Allergic to Water

These past few days I’ve been rediscovering the timeless singularity that is Ani DiFranco through the unexpected doorway of her newest album, Allergic to Water. The new tunes led me back to the venerable canon of the 1990’s and I’ve been weaving a path between the two. Listening to the songs that existed on the periphery of my university years through the simultaneously broader and narrower perspective of adulthood has been an interesting experience, to say the least.

The first song below is the title track to the new album. The second one is the classic “Birmingham”, a powerful track from To the Teeth (1999), that to my mind is still relevant today.

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Early Risers vs. Night Owls: A False Dichotomy

Seriously, folks, this is a debate that needs to die and stay dead. The idea that early risers are somehow morally superior, or more valid members of society is ridiculous. The reality, much as I hate the phrase, is that we live in a 24/7 society. All the white collar cubicle workers might be snug in their beds at 4 a.m., but all around the world there are still hospital emergency rooms, factories, 24-hour drug stores, and countless other round-the-clock facilities that need to be staffed by hard-working, dedicated people, who are no less virtuous, or productive, than the farmer who’s up before the crack of dawn, or the coffee-swigging commuter preparing to plunge into early morning rush hour traffic.

If the number of productive hours you put in during one 24-hour period is the same as the next person’s, it doesn’t matter what time you start working and what time you stop. It’s still equally valid, and just as beneficial to society at large. And as with anything else, there are doubtless people who straddle the divide and can function equally well at either end of the spectrum, or who fall somewhere in between the two accepted ‘types’.

On top of all that, as the video below points out (taken, as with all interweb finds, with as big a grain of salt as you prefer), it’s possible that it’s all mostly genetically pre-determined anyhow. Something to think about the next time you want to feel smugly superior over your neighbour, who’s likely working just as hard as you, and going through all the same day-to-day life crap as you are. So please, let’s stop trying to one-up each other with this endless who gets up earlier than whom competition, and get on with living our own lives as best as we can, while appreciating that just because someone next to us does things differently, doesn’t mean it’s better or worse – it’s just different.
/end rant

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Not Quite Ready for Rockets

bagend by Mark A. Harrison

bagend by Mark Harrison

Walking barefoot in the back fields
Beds of soft folded grass hide in forests of thistles
I was missing the purple
(there’s usually more this time of year)
I found it where the hard packed earth gives way to damp
and water squelches between toes
(Must walk more carefully here, step by step, like a dancer)
Golden rod and Queen Anne’s lace, and milkweed not yet ready to burst

Open to the sky, the field stretches in long undulating hills
The mowed patches are scratchy and hard;
the long grass softens closer to the shade

I wish I knew which parts of the plants were edible
the seed pods that look like coriander, but aren’t
They say the roots of the wild carrot are safe;
you may know them by the fans of green that smell like carrots
when you step on them, or rub them between your fingers

There are too many people here, and yet
the number is perfect for the event at hand
(Strangers always stand at a distance,
no matter how close they are)

The hitch-hikers cling to the thin fabric of my over-short dress,
tiny green tag-alongs, bright as fresh moss,
the brightness of limes, that shine more in the imagination
than they do in real life
I will be finding traces of them days from now, will notice
cuts and scratches as an afterthought, and not remember how I got them

Walking in long grass is like the idea of walking among lions, or out into the air:
It only works if you don’t over-think it, if you just let things happen
Most of the time, it’s not true, what people say about belief
but sometimes it almost is

Only yesterday, I was murdering grass with a roaring demon fresh out of hell,
assuaging my conscience (and my future self’s sense of aesthetics)
by leaving islands of peace, tall nodding groves of white,
low lying gardens of fuzzy violet and gold
And yet today I step tip-toe, careful not to crush
the precious food of butterflies, the bedding of faeries,
and all the small gypsies and thieves that roam underfoot

Still more people appear, blue toe-nailed and familiar,
yet even more out of reach
Voices heard since childhood, and yet still not held in confidence,
nor yet sought out when silence may be found instead

