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October 25, 2006

Sanibel at Sunrise

Awaiting the Sunrise

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006


I had the opportunity this past weekend to spend a night on Sanibel Island with my daughter. While best known for its long beaches and plentiful seashells, my favorite thing about the island is its sunrises. (The sunsets are beautiful too, but are often plagued by swarms of “no-see-ums” – biting insects almost too small to see).


The south and west sides of the tilted-crescent-shaped island face the normally calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The northeasterly coast is a large nature sanctuary, named for political cartoonist and conservationist J.N. (‘Ding’) Darling.

FireballWe also had an opportunity to cycle through the sanctuary, and kayak across Tarpon Bay. We didn’t go far enough out to see any dolphins or manatees, but we did see plenty of herons and egrets as we paddled in among the mangroves.

Back to the sunrises – while the effect is more pronounced at midsummer, sunrises over the gulf have a languorously slow quality, as the colors shift from black to blue to brilliant red-orange at the moment of dawn. Reflections on the ocean, beach, and tidal strips between the sandbars add to the effect.



Awaiting the Sunrise


  Australian PineAustralian Pine












At the HorizonAt the Horizon


October 19, 2006

Any Poems on Magic?

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

When Bob Blair used to author the precursor to this column, he found many good patterns upon which to base his selection of material. The richness of poetry itself is partly its wealth of patterns - in rhythm, rhyme, structure  and allusion. Among his favorites were looking at events or life milestones of well known poets, or telling us how some recent event initiated a train of thought that led him to think of the poem he had chosen.

 Lets try the second tack, with a twist. My train of thought leads to what I can't remember. 

 My wife and I recently went to see The Illusionist, an excellent movie about an Austrian magician  "Eisenheim the Illusionist" starring Ed Norton as the title character. My reason for wanting to see it was an interview and a review on NPR, that noted how much effort was made to use optical, rather than computer generated effects wherever possible to show the magic performances in the movie. (I am a little tired of movies that contain more fancy cartoon footage than acting). The result was a movie that is beautiful to watch, engaging, and memorable.

This led to my poking around in my memory, our online collection, and in my bookshelves for an appropriate piece to echo the mood or mystical nature of the movie. No luck. Not a big surprise though. Good poems on the professions are generally hard to find. If you dissagree with me, name me five (not including Longfellow's Blacksmith). So if anyone out there has seen the film, and has a suggestion - please send me a comment to post. Certainly the gulf between poetical and magical shouldn't be so large?


October 17, 2006

Dolphins Dreaming

Tuesday, October 117th, 2006

last weekend I had the opportunity to camp overnight with my youngest son at the Seaquarium on the causeway to Key Biscayne. This is a local institution that has been in place for over 40 years, dating back to the filming of the "Flipper" TV series.

While the spaces are a little cramped by current standards, (and the facility has weathered many a hurricane), it is in reasonably good condition, and the staff clearly does genuinely care for the animals and takes their rescue and rehabilitation mission seriously.

 Being in such a place at night is always an unusual experience - places that bustle with activity during the day seem eerily still after dark. We also had unusually still air, which combined with the island setting to enhance the effect. Our guide for the evening, Lucy, took us to the dolphin tank and explained a little bit about the current understanding of how dolphins manage to sleep while always in motion.

Studies show that when dolphins sleep, half of their brain rests at a time, while the other half keeps necessary functions running - swimming, surfacing to breathe, turning - something between autopilot and the aquatic equivalent of sleepwalking. It seemed a little otherworldly, these creatures surfacing our of the dark water, inhaling, and slipping past each other into the water on a starlit but moonless night.

I can't recall anything I've read that captured this scene, but this idea of spending half your life half asleep begs the question of what dolphin dreams must  be like. Perhaps in 20 years our 'current understanding' will be able to explain that too.


While I didn't have the ASA10,000 camera it would have taken to photograph dreaming dolphins, here are a few other faces from the Seaquarium. --Steve

October 11, 2006

Indian Summer

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Indian Summer

Another American poet with a good  October poem is Emily Dickinson. This poem I always remember because I saw it first a quarter century ago preparing for the AP English test. When published in 1864 it actually was labeled ‘October’. While there are words and even metaphors in common with the later poem on October by Helen Hunt Jackson, Dickinson takes a much different tack – focusing  not on the change of seasons – but a pause in the transition (what we Midwesterners used to call ‘Indian Summer’).

There is this idea that the warm spell of weather implies that summer, and perhaps life, can go on forever – or at least return again and again forever – as the ‘ranks of seeds their witness bear.’ This idea of immortality deftly becomes a religious metaphor on the seasons(sacraments) of life and death, and what awaits us in the transition and rebirth. Dickinson’s skill lies in showing us this universal metaphor – framing it in so few words – and imparting  such a sense of awe. --Steve

These are the days when Birds come back

THESE are the days when Birds come back--

A very few--a Bird or two--

To take a backward look.


These are the days when skies resume

The old--old sophistries of June--

A blue and gold mistake.


Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee--

Almost thy plausibility

Induces my belief.


Till ranks of seeds their witness bear--

And softly thro' the altered air

Hurries a timid leaf.


Oh Sacrament of summer days,

Oh Last Communion in the Haze--

Permit a child to join.


Thy sacred emblems to partake--

Thy consecrated bread to take

And thine immortal wine!

Emily Dickinson

October 09, 2006

Virtually Real

Monday, October 9th, 2006 

When is a photo not a photo? How about when it is a virtual snapshot from virtual space?

On  a whim this summer I picked up a relatively inexpensive 3-D rendering program named Easel. It's by a German software company that also makes a series of higher performance rendering and animation programs used to create a suprising range of images and animations.


