Archive for the ‘Alan Dean Foster’s Perceivings’ Category

  • Everybody was here: A portrait of the artist(‘s self portraits)

    Oct 6, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Why selfies? I mean, I already know what I look like. That’s what mirrors, hairstylists, bad home videos, and good grandparents are for. Why go to the trouble of taking a picture of myself in front of Big Ben, or a rainforest river, or six drunken fake Spidermen in Times Square? Why not just take pictures of each place? Doesn’t inserting oneself in front of the presumably interesting locale spoil the picture? I reckon it’s because humans have always had this incorrigible desire to validate their existence; first through art, then graffiti, and today via the ubiquitous selfie. Regardless of the form it takes, the selfie declares, “I was here! I existed. I meant something — even if only for the brief time it required to paint this image, etch these words, or take this snapshot.” Selfies are an expression of the id and a desire to find permanence in an impermanent universe. Much to humanity’s surprise, like so many things over time these intensely personal expressions quite inadvertently become history and art. That’s not to say the shaky quickie pix of you and your date smooching on Whiskey Row at one on a Saturday morning will some day appear in a celebrated visual history of the 21st century — but it might. A lot depends on the lighting, what you’re wearing, your makeup, what’s visible

  • Inka-dinka-do you … and me: Considering question(able) marks & extreme stretching

    Sep 1, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author and a friend. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster “Inka-dinka-dee, Inka-dinka-doo … .” That was the great Jimmy Durante’s signature song. Later recorded by, among others, John Lithgow and Ann Margaret. For those of you who remember or enjoy the music of the ’50s, comic songs did not begin with Ray Stevens (kind of hard to imagine something like “Ahab the Arab” making it into the Top 40 these days) or Sheb Wooley or Allan Sherman. I’ll grant you Gilbert and Sullivan. Ah, Allan Sherman, the lyrics of whose parody song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” was set to Ponticelli’s “Dance of the Hours”… a ballet to which I alluded in my column on classical music a couple of months ago because it also provided a source of amusement to Walt Disney and his animators, who parodied it in their own way in “Fantasia.” Which naturally leads us into a discussion of the art of scarification, body modification, and tattoos. I have to laugh at the people who think the current frenzy for tattoos is a passing fad or something new. Human beings have been treating their bodies like collagenic versions of silly putty since time immemorial. What possessed the first person, possibly a Neanderthal (Neanderthal jewelry has been recorded back as far as 130,000 years) to pierce their ears, or their nasal septum, or some other unknown body

  • Stravinsky, dinosaurs optional Part II: The unusual suspects

    Jul 25, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. Wonderful composers. Whose music, as I mentioned last month, retains its luster but after dozens of performances of the same works, tends to … not bore, necessarily. But to lose the excitement of the new. There are only so many ways to play Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue,” Beethoven’s ninth symphony (interminable TV commercial excerpts notwithstanding), or Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. Yet that’s what most orchestras do, then wonder why attendance falls off and interest in classical music wanes. I don’t care how much you love “Star Wars.” You don’t want to just see “Star Wars” every time you go to the movie theater. Ah, you say, but I’d go to see something like “Star Wars.” So, isn’t there something like Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky? There’s plenty, and much more besides, but modern orchestras just won’t program it. Love Tchaikovsky? When was the last time you saw Sergei Bortkiewicz’s first or second symphony on an orchestral program? Like, never? There is so much wonderful music by so many fabulously talented composers that never, and I mean never, gets played. Here’s a sample program of American classical music that I’d drive a long ways to hear but that you’ll never see on a domestic symphony orchestra program. Because, no Copland. “Rocky Point Holiday” (yes, that Rocky Point) by Ron Nelson. “The Fiddle Concerto,” by Mark

  • Stravinsky, dinosaurs optional Part I: On discovering a fantastical hearing aid for classical music

    Jun 30, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster Here’s how you get kids interested in classical music: you throw out all the traditional “music appreciation” courses, haul your class to a theater, and have them watch the original Disney “Fantasia.” Then you go back to the classroom and spend a semester discussing it. That’s what did it for me, and I did my own homework because the class in question didn’t exist. I remember being taken to see a re-release of the film when I was about 7. We had a little classical music in our house. Beethoven’s Fifth, some Tchaikovsky, on 33 rpm records. My mother played a mean “Rhapsody in Blue” on her baby Steinway. But “Fantasia” simply overwhelmed me. I remember my initial reactions to it to this day. Confusion at the abstract visuals of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue”, mild amusement at Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours”, quiet awe at the sheer beauty of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” wonderment at Beethoven’s sixth symphony, amazement that Mickey Mouse could do more than giggle in Dukas’ “The Sorceror’s Apprentice,” and yawning at the concluding Schubert “Ave Maria.” But … there were dinosaurs. Ah, dinosaurs! As part of the whole evolution them of the Stravinsky “Rite of Spring.” Stravinsky hated Disney’s take on his ballet, but the appearance of the score in Fantasia has probably sold more copies of recordings of “Rite” than all the

  • Perceivings: Disney vs. the death channels

    Jun 2, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author and a friend. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster If there was any doubt how much I love Nature, the debut of a new photo accompanying this column ought to dispel that. I’m hanging out with a Mayotte Brown Lemur on the island of M’bouzi in the French Comoros islands (I’m the one with the sappy smile). M’bouzi has been turned into a sanctuary for the lemurs. They need one, since they have an unfortunate habit on the other islands of eating the farmers’ bananas, mangoes, etc. right off the trees. The chap in the picture developed a serious fondness for the gold earring in my left ear. Lemurs are strong, but they’re not chimps or gorillas, so I still have the ring. And the ear. In 1951 my family moved from New York to Los Angeles. As I recall the television options at the time there were three major networks, Fox not having erupted yet from its alien egg, plus a handful of independent channels: 5, 9, 11, and 13. None of them were specialty channels. Such innovations lay far in the electronic future. There was nothing like the Discovery Channel or the National Geographic channel, much less further specialized iterations of such channels such as those for kids, those devoted to the sea, and so on. And of course satellite television was still a gleam in

  • Glass-eyed: A consideration of art, science, & optics

    Apr 28, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's Perceivings1 CommentRead More »

    By Alan Dean Foster “I am large, I contain multitudes.” It’s safe to say that Walt Whitman wasn’t thinking of fun house mirrors when he composed that line, but it fits what has always been a historically popular combination of physics and art. The reproduction of self or other objects, ad infinitum, has long been both possible and fascinating. Best of all, it requires a minimum of investment and effort. When I was a kid, there used to be an over-the-water entertainment venue in Santa Monica, California, called Pacific Ocean Park. It had one decent, expensive ride, the Banana Train, to which was appended a host of Coney Island-type games and rides with ocean themes. It was over the water, so I didn’t care if some of it was a little tacky. But besides the classy Banana Train, I distinctly remember the park’s version of fun house mirrors. Along with the usual warped mirrors that made you look fat, or tall, there was an “infinity” room, where you could stand in the center surrounded by mirrors and see yourself reproduced over and over again, until your multitudinous tiny selves vanished like ants, swallowed up by distance and time. It was only simple optics, but it fascinated me. It fascinated Orson Welles, too, who utilized the same fun house mirrors in “The Lady from Shanghai” and, later and more memorably, in

  • ‘Everything’s Hometown’: Winging it with nature in Prescott

    Mar 31, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author in a Tuareg headdress. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster We’ve lived