Photo Archive II 

(Click any picture for a large view.
Notes by Wendy Carlos.)

leafThe "Critters" Pose

3 cats Do the cats get along? I get that question quite often. If you were to drop in, here's what you'll often see, usually with doggie close by, too. This photo is several years old, when Nago was a lot lighter color Seal Point. His mother is Pica, who's on the right, behind Subi, the Blue Point, who's Nago's cousin, and the eldest. (Now you see why pet shots are generally frowned upon, along with this too-chatty narrative!)
Those of you who have animals who share in your lives are well aware of the many times they just "fall into" cute poses like this. I grabbed the camera because of the symmetry of the three interlocking "C"-shapes they formed there on the couch that evening. That was a new pose on me. Only Nago, the youngest, got curious about my camera probing and looked up. The other two are quite unflappable. (Nago's vivid blue eyes happened to catch the light just so.)



Here's Subi's Portrait, on the left, and to the right of it is Pica's Portrait. I took them with a blue paper backing when I was trying to come up with my parody of the legendary HMV logo, having a kitty look into a Grammy, for my proposed Catalyst Records, as mentioned on the Artwork Page.
These ought more than satisfy all of you alleurophiles out there who share my love of Siamese Cats. Despite Subi's constant talking and clever attempts to get attention, he's a dear old pal, and this shot captures him in a very mellow mood. Pica has a wonderfully shaped lithe body that is shown to advantage in this portrait of a proud little cat. I used a few old photofloods and my Rollei SL66 to snap them and get them used to the idea of the photo session, before attempting a parody image.
Nago nest One time I walked in and this is what greeted me. I had a long roll of Escher's lovely geometric art on the table, still curled up as you see it, waiting to be hung on the long hallway upper wall. A Nago Nest. Lucky that the camera was still loaded, or I'd have missed it.
A Siamese cat cannot resist sitting inside an open box or bag or walled-in area, like this one. Nago had discovered it while I was out for dinner that evening, and had set up shop here as you see. He remained in place for quite a while even after I'd taken his picture. (Yes, that's a Russian nesting doll in the upper right corner, in front of the card from which the Sonic Seasonings cover image down below was taken.)
Heather Dog Heather Dog, in a portrait I took in March of '95. Many of you have experienced this sadness, of losing a treasured pet. On September 25th of this year ('96) I had to take this dear little doggie on her last voyage to the vet's. It was quite expected, she was almost 15, and had been losing her vision gradually (cataracts), and similarly getting deaf, and even losing her sense of smell. But when she began falling, or getting splayed out on her tummy, limbs all stretched out helplessly, and having great difficulties in eating without splaying out, and similarly in walking, eliminating, or even trying to lie down (chronic arthritis), what could be done? Her time had come.
This dear little creature was perpetually sweet, loving and intelligent (I counted a vocabulary of perhaps 200 words that she clearly understood), as are most Soft coated Wheaten Terriers. And oh yes, very stubborn. But only we knew that. It became a universal theme for visitors to call or write back, "how are you, and how is Heather?". Of course she made sure anyone who came into the loft was treated as the finest human being in the world. Irresistible. You know.
Heather was my first dog, and I loved her without reservation. She was endearing, a true companion (especially while working in the studio for hours alone). The cats are always up on top-- of the sofa, or chair or monitors, whereas Heather would station herself beside me, as closely as possible, even up on my feet and ankles. In the final few months she had difficulty in finding us, or the studio, and similar to the story about the final year of Galileo, her horizons had narrowed from the whole loft and parts of our neighborhood, to one room, one carpet, with walks and exercise around one table.
But she was never ever really sick a day in her life, and was lucky to have the cats around, as they were genuine companions (Subi howled like a coyote when he woke up to find her missing the next day). Since I work out of the loft, she always had us around, too. One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to take her for her final trip that afternoon, and remain with her, gently holding and stroking her as she faded away. I still keep "losing it", as when typing this out. I'm sure many of you understand the grief. (For those who don't, why not just skip to the next section...?)

dog nap

Heather takes a nap. This is one of the last photos of her, as she no longer could lie with her rear limbs akimbo in a classic Wheaten manner. You can detect hints her graceful terrier shape, even under that shaggy beige lambs-wool-soft coat of hers, which we usually left rather long. It did make her look more like a Sheep Dog, but that also seemed to match her outgoing personality.

dog play

Heather at play. This is an early shot of doggie, jumping off the steps of a rural house upstate where I was visiting friends Tom and Sharon. You can see their cute charcoal dog, Pepper, dashing along just in front and lower center of the photo. Heather loved to travel, and the dogs had a lot of fun whenever we could bring them together. This time it was in September of 1984.

last hugs

Heather with me. Here's a final photo I have of me with "woof" (for a 28 pound dog, she had a humongous bark), on her next to last day. If I look haggard, it's because I'd been crying. But she was happy to be cuddled, and certainly knew she was greatly loved. While the previous two weeks had not been kind to her, this day she seemed to regain a little of her former old self, still enthusiastic (John Klett always called her: "Enthusadog".) I filled the day with treats and extra little dog-gifts and other such silly stuff one does when about to part with an endearing pal of many experiences over many years. Farewell, dear friend. Pace.

Piccola Cat Piccola Cat ("Peek"), in a typical personality pose (I took it when she was almost 2). Late this April, only seven months after losing Heather, tiny Chocolate Point Pica decided that her time had come. What else to say when she decided to stop eating and then drinking, and curled up to sleep away her last strength? A strong minded cat in the best of times, it became quite a torture to try to force food and drink into her. The same with the medicines she needed for her continuing allergies and bronchi infections, mixed with lifelong athesma. The Littlest One would have none of it. In just over a week, early on April 26th, she died quietly as we were taking her to the vets.
I had just returned on Friday from a grim necessary visit with my parents, mostly spent in doctor's offices (but they are doing okay), and a close friend she loved was taking care of all the critters here. I got back to find Pica looking very sick and thin, with nearly no life left in her. But she had waited for me. I'm very grateful to have had that final 12 hours with her, tenderly stroking her on my lap, watching her respond gently, clearly recognizing my touch, my smells and my voice (by then she was quite blind), and knowing she was safe and loved. Dear Subi and her son rested up close to her, sensing somehow that the situation was very grave (both later had a hard time adjusting to her not being here any more -- cats often know more than we assume they do).
Pica's final two years were spent in a chronic effort to breathe. She had come close to suffocating several times, but with quick response and medication, I had gotten her past each crisis. January through March were clear dry months, and she rallied during them, returning to some of her endearing old habits. Then with allergy season upon us the difficulties had begun again. Although we miss her dreadfully, I'm relieved her suffering is over, that her death was truly peaceful.
I will spare you more emotional details, as it hurts very much to talk or write about it. Unlike Heather, I was less prepared this time, except in a general way. Rough one. That's why it took me a few weeks to add this to the site. I'm trying to focus on the many splendid memories of living for about 15 1/2 years with this marvelous, beautiful creature and friend. As I speak about such matters above, this mention and additional photos are for those of you who understand the joy of sharing one's life with "fuzzy critters", and the grief we experience when their short lives are over.

cat jump

Pica kittenishly playing, taking a characteristically graceful, athletic jump from the top of a kitchen cabinet to her kitty pole. She and Subi were a lot of fun to watch as they grew up. A cat pole, which also is where they scratch their nails -- sparing the furniture (a tip to other alleurophiles, but you must expose them to it early on), quickly becomes a special territory: for scrambling around and exercising, having a round of hide and seek, performing wild gymnastics, or just to get up high for a better look, especially when strangers arrive.

old Pk naps

Pica napping on one of her favorite spots, the cable TV box in the dinning area. This is one of the last good pictures I have of her (she began to look sick in April.) I took it at New Year's 1997, when the loft was dimly lit, a small Xmas tree was lighted nearby, and everything seemed quiet with the world. Later on, I turned on the computer, and "Peek" figured this out, and soon insisted on being lifted to the top of one of the monitors, her very favorite toasty place to hang out and nap near me and all my work and sounds. Pace, sweet Pica...

