Schrödinger’s Cat

So, I was here watching Schrödinger’s cat,
Now it’s both dead and alive:
How it has managed this, I do not know.
Somehow, though, it did contrive

So both to be and to not-be at once
Putting poor Hamlet to shame:
So the old Law of Non-Contradiction’s
Broken, and I am to blame.

So in the middle of Animal Rights
Physics, and Theater too —
I’ve violated immutable laws
What’s a poor blogger to do?

 

Connection Out Of Anything

Our differences can separate
Though distances be small —
But you can build connection
Out of anything at all

A conversation starter kit,
A picture on the wall —
Yes, you can build connection
Out of anything

At all


You can’t tell just by looking at it, but the old train car in the photograph above is being used as a bridge. Here is another view:

I stumbled on these pictures on the Internet, and was excited to see they were taken Georgia (where I can easily go see the place myself, since I live there), only to realize they were taken in Georgia, the country, not Georgia, the state in the southern United States. From what I can find, the bridge is a Soviet-era legacy.

Bridges are another “old technology” in the family of old technologies I discussed here the other day: so are trains. I love old technologies, because human ingenuity in problem solving is part of what connects all of us.

Overcoming connection barriers is one of the primary purposes of technology. Both trains and bridges were ways of connecting people who would otherwise have found connection difficult-to-impossible. Train bridges themselves are fascinating, although I will forever see images from “The Polar Express” any time I even think about train bridges.


Connections. In life, we make them with others, sometimes only once, sometimes just for a period of hours, or days, or weeks. Sometimes, even very short ones can be intensely memorable.

I’ve been around blogging a few years now, and it is much the same as the rest of life: people come, stay awhile, then leave. A small few stay over a longer period of time, but lives and their vicissitudes simply take people off in new and different directions. That doesn’t make the connection any less real or important.

Blogging allows us to connect with people we would never otherwise have met. From this November’s National Blog Posting Month (“Nano Poblano”, as it’s called around here), you need only see the fabulous Julie Burton’s “Meet Oyiwodu, from Nigeria” for as wonderful an example of this as you could find.

Of the many blog posts I read, the majority of the ones I enjoy the most are ones where people just talk about their lives: their work, their loves, their disappointments, their heartaches, them. Their lives. A leading feature of posts of this type is that their authors are frequently apologetic about making them. They seem to think a better sort of blog takes a more detached tone, and writes about more important subjects than everyday life.

In short, their unstated view is: “real authors” know all, and are above it all.

To that view, I say, “piffle”. That’s right. Piffle.

Sorry for using such strong language.

A blog is a sort of technological extension of the author, one that allows for more intimacy than many other literary technologies allow for. It doesn’t replace more conventional types of connection, but it can be a better substitute for less efficient ways to make literary connection.

I sometimes think that blogs are where “the lost art of letter writing” went. Something that used to connect us, turned into something else that now connects us.

Kind of of an old train that got turned into a new bridge.

For The Birds

the aging birdhouse sits,
its former dwellers gone,
this lonely spot’s forgotten now,
for everything moves on.

the builder’s hands at work,
the careful markings drawn,
but none remember who did what,
for everything moves on.

creation, though, is good,
our souls to build upon —
for we who see can take this forth,
for everything

moves on.


Among my late father’s many, varied interests were birds. He loved seeing them, and sketching what he saw. He also could imitate them, and frequently did so.

I wondered, in my youth, if birds considered this sort of thing mockery. Or if he sounded to them like he had an accent.

About that same age, I heard the girl’s chorus at my school sing “Ladybird”, a setting of a Hungarian folk song by composer Zoltán Kodály. The lyrics were

Ladybird, O fly now,
Up into the sky now,
Hark to the drumming!
Now the Turks are coming!
Hurry, hurry will you
Or they’ll catch and kill you!
Pickle you in brine,
Tie you up in twine,
Trussing you to toast you,
Griddle you, or roast you.
Take you to the tower,
Grind you up in flour
Listen!
Hear the Turks a-coming,
Mustn’t let them catch you!
Fly! Fly! Ladybird, O Fly now!

I wasn’t quite sure what a Ladybird was, but I was now aware that they lived a life of imminent peril.

My parents told us a story years ago about going out to see the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. Not only were they gravely unsettled by it, they suddenly noticed how many birds there were, everywhere they went. In large groups. Planning something nefarious.

Perhaps revenge against the Turks. Or my dad for his bird impressions.

The Way Of The Sun

I colored pictures as a very small child, and the sun was either there or it wasn’t, a kind of decoration in the sky, a marker to tell day from night.

A little later, I learned that the sun moves: that it rises in the east and sets in the west. I remember a book where the sun was depicted as Helios, god of the sun, making his way across the sky in a fiery chariot.

I even learned that the path of the sun marks out the location of the zodiac, even though I wasn’t quite sure how, since I never saw them together.

Much we learn, as children and otherwise, we take on faith.

I learned still later that, without the sun, plants won’t grow; that biological cycles always begin there.

Still, as a teen, the sun was primarily a thing I used: to get a tan, to give my friends and me light to play ball. It also frequently disappointed me, not being visible exactly when or for as long as I would have wished, or sometimes, sticking around too long.