The pen is a way of hiding; perhaps more acceptable
than the pages of a book, or worse, a glowing screen;
“Creative urges in action”, we can say, as an excuse;
Grab the moment while you can
A transparent wall of words only I can hear,
the magic of black lines transformed into future memories,
a pre-post-examination of a now that can never be retrieved,
that will always be losing coherence, a moment of truth transformed
second by second into fiction, every image more subtle, or more sharp,
than it was at the time the moment happened

And as always, this thought conjures dragons,
a quintessential embodiment of how
we wish evil would behave in the real world (but doesn’t):
Defeatible by a single arrow, if we can find the right spot,
the vulnerable patch just beneath the wing, behind the left back leg,
where the gold rubbed the scales raw;
If we only had a sacred arrow passed down through generations,
blessed by the collective belief of the ages,
a hundred thousand stories, arguments,
songs, revisions, sermons and lies
(when we start to write lists, it may be time
to put down the pen
and go outside.)

-T.H.
(written on Grondzilla’s birthday weekend, at the farm, August 2014)

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Life, Unbound

Protozoa by Mark Harrison

Protozoa, by Mark Harrison

Transit by Mark Harrison

Transit, by Mark Harrison

These two have always made me think of some kind of cosmic alien life form, not bound by the dimensional restrictions that normally apply to humans. The first one is aptly titled ‘protozoa’. The second one, ‘Transit’, could be an alien egg just about to hatch – or, as suggested, something in transit from one form to another.

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Seagulls on Main Street

launch1 by Mark Harrison

launch1 by Mark Harrison


Seagulls flying down main street
Why does it seem incongruous today?
Reason would suggest that they’re the same ordinary lake gulls
that buzz our parking lots & pick at our garbage
And yet, today it seems as if there might be
some grand conspiracy, some avian plot
as they dip and dive, casing out the buildings, measuring traffic flow
all in preparation for some secret rebellion, some white-feathered coup.

(The young man who brought me my bureka called me “madam”
Does that mean that today I look my age?
Or is it a cultural transplant of politeness?
Would he say that to a fresh-faced young student
still learning the maze of our one-way streets and hellishly steep hills?)

Meanwhile, mother-of-the-year award recipient
hangs back and smokes, while her child plays in the street

Trying to remember the vagueness of cars at that age
knowing they’re big, and fast, and dangerous
but so easy to forget, as you move from one fascination to the next
today, in this moment, it’s watching the leaves collect in the gutter,
multicoloured fly-weight boats riding the cold currents of November winds,
congregating around the sewer grates.

[Could you read the future in the way the foam striations
adhere to the porcelain curves?
A map of subtle imperfections,
and the rate at which things cool:
liquid, solid; love & friendship;
memory and passion.]

Why is it, that to feel strong
people need to make someone else feel weak?
Imagine what the world would be like
if we could all be strong together.

- T.H.
(11.13.14, @ Dreams of Beans)

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Fire and Water

I like the juxtaposition in these three between the concepts of fire/heat and water/coolness. These are all examples of Mark’s digital “paintings”, which combine original photographs with digital layering and manipulation (you can find a brief explanation of the process he uses below the pictures). All can be clicked on to see a larger version.

City Lost by Mark A. Harrison, digital painting

City Lost

Fireset by Mark A. Harrison, digital painting

Fireset

Heat_72 by Mark A. Harrison (digital painting)

Heat_72

The Creative Process:
Mark starts by taking a ton of original photographs, using his trusty Canon Rebel (an old model, but good). When collecting “fodder” (as he likes to call it) for his digital art, he is often drawn to things with intriguing texture and contrast (so his collection includes a lot of close-up macro-photography of things like rusted metal, weathered antiques, moving water, and so on). The digital manipulation process ranges from something as simple as punching up the contrast and saturation, to many painstaking hours of layering (sometimes using dozens of different photos) and playing around with all manner of different filters and tweaking, most of which is well beyond what mere mortals can comprehend (he has more than once shown me Photoshop tweaks I didn’t even know existed; I think he has access to a secret Photo-mage level of menu not allowed to the likes of us regular folks).

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Light through the leaves

Light through leaves, photo by Mark A. Harrison
(click for bigger)

In the best laid plans category, I had one a while back to start featuring more of Mark’s art here, since he doesn’t have a blog of his own – something I’ve been sadly remiss in keeping up since the intial posting of a selection from his beautiful Planets series. As part of this year’s November challenge, I hope to rectify that lapse on my part. More to come in the near future.