Nago sits

Nago patiently sits up in one of the few formal poses I have of him. He wasn't too happy about having his portrait taken, so I'd postponed doing this most of his life. Subi and Pica had been pretty good about it when I took theirs when they were both about three years old, and these are the pix you see of them above, against the blue paper roll. Finally I setup the camera and lights and backing and waited until Nago was quite still after a long nap. He was still a bit sleepy. Up on the table he went, "Just sit there!", I scolded gently, and got off several decent shots of the old seal point, before he wanted out. I'm glad to have this photo now.

regal cat

Classic Seal Point Siamese, the best description of this lovely portrait of Nago taken in September of '97. He'd just began to show signs of sickness, and for the first time in his life was not interested much in eating. Of course you worry that something bad is going on inside. I grabbed the Rollei and took a couple of rolls that evening while he was reclining and cleaning himself. This was one of the best, perhaps it's even the best shot I have of my friend. The vet thought the slight lump he felt might be a cancer in the abdomen, but a sonogram suggested an enlarged spleen (I still suspected cancer.) In a week he was eating again, but I watched him closely from then on.

In '98, when giving him one of the tummy rubs he haunted me to get, I felt something inside myself. This time the vet thought it was a cancer for sure. So in early May, he underwent surgery. It was cancer all right, of the kidney, a very large tumor. Devastating. He'd been losing weight through the last few months. I didn't have all the time I wanted to keep an eye on him as the filmscore to Woundings was now in highest gear. But with a lot of TLC, and medicating him from then on both by pill and daily doses of Ringer's Lactate subdermally (he minded the pills much more than the injection), he rallied once more surprisingly well. Began eating, and was extra demanding of affection. Fine by me.

trio sit

Several times in the first months of 1998 the Cat Trio would pose dourly like this (the camera's strobe caught their super reflective retinas very well here!) Note Walter Cronkite, expaining how angry he is at the myths perpertrated on a young generation by Stone's paranoid, contrived "JFK" polemic (I agree -- letting Oswald off and sanctifying Garrison is the true perversion.) In February the newest addition, Pandora ("Pandy"), had joined the crew. Amusing, and I have several photos of them sitting just so.

Subi got along with Pandy right away, but Nago, being shy, was slower to adjust. I kept her from him when I could, and there were few real hassles. Since Subi is so old, it was time to add to the clan, as I had not the courage of being with but one cat and then none finally. Overlapping, according to our breeder friends, is the way to do it. (I'll get more pix of Pandy here, along with the other two critters, another Siamese, and a new puppy!)

Bye Nago

It's always difficult to say good bye. After the surgery, Nago had about ten more weeks of mostly decent time. He purred often, sought me out a great deal, and spent days in bed with me when I was very sick much of the month of June in '98. He always loved cuddling in bed, and I could hardly object to having this beloved companion with me. He even seemed healthier than I did for a while, was eating regularly, and showed no other symptoms. Then on a Saturday in July he suddenly refused one of the extra meals I was feeding him. "No breakfast, Nags?" Not a good sign.

The only thing I could get him to try was a dab of butter. I called the vet again. Told him I could palpate a further enlargement of a tumor in his abdomen. Not at all surprising. The Prednesone slowed the regrowth, but did not stop it. It was time to say our final good byes. This is the last photo I have of him with me. Subi was trying to clean him, Pandy was just curious. In three days dear Mr. Nago had slid down rapidly. It would have been cruel to delay any longer.
Its rough on you, but the most merciful way to "pull the plug" is what I did. The first step is a strong sedative. So while still home Nago fell asleep, as I spoke to him quietly, stroking him tenderly. There was no added trauma. He was in his own spot, with his last experiences just three or four feet from where he had been born. Everything was calm and normal, like the habits of his lifetime. In five minutes he was asleep, and the awful labored breathing of the past three days became calm and easy. Ever so gently I laid him in his carrier, then walked him quickly to the vets office. He never knew any of it. The doctor felt the tumors. Very fast growing, he was now riddled with them.
They use a somewhat larger dose of anesthesia than given for surgery, and the heart slows and stops. Nago's ordeal was over. I kissed him good bye a last few times, thanked this sensitive, dear heart of a vet, and went out into the bright afternoon daylight. July 22nd, the hottest day of the year here. My pal was no more. The last two deaths were no preparation for this one. Heather and Pica had long good lives, and plain wore out. Nagus did not. He died much younger than the others. He'd been cleaning himself and responding and finding his usual favorite spots just two days earlier. The doctor says there is usually some nausea in the late stages of this horrid disease, and that is probably why he rejected food suddenly. In four days he dwindled, and now was gone. I was angry at the disease (many of you have your own experiences with cancer, and understand.) Even now I've not gotten past grieving for this special, gentle soul, my Nago. You are missed, sweetheart, you are missed.
ol' SubiAnd Subi turned 18 at the start of July '99. That's kinda old for a cat, you know. Never expected that the first fuzzy to live here would also be the last of the original group to be still around, but there you are. And here's the old fella in a very recent shot (as this is written), just a few weeks prior to his birthday this year. You have to look closely to see the signs of age in a kitty. Their fur hides any wrinkles or boniness. Here I note that Subi's wrists are somewhat weaker, and curve inward a bit. It's not a big change. He's experienced some arthritis, and walks with care and some discomfort. But he keeps at it in a way you'd admire in an elderly human, courageous and uncomplaining, still there after all these years.
I dearly love this ol' critter, and try to make his twilight years as decent as I can. I find it amazing the closeness of the bond that can develop between "them and us." In some ways it can rival human friendship. But the luckiest thing is to have both. When it comes to working, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a much better companion than a snoozing critter like this on your lap or beside you, or up on a piece of warm equipment very nearby.
19th bdayOne year later: Then a year after the above senior-citizen photo, is this quick portrait of a 19 year old Subito, warming himself on one of the computer monitors. Since some of you have kindly asked about the old guy, if he's still around, I'll let you see this one, too. The sad news is that a few months before this 19th birthday he was overtaken by a late developing case of macular degeneration, and is now quite blind. Dammitt. I have to run to help him out of cul de sacs all over the loft, as it's especially difficult to lose your vision so late in life. But he has slowly learned how to find his favorite spots. In fact, he's right now meowing out softly to me in the studio where I'm typing this caption. Oops! He just managed to jump up into my lap, not so easy with arthritis and the rest of it. Looks like I'll have to give him a bit of attention right away -- be back in a moment...
stretchLong stretch of cat. During cat shows it's common for judges to pick up a fuzzy contestant very much as I've picked up Subi here. Long ago he got quite used to it, all the cats did, and they don't mind one whit being made the focus of attention. For the Siamese breed in particular, a good judge looks for a long tubular body, wiry and muscular, without sag or fat or notable taper.
In this respect even at 19 Subito would get high marks on body shape. Of course much of his body mass has been lost in the past few years, we all do tend to lose some as we get very old. This means he now does have more taper than he used to, rib cage compared with haunches. So this photo is not as fine an example as one taken some four or more years ago would have been. I just never thought to do it before this shot. It also happens to be, IMHO, a grand gesture and graceful pose, and it's kinda fun to watch a good cat respond proudly like this.

