Monthly Archives: May 2012

Pinhole vs. Pinhead


Here’s a lovely picture of last Sunday’s eclipse near sunset, shot up in the SF Bay area. There was no credit for the photo given, so unfortunately, I can’t credit the photographer…

It’s been a long two weeks– loads of extra hours at work, a job interview, care-giving three nights a week, all on top of the usual chores– but I did find time this last Sunday to view the solar eclipse. As luck would have it, the eclipse began around 5:40 p.m. at my viewing location, so I was off work and over at my parents’ house for my Sunday evening care-giving stint.

This eclipse was probably the third or fourth I’ve viewed, and I’ve always done so by using that stalwart staple of middle school science classes, the pinhole camera. All one needs to make a pinhole camera is a piece of heavyish paper, like a manila folder or a magazine cover, plus a blank sheet of paper and a heavy-gauge needle or pin. One pokes a hole in the heavy paper with the pin, enlarging the hole slightly by wiggling the pin around, while taking care that the resulting hole stays as circular as possible. (It’s also a good idea to carefully flatten down the rough edges of paper at the back of the hole with one’s thumbnail, so the hole is smooth.) Then, to view the eclipse, all one has to do is face away from the Sun, hold the paper with the hole above the blank sheet of paper, and adjust the focal length by moving the top sheet up or down until the image of the Sun’s disc appears in focus.

If the eclipse is already under way, one will see a clear bright crescent-shape on the paper, and using the camera at five-minute intervals as I did last Sunday, it is possible to watch the shadow of the Moon pass across the surface of the Sun– the bright crescent changed from a right-facing one to a downward-facing one to a left-facing one as I observed it over time. The beauty of a pinhole camera is that it is perfectly safe to use– one is never looking directly towards the Sun, and the amount of light the camera lets through to make the image is miniscule, so the little crescent on the paper is never too bright to look at comfortably, and can be observed for long stretches of time if one does not tire of holding the two sheets of paper at the right distance from one another.

Now one would think, given the fact that science teachers show their students how to make and use pinhole cameras on a yearly basis, that this would make viewing an annular solar eclipse a safe and fun family activity, but I regret to say that in my family, this was definitely not the attitude taken last Sunday. I made the mistake of being enthusiastic about viewing the eclipse when I arrived at my parents’ place, and when I suggested that my 90-year-old mother might want to come out on the front porch and take a look at the eclipse via a pinhole camera, my youngest sister (who I was relieving for the rest of the evening) became irate. She started issuing orders to me that Mom was not to view the eclipse, and when I explained that pinhole cameras are completely safe, she countered with her opinion that Mom “would do something wrong” and would wind up looking at the Sun and blinding herself– the implication being that Mom herself is too gaga and I am too stupid to keep such a thing from happening.

I tried at this point to explain how a pinhole camera works, thinking that once I had made clear the necessity of having one’s back to the Sun in order to operate the pinhole camera properly that all would be well. How very wrong I was. Not only was I not allowed to explain things, I was also lectured about going outside to view the eclipse by myself, because “the more you do it, the more interested Mom will be in doing it, and then she’ll go outside and look at the Sun”.

At this point, I stopped talking to my sister, and I made a quick-and-easy pinhole camera by poking the tip of a ballpoint pen through a folded piece of paper. I marched out onto the front porch, and began to observe the eclipse using the holed paper and a blank scratchpad. When I came back in, Mom asked me if I was able to see anything, and I drew her a little picture of what the crescent Sun looked like. My sister continued to be in a snit, so I ignored her difficult mood, and went out every five to ten minutes to check on the progress of the lunar shadow.

My sister finally left– she sat out front in her car for almost 15 minutes, no doubt thinking that she would prevent me from taking Mom out onto the front porch, but what she didn’t understand was that the eclipse was going to last for about 2 and a half hours, so when she finally took off, I helped my mother out onto the porch, had her turn away from the Sun, and then I worked the pinhole camera for her. She was delighted to see for herself that the Sun was “a perfect little baby crescent”. We looked at it for a couple of minutes, and then she was ready to go back inside because she needed to sit down for a bit. She was very happy to then let me continue to observe the Sun by myself, and I described the changes of the position of the solar crescent to her as the eclipse progressed.

The thing that I think is so darned sad about how this whole situation played out is that my youngest sister’s heart is in the right place when it comes to taking care of our parents and keeping them safe. My mother has done some rather weird, ditsy and unsafe things thanks to a drop in her critical thinking skills, but that being said, I do not think that’s any reason to dis-empower her further by not allowing her to do something that was a) completely no-risk, and b) a supervised activity.

