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Notes From The Underground

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

Ahna bogbog du smeepy flan,” as the prehistoric Egyptian potter says in my ultrapunk 1983 story “Buzz.”

I finished a big new painting, Space Jellies. I started out with the dark blak/purple background, then put on small stars by flicking my thumb across paint-laden brushes. The yellow-orange pattern is a kind of shape I like to draw; a hollowed out version of the wall in Cosmic Cliff. Then some bigger stars, and some eyes looking at each other—and the space jellyfish, looking at the orange nebula-creature. For a joke, I added a tiny planet Earth in the top, even though its scale isn’t consistent with the rest of the painting. Alien invasion! I sold it for close to a thousand dollars the day after I finished it. Sold this baby for about a thousand dollars the day after I posted it!

Sylvia and I found a stray praying mantis standing on her car’s roof in the garage.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in California before.  The mantis—she wasn’t really scared of us—didn’t hurry away, just faced us down.  Sylvia dueled with her a little bit, using a pine needle.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was planning to write a story involving some recent paintings of mine, Galaxies, Outside the Fillmore, Cosmic Cliff, and Space Jellies.

And I did write the story, and called it “Who Do You Love.” But in the end I simplified the story down to 950 words and sent it off to Nature magazine for their Futures feature of short-short SF stories. (Still waiting to hear back.)

The mountains have labored to bring forth a mouse. I don’t seem to have the energy for a long haul. Maybe because I’m old, maybe because some of my energy goes into some problems at home. At least that story is done. And I do like the way it came out. In the end, it’s quite sad. My characters Will and Sue meet outside the Fillmore in 1967 while Quicksilver is playing, he goes off to the Cosmic Wall with her, and when he and Sue come back, they’re old, and Willy’s missed his life—which is how I feel these days. Sylvia likes the story, but it made her cry. My hands and arms and back are sore from typing and painting.

Huge problems getting new lenses for my glasses. Don’t ask. Maybe I can write a story called “New Glasses.” But the so-called glasses are some kind of teep aid, or empathy receiver, or pheromone sniffer, or vibe feeler.

Okay, what’s the kicker? He can sense something unusual. Ghosts, aliens, creatures from the subdimensions. Doesn’t realize what it is, says he doesn’t like the prescription. Gets that addition taken off. Then realizes what he’s lost: something like James Blish’s “Beep,” where you see the entire history of the universe coded up in a star-up beep that your phone makes. So then does something drastic to get that add-on back. But there’s a problem, and he ruins himself, and he’s like the bums in the alley he saw at the beginning of the story behind the glasses store—a bunch of degens known as snorkers.

I was wondering what to paint after Space Jellies, and I sent a copy to my computer hacker friend Chuck Shotton, and he used one of the new AI art programs—Stable Diffusion—to come up with a bunch of variations, and I didn’t really want to copy any of these, but it was cool to see, and at some level it did set my mind to moving.

But not as much as light and shadows on the screen door by the laundry room.

Meanwhile I was still working on getting my new two pairs of glasses. The lenses came, but they had a mix-up and put them in the wrong frames, also the near-vision correction wasn’t quite right.

While waiting, I took a walk on Pogonip trail in Santa Cruz with dear old pal Jon Pearce. Used my new Pixel 7 Pro camera for the selfie.

And then I did start a new painting, but I burned through my supply of black paint, as it was gonna be yet another deep space painting, Jellies Journey. They’re heading for a big star. Maybe it’s romantic, like the star is marriage. Or maybe they’re dying, and the star is heaven.

I ordered more black paint, but it would take a while. Meanwhile I might just start yet another new one? Maybe New Glasses as a painting instead of a story. With the glasses, you see into a different world, right? I might draw a sketch to get the perspective for the glasses-legs. I want the main part to be the view through the lenses…the other world.

(A rogue Koi pond that Jon Pearce showed me in the Pogonip woods by UC Santa Cruz.)