My scientific knowledge of the sun’s importance went up as the intensity of my feelings about it went down. If I drew a picture of daytime at eighteen, for instance, the sun might not even be in it. After all, me seeing the sun depended on which way I happened to be facing.


As I leave this hotel towards the nursing home where my mother lays dying, I turn onto a road called Vía Del Sol — the Way of the Sun. The desert lays around me in the early morning light.

As a child, a parent is just there or not, a thing you kind of take for granted.

You learn later that your parent’s life had motion: that they started as children, but, with time, they grew up, and eventually, became your parent. They are your first heroine and hero, larger than any myth could ever be.

You even learn that much of what you do is predicated by your parents via heredity or environment, even though you are not sure exactly how that works, seeing as how the former is only superficially visible, and the latter is so pervasive as to not be noticeable.

Finally, you learn that the cycle of life itself starts with parents and children, and continues when those children become parents, and so on.

Still, as a teen, or a young person, you come to see parents primarily for what they can do for you: can you go to the beach with your friends and get a tan, can you stay out late playing ball. All too often, their answers are not what we’d want, and that may become our focus.


The sun is a star. However, it is our star, the one so close it seems completely different than all the others.

Stars have life cycles: they begin, age, and, eventually, end. Throughout the observable universe, stars in each of these stages can be observed.

It’s hard to imagine life without the sun, though, right? I mean, it’s there, it’s always been there, even in your childhood drawings, a yellow circle on a light blue background.

My mother was a girl, like other girls. She grew up near Niagara Falls, met my father, had my sister, my brother, and me. She was a mother, like your mother, like countless other mothers. But she was our mother, which made her different to us.

Today, watching her labored breathing in a nursing home bed, her hands clutching convulsively at her blanket, eyes occasionally opening to see me, I realize again what I already knew: that her course is nearly run, her part of the cycle of life nearly spent.

That the sun has nearly set.

But you see, the way of the sun is this: that we think it moves, while all the while, we really moved around it. That the life we’ve enjoyed, and the warmth we felt, were in large measure derived from it. That it was no less present, just because we became less aware.


Love carries us along the edge
Of what we have, and who we are:
Love lights the only roads we know,
And whether we be near, or far,

We ride the breeze that love provides,
Within it’s warmth and glow —
Until we reach our journey’s end,
And go where we

Must go

vinyl

the sound of
a fresh needle on
vinyl, like
a life force breathing
under the music


I’ve always loved old technologies, and have now lived long enough to see about half a million of them become old.

Technology is perpetually in transition; part of the generalized anxiety of the modern age is having more capability to do things than we have the emotional ability to absorb. But, on to the topic at hand.

I play the piano; I learned to play for two main reasons. If I think back to the age I started, my reasons for wanting to learn were:

  1. To impress girls.
  2. To be able to hear music when I wanted to.

The second of these two reasons is one that no longer exists for most people. Anyone online has access to virtually every piece of music ever written. The first of these reasons is still out there, boys still want to impress girls. But you can trust me on this one: don’t go into classical music if this is your primary goal.

Reason 2 did still hold, at the time: by learning to play the piano (which is itself a type of technology for producing music, although we rarely think of it in those terms) I was overcoming an obstacle to hearing music. It did involve work on my part, but few technologies leave us with nothing to do. They just enable us to do something we can’t do directly, using only our own bodies.

As a child – I was born in 1962 – the predominant means of playing recorded music was through so-called “long-playing records”, known at the time as LP’s. These were manufactured out of vinyl, and playable on record players that usually had two or three speeds, depending on the type of record being played. (“45’s” were another type of record, known for the speed at which they were played.) Not only did people play records at home, radio stations played them as well. In fact, the term “disk jockey” for a radio station host came from them having to perform the task of changing and managing the many record disks the station played during a session. That became shortened to DJ — a term still used, even if the person DJ’ing is using digital music files with nary a disk in sight.

Vinyl records use analog rather than digital technology. Analog technology can provide for better reproduction of the original sounds than digital does, which is why vinyl records have made something of a comeback. The primary advantages of digital have to do with space (digital is way more compact, physically) and transfer (i.e., no record needles).

Very often, a “superior” technology gets beaten out by an “inferior” one that is cheaper or more convenient. What is unusual about vinyl records is, not only have they not disappeared, they’ve had a resurgence.

We become emotionally attached to technologies, not because of the technologies themselves — at least initially — but for what they provide. I absolutely love, love, love pianos, but it’s because of music, not the actual wood frame and metal strings.

Although, I’ve come to love those, too.

Some people love vinyl records, because of the sounds they’ve heard, or continue to hear, coming out of them. They also love the album covers, the artwork, the album notes — other things incidental to the technology, but tremendous enhancers.  This is a type of love I thoroughly respect, even if I am not an audiophile myself.

One day, the technology we are using right now (me to write, and you to read) will be superseded and replaced. Maybe we (or future “we’s”) will look back fondly on the age of blogs and computers as a sort of quaint look into a simpler time in history. Sort of like the horse-and-buggy era.

Because the cutting edge always dulls with time.