to mention it here? I wasn't really there? Well, of course I can mention it, because we all know this little old hippie movement had a huge impact on American culture. Rolling Stone Magazine this month covers the 1967 Summer of Love with a sweet collection of articles of not just San Francisco, but also London and New York and Los Angeles, other cities hosting highly creative musical and artistic movements. Detroit is profiled also, the Motor City, Motown, but it was also a major American city that erupted in racial violence and symbolized a darker reality of relations between black and white people in America.

So why not? How about a few Youtube videos of great cultural moments from 1967. It'll be a tribute to my upcoming trip to San Francisco, where I might experience some of the spirit of this age. By the way the mp3 Sample of the Day to your right should be digested. Within months of the eruption of the Summer of Love, Frank Zappa came out with a devastating musical critique of the youth movement of the late sixties. He voiced private concerns of the Sixties leaders themselves, and also public concerns and thoughts of the government leaders of the day. They mostly dismissed Flower Power as a wasteful youth movement that encouraged . . . . .brb

Jimi at Monterey

Detroit Race Riots

Frank Zappa at the Garrick Theatre, New York

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Great War for Civilization

I am making my way through this terrific book, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. It's a journalist's account, one by the great British journalist Robert Fisk. He's put himself in harm's way repeatedly to bring to us armchair diplomats and current event analyzers first hand accounts of history in the making. The man has covered the Middle East since the mid 1970s; he was there during the Iranian Revolution of 1980, the Lebanese Civil War, the Israeli invasions of Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, the bloody Iran-Iraq War, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the US coalition to oust him under President Bush, Sr., and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Robert Fisk has interviewed America's archenemy Osama bin Laden, and heard his threats on the West a few years before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the US. This particular book is a fascinating travel documentary and war journal of these monumental events that have led America and her allies to the current predicament it now finds itself.

His prose is sometimes elegant, sometimes difficult, but the scenes he evokes are exactly what Americans need if they truly want to fathom the lives of the major players in the region. We can't make decisions in a vacuum without requisite background, and Mr. Fisk provides that all important background, and often it isn't easy to digest. He has heaps of criticism to throw on American, British, German, French and other rouge players who have worked to destabilize the region through amoral alliances with despots and dictators. Read this book; it's monumental.

Some links for you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cartoon Jazz and Electronic Travels

I discovered again the music of Raymond Scott, a composer and purveyor of electronic devices for 50 years. His music was well-known to fans of 1940s and 1950s Warner Brothers cartoons; millions of people knew his famous melodies. The man also pioneered the use of electronic devices for the sequencing of musical tones. He fell into obscurity, dying in 1994 after a series of heart attacks and strokes left him debilitated up until his death.

His music is a diabolical mixture of big-band jazz, frantic bebop, European chamber music and sounds from an immense variety of sources. I have a sound file to the right you can click to enjoy a Raymond Scott snippet. I'd recommend the Manhattan Research Inc. recording. It's a grand collection of chamber music performed on his ever growing collection of electronic sound generating equipment. The once CD that aided in his revival of sorts in the early 1990s was the record Reckless Nights and Turkish Twilights, a compilation of his most well-known cartoon themes all done in a big-band jazz orchestra format.

Some Links on Raymond Scott

Other news: Southern's webserver underwent an unauthorized and unintentional erasure of ALL data. Backups were old but they did the trick.