Additionally, I resent the fact that I was also dis-empowered– the not-so-subtly implied message to me was that I am not capable of keeping my mother safe and I am basically not really fit to be looking after her, all because I suggested Mom might want to see a bit of the solar eclipse by means of a pinhole camera that I had made myself. In short, no assurance I could give about the safety of using a pinhole camera was worth anything, because the assurance was coming from me, and not some authority figure or other.

Yes, this bites, big-time. Yes, I understand that I will have to put up with more of the same in future, as I wish to remain part of the “care-giving crew” looking after my folks. And, yes, after both my parents pass away, I will be taking a long, long vacation from all of my remaining “immediate family”…


I Leave The Rabbit-Ears Running All Night, or, Precog In Dreamland…


There’s something familiar about all of this, even if the grass is lavender…

During the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 2nd, I had a dream about going to work. I drove to a library that I had never seen before– it was at the top of a very tall hill, and the road up was steep and winding. When I got to the library, I was greeted by some coworkers I hadn’t seen in quite awhile (because I’m a sub, I get assigned all over the place, and sometimes do not see staff at a particular library for six months or more). They were happy to see me, and they opened the front doors– large, and mostly glass– of the library so that I could get in.

The architecture of the library was rather interesting– it was built entirely out of cast concrete and cinder blocks–all gray– and the furniture looked to be dark oak with royal blue upholstery. The main part of the library was circular in shape, and sort of reminded me of a beehive, although there was plenty of light, both ambient daylight and from well-hidden lights inside the building. The colors that impressed themselves on me the most were the soft gray of the concrete (which looked rather stonelike) and the blue of the upholstery fabric on the chairs, and it all seemed very restful.

In the dream, I started helping staff with the daily delivery– reserved books that patrons had ordered from other branch libraries– and after I finished this task, I was asked to take some withdrawn paperback books out to the recycle bins for trash pickup. When I went outside, I ran into a woman I had worked for prior to being hired at the library– I greeted her cordially, and we wound up walking over to the edge of the parking lot where the recycle bins were. From this vantage-point, we could look down the hill all the way to the bottom, and we both saw that there had been some sort of accident far below us. We were trying to figure out what had happened when I woke up.

As I was laying in bed, thinking about my dream, the alarm went off– I have to call in on days I am not on the schedule, and even though the earliest I had to be to work that day was noon (our branch libraries are all open 12:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays), I was still obliged to call in at 8:30 a.m. for my assignment. After I found out where I’d be going (the Linda Vista Branch Library, hereafter referred to as LV), I went back to bed for another hour, and promptly forgot all about my dream. I left my house at 11:30 to drive to work, and I was very happy I was working the early shift (noon to 5 p.m.) rather than the late shift (3 p.m. to 8 p.m.).

Now at this point, I had completely forgotten the dream, so I wasn’t comparing what I was doing with what had happened while I was dreaming. Because of where I live relative to LV, I am able to take surface streets all the way to work, but it is a bit of a circuitous route to get there, and I wind up driving between two large shopping malls and some outlying strip malls and restaurants on my way. As I came up to the main thoroughfare that I needed to take to get to the library, I passed a restaurant that I had been to numerous times when I was working for my previous boss– the woman I had seen in my dream, but I now did not remember I had dreamed about her– and I thought, “Wow! it’s been at least five years since I last went to this restaurant with everyone from Park and Rec… I wonder how everyone’s doing…”

At this point, I hit a rather bad traffic-snarl, and I began to worry about being late to work. As I turned onto the main drive, I saw what the hold-up was: someone had come off the freeway too fast and had run off the cloverleaf ramp, down a 50-foot embankment covered in iceplant, and their car was now stuck in a wide drainage-culvert at the bottom of the incline. A fire truck was on scene, and as I managed to work my way through the intersection, a paramedic ambulance also arrived. I made my turn, got into the lane that would take me further up the hill to the library, and went on my way, still concerned about possibly being late to work (and still not remembering my dream, either).

I duly drove up the winding hillside road to the library, and when I got there, I hurriedly parked, grabbed my stuff and went to the main doors, as I did not have a staff key for this particular branch. As I’m standing in front of the glass doors, I’m looking at the gray cast concrete and gray cinder blocks the library is made out of, and I’m still not recalling my dream. Staff lets me in the front doors, and I cordially greet several people I have not seen in at least six months. They are working on the reserve books that came in the delivery, so I stow my gear and pitch right in. As I’m working– taking the tagged reserves to the shelves where the patrons will pick them up– I notice that there is new furniture in the library since the last time I was there. Besides new chairs at all the reading tables, there are several great chairs in the central reading area, and all are made of wood that looks to be dark oak with seat and back cushions upholstered in royal blue canvas-type cloth… and, nope, still no dream recall.