A long good-bye, the most difficult in years, has finally happened. Dear ol' Subi gray cat is gone, on Thursday afternoon, 5/17/01, just short of his 20th birthday. (See the pencil sketch I drew of him sitting on my lap during his final evening, on the artwork page HERE.) I've been dreading this even as it became more and more probable. In 1998 Subi had been diagnosed with a moderate case of renal failure. His kidneys, as with most older creatures, were losing their function, and would probably end his life soon, the vet explained. For a while he had to be hydrated, with some Ringer's Lactate injected under his skin every week. It always seemed to make him feel better, increased his appetite and disposition.
Eventually he began drinking at his dish very often on his own, and simply refused to take any more of the injections without a real battle. Fine, it wasn't worth traumatizing the old feller, and as he continued to do rather well, that treatment was abandoned. Subi went blind in March of 2000, a late case of macular degeneration (which Pica had many years earlier). It was awful to watch this elegant, intelligent creature, with his increasing arthritis, have to learn in old age how to find his way around his home by sense of touch and smell alone.


As with older people (I've seen it with my parents, and I'll be getting there soon enough myself) he was able to do fewer of the things he enjoyed most of his life. Yet there were compensations. He still sought out my lap constantly, was eating well, enjoying special treats, and showed great affection and constant awareness, right to the last week. His purr remained generous. Here you can see young Pandy cleaning the dear fuzzer just a couple of nights before he died. He seemed to enjoy her attention, probably bringing back memories of similar grooming help from Pica and Nago.

I also gave him regular cat "sponge baths," and had twice the past week (once when he got caught into a dusty spot). He loved getting a "blow-dry" the last month, with my hairdryer on low heat (mmm... cats like it warm), while a soft rubber brush groomed him and his shiny, still-healthy coat. This Little Lord Fauntleroy of a cat had always been clean and neat, and so he was on his final few days.

S in bed

Subi had again found his way by feel into the bedroom, and for his final year slept every night beside me in bed, usually with his head under my arm, pressed up against my left side (often with his head on my pillow, as here, his final morning). I'm a quiet sleeper, and this worked very well, and it was a great comfort to us both. I was able to put on hold any travel plans, to be here with him for the final year and a half. So it became obvious exactly when Subi suddenly reached the point where the simple pleasures of life were no longer enough. On May 12th he refused all food. His final meal taken voluntarily was some grilled swordfish I'd had for dinner on Monday, and saved him the best part, broken into small pieces. That was always a big treat, and became the last meal he would take.

subi goes

Here you can see him, under his own power, a brave, gaunt little figure inching his way out of the bedroom for a final time. He was still drinking a little, and suddenly wanted down from the bed to seek his water dish. I had taken a camera into the bedroom with us, and caught him feeling his way out to the kitchen area and the dish. I got out of bed and dressed quickly. This would be his final day, instead of allowing the now frail cat to starve to death 3-5 days later. (He had very slowly lost about half his weight during the final two years, from over 7 lbs. to 3 1/2.) Subi's time had come.

old pals

The critters have a wonderful vet, a truly compassionate person. He's gone through this with his own pets many times, and could advise from personal experience, the most merciful way to hasten the inevitable. Again a sleep inducing medication would be used for a first step, as for Nago. So this sweet old character with the pungent personality would spend his last few hours in his own home, among friends, without tension or incident, fear or trauma. I spread out a new thick bath towel onto the table.

last subi

After one last tender time on my lap (the two of us are together above), I took a couple of final closeup snapshots of him resting quietly in my lap. This is the last photo I have of him (in a similar pose to that sketch I made the evening before). You can see that he's not sleeping, but just waiting for the inevitable, patiently and with dignity.

Then I carefully carried him to the table, onto the soft towel, to give him a strong sedative. It took about 8 to 10 minutes to take effect. All the time I spoke to him, pet him all over, hummed to him, kissed him, his head pressed against my face, the usual homely and loving ritual we'd shared for years. He began to fall asleep, and I helped him lie down. A couple of minutes more to be sure he was deeply asleep, and then gently into the carrier. It turned out to have the very same small towel in it which Stephanie (his breeder) had given to me for Subi's original trip here, early November 1981. Now it would cradle him for the final visit to the vets.
I realize that I'm a sentimental old fool, but losing this beloved pet was particularly painful. Fortunately, there was none of the anger and rage I'd felt when Nago died too young to cancer. Subi had a wonderful, long, rich, lucky life, much better than most cats (and certainly most humans!). He was loved, by more people than just me, although I was his special pal. He got to travel many miles, and would take over the other homes he visited, proving how neat a bright, spirited Siamese can be to have around. Many notches on that old tail for friends made. But he's also both the first and last of the original generation of animal friends who lived here. And now that he's gone I feel years older and palpably diminished, trying to accept that I'll never have this empathetic connection, perhaps, ever again. Dear cat, dear friend, fare thee well.

Up(Top of the Page)
leafNewest Critters

Pandy kit In early February of 1998, the first new "critter" arrived here. Pandora ("Pandy") is another Chocolate Point Siamese, the same color-coordinated outfit that Piccola wore around here for over 15 years. When I first saw a Chocolate Point, I thought of an animal equivalent to something ephemeral and delicate, tiny nearly white "angels" with fur. They can be very striking to witness in person, and are still not so commonly seen as Sealpoints and Blue Points.
Pandy was a tad old when she arrived here. Jeanne Singer, a fine composer and pianist I've known for nearly 20 years, is personally responsible for helping to bring Siamese lines back to the original dainty cats they can be when not diluted with the heavier set domestic shorthair and other breeds. Her Singa cattery name is properly well known within the cat fancy, and cats from her lines are found all over the world. She saved Pandy for me, as she thought she was unusually bright and attentive, and it was a wonderful choice. This scamp took over right away, and alternates between playing Ms. Independence and a demanding playmate. A lot of fun, no kidding!
Pandy has a habit a bit like Nago once did: she steals into the studio here where I'm working, and reaches up on tip toe to tap me gently on the elbow. When I look down, I earn a mild ululation, and then a cat in my lap who want's attention. Then after some minutes of tummy rubbing, it's back down again, to sit on a warm monitor or nearby chair. She also loves to find "goodies" around the loft, and carry them off to her secret hiding places. Small screwdrivers and pliers, bits of string, wire and pencils have vanished mysteriously -- without a trace...