I’ve got a lot of shades of blue to use, so an underwater scene view in New Glasses is possible. That could be the other world. Or an abstraction with critters. Maybe just one lens with blue inside, and the background outside the lens is an arid drought scene, or, better, an office.

My nephew Embry Rucker III stopped by. He’s a total pro photographer, and he appreciated my Leica Q2…as he has one too. I was shooting with Leica while the cousins and our kids were growing up, and Embry was imagining those old film days when you basically just took one picture of something, or maybe two, and you didn’t know if they’d come out, until days or weeks later. Great to see Embry, such a likeable guy. Brilliant and self-deprecating.

Thinking about the New Glasses painting, I took a photo of what I wanted instead of drawing that sketch. With just one glasses lens in the composition, I get a nice big area to work with. And outside the lenses, we see bookshelves in the background, mais oui.

I emceed a presentation at the Los Gatos Library bylocal mad transreal journalist Gary Singh reading from his awesome assemblage of columns, Silicon Alleys. Sylvia organized the event. Gary’s basic message was: Everything is interesting. Even a transmission shop on San Carlos Street, San Jose. Let the Zen in.

Next afternoon the box from Blick Art Materials arrived, and I had black paint, and I got back to work on Jellies Journey. Right away I screwed up the jellyfish’s surface design, making them look like flowers. But next morning I fixed the painting, and finished anohter day after that, and it’s great.  I looked at jellyfish photos online to get in the groove. As I’ve said before, painting is all about ruining it, fixing it, ruining it, fixing it. Until you’re done. Somehow the oscillations seem wider than when I’m writing something.

I did a thing with the green border around the jellyfish eyes. The target star has a dot of green at its center. And my signature is green as well. This connects with them heading for green earth in the previous painting Space Jellies.

By now I have a series of six space paintings. The live galaxies, the Fillmore, the saucer party, the cosmic cliff, the invasion of the space jellies, and space jellies on a journey. I almost feel like I could write a longish story about the jellies. Something more that that short-short “Who Do You Love” that I sent to Nature.

Rudy, Penny, and their three kids came down and we all carved pumpkins. Funny how each carving is so different, and so much an eprsession of the carver’s psyche.

I wonder if I could write a new story with the jellies. POV, a man and/or woman who are “eaten” by a space jelly, that is, they’re subsumed into the creature and “ride” it through the galaxy. I’d still like to work in that Norwegian dinghy regress thing I used to think about it. And include our old dog Arfie.

Continuing my obsession with the new Webb telescope’s deep space photos…here’s some galaxies 3 billion light years away. The universe is thought to be 14 billion years old. So these galaxies are from the eleven billion year mark.

According to the NASA page, the area of sky subtended by this image is about half a grain of rice held at arm’s length. The images are warped by gravitational lensing, that is, by the space curvature caused by masses in the neighborhood.

How could Einstein have figured all this out? Not even using a computer. Just pen and paper and staring off into space. What a mind.

These days I find constant succor in the vastness of the cosmos, and in the true tininess of myself.

The other day I was telling some people that I think death is nothingness. And a woman corners me and tells me about a guy she knows who had a near-death experience with the light and the tunnel and the dead relatives and this proves that death isn’t real. I’ve heard that tired routine a hundred times by now. And I came up with my answer.

They say near-death hallucinations prove there’s life after death. Catch: you don’t know that you see that stuff after death. And you can in fact see that same damn show on shrooms or acid. Doesn’t prove jack shit. What if death is lights out & cut to black? Accept it. And if there’s more, fine.

As I wrote this minirant, I’d kind of forgotten that I have a detailed roadmap to SFnal personal immortality in my most recent novel Juicy Ghosts.. But that’s just a story I made up for fun.

I do still believe in the universal One Mind. You merge fully into it, and your self is gone. I figured this out a very long time ago, walking in the Keith’s pasture with my dear pal Niles Shoening in the suburbs of Louisville, looking at bubbles moving around under the thin ice on a little creek. It was January 1, 1963. Almost sixty years ago. I describe this moment in my transreal novel, The Secret of Life. “Conrad and Hank” are transreal stand-ins for Rudy and Niles.

