Elephant's Breath

I read this passage in Viv Albertine's "Clothes3. Music3. Boys3":

Each morning I start again with the questions, easy stuff, like colour – I’ve always been drawn to colour. Mum made colour interesting for me, when I was little; she would say, ‘See the colour of that woman’s skirt? That’s called elephant’s breath.’ Or, ‘See that ribbon? It’s mint green...

I had never heard of "elephant's breath" before. It's a paint color from the British manufacturer
Farrow and Ball. This site says that the RGB values for Elephant's Breath are 204, 191, 179. ChatGPT says that the RGB values are 187, 173, 160.


ChatGPT draws it as:



Solid State Jabberwocky

This take on Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky is from the April, 1972 edition of Datamation magazine.

'Twas Burroughs, and the ILLIACS
  Did JOSS and SYSGEN in the stack;
All ANSI were the acronyms,
  and the Eckert-Mauchly ENIAC.

"Beware the deadly OS, son!
  The Megabyte, the JCL!
Beware the Gigabit, and shun
  The ponderous CODASYL!"

He took his KSR in hand:
  Long time the Armonk foe he sought.
So rested he by the Syntax Tree
  And APL'd in thought.

And as in on-line thought he stood,
  the CODASYL of verbose fame,
Came parsing through the Chomsky wood,
  And COBOL'ed as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The final pol at last drew NAK!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He iterated back.

And hast thou downed old Ma Bell?
  Come to my arms, my real-time boy!
Oh, Hollerith day! Array! Array!
  He macroed in his joy.

'Twas Burroughs, and the ILLIACS
  Did JOSS and SYSGEN in the stack;
All ANSI were the acronyms,
  and the Eckert-Mauchly ENIAC.

         -- William J. Wilson

The only reference to this on the web that I can find is at
archive.org. This poem is 50 years old. I wonder who else, besides me, remembers it?

"Stirring the emerald green"

[Updated 05/10/2024]

In surprise, but as slowly as in regret, she stopped stirring the emerald green. She got up from where she had been squatting in the middle of the floor and stepped over the dishes which were set up on the matting rug. She went quietly to her south window, where she lifted a curtain, spotting it with her wet fingers.

For some reason, I was entranced by the phrase "stirring the emerald green." It's a beautiful combination of words. But what could it possibly mean? There was nothing in the text up to that point that hinted at what she might have been doing.

She banged her hands on her hipbones, enough to hurt, flung around, and went back to her own business. On one bare foot with the other crossed over it, she stood gazing down at the pots and dishes in which she had enough color stirred up to make a sunburst design. She was shut up in here to tie-and-die a scarf.   [pg. 34, 36]

Now it all makes sense!

I found this book at
Riverby Books in Fredericksburg, VA and bought it on a whim because Welty lived near Belhaven University, where my daughter went to school. Welty's style is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury and Bradbury notes her influence on his writing.

Gems from John R. Pierce

"I have read a good deal more about information theory and psychology that I can or care to remember. Much of it was a mere association of new terms with old and vague ideas. Presumably the hope was that a stirring in of new terms would clarify the old ideas by a sort of sympathetic magic." [pg. 229]

"Mathematically, white Gaussian noise, which contains all frequencies equally, is the epitome of the various and unexpected. It is the least predictable, the most original of sounds. To a human being, however, all white Gaussian noise sounds alike. It's subtleties are hidden from him, and he says that it is dull and monotonous. If a human being finds monotonous that which is mathematically most various and unpredictable, what does he find fresh and interesting? To be able to call a thing new, he must be able to distinguish it from that which is old. To be distinguishable, sounds must be to a degree familiar. … We can be surprised repeatedly only by contrast with that which is familiar, not by chaos." [pg. 251, 267]



My car's thermometer registered 112°F around 4:15pm.

     Oh it's no feat to beat the heat.
     All reet! All reet!
     So jeet your seat
     Be fleet be fleet
     Cool and discreet

With fond memories of
Alfred Bester.


I just finished reading Cubism (Movements in Modern Art) by David Cottington. The book was one son's college textbook from a class at Georgia Tech. I understood maybe one fifth of the book, partly because of my unfamiliarity with French history and culture, and partly because the Cubists reflected each other's work. To understand what one artist was trying to convey often required knowing what his peers, or even the artist himself, were doing. Adding to my difficulty was the author's writing style which tried to do with words what the Cubists did with paint and other materials. If I understand it correctly, there were at least two themes to Cubist art. One was to attempt to transfer meaning through iconic representation by abstracting essential elements and displaying then in non-traditional forms. I get that. I've been using a Macintosh for over twenty years. Another was to evoke meaning in the mind of the viewer instead of overtly trying to communicate meaning from the artist to the viewer. I understand that, too. I am reminded of the first time I heard Palestrina's "Missa O Scrum Convivium". On the one hand, not knowing Latin, I had to make my own meaning. Yet it resonated with my spirit and I communed with God. It was not unlike listening in tongues. But the examples of Cubism in the book did not have the same effect, even though I don't speak the Cubist language well, if at all. Unlike Palestrina's work, I found Cubism to be lonely. We were made to interact with others.

The book's cover is Robert Delaunay's "Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif)" which is part of a series of experimentations by the artist. To understand this picture, familiarity with the other paintings would be helpful. Cottington writes:
Dispensing with the screen of neo-Impressionist brushstrokes - perhaps recognizing its superfluity, given the constructive potential of the device of a colour grid - Delaunay orchestrates a range of spectral colors around the spatial recession from the foreground orange curtains to the background blue sky and the green profile of the tower. As in the hermetic paintings of Picasso and Braque, the representational legibility of the image is secured by the vestigial iconic character of these motifs. But unlike their exploration and celebration of the linguistic magic of painting for its own sake - or perhaps for its suggestion of a reality beyond appearance - Delaunay's bracketing of his complex and fragmented representation of the cityscape between the external limit of the picture frame/window and the internal limit of the distant tower posits an equivalence between the experience of deciphering the painting and the active, constructive nature of visual perception that life in a modern city entails. [pg 61].

"Vestigial iconic character?" The pointed green triangle-like object is the Eiffel Tower? The blue is the sky? The yellow-orange represents curtains? There's a cityscape in there somewhere? Obviously I am a barbarian, unlearned in the vocabulary of Cubism. Nevertheless, some Cubist art is strikingly beautiful. Even if I don't necessarily know what it means.

Proud Father, II

My daughter received her first college acceptance letter today from Liberty University. She is waiting to hear from SCAD, and is contemplating applying to Belhaven College. View her portfolio.

La Belle Heaulmiere

My wife sent me this cartoon with the comment, "This may be me in the not-to-distant future."


At the same time, I was re-reading Heinlein's
Stranger In A Strange Land (yes, the 1975 Berkeley edition. My hardback copy of the uncut version is on loan) and came across Jubal's description of Rodin's "La Belle Heaulmière":
Anybody can see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is...and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be...more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart...no matter what the merciless hours have done.

My darling wife: your beauty will never fade.