 I recall when digital photography became commonly available - first as computer software that allowed images to be digitally manipulated, then as digital still cameras that could capture actual images. Digital image alterations are now commonplace - from improving sharpness and boosting color to removing wrinkles, reshaping waistlines, and making McFood look palatable. In the 'old days' (BD = before digital), when you had to rely on film processes, your options were limited to lenses, filters, and exposures on the camera side, dodging and burning in the photo enlarger, and time in the developing bath.


I remember National Geographic admitting a few years ago that they had altered their cover photo by moving the sun closer to the horizon to create a 'more dramatic effect.' Very recently, a photo editor for a major wire services was fired after he (clumsily) added more smoke to photos from the recent fighting in Lebanon - once again to increase the sense of drama (without requiring him to get closer to the actual fighting).

 Getting back to the software  - you can create arrangements of virtual objects in space - people, plants, mountains, buildings, - and add planes of water, sky, and 'atmosphere'. You can apply a variety of materials, colors and textures to objects, and select camera and sunlight angles. Then you go about finding the best picrture-taking angles - the result is a cross between playing with children's blocks and being a cinematographer setting up a movie scene.

 So instead of some photos this week, here are some initial virtual images I have cobbled together. By the way, there is even an online store where you can purchase vitrual plants, buildings, furniture, textures, and yes, even virtual people. Maybe when I retire I can become a virtual carpenter. I might enjoy making virtual furniture. Or perhaps being a virtual gardener. Or a virtual zoologist.  --Steve

Links to the pictures in the Blog entry:

(all 1024 x 768)

(spot the turtle?)

(hunting frogs?)

and one more:


October 06, 2006

Random Quotations

Fri, October  6th, 2006

 In no particular order, and with no intended agenda, some random additions to the quotation collection:  --Steve

It does not require many words to speak the truth.
Chief Joseph (In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat), Nez Perce (1840-1904)

Having him in Iraq was hard enough. When he got hurt, I said, 'well, at least he can come home now, and get better here with us.' But it's this strange thing. He came home, but he's not home at all."
PENNY ELLIOTT, wife of a National Guard sergeant injured in Iraq, New York Times online edition, 25-Oct-2004.

Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.
--Buckminster Fuller

Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.
-- Meg Chittenden

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
-- Winston Churchill

That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change; but that they build a nest in your hair, this you can prevent.
--Chinese Proverb

If film is a director's medium, and television drama is a writer's medium, reality TV is without question a casting director's medium.
ROBERT J. THOMPSON, Professor of Television and Pop Culture at Syracuse University, NY Times online edition, 28-March-2004.

Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.
-- Miguel de Cervantes

Never a lip is curved with pain
That can’t be kissed into smiles again.
--Bret Harte

You have to love your children unselfishly. That is hard, but it is the only way.
--Barbara Bush

October 05, 2006

October Again

Thurs, October 5th, 2006

 Another favorite October poem is by Paul Laurence Dunbar, published 110 years ago in Lyrics of Lowly Life. Dunbar was the first widely recognized African-American poet, and had an elegant as well as versatile writing style. There is a brief biography on him at Wikipedia ( and an extensive collection of materials at Wright State University ( in Dayton, Ohio, where he was born and is buried (though he went to university at Howard). Dunbar could write poignant or entertaining verse in both formal english and in dialect. Much of the verse written in dialect is tough going for modern readers, though it contains some of his best insights. This poem is allegorical, where Helen Hunt Jackson's October is observational, but both catch the transitional month beautifully. Dunbar's poem also shares elements of voice with Muriel Stuart, another of my favorites, whom we will talk about in the not too distant future...  --Steve 


OCTOBER is the treasurer of the year,
     And all the months pay bounty to her store:
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
     And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
     Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold
     Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.

She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
     But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
     She only hears the breezes' voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodland through,
     And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle till the roguish Sun
     Creeps up and steals them every one.

But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
     When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
     Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
     She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way
     And turns her auburn locks to gray.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

October 04, 2006

To the Lighthouse

Wed, October 4th 2006

Welcone to the new Blog for TheOtherPages. Our original Blog, which pre-dated blogging by half a  decade, was Bob Blair's Daily Poetry Break.  Bob was such an engaging writer, and provided such a wealth of content and insight, that no one (least of all myself) has attempted to take up the torch since he retired from the post on January 23rd, 2004.

 Nor am I trying to take it up now. I lack Bob's humor, judgement and practiced style. Instead, this is intended as a composite of several media types from TheOtherPages, with perhaps an occaisional editorial thrown in.


A recent photo of the lamp at the Cape Florida Lighthouse, at Bill Baggs State Park, on Key Biscayne, Florida, with various aquamarine shades of the Atlantic Ocean in the background.

Cape Florida Light1024 x 768 image (80k):

 600 x 450 image (200k):

October 03, 2006

Welcome to October

 October 3rd, 2006

Well here we are in October again. Living in Florida, I sometimes have to think back to when I did live in a temperate climate to rememeber how weather SHOULD track with the calendar.  There are a lot of 'calendar' poems - an obvious theme for any poet who writes a lot - and an even more obvious theme back in the days when lives were much more at the mercy of the weather. There are several excellent calendar poems for October. One of these was written 120 years ago by Helen Hunt Jackson. Jackson was a prolific writer, a friend of poet Emily Dickinson, and was quite a good poet in her own right. Jackson spent much of her life as an ardent advocate for Native American rights.  Have a read and enjoy her seasonal barrage on the senses. --Steve

October's Bright Blue Weather

O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October's bright blue weather; 
When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant; 
When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning; 
When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining; 
When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing; 
When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting; 
When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October's bright blue weather. 
O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October's bright blue weather.  

Helen Hunt Jackson


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