Charly kit After losing Nago to that damned cancer, there were only two critters left in the loft, dear old Subi, and new kitten, Pandora. It felt awful, a big change from the days when four fuzzers shared the premises. Since Pandy came from Jeanne's cattery, I thought it only fair to ask my other breeder friend, Donna Davis, if she had any male Sealpoint kittens, or if any litters were due soon. From this simple question came Charly, who you see when he first arrived, early September 1998. He was 5 months old.
Charly was rather old to be available for adoption (having been born in April). But he was a "reject", from an unbelievably neurotic home in NJ, from people who truthfully didn't want an active kitten. All kinds of ridiculous stories were told, and Donna just asked them to return the little guy, and refunded the whole fee. Turned out this sweet, spirited kit had been abused, some really bad stuff went down, what can I say? He now ducked when anyone came near, attempted to pat him or skritch him in any way. Just four weeks had turned him into an insecure bundle of fear, a marked change from his early outgoing kittenhood.
Donna gave him a couple of weeks of her best care, and he began to come around. She simply offered Charly to me if I would provide him with a good home he deserved after all the trauma. So he was mine for the asking, a short LI train trip to pick him up. He was immediately friendly when I met him, and has been a wonderful companion since he arrived here. Pandy and Charly have become very close friends, the same thing I'd seen with my previous cats, rather like Subi and Pica were many years back.
elegant catHere's Charly at one year old. He's an unusually light colored Sealpoint, with a soft toned tawny body color, and "points" that are only now starting to approach the usual brown-black tone usually seen on Sealpoints. His tail is more "tweedpoint" than seal, but seems to be slowly darkening. Charly has but two modes: ON and OFF. When he's ON, you will generally count two of him, perhaps three, as he dashes from room to room, up the kitty pole, down and into the bathtub, then zips under the table. When he's OFF, you have an extremely affectionate warm pillow of plush velvet, who purrs easily, gently sniffs at your nose, and wants to remain as closeby as possible.
Charly isn't perhaps the brightest of cats I've lived with, although he has certainly learned a lot from Pandora (dammitt...), but he's awfully curious, adventurous, and a fine companion. With Pandy being so damn swift in the cat intellect department, the contrast is kinda pleasant. It takes all kinds, even in catdom. I used to find Pandy cuddled with Charly often, and Subi is often with one of them or the other, as they often help groom the "old bod" for him. Friendship, just a perfect blendship. (More lately, they seem to prefer napping alone, as is mentioned below, but I wouldn't be surprised if THAT pattern also changed eventually...)
Britty pupTo the left you'll see the latest addition to the four-legged critters in the loft. Yes, it's a puppy, a cute, happy-go-lucky, floppy, loopy puppy. Almost every visitor falls in love with this Border Terrier. Her name is Brrittania, with the double-r there in honor of her mother, who had the name "Brree", being born on the coldest day of that year. "Brritty", however, was born on Labor Day, and came here the weekend after Thanksgiving, down from Ithaca, near Cornell. Borders originate on the border of Scotland and England, so the name fits quite well.
Miss Britty is quite a bit pushier than Heather was, although their terrier personalities are astonishingly similar. I thought a slightly smaller dog, from a breed not so ruined by trendiness as are Wheatons (at least they've become so in the NE), might be more suitable as I'm getting older. This pup's about half the size of dear Heather, a real lap dog. She's stubborn and curious and friendly and full of energy and knows how to turn on the charm with every visitor. She also loves the new cats.
Take that!If you have any doubt of that observation, take a look here, and see Charly driving Britty about as crazy as she's driving him. The active young duo actually wrestle together many times a day, an amiable plug for Interspecies Athletics (when's the next Convention?), something quite new to me. Pandora often participates (I think she picked it up by watching the others), although she'll never be the rough housing expert these two are when they "get it on!"
Visitors are often amused, sometimes even worried, when they witness these freeform gymnastic competitions for themselves. I was concerned at first, too, but you soon notice that they both enjoy it, and keep pestering the other for more good times. Heather always seemed eager to romp with the cats, too, who were much smaller than she was. The size disparity meant it never happened. But given the correct match of body weight and unflagging spirit displayed here, the novel exercise just developed spontaneously. (Hey, long as no one gets hurt, it's their business!)
Subi's days of cat play are over, I must admit, so he generally declines any invitations to join the young'uns in tumble and chase. I have to yell at them when they try to coerce the slow movin' old guy, who just wants to watch and be near, see what's going on, and amble around slowly and creakily, into joining in a friendly competition.
trio stealthI call this snapshot: "Trio Stealth". The three youngest are often seen playing together, so this is not a unique snapshot. Britty's long red leash is usually much too much of a temptation for Miss Pandora to ignore. Whenever Britty strolls by with the leash "in tow", this is the very next thing you'll witness: Pandy about ready to pounce on the end of the long red moving snake. Charly is pretty good at it, too. It's like animal magnetism, although I thought that cats, like humans, were mostly dielectric... (cheap joke -- sorry!) Of course I could be wrong. It might have something to do with static electricity, don't you think? Ever stroke a cat or pup on a dry winter's day? Ah-HAH!, crackle-snap, see what I mean?
bobbseyBobbsey twins with old-timer. Often I come into the studio and find some new critter business in front of me, a surprise that's hard not to smile at. This time I saw that the younger cats had taken to sitting side-by-side on one of the computer monitors, like those old children's book illustrations of the Bobbsey Twins, or some such. My, but aren't they cute?! Take a pretty wicked heart not to smile about this friendly pose. I had to grab my camera, which fortunately was loaded. It's nice to discover that the old Subi cat was not being disturbed on the other monitor. Sometimes they bully him out of a good warm spot, and often I have to step in to restore fairness. They'll someday have first choice, but for now they must make do at times in sharing a warm spot. Pandy and Charly do get along very well, inseparable, really, so that's no hardship.
whatzatPandy's first sight of a pair of lobsters produced this amusing reaction: "Whatzzat?!" The curious resident white cat didn't know what to make of the pair of crustaceans which were awaiting their ignominious, cruel fate as a New England steamed dinner with a friend one evening. I wondered if she'd even notice if I put her up on the counter, as some of the cats have been rather blase about these slow moving and slower-witted beasites, nothing at all resembling the silly scene in Woody Allen's "Annie Hall." But bright curious Pandora had to crane her long neck over to get a closer view. Not often any of us get this treat, so she's not had many other opportunities like this. It'll be amusing to see if the next time produces any familiarity ("oh, I see you're having those big bug things again!"). In the meantime, you might get a smile to see this candid shot.
caught!Curiosity can often have its downside. One evening well after dinner time I heard an abrupt loud scuffling sound in the kitchen area, a bonk and flurry of activity and something suddenly was flailing around. I had absent-mindedly left the plastic container for cat crunchies on the sideboard, and finally Pandy had discovered my gaffe, and was about to sneak an extra snack from the normally hidden treat-holder. She obviously found her way to pop the top open, and had stuck her small head well inside. Then she must have panicked, and tried to pull out in a hurry. Bad mistake, the lid of the container came off easier than her head could slip away, and so she was left wearing a heavy "necklace" several sizes too large for a small feline. The camera was loaded, so here's a shot of a disgruntled victim of curiosity. Then I helped the grateful silly cat to freedom from her humiliating trap: "Not funny!" (Except that for a few minutes it really was...)
grab it!Where'd it go?! In a more recent snapshot, here's a new annoying habit Pandy has gotten into. For the time being I've had a new laser printer sitting on the floor of my studio, just in front of the 3-M 16 track tape machine. It's a nice high res printer, replacing the 12 year old original LW-NTX that finally is wearing out (aren't we all... ;^). The Elite 21 has the neat ability to print on both sides of a sheet of paper, which saves quite a bit of money and space for all those sheets we aren't supposed to need in this "new paperless society" we inhabit.
But the printer has a cute way of printing on both sides. First side A begins to come out of the slot, but immediately the paper is pulled back in, only to emerge some seconds later with side B also mysteriously printed upon. For an extremely intelligent, curious cat, that's just too much. Pandy saw the paper going back in, like a mouse retreating quickly into its hole in the wall, and sprang down from the monitor to see what this was all about. Now when she even hears the motor begin to wind up, there she goes, to watch the paper emerge, pull back, then come out again. It's irresistible, and this cute pose shows you a bit of the action. Now there's just this little problem of crushed and wrinkled paper printouts I frequently have to read from... "Get away, Pandy!!"
crosslegsAin't that cute? This is a new one on me. When Charly sits on top of the new computer monitors, he often crosses his legs like this. The tops of these monitors are more tilted than any of the older ones were, so there may be a caution about rolling off when they're up there. Perhaps crossing one's feet like this makes a fuzzy critter feel more secure, less "rollable," when about to take a nice warm nap? This is the only place I even see him doing it. Let me look again, as both cats are up on top of the screens again as I'm typing this. Nope, different positions going on there right now. That's what snapshots are for, prove we didn't imagine the whole amusing thing...
Britty+PandyWe are just good friends. The current critters certainly can "get it on" in the mutual aggression and play department, and it's not often I find them together in a heap like the older crew was so much of the time. But they're still good friends. Just let any one of them get into a fix, and call for help -- the others come running pronto! And during quiet times I'm often caught off guard with something like what you see here. This time it was "Miss Britty and Miss Pandora," enjoying each other's company on the carpet next to the middle sofa. I'd just been reading, and was about to head back into the studio. Fortunately a camera was near my elbow, so I caught it right away. It's a lot of comfort, especially in the current dangerously troubled world and country, to have them here. And as we get older we may find that small creatures do provide a great comfort in our lives, well worth the occasional slight inconvenience they may be. We still need our human friends, family and connections, but don't underestimate interspecies friendships, either!
Charly+PandyA rare moment together. The current "dynamic duo" worked out a rather competitive relationship when they first learned to deal with one another in the loft. I found Pandy cuddled up with dear old Subi regularly. But Charly never learned to cuddle with other cats, being from a very small litter and having been by himself for several early critical months. Which means that you just don't find him napping or sitting next to Pandy very often, even though he loves to cuddle with people just fine (one of the "most spoiled cats" I've met, in that regard... but blame me for some of that.). Anyway, I'm generally surprised the few times each year when I discover the pair making nice-nice like this photo from early 2006. They do love to romp together and chase one another, but just quietly sharing a toasty computer monitor? As I said, rare. I ran to grab the camera and snapped a few pix before they became self conscious, more interested in what I was doing, and jumped down. But not before this photographic proof that the "Bobbsey Twin" image a half-dozen photos above still happens at times, even without a diplomatic, tolerant Subi around to set a good example to the next generation...
Pandy HDTVIs it Real, or is it HDTV? When the old Pioneer projection monitor passed away quietly in early 2005, the critters didn't pay much attention to the new replacement HD Sony. That is, until the winter of 2008. One night, when I was catching a film I'd missed in the theaters (I think it was "Ice Age: The Meltdown"), Pandy happily ambled into the studio, no doubt to get some protracted attention from a "captive audience" (that would be me). She suddenly froze in her tracks, staring upwards intently. A warm lap can wait. What IS that? Perhaps seeing moving animals vividly on a large screen provides the attraction ("animal magnetism")? But this was nothing to take for granted -- it became a new interest for her (reach out and touch someone). Since then, she almost always stops to check out any: cats, dogs, birds (especially birds -- she LOVES to sit by the window and stare out at the big city pigeons), horses, frogs, prairie dogs, etcetera etcetera, on the screen, with bonus points when they're in High Def. I grabbed the small digital camera, this was too cute not to document (even though it's much funnier in person, trust me).