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November challenge: Day 4

The dark has come, riding the chill, rain-spattered winds of November, leaving wet leaves clinging to the soles of our shoes, and spawning intense cravings for hot chocolate and home-made soup. What better time to huddle in front of the warm glow of the monitor and let the flow of words take you into another world.  A sunnier one, perhaps, somewhere far south of here.  Or, in my case, somewhere even darker, and much, much scarier.  I’ve given myself a couple of November challenges, one of which is to write every day (or close thereto). This evening I braved the damp and the (okay actually relatively mild) breezes (which nonetheless kept trying to turn my umbrella inside out) to write at my favourite cafe.  Here are a few random sentences from the last few days of editing that fit oddly well together, despite being from two different chapters:

The trees were moving. A deep, undulating ripple, travelling toward them at a speed normally reserved for supersonic aircraft.

At least two things were certain. The storm had come, there was no doubt about that. And Bryn was going to be more than a mite displeased when he informed her that he intended to keep his word.

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I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Following the prompt for this week’s reading night.

I wish someone had told me
that it would burn this brightly
that the shadows of the dead
would cling to my heels
no matter how far I travelled.
Wherever I settle,
they settle in too
hang their shrouds
by the smouldering hearth
set their shoes in pairs
by the doorway
gaze out through my eyes
flinging blithe commentary
their sage sad opinions
like seed for the birds
their half remembered songs
woven through the bars
of my rib cage, etched
into the wax record grooves.

If anyone were to find me,
later, when all has been
lost, or given away,
I wonder if they could
play these tunes
What kind of needle
would they need?
what switches and buttons,
what molecular magic
to make those notes
sing true again?

The ballads of the dead
are not, as commonly claimed,
the harsh whispered sighs
of sand crossing stone
nor the mournful howls
of cold winds harrowing
the gorse bristled,
heather softened moors
under the shipwrecked moon.
Not for me, the cold laughter
of half-frozen streams;
For me, there are only
memories of sweetness
moments of agonizing tenderness
made all the more terrible
for their absence on waking.

If you place a dark
stone on the snow,
the snow will melt around it
if left in the indifferent
embrace of the sun;
The hole that’s left
when the stone is plucked free
ragged yet soft,
edges crumbling at first touch
may resemble footprints
when exaggerated by wind
but to those who know how to look
they see only where the stone
should be, but isn’t.

These are the things
that propel me into the light
into the blazing heat
that pulls sweat from skin
drenches the thin shirt
stretched over a too-thin frame;
In those moments of casual distress,
of calculated carelessness,
it is what keeps me moving
fast as my lungs will carry me
onto the next beckoning path
no matter how dark
(the shadows are always darker,
in any event, one of their
more charming characteristics)

And yet, one finite breath
can only last so long
and the graces of Serendipity
are not always as generous
as they once were; and so
there must be moments like this,
a pause to reconnect
oxygen to the brain,
calories to the bloodstream,
the heat enveloping me
in a deadly game of wills:

Who will capitulate first?
Will I wait until my eyes
are blinded by sweat,
head ringing dizzy,
throat salt croaking dry?

Or will the sun at last surrender
to a wandering cloud,
and break the spell?

What will run first?
The ink, shedding long
black tears across the bleached
hot-to-the-touch paper?
Or the melting snow,
over the toes
of my vagabond boots?
Or the light itself,
fleeing the oncoming night?

I wish someone had told me
how it would feel
as the rushing murmuration
of a thousand thousand starlings
fills the sky in a controlled
chaos of tornado sound
the vast stippled black cloud
flowing over and through me
as I run headlong through the field,
arms outstretched,
leaving jagged threads
and rags of shadow
caught hanging
on the autumn dry rustle
of pale dead stems,
one final ecstasy of flight
into the burning sky’s embrace.

– T.H.
(written at Dreams of Beans, 10.24.14, in a sunny window)

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The Sagan Series: The Gift of Apollo

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Fantastic series, for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  This one always gets me a little choked up.

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