After I finished the reserves, I was then asked to cull the freebie shelves, which is where we put all sorts of stuff that we give away to the public, like neighborhood newsletters and such. There were some new leaflets and flyers that had come with the interoffice mail, and they needed room for them, so I pulled all the out-of-date stuff, put the new items out, and chucked all the discards in the recycle bin… and still, no clue…

At 2:30, I took my half-hour break, and when I came back to the Circulation Desk at 3, there was finally a bit of a lull in the number of people coming in. I checked system emails for any computer-update or other flagged messages, and when I looked up from the computer, and cast a quick eye over everyone in the main reading area, I suddenly realized, “Hey… I’m in a completely circular room here…”

And then the dream replayed, in exactly the same way I had dreamed it in the early hours of the morning. I knew in a split-second that even though everything in the dream did not look exactly identical to where I was, I had dreamed all the major bits right– the accident at the foot of the hill, the winding road up the hill to the library, the circular main part of the library, the concrete and cinder blocks, the blue upholstery, people I had not seen in a long time, being let into the library through the large glass main doors– it was all there, including my old boss, because I had passed the restaurant she and her friends liked to go to on my way in to work.

It probably took me about a minute to really process everything, feeling simultaneously weirded-out and elated that I had apparently known in dreamtime exactly where I was going to be working that day, even though the assignment wasn’t made until I called in that morning.

I also think that if everyone had more chances to slow down a bit, and had a bit more time in the mornings to try to actively recall more of what they dream, we’d find out that this sort of thing happens way more often than most people suppose…

Something Purple For Prunella…


No one gets in the door here without the curse of hideous bunny-ears, and this dude was lo-o-ong overdue. He also got the purple treatment because that’s Prunella’s favorite color, but I actually think it suits him, kinda-sorta…

I have nothing better to do with my spare time, apparently, than to desecrate the hallowed memory of beloved film icons who are dead and therefore incapable of objecting to my awful taste and pet obsession with lapine ear-cartilage… Divine Puffy Foo Foo Bunny approves, however, and has decreed he is insta-canonized as Saint Errol of Locksley, Patron of Tasmania, the Maldives, Sherwood Forest, the State of Florida during Spring break, and Tierra del Fuego.

Since his extremely recent ascension to Foo-Foo beatitude, St. Errol officially appreciates spirit-offerings of single-malt whiskey, archery equipment, bourbon, cognac, gin, vodka, dynamite, ship’s figureheads shaped like buxom mermaids (topless), multicolor hanging lamps made out of dried pufferfish, guacamole and chips, rum, scotch, champagne, portable typewriters, tequila, port, sherry, vermouth, grenadine, maraschino cherries, grilled lobster, pulque, mango salsa, cocktail toothpicks, tobacco, and glow-in-the-dark sex toys.

His special feast-days are June 20th (his birthday, and a day of Robin-Hood-Hat-wearing obligation for all orthodox Foo-Fooites), and November 1st, when for an offering of three sugar skulls, a rudely-shaped black candle and a pint of brandy, he can be petitioned to scare the ever-loving crap out of difficult members of the petitioner’s family by means of recurrent, violent poltergeist activity at three a.m. in their bedrooms.

Oh, and he’s also my friend Prunella’s special Divine Intercessor and supernatural enforcer, so I’d keep on her good side if I were you…

One More Sonnet, Just Because…


Some Ivy, ever-green, for remembrance…

A Sonnet For Christopher, From Thorn

The Speare cast down that false Will‘d thee,
The hushed and hidden Swan true known,
I fervent hope that this might be,
Tho’ long the years ere thou hast flown
Amongst the stars that blaze so bright…
Thy legacy of ready wit
Hath form’d anew the School of Night–
We know thee, rightful Bard, kind Kit!
Following with craft and care,
Found was the secret thou didst show:
Thy Muse-spark’d tongue still brands our air
Tho’ Mar‘d thy voice and hidden low.
Despite thine Age, that used thee ill,
Across Time’s gulf we hear thee still.


Beltane, Carrot Cake and Kit Marlowe…


The Latin motto translates as "That which nourishes me, destroys me." Oh, so true, but I'll be having carrot cake for breakfast this week, anyway...

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Beltane.