And so, you'll see here a curious, intelligent Siamese going head-to-head with a "gen-yoo-eine Mastodon" on screen. Immediately after she attempted, futilely, to reach out and touch another furry creature up there, she dropped down and darted around both sides, and from above, to the back of the monitor, trying to find another access way to reach this fascinating new animal, since some kind of "window" seemed to be "in the way", from the front. (Indeed.) Simply  a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e  (well it really WAS...). I found it also hysterical, and had to contain my chuckles so that I wouldn't break her mood and lose the chance to catch her with a few decent snapshots. I've taken several similar shots since the first time it happened. This is still one of the best of them, from that first awakening. "Winged Migration" turned out to be a big hit with the tiny feline, too (I think that one she scored three stars), and most any decent PBS Nature program. Well, what good is it to share your home with other sentient species if you can't enjoy one another's small quirks and foibles? Hope you agree.

Charly 10Charly turns ten. Yup, the years go flying by, for us and our much loved pets, too. Above you'll find several earlier snapshots of this classic, beautiful Siamese, starting from around the time he first arrived here. Now it's what, a decade gone by -- whoosh? Charly turned 10 in April '08, and this time (I usually forget about such sentimental "trivia") I got the camera out to document this healthy, curious, affectionate seal-point Siamese (he's pushing right up against my elbow while I'm trying to type this). Ain't he cute? Both he and Pandy are unusual in maintaining their light youthful body colors, even as mature adults. During the initial year I called Charly a "tweed-point", because his seal "points" were significantly flecked with light beige and white hairs; turns out to have been a good thing. He never did develop the usual mostly dark brown body color, as both previous sealpoints I lived with did (Phunkalaro and Nago). Anyway, I remembered to give this constant companion a few treats for his birthday this year. While he was in the kitchen area anticipating something tasty, I first grabbed the camera, caught several good poses. He's sitting patiently (rare for a cat) and wondering why instead of giving him something to nibble on I'm messing with that damn camera again. But not to worry, click - click - click, I put the camera down, and he had his "reward" for posing so nicely. (Only fair...no?)

© 1997-2008 Serendip LLC. No images, text, graphics or design
may be reproduced without permission. All Rights Reserved.

Up(Top of the Page)
leafPhoto Miscellany

Circon Here's something you've never seen before. It's called The Circon, short for: "Circular Controller". I built it originally in 1978, when Rachel and I had been asked to score Kubrick's The Shining. It has no sound of its own, although with the proper synthesizer patch it makes a marvelous Theremin. Unlike that earlier instrument, you don't hold your hands in free space. The pitch wand is an easy to move pointer arm that shows which note you're playing, with the exact center marked by a grey dot, so microtonal passages become possible.

The left hand moves a much shorter arm which is spring loaded, to return up (off) when released. The further down, the louder and brighter the sound, in its usual configuration. Since you have physical references, you can repeat notes, and jump wide intervals, with complete accuracy. So it's a lot easier to play (and play well!) than the Theremin. At least for me it is. It's a featured instrument on Tales of Heaven and Hell, where you can hear it to good effect on several of the selections. It's the distinctive main solo on Heavenscent, (described nicely HERE). Here's the background on the Circon, if you're interested. Note: we've taken several additional photos of the instrument, some original suggestions from Bob Moog, also an inspirational 50+ year old magazine article, and added them all to our dedicated Circon Page. Even if you've looked at this in the past, you might want to take another look again.

Matsu cover SS By popular request here is the cover art on Sonic Seasonings. For those of you who don't already know, it's called:

Waves at Matsushima
a six-panel screen by Ogata Korin, early 18th century
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston collection

Now if I both admit that I love this cover, too, and commend you for your good taste, is this logically self-serving? Whatever. Rachel found this beautiful painting (the original screens are about 5' tall) to use as the album cover of our 1972 release, and it's gotten a lot of compliments since then. (To read even more about it, check out our new Matsu Page.) A small poster sized enlargement, about 2' x 3' of most of the screens was included with each double-LP set when it was originally released. I've been informed that these are now considered "collector's items," or some such trendiness. This is a newly optimized image of the screens you see here, from the cover of the newly remastered Sonic Seasonings+ ESD CD.