They were near the end of the pastures now, and Nina [the dog] was running back toward them. The two boys squatted to wait for her, squatted and watched the bubbles beneath the ice, ice patterned in ridges and blobs, clear here and frosty there. Toward one bank, the ice domed up. A lone, large bubble wobbled there, braced against the flow. Smaller bubbles kept arriving to merge into that big bubble, and it, in turn, kept growing and sending out tendrils, silver pseudopods that pinched off into new bubbles that were swept further downstream.

Nina came panting up, pink tongue exposed. Her breath steamed in the cold air. “Good dog,” said Hank, patting her. “Hey, Conrad, let’s go back. Lehman’s mother’s giving an open house today. Maybe your parents will let you come.”

“Wait,” said Conrad, struck by a sudden inspiration. “The life-force. Each of us has a tiny piece of the life-force, and when we die it goes away. I’ve got it figured out. There’s a big pool of life-force—out there.” Conrad gestured vaguely. “It’s like that big bubble under the ice, you see. And each of us is a little bubble that can merge back in.”

“Like a soul going to heaven,” said Hank. They were walking now, headed back toward the houses.

“And the big thing is that once a little bubble joins the big one, the little bubble is gone,” said Conrad. “The soul goes to heaven, yes, and then it’s absorbed into God. The drop of life-force slides into the big pool. Isn’t that neat, Hank? Your life-force is preserved, but your personality disappears! I’ve invented a new philosophy!”

Still riding high from his big first f*ck, Hank felt no need to burst his friend’s bubble. “It’d be cool to major in philosophy next year. Find out all the answers and then become a Bowery bum.”

That’s literally and no kidding what my pal Niles and I wanted to do when we were 17. Study philosophy and become Bowery bums—getting drunk every day for the rest of our lives. Hitch your wagon to a star! So clueless.

I took a big hike up a hill near our house, up through underbrush.

Cool view of a tree through a hole in the trees. A “new glasses” kind of view. God looking down at Eden.

I have this growing sense that I might be done writing. This fall I finished this other story that I had been revising for a couple of years: “The Sea Pig and the Sun.” It was rejected by Asimov’s for “Too much exposition.” The Lightspeed zine is closed to submissions now, F&SF has turned down the last umpteen stories I sent them so why bother. And I can’t face going the rounds of smaller zines. Also there’s the complicating factor that the first half of this particular story already appeared in the small, wonderful, but now-defunct zine Big Echo as “Everything is Everything.” So with high hopes I posted this orphan tale on the Medium site in the form of a table of contents “episode guide” to eight segments of the story. So far it’s gotten less than ten readers. Oh well.

Our friends from the old days in Geneseo, NY, stopped by. Lee and Susie Poague. Lee and I had our first professor jobs the state college in Geneseo. Susie and Sylvia were bearing children and starting their own careers as academics. Wonderful to see Lee and Susie …we had a dinner outside with candles, the table like a promontory above the dark seas of time.

We hit the fabulous Anderson collection at the Cantor Museum at Stanford. Dig the monumental Serra sculpture Lee, Susie, and me here with our human shadows. The sculpture is made of two giant steel S curves. Susie and Sylvia.

I’m having more and more fun painting. Although just now I’m once again waiting for an another delivery from Blick Art Materials—this time it’s canvases. I do have one very small canvas; might use that. Hard to believe I’ve made twenty paintings since January of this year. Over the years, I’ve sold 94 of my paintings—and that’s kind to believe too, especial because, as usual, I see myself as a total imposter.

But now I need to move some more product. I’m running a sale with insanely low prices. Krazy Eddie style.  Check out my Paintings Page.

Low prices do seem to help. I know painters who price their works at $3,000, and I don’t think they sell many. Better, I think, to drop the prices down and get the work into circulation. Preparing for the (eventual) posthumous spike in prices, followed by inevitable museum show.