I opened the Gates of Summer this year by baking one of my specialty carrot cakes (with homemade lemon-and-cream cheese frosting), downloading a couple of photos of the first two crop circles of the season, writing a sonnet, and making an online purchase of two books and a video by various people who think it is very likely that Christopher Marlowe was the true author of everything currently ascribed to the pen of William Shakespeare. (Writing the sonnet– a little bit of rhymed magick for when my Full Moon Ring is finished– put me in mind of the whole Marlowe-is-Shakespeare thing, which made me go look for the DVD Much Ado About Something on Amazon, and so on and so forth…)

Just for the record, I most definitely count myself a Marlovian– the stylistic and thematic similarities of plays by Marlowe and Shakespeare (i.e., stylistic elements and themes that are pretty much identical) make it highly likely everything was written by one person: Kit Marlowe, who already had a proven track-record as a playwright and poet. I also think the idea that Marlowe’s death at Deptford was faked (to allow him to escape being brought to trial on charges that he was an atheist apostate and therefore a traitor to the Crown because he was not ideologically on board with the Church of England) has merit for at least a couple of reasons– 1) Marlowe worked for Sir Francis Walsingham as the Elizabethan version of a CIA spook (as did the two other men that were with him when he was supposedly killed), and 2) the fact that his (supposed) corpse was hastily buried in an unmarked grave after a rather slap-dash inquest is highly suspect, given Marlowe’s then-fame as a poet.

Then there’s the fact that the surviving scraps of writing actually attributable to William Shakespeare– signatures– strongly point to the likelihood that the historical Will Shakespeare only held a pen when he was obliged to sign his name, which makes Marlowe’s claim to being the actual author look even stronger. In his youth, Kit Marlowe was something of a prodigy with a poet’s command of the English language early on, and he most definitely did know which end of the pen to put to paper. He left us plays and poems under his own name that sound “so much like Shakespeare, they could be Shakespeare’s early work”… and, come to think of it, where exactly is Will Shakespeare’s early work? It strains my credulity to believe that William I-can-hardly-spell-my-own-name Shakespeare suddenly wrote brilliant plays from day one, with no prior poems or plays on record and had no previous reputation whatsoever as a poet (or as a writer of any stripe, actually)…

At any rate, if folks are interested in finding out more about what is politely referred to as the Authorship Question, I can heartily recommend the following–

1) The DVD Much Ado About Something, a 90-minute documentary film by Mike Rubbo that lays the situation out in a very nicely balanced way. (I saw it when it originally aired on Frontline.)

2) The book The Shakespeare-Marlowe Connection: A New Study Of The Authorship Question, by Samuel L. Blumenfeld.

3) The book Marlowe’s Ghost: The Blacklisting Of The Man Who Was Shakespeare, by Daryl Pinksen.

4) The blog The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection (This is the blog of the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, and features articles by scholars and researchers who think there is good reason to credit the extant works of Shakespeare to Kit Marlowe.)

5) The website for the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society. There is lots of basic info posted on the site that will give one a quick yet excellent grounding in the issues surrounding the Authorship Question.

The DVD and books are all available at Amazon, though be warned that the Blumenfeld book is pricey at $45 for a paperback edition. It is well worth the money, however, if you have any interest in the topic of Marlowe-as-Shakespeare.

One last-but-not-least word about Christopher Marlowe– in 2002, he was finally given a memorial place in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey. It’s a small, stained glass plaque which– though better than no place of remembrance in Poets’ Corner at all for so long– still seems shameful given the serious possibility that Kit Marlowe is the true author of Hamlet, King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Also notice the question mark in front of the death-date– the doubts about Kit Marlowe’s death are legitimate enough for the question mark to be there on that quiet little piece of glass in Westminster…

If I am ever lucky enough to make it over to England and get the chance to visit Poets' Corner, I'll be bringing some flowers with me. Seriously.

The Hare’s Sonnet

To thee, May Moon, I sing sweet praise,
Thou White Shell in the Sea of Night,
Thou Mistress-Witch of Magick Ways,
Thou Queen of Heaven, stars’ delight!
Upon mine hand, this Ring I place,
In token of thy Face so fair.
Grant me thy faerie wit and grace,
The Wise Blood of thy Lunar Hare.
I am, by thee, a Power old:
Thy Sacred Mirror doth dwell in me.
What I stop, shall stand and hold,
And what I bless, shall Blessed Be.
No art shall maze mine ear, mine eye–
I am The Hare ‘Twixt Earth And Sky!

(Yes, yes, I know my sonnet is in iambic tetrameter, not pentameter, but there is one Shakespearean/Marlovian sonnet that is in tetrameter, and Christopher Marlowe did use iambic tetrameter quite a bit– “Come live with me and be my love…”)

Anyway, Happy Beltane, Kit, and thanks for the help with the sonnet. Wish you could be here for some belated literary credit… and also a piece of homemade carrot cake…