rainbowEarly in 2000 I was fortunate enough to be invited on something I'd always wondered about, but never could afford to find out: a Caribbean Cruise. The opportunity arose when a college friend whose student film was my first scoring assignment, retired from a successful career as a film studio head. He and his wife wanted to celebrate with family and friends, and decided to look into contracting a small ship for having a real celebration on, as it traveled from Trinidad towards Curacao and Aruba, up to Puerto Rico, and the NE arc of islands over to Martinique. They invited different groups to share the experience with them, family the first week and a half, then three more segments for industry friends, business contacts, and chums from childhood and their many travels around the world.
I was lucky to sneak into the final group of "miscellaneous" friends, and we shared the ship (max of about 75 passengers) for it's final 12 days, to Fort de France, Martinique. It will remain an indelible cherished memory in all of our minds, a really unique generous adventure with many shared experiences. It's worth a page of its own, but I have been timid about speaking out about something I had very little to do with, except to feel very grateful about. I suspect they might prefer it to remain a private matter, so however grateful, I'll mention no names here (but you know who you are...). Nonetheless I did want to share with you, already one year later, this lovely, highly saturated rainbow that I managed to photograph early on in the trip, during a late afternoon surprise shower. That's Saint John's below it.
We all had to "sing for our supper" inasmuch as each of us was expected to prepare a half-hour "Salon", given during the evening hours after dinner. Fair enough. It was to be something important for each of us, a small slice of our lives, interests, hobbies, jobs, whatever we wished. For mine I chose to show some total eclipse images, discuss the fun of chasing them, and then play some of my music, giving each excerpt some behind the scenes information. As blind luck dictates, the most improbable coincidence of all occurred the evening of my "lecture". The ship happened to be in the best possible location for a lunar total eclipse, one I had completely forgotten about (being such a solar eclipse "snob", no doubt... ;^). So just as my talk was to begin, so was totality. Amazing "serendipity."
Up on top deck we all climbed, and I gave an improvised mini-lecture on astronomy and what we were seeing through cloudless, dark Caribbean skies, while we cruised away from the port of Antiqua. Unforgettable, truly. We watched the moon nearly vanish, then headed back down to the main lounge, where I gave my presentation, ending with the Coda of Seraphim (then we headed off to bed). You know, for the rest of the trip, no one would believe me when I answered their questions on how I had managed to schedule a lunar eclipse to coincide with my description of total eclipses. Dumb luck??! Sometimes the truth is simply too plain and homely to be believable...
NancyNancy Chessare was a wonderful audio engineer who worked in several recording engineers in NYC, from the late 50's until shortly before her untimely death to cancer in 2000. She broke down the sexist barriers for the rest of us who have since followed, while proving over and over to be one of the very best. I met her when she was on the staff at Associated Recording Studios in the mid 60's, and was duly impressed by her skills with microphones, mixing, and tape editing, not to mention diplomacy with often neurotic artists and musicians. She always kept her cool, while making them look good, making the final recordings sound as effortless and polished as they were generally, in fact, not.
Nancy was a good friend for many years, someone you could speak with about an amazingly wide range of topics, from the dully technical, or subtlely musical, to travel and cooking and philosophy. Here you see her from many years ago, when three of us went to the island of St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands (we stayed in The Shibui, shown here, a Japanese-style series of tiny houses on a hill -- utterly charming!). Somehow she also made her life look "easy", too, when it was not. At the end of 2000, during an elegant memorial service (put together by her friend of many years, Rachel Elkind-Tourre, and Rachel's husband Yves) I learned more about Nancy than I had suspected. Her sister "spilled the beans." I wish I had known more earlier, when we could have shared some additional perceptions. But she was too modest and too private to tell us very much about her background and abilities, a refreshing contrast to so many of today's ego-driven mini-minds and mini-talents, know what I mean...?
Turns out Nancy had been a serious pianist, classically trained and very polished, but had abandoned that profession to one less in the limelight. That explained a lot to us, how she was sought after for her canny abilities in assembling complex musical segments into a cohesive whole, for athletes and ice skaters competing in Olympic Games and the like. This was why she was so knowledgeable about the most arcane subjects of serious music. She climbed to a prestigious position as a head of RCA/BMG's recording studios engineering for the last twenty years of her life, which required every social skill in managing prima donna engineers and recording artists together. I really will miss this elegant, grace-filled friend, and wish she could have enjoyed more than a few months of deserved "play time" after her retirement in 1999. Good-bye to a gentle, unforgettable friend!
liftoff!Lift Off! Since I don't live anywhere near Florida, I've missed the many opportunities of the fortunate residents of the area to witness the extraordinary events of our baby steps into space. And until we experience the angst of disaster which all great feats of exploration entail, it's too easy to delude ourselves into thinking these ambitious adventures are routine and matter of fact. Nothing of the kind. Apollo produced two nightmare, one claiming three lives, the other ended happily only after some swift intelligent minds figured out how to get the Apollo 13 crew back to Earth safely. We lost the Challenger in that risky launch in 1986, lessons were learned, and just today, almost exactly 17 years later, the Columbia shuttle claimed seven more lives.
Brave people, all, and we mourn their loss. Several books, like Wolfe's "The Right Stuff," describe the earlier courageous acts which opened the skies to human exploration, at the ultimate price for those who perished in the attempt. Many more were luckier and surived their steps right up to The Very Edge, and came back to regale us with their stories and experiences. So other younger minds were inspired, and the long journey continues, as it must.
I'm not quite a full-fledged "space nut," but can come close to it. There's quite a collection of books, CD-ROMs, videos, posters, models, and other memorabilia dotted around the loft, from Russia's and America's space programs, and also Europe, Japan, India, and others to follow. One of my fondest memories stems from 1975, a trip down to the Cape with Rachel (taking a needed short break from By Request...) during the middle of a torrid mid-July. The main reason for the trip was to see the launch of the final Apollo, the USA half of the Apollo-Soyuz Mission. This isn't the right place to describe the whole trip, but it is an idea webpage to show you two photos from that launch. The first one is as the smaller Saturn II-B lifts off of pad 39, where the shuttle would launch only a few years later (I'm sorry I never was able to get to a Saturn V launch). We were set up on the Shuttle's landing strip, not quite finished at the time, as it had been turned into a temporary viewing site for many of us who made our reservations early.
saturn2BWe brought some of the same equipment I've used at many total eclipse expeditions: the 1200mm Nikkor, Rollei SL-66 medium format camera, and Ken-Labs Gyro stabilizer (it was very windy, that helped a lot), all mounted on a Celestron portable pier. Good heavy-duty stuff to capture this spectacle. The skies were deep azure, cloudfree, and only the rising heat waves from the ground during the first several seconds impaired any of the images we took that afternoon. One of the best shots is this one, around 15 seconds into launch, a vividly clear image from the days when we used to launch into space quite slowly, majestically, before zippy solid rockets were developed for the Shuttle.
I'd found these two 11 x 14" prints from that summer only recently, and scanned and cleaned them, preparing to add them to this page. But in the course of other deadlines and the usual chaos around here, somehow they were set aside for the last several months. Well, today with emotions still very near the surface from our latest tragedy, I again found them. We must remember that these startling adventures are wrought with risk, a risk that these brave pioneers accept as part of their job. The other side of that coin comes to mind as we recall many happier times, like the A/S mission depicted here. It's difficult to bear both sides in mind simultaneously as we continue to explore our next frontier. It is certain there will be more of both kinds of experiences as we push ahead, as mankind always has done. We now should pause, even tearfully, as we pay respects to our lost heroes -- those who generously bear the risks in championing a noble, and probably inevitable, part of our humanity, curiosity, and sense of wonder.
Up(Top of the Page)

bosanquet53An Historic Microtonal Instrument From England. With the release of my Beauty in the Beast album, and then Switched-On Bach 2000 and Tales of Heaven and Hell, I became known for my composing in, and arranging music with tunings other than the standard 12-step equal tempered scale. The new enhanced-CD version of the first title, BitB, happens to include (in the enhanced files on that CD) a long article I wrote about the history and experiences of working with other tunings, shortly after creating the album. It was published in Computer Music Journal, and is titled: "Tuning -- At the Crossroads." The final illustration for the article is a perspective drawing of a "generalized keyboard", one that I started to build twice, but never had the practical resources to bring it to fruition. One of my great life disappointments, but then, you can't have everything you wish for. More recently, via MIDI and Digital Performer, I've cobbled some workarounds using standard tools. Even a dreamer must occasionally be practical!
As with most notable "brainstorms", the idea itself isn't my own, but came from work done about a century before I composed the score to BitB, in England, the USA, and several other countries. But the essential form, and even the name: "generalized keyboard", is due to the pioneering efforts of R.H.M. Bosanquet, who lived in the UK. His most important published work on the topic, sadly forgotten today, is: "An Elementary Treatise on Musical Intervals and Temperament." (Several years ago that definitive NYC microtonalist, Johnny Reinhard, presented me with a clean photocopy of the book -- first time I'd seen it -- yeay, thank you, Johnny!)
I first learned of this work in the (still available) excellent Dover Publications reprint of Hermann Helmholtz's: "On Sensations of Tone" -- with critical appendixes by Alexander Ellis. (If you look it up, you may also want to check out an excellent newer source of information on musical timbre: Arthur H. Benade's "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics.") It contains a drawing of the keyboard Bosanquet used in the custom physical instrument (a foot-pedaled harmonium) on which he demonstrated some of his scales and temperaments. Chief among these is a 53-step Equal Tempered scale that this harmonium was tuned to. Others discovered the same temperament, too, but no one ventured into a practical use of this rich microtonal garden as much as he did. Even today there isn't anything really to compare with that early effort. (And most new generalized keyboards, alas, design their keys more like the digits on a typewriter or computer keyboard, grouped tightly together (why -- to save space?) -- which makes them congested and hard to play with any speed... *sigh*.)
It took me years before I saw any photographs of the Bosanquet Harmonium (which I've just learned is now in the collection of London's wonderous Science Museum, in South Kensington), and could grasp the eminently sensible instrument he devised to play what is a fairly intimidating collection of pitches and intervals. Above is the best color photograph I've been able to find. This cleaned and tweaked jpeg is posted here for those still curious souls who might be interested in a rich, neglected field. A webpage like this about photographs is not the place to describe the tuning, the keyboard or theory behind them. But it is a fascinating image even without an analysis. Note that all the keys sit much like the black keys on a piano, synth, or organ, and at about the same size and spacing. The octave is also roughly the standard span. Yes, there are MANY keys in each octave, divided into black and white, the same scheme as on a piano.
But at least 24 of the keys in each octave are duplicates for convenient fingering (the same pitch/note is heard). And once you master any desired key, melody, or chord passage, you can transpose it into any of the other 52 keys in a flash -- the fingering remains exactly the same! That's the friendly tradeoff, there are a lot of keys to navigate (although fewer than you'd guess at any one time), but from then on all musical keys are a snap to modulate through. When I created and tried to build my own version, I made the notes not quite so long, and also used FIVE different colors (to facilitate picking out several important intervals): White - Black - Light Blue - Dark Brown - Tan. They also indicate: Natural, Sharp, Half-Sharp, Flat, and Half-Flat, respectively. (Note that like the HP-65 calculator described here, these are excellent colors even for those with color deficiencies.) I'll add a drawing of my proposed version to the site so you can see it as well. Meanwhile, this is the instrument which best combined a choice theory of tunings with something a real musician could play. Bravo, Mr. Bosanquet!