Even if I drop writing, I might have a new career as a painter. Why not? Even though I can’t get it together to find a gallery. But the mail-order marketing does seem to work pretty well.

Why not be a collector? Like this guy.

Cosmic Cliff

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Still flipping out on clouds after Sweden.  One of those full-on “glory” sunrises here in Los Gatos, with those rays…odd looking split in the middle.  Uncool to paint such scenes, I suppose, but might be fun to try.

Can always throw in some UFOs. Once a painting teacher decreed or pleaded with me: “Don’t do blue dog art,” meaning that genre of work where an artist gets a house-brand logo image that they put into every painting. So now and then I hold back and omit the house-brand flying saucer.

Marc Laidlaw, my partner in wacky gnarl, stopped by. We wrote sevem surfin’ Sci Fi stories together over 32 years, that is, over the period 1987  – 2019.  Masterpieces starring, with one exception, our ne’er-do-well transreal stand-ins, Zep and Del. You can see them in my Complete Stories.

Sylvia, daughter Isabel, and I went out to good old Four Mile Beach north of Santa Cruz.  If you walk south along the beach you get to this rock tower with super surf and lots of birds.  I think of the spot as a shrine, a sacred place. I often go there to, like, say a prayer to the Muse when I’m hoping to get some writing going.  I like to write a slogan into th wet sand, “EADEM MUTATA RESURGO” which means “The same, yet changed, I arise again.”

The Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli put this slogan on his headstone in Basel. He was referring to the self-similar logarithmic spiral often seen on growing things like the nautilus shell.  He wanted a picture of this spiral on his stone as well, but unfortunately some pinhead inscribed a dull Archimedean spiral (like an LP record groove) on the stone instead.

Stopped in at the fabulous Whale City Bakery in Davenport and admired the red sticker at the lower right.  The bar/grill has amazingly good crab cakes, made on site from fresh local crab (rather than being frozen pucks assembled god-knows-where).

I don’t think I’ve blogged about the Cosmic Cliffs yet. I’m completely obsessed with this image from the new Webb telescope. Our solar system is about the size of one pixel in this image. Nine lightyears high. The hexagonal star points are an artifact caused by the telescope mirror being a hexagon.

Galaxies. Acrylic, 24″ x 30″, July, 2022. For purchase info see my Paintings page.

The Webb telescope sees via infrared light as well as via regular light. This is based on an image taken before the Cosmic Cliffs; it’s a painting of a cluster of galaxies some 300 million lightyears away. I started thinking about these galaxies, each of them with something like a million stars, and surely with hundreds or thousands of habitable planets, and about all the other galaxies scattered hither and yon…and it gave some perspective on the headlines that I see when I fetch the morning newspaper from our driveway. What a strange, improbable world we live in! I painted a cluster of galaxies, giving them odd colors to reflect the notion of seeing via infrared light. I tried to make them look as if they’re living beings, interacting with each other. And the black holes at their cores look a little like eyes.

Rudy Jr took us to Free Gold Watch, a pinball parlor one block off Haight Street in SF. So great, although a game now costs $1.00 and you only get 3 balls. Used to be you got 5 balls for a quarter. But there’s a lot of action in these games, and if you get the hang of it, one ball can last a long time. Such a funny name for the place, “Free Gold Watch,” such a classic thing that a con man might promise you.

Here’s Penny Thomas outside the place. The Haight is quite a respectable neighborhood once you’re off the main drag which somehow never sheds it’s raffish air. Kind of lovable.

“Outside the Fillmore,” Acrylic, 24″ x 30″, August, 2022

Speaking of the Haight, I have a recurring fantasy about being at a convert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1967. I’m standing outside the hall in an alley, with the wonderful rock sounds echoing out. Peaceful, peaceful. A woman parks her flying saucer and walked down the alley to talk to me. We’re on the same wavelength, very spaced out, without even being high. And then I notice that, how great, it’s Bo Diddley and his band on stage. Well, in reality it’s maybe it’s Quicksilver Messenger Service playing Bo Diddley songs. But I painted it as Bo Diddley. I figure the woman from the saucer came here from the Cosmic Cliffs.