haidingerbrushLook V-e-r-y Closely... Now that flat panel LCD type computer displays have become popular, there's a nifty small scientific experiment just waiting to try out, once you know where to look for it. I'm referring to Haidinger's Brushes, a venerable, if generally overlooked, proof that our mammalian eyes have the ability to detect polarized light directly, with no further optical aid! It shouldn't come as that much of a surprise that we've retained a mild form of this sense-skill. Birds and many insects navigate with reference to the natural polarized light pattern in the daytime sky. We wonder how they can tell which way to head, where north is, and while there are other senses that come into play, an important one is the capacity to detect the degree and angle of the atmospherically scattered and polarized solar light. Since humans do not need or use the ability, it's never developed far, but remains latent in most of us. What's that, you don't believe me, never saw it with your own eyes? Ha!
So thought I, until I'd I read about it years ago, and began checking it out for myself. Oh, it's there, all right, this is no urban legend or specious hoax. But the phenomenon is also very faint, nothing obvious to jump out at the viewer, or most of us would be well aware of it already. The suggestions I've read most often recommend that beginners first look up in a clear blue sky, at a region roughly at right angles to the sun's location. Early morning or late evening work best, when you can look up, either to the north or south, with the sun shining to one side of you. Then you tip or rock your head quickly from side to side while looking towards the same spot. Some people like to spin their whole bodies a bit, while keeping their eyes at the same aiming point. Anyway, I'm not going to go through the whole exercise here, as there's a much better new way to study the phenomenon, if you have a computer with a flat-panel display available. Makes things much easier for those learning about these color brushes for the first time. The computer screen obviously should be powered on, preferably showing an even flat gray or white surface (a blank page is fine).
Let's say you have a plain light grayish page opened out on an LCD display in front of you. The image just above (again, click it for the larger version) will show you what to look for next. Many people report that they first began to learn how to see the pattern using a pair of polarized sun glasses, or even better, a polarizing filter for their camera (years ago I used a filter, too). In that case you look through it towards a blankly lighted neutral wall or surface, and quickly rotate the filter alternately: clockwise, counterclockwise, pausing a few seconds in between. But that won't work on the computer display (which emits polarized light, as you may know), as the screen will merely shift from normal brightness down to nearly black, depending on the filter's angle.
Instead, just use the same trick the sky gazers do, tip your head first to one side, pause briefly, then the other. With practice most people should see two hourglass shapes, one colored in a smudgy pastel yellow-ochre, the other in a lighter bluish-violet tint, the hourglasses sitting at right-angles to each other. The size and colors of the "apparition" are generally consistent, but the orientation changes, and may first appear rotated cw, then ccw, depending on which way you've moved. But in my "here's what to look for" image I've simply set the yellow axis to be vertical, the bluish companion horizontal. Some people say they see one color easier than the other, but most of us can learn to see both of them. It's a nice, ethereal, even "spooky" effect, seeing this color pattern just floating there briefly each time you regenerate it (the retina then fatigues, which is why it fades away each time).
Since the eye generates this shape directly, you can't simply photograph it (even so, I'm including it in the Photos section, since this is a real optical effect, not a piece of artwork). But using Photoshop I created pretty close to what I see on my monitor, in shape, color, and contrast. If you examine this image from something like 18" away (it should be about 4-5" square on your screen), the two subtle colored regions suggest what you ought look for. The overall hourglass lengths are about the size of the human fovea, which on the computer screen will be under an inch across.
Note: If you wear glasses to correct for astigmatism (or can borrow a pair), you don't have to tip your head. Just flick your eyes first from one side, then to the other (if that doesn't work for certain eyeglass prescriptions, try going up and down, or at an angle, instead). In between the motions, by tipping or flicking your gaze, Haidinger's Brushes will be visible for about 5-8 seconds before they fade. Once you remember what you're looking for, you'll detect them on your own with minimal head tip or eye shift. It may take awhile before you get the knack, or you may even be startled to see it immediately, if you're doing it all correctly. Just a few weeks ago one of you wrote to tell me you'd discovered you can see the brushes any time you stop to look for them on your computer screen, so I expect this idea to become more popular with time.
There are quite a few good websites which describe the phenomenon well, I won't go into them here. Just google: <haidinger, brush, polarized> and you'll see several (note that the illustrations on many pages are MUCH too exaggerated and cartoonish -- this is very low contrast stuff -- I've taken care to make my illustration above very natural, realistic, if slightly larger and a tad more saturated than life). Now that I know how to see the Haidinger's Brush shape, I often become aware of it faintly when not even trying to detect it. You may have even seen it before, and wondered what it was, a monitor or eye defect, or some weird illusion. Nope, something much more interesting than that is afoot. See if you can nail down the best way to see it, how screen and room brightness affects it, how rested or sleepy you are, and so on. Enjoy your experimenting!
nychenge05NYC-Henge 2005 Even though I've lived in Manhattan for most of my life, this topic simply never occurred to me before a science-minded friend pointed it out to me two years ago. Each year the street layout of this city provides a kind of modern midyear "stonehenge", with a regular rectilinear grid to mark sunrise and sunset (moon versions, too). When another celestial mechanician friend, Leroy Doggett, worked at the U.S. Naval Observatory, he was part of a movement to establish a new hybrid field of Archeo-Astronomy, which is now a growing field. I recall trying to assist him a few times to find the earliest or latest moon crescent in the twilight sky. People with lower, less obstructed horizons do better than I can in the city on this. But one naked eye observation is rather fun, if completely trivial, and even from a city like this. And that's what you can see in the photo to the left (click as usual for a large view).
For a few weeks every late June and early July I love to see the sunset navigate dramatically down all west facing streets with great theatrical effect. And there happens to be a pair of dates each year with an exact lineup, lasting 2-3 days each. Those occur in late May, and in mid July (this year they fall on May 28th and July 15th). If the western horizon happens to be quite clear on those evenings, you can watch the solar disk set exactly down the middle of the streets. In fact, it IS a bit like stonehenge! I like to call it "NYC-Henge", or more accurately: "Manhattan-Henge." The other boroughs of the city have other days when for their street angles a similar alignment takes place. Please pardon my hyperbole, as MOST cities with long, straight streets and tall buildings on each side have their similar "henge" alignments, for those who care. For Manhattan, most E-W streets angle at about 28 degrees NW of N, which matches the azimuth of the setting sun on the above dates (they vary a little each year, due to the leap year correction factor, as do the exact Solstice and Equinox dates).
I also ought point out that the photo here was taken right in front of the much-loved Flatiron Building, while looking due west along 23rd Street. This was the mid-July 11th "henge", and had I stepped out onto the exact median strip in the middle of Twenty-third, the disk would have lined-up a little better. Also, I was a couple of days early, but the rest of the evenings that week were cloudy, so this is my best shot.
nychenge07NYC-Henge 2007 It's not often I can add something so brand-new to the website as this follow-up image, taken this past evening. (The recent index page shot of me with Pandy lounging over my shoulders was another such case, posted one day after it was taken.) Anyway, this image is of the May 30th "henge" for 2007. I tried on the 28th, but the traffic was too heavy to get an unobstructed shot during the critical minute. Two days later and here's a very decent "henge" photo. That's 14th Street, and I've just crossed from the north sidewalk as the light changed, giving me 5-6 seconds to snap off a few shots, before scurrying to the opposite curb. You'll note we're right on the median strip this time, and fortunately, there are no trucks or other vehicles, nor even pedestrians to block the moment. The sky was even clearer than for the '05 attempt above (last year we were clouded out all the best evenings). I did feel lucky this time, and a few clicks later and it was over. Fortunately a pair of "bracketing" frames came out just fine. They're composited together here to create a wider dynamic "HDR" view, very much like what I saw myself.
studiohenge06Studio "Loft-Henge" 2006 Now for something not-quite "completely different." Each year since I moved into the loft I try to observe a few of the rare evenings when the sun manages (about twenty minutes before it sets) to sneak through the long path to deep inside my studio, even past the console in the middle of the room. All the angles have to be Just So. I guess it doesn't take too much to capture my attention, but for no good reason, I think it's kind of a magical moment (that it's so rare helps).
When I completed the Wurly II Kurzweil setup, I noticed that on several evenings in late May (and again in July) those sunbeams very briefly swept over the new instrument. You can see what it looks like to the left. I ought explain that the studio is towards to rear of a long and relatively narrow space (which faces east-west). The windows up in front look west, but it's quite an obstacle course for the narrow beam of direct sunlight to slip between many tall buildings outside, then in through the front windows, past walls and hallways, finally slipping through the studio doorway to reach all the way inside. It's a path of about 80 feet from front windows to the Wurly! With such a long baseline, the bright beam of light traces its path surprisingly quickly. If you stand still quietly you notice it slide along, which I've never seen on, say, a sundial, or even the shadow of a traffic light on the pavement. I caught five shots during May of last year (2006) of some of the best moments. Two were blurred from the rather slow shutter (needed to capture the glow of bounce light in an otherwise darkened room). This was the best of the other three, quite well centered, too. (Okay, now you're permitted to say it: "Big Deal!" ;^)
memorysketchPUZZLE PHOTO -- Whazzat? This one IS honestly "completely different." It's something I've been thinking of adding to the website for a few years now. But up until early this year, all I had was my memories and a pencil sketch I had drawn in '02, to show my parents, and now you. I remembered seeing these back in Pawtucket (RI), in the '50s, on the roofs of several (textile?) factories not far from where we lived. The drawing to the left is what I recall, of a particularly odd twin version, two units connected "in cascade", it now seems, all long gone. The next image is one of a few quick snapshots I took from the highway while passing through Bridgeport CT, on my way back from visiting with my elderly mom in RI. I had no idea any of these still existed, as the last time I can recall seeing one is in the late 60s, in the Pawtucket area. Wow! So my memory had not fooled me, looks pretty similar to the drawing.
dustfilterTo a child growing up with an active imagination, those "smokestacks(?)" resembled nothing more than some weird breed of robotic people, quite tall (they stood about 20-plus feet), metallic, hooded people. Spo-o-oky... And the pair joined together seemed to be having some silent conversation. In any case, I never completely forgot them. And when I showed my drawing to my mom and dad, they smiled as recognition dawned on their faces, too. We'd never asked anyone back then what these actually were used for. And until discovering a couple of them in Bridgeport, I assumed it was WAY too late to ask anyone who'd remember now. But that's exactly what I'm doing here. Consider this another informal puzzle challenge on our site. Any ideas?
So what do we know? These large devices were located on factory roofs. Probably some kind of textile factories. The construction looks like they are hollow and have inner and outer jackets, a manifold. At first I thought: "heat exchangers." No, that's too energy aware for fifty years ago, isn't it? Okay, then how about some kind of air discharge filters, to keep tremendous amounts of fabric dust and lint from covering the neighborhood? That might work, a minimal environmental awareness for the time. At least that's my best guess. What's yours? And if you live in the area, CT or RI, you may have seen these before. BTW, this photo was taken from Interstate highway #95 at the end of January '07, just a bit west of the center of Bridgeport, looking north of the highway. Enuff!
Further info: If you know the Bridgeport area, HERE's a satellite view with my best estimate for the unusual "dust-filter chimney." That places the building along Cherry Street, in between Hancock and Howard Avenues (much nearer the latter, which passes beneath the very obvious Route 95). The coordinates of that location are: 41° 10' 01" N, 73° 12' 31" W. Right now I wouldn't be surprised if a few other extant examples exist, a bit of history from a time when the USA still made things...
Consensus: CASE CLOSED! Since posting the above visual conundrum I've received suggestions from two engineers the first week, and two more right after that. The first message came from Evan Bentz, Ph.D., an engineering professor at the University of Toronto, and the second came from John Nocerino, on the technical staff at "The Aerospace Corporation" in El Segundo, CA. John also sent me further info which backed up the idea. The two newest messages came from Jim Cook and Tom Johnson. Both sent me links which clearly show the same kind of devices, still in use after all these years, in many places besides New England. Check this link from Jim which shows a cluster of them for sawdust filtration on a factory roof in Sacramento CA, just like the versions I remembered, as the lead photo on this pdf document: <http://industrial-landscape.com/chapts/chap00.pdf>.
Pretty good qualifications from all of you (and interesting, helpful letters, too), I'm impressed. Thank you all very sincerely for taking the time to send your comments and supportive links. So this IS a kind of dust collector. Actually, it's an industrial cyclonic dust filter. (Google such words for many other examples). I had stumbled upon similar but smaller devices by accident when I first searched the web about this topic a few years ago, but felt too insecure about concluding this was it. Finally now with the help provided by these good people, I think it's safe to announce that this puzzle has been solved! Yeay, I'm pleased to put the speculations of decades aside at last!

© 1996-2008 Serendip LLC. No images, text, graphics or design
may be reproduced without permission. All Rights Reserved.

LeafGo back to First Photos

Up(Top of the Page)
Back Back to the Wendy Carlos Home Page

Wendy Carlos Photos II