The sun was insanely hot for about a week. Thermonuclear! A beam slants in our window and across the dining-room table.

“Saucer Party” Acrylic, 28″ x 22″, September, 2022. And again, for purchase info see my Paintings page.

Following on the heels of Outside the Fillmore, I painted Saucer Party. This is supposed to be the view out the windshield of a saucer. I love the concept of space squid, so we’ve got one of those. And a threesome of festive aliens, and a dancing couple Perhaps that’s my wife Sylvia and me. Or me and the saucer woman, which is kind of the same thing, given my transreal ways of writing. Attended, of course, by our trusty dog Arf.

We went up to Point Reyes and stayed in a cottage a few days. Sitting on a tiny beach on the Tomales Bay…this spot is called Chicken Ranch Beach…a seagull, creamy bright in the sun, staring at me, waiting for me drop a scrap of food. I imagine he’s saying, “You talkn’ to me?” Tougy guy.

Tomales Bay is the very essence of a wetland, with those curved inlets within inlets, and clumps of saltwater grass.

I love magical looking tunnels through trees, with light at the end. The door into summer. The gate to Narnia.

We drove to the north end of Point Reyes. Tapers up to a point with rolling hills and a herd of “tule elk” living there. Lower down is preserved old collection of buildings called Pearce Point Ranch. Very photographable. Like the diamond squre inside the triangle, and the Monderey pine.

Another classic shot, with nature’s gnarly stump, and the striving for order barn. The doughty pioneers. I once wanted to write about space settlers, and call them ioneers, after their ion-jet rocket engines.

The tiny town of Point Reyes Station’s supermarket had a ta-da first display of Haloween punkins I’d seen this year. More variety than there was sixty five ago when i was a boy.

Impressive old Point Reyes Station garage with super-duper clouds.

A sawn log on the hills above my home. Wet from a miraculous rainstorm. Hurray. Reminded me of Poincare’s image of a hyperbolic plane, where the edge is infinitely far away, and straight lines are circular arcs that hit the edge at right angles. Now scale this up a dimension to showing hyperbolic space inside a sphere. A character’s skull. A blockhead. Another short-short story idea. “The Woman who had the Universe Inside her Head.”

Cosmic Cliffs. Acrylic, September, 2022.

Meanwhile I’ve finished my painting of the Cosmic Cliff.  I really like this one; and I spent quite a long time on it.

Kind of ludicrous, the gap between my work and the space telescope image with its hundreds or thousands of stars. My work being crude ape-man daubs of colored dirt on a stretched piece of fabric. But I try. Still needs a blue dog saucer? Not this time. Don’t drag this comsic vision into the gutter of SF. But…for my next painting, I’ll do a bigger Cosmic Cliff with lots of saucers.

And I wrote an SF story based on this latest series of paintings, and it was only, um, a thousand words long. What you call a short-short. Like my writing powers are dwindling. A Zenonian collapse to zero. Maybe I’m morphing into a painter; a new stage splitting out of my literary pupa.

But, nah, I don’t really think I’m not done writing yet.

Stockholm Joy

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

After I gave my talk in Helsinki, Sylvia and I went and spent five days in Stockholm. I had no idea what Stockholm would be like, but it was wonderful. The city itself is on a number of islands crowded together, and the sky—at least in the summer—is a lovely parade of clouds, very crisp. View from one island to another shown below.

The older Stockholm architecture has an Art Nouveau or Art Deco quality, which I like a lot.

There are really a lot of blond people in Scandinavia. In this shot, we’re riding on a city ferry route, a good cheap way to see the surroundings. We got a four day pass that worked on trams, buses, and ferries.

That’s the building with our Hotel Esplanade. I’d thought the whole building would be the hotel, but was only in two stories, only about thirty rooms. A pleasant place, on a canal where a lot of tour boats and ferry boats had stops. We were in the room at the left corner of the 2nd floor in the first white building from the left.

Our legs get tired from touring, and we often go to museums to dial back the pavement-pounding. The main museum had crafts along with art…something I enjoy. Dig the glass and the decanter. Martian martinis!

The museum had a show about “Swedish Beauty,” including work by post-Impressionist Swedes. I loved this self-portrait, by Bo von Zweeigbergkt. Amazing how he did those colored lines.

And Bo’s name kind of makes sense, as a name. Swedish isn’t as impenetrable a language as Finnish, but it’s enjoyably odd.

Here I am being all Jean-Luc-Godard-movie in our hotel room.

The main tourist site in Stockholm is an island called Gamla Stan. It was about half a mile from our hotel, and Sylvia and I walked there quite early one morning. We found an enchanting old world cafe in a corner of it.

Dig this old Svenska (Swedish) ocean-liner poster on a wall. If you’ve followed my blog, you know how I love rectangular blocks of color, preferably with some peeling plaster.

And, ah, the chestnut leaves overhead, quite wonderful. The living chaos, the peace, the life.

The cafe was actually a bakery. The classic Euro symbol for a bakery is a pretzel. They’ve been using that symbol since the 1600s. The sense of long time there…refreshing to be away from the frantic, tedious, today’s-news-breaks of our US life.

The funny thing about the Hotel Esplanade is that they weren’t super organized about the rooms. This is the room we ended up in, a dream come true. But the first night we were in a fairly crappy room next door to it, about a quarter the size. And in the morning I complained, and said we’d probably leave, and the woman at the desk said, oh, try the room next door, and we got this one. Same price for the two rooms. A stroke of luck, a gift from the Muse of travel.

Colored buildings in Gamla Stan. The museum of the Nobel Prize is in this same square…somehow I didn’t have the energy to look inside. I was more set on seeing old stuff.

A view of a tram perhaps being powered by those solid-looking whipped-cream Stockholm clouds.

Right behind Hotel Esplanade was an enormous city-block-sized Armory from the old times. Gorgeously intricate brick work with a few green bricks mixed in. Forget Legos, man, this is the true source of brickery.

Another cloud picture. At this point we’d gotten on a ferry that went farther than we expected…about ten miles out from Stockholm, weaving among dozens of islands and ending up at this kind dry-dock, ship maintenance, Antonioni-movie zone.

The ferry also passed a really gnarly amusement park with some highly elevated “Swiss swings,” those things that put you on a little board held by a chain—like a playground swing—and then the Swiss-swings assemblage rotates, and you’re completely unprotected, like a lure on a line that’s fishing for Death.

My reaction to Swiss swings. (An ad photo on some wall…I couldn’t tell what it was an ad for.)

The deadly amusement park also had a twisting DNA-molecule-type roller-coaster with no floors in the cars. Sylvia really wanted to ride on it—not. Neither did I.

I’m still recovering from my ride on the Santa Cruz Big Dipper this spring. Beautiful evening light here, and the Swedish evening lasts a long time, up through about 9:30.

We went twice to Stockholm a restaurant called Prinsen. They’ve been open a hundred years. Wonderful, wonderful food. Seems like I never get food even close to this in the US, and I do try. No corners are cut here, everything is perfect, and there’s no fuss about it. Sounds simple, but it takes real determination to follow through.

This bus-stop map made me laugh. As I tend to do, I then got fixated on the phrase Här är du, and repeated it very many times.

There are a few Black people in Scandinavia. They look relaxed. You see a lot of giant plastic bags like in the foreground. They even put bricks and rubble in them.

This building was also behind Hotel Esplanade, I think it housed a museum of theater design. Great cafe on the ground floor, the kind I long for, with the classic gravel garden outside with metal tables beneath huge trees.

More Stockholm clouds. Sylvia and I made friends with two local guys in a restaurant, and they were interested in hearing what we thought of their city, and I went on about the clouds, and they kind of laughed. “Very different in the winter,” says one of them, making a horizontal gesture with his hand. “Just one cloud then, very low. All day. And it gets dark at four.”

I’m thinking of a Sesame Steet routine here. “This scene is brought to you by the number 2!”

I mentioned the Art Nouveau. Wonderful ironwork here.

Sylvia took this photo of me looking out the corner window in our room. Kind of like a Magrite painting.  Looking at the water and the sky? Um, wait, maybe I’m looking at my laptop. Well, let’s hope I’m doing some creative writing.

My view out the side window. Definitely looking outside here. You know that condition they call Stockholm Syndrome? My version was that I never wanted to leave.

Helsinki Math & Art

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Early in August, 2022, Sylvia and I took a trip to Scandinavia. I’d been invited by the Bridges Organization to give a talk at their 2o22 conference at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. Their annual meetings feature talks and demonstrations and exhibits relating to connections between math, art, music, architecture, and culture. Perfect for me. I was slated to give a talk on math, chaos, writing, and paintings. And I took Sylvia along. We spent five days in Helsinki and five days in Stockholm. Many thanks to George Hart, Kirsi Peltonen, Eve Torrence, and the rest of the Bridges crowd.

Our touchingly eager suitcases just before we left. So many hurdles ahead! Onward.

The Helsinki train station, an amazing Art Nouveau structure designed in 1920 by Eliel Saarinen. So nice to see something like this right away. By the way, Eliel was the father of the Eero Saarinen who designed the Dulles airport near Washington DC.

Another big sight in Helsinki is the Lutheran cathedral of 1930. Very understated in decoration, with statues of the twelve apostles on top. I loved the Helsinki streetcars. This is the number 2, which we used a lot, having bought a pass on the first day. So great to be out in a different world. Makes the immense hassle of the air trip fade away.

Planning my talk, I ponder the fact that a 3D left hand can appear to be a right hand when projected into a shadowy Flatland. Not that I mentioned this in my talk. You can see a written draft for the talk on an earlier post. And a video of the actual talk on YouTube.

Sylvia is from Hungary, and the Finnish and Hungarian languages are said to be related. These Finno-Ugric languages are not at all like any of the familiar European languages which are in the Indo-European group, which include the Romance, Slavic, Germanic and other categories. Finnish and Hungarian are total outliers. And, as Sylvia’s expression testifies here, the two are not very much like each other after all. It was fun to see such incomprehensible signs.

Everything very clean and orderly. Like the subway. Taking public transportation is way that we explore the towns we visit, preferring it to tour busses. No narration, but you can figure some of it out.

We always hit the museums and restaurants, but another kind sights to hit are stores. Weirdly they had lots of Marimekko stores, as this is a Finnish company. Here we’re in a mainline department store with Sylvia in a display shoe. I bought a belt here, and was happy to see a “Designed in Finland” label on it.

No idea why there’s a framed pair of scissors. For emergency use in cutting off your necktie?

I’m always looking for patterns of shade and light. Love this 3D grid of shelving.

The Bridges exhibition of math/art objects was very cool. Shown here are some “Closed Surface Envelopes” by Richard Hammack, who found ways to turn envelopes into odd surfaces like Klein bottles and projective planes. You have to look at his paper to understand.

This is a really cool quilt of some mathematical meaning that I don’t quite remember…I hope a knowledgeable reader can fill in this lacuna in my report. And let me mention that I failed to get a photo of Eve Torrence’s lovely seven-cloor toruses, but you can see them in her paper, “Modular Origami Map Coloring Models“.

Thees are David Plaxco’s “Photgenic Knot Projections On n x n x n Rubik’s Cubes.” Of course!

One of my favorite pieces was a handmade book called “Guises of the Penrose Tiling,” sitting on a stand in front of a lovely patterened cloth that Padilla made.

Her conference paper “Penrose Tiling Arrangements of Traditional Islamic Decagonal Motifs” indicates what she’s up to. I love Penrose’s non-repeating tilings. He used to sell a plastic jigsaw puzzle based on them, called Perplexing Poultry, with no “right” way to assemble them. I played with that puzzle a lot over the years, and my SF novel Freeware incorporates a visual add-on perceptual filter you can use to tessellate your surroundings in a tessellated pattern of 3D Perplexing Poultry.

Riding the metro home from the art show, Sylvia and I made our way upstairs the fabulous dining room of that Helsinki Train station. Nouveau paradise.

I’ve got to mention the time. This sunset at about 10 or 10:30 pm. And the dawn breaks at 3:30 am. Jetlagged as we were, we kept snapping awake at 3:30 thinking it was time to get up. But you do not want to up and about at 3:30. That’s the wrath of the gods. I mean, getting up at 5 am to read is okay, or maybe even 4:30, but 3:30? A hard no. We ended up take lots of long naps the first few days.

We could see what looked like a bay from the balcony of our room. I walked down there one morning and found a cemetery, a minigolf course, a fairly grungy beach-like area, and this nice big-toy construction vehicle. Was so interesting to walk at random around a completely strange city where I had not the slightest idea what was going on.

Did these art nouveau pillar-men holding up the building. I think they’re technically called caryatids. We say a lot of them. They always have a towel or rag over their shoulder and the backs of their heads to make things a bit more comfortable.

Inisde a Catholic church was an image of Saul seeing the White Light.

Outside the church some Helsinki freaks had painted a nice image of the White Light seeing Saul. No idea what the underground characters are like in Helsinki. No easy or obvious way in. I’d dreamed of finding some connection to the circles of my Finnish beat poet friend Anselm Hollo, but there wasn’t time to find it.

We rode the trams a lot. Dig this one with the big flowers. Europe so clean and tidy and pleasant. Not everything just built as cheaply as possible.

Spotted some nice deco windows. Helsinki isn’t medieval quaint, but it’s 20s and 30s quaint.

They have a couple of icebreakers they’re proud of. This is the Poalaris. When the Baltic sea freezes over, the Polaris will pound its way out, clearing a channel, and then lead a commercial ship in. The cahnnel doesn’t stay open for long, and if it freezes up the Polaris circles back and opens a path for the commerical ship again. If worst comes to worst, it tows the ship. The bow of the Polaris has very thick steel.

We went to a design museum in Helsinki which was kind of interesting. Loved the tiles in the hall on the first floor, the way they have a convex texture.

In search of freakiness, we made our way to the very weird Amos Rex art gallery. The exhibition hall is underground, with big skylights covered by tiles above it. And a big pile of broken-up furniture on the roof. Only when I got home did I learn the broken furniture was an installation called “The Nest” by the artist Tadashi Kawamata, who assembled the pieces from around the Helsinki areal.

Art in the basement gallery tended to relate to the theme of being underground. Like this cool old Italian painting of the view from a grotto.

And a boat made of painting canvases…maybe it’s Charon’s boat.

Saw a great woman near a really big Greek Orthodox cathedral near the harbor. Dig her tats. And the little toddler pushing her stroller, as they like to do, and really large dog.

Here’s that cathedral, like of like a Mandelbrot set.

Lots and lots of rental electric scooters in use. We kind of wanted to start using them…but we’ve never done it before, and there’d be a very real chance of breaking your ass, which is contraindicated if your 5,000 miles from home.

Back to that Lutheran cathedral, here’s one of the apostles. At the time I thought this was supposed to be an avenging angel, but apparently it’s Bartholomew, who was eventually slain by a sword, and the scimitar he wields is, like, his logo. Dig that bright sunlight around him.

Near the cathedral we blundered into some big central library…I was thinking of “The Library of Babel” in the great story by Jorge Luis Borges. Levels and radiating aisles.

Downstairs they had a display of some of their holdings. Like this bad-ass book.

And here’s a fine sample of the local tongue, expressing a phrase in Finnish, Swedish, and English.

And then it was off through the loops and reflections of travel from Helsinki to Stockholm. To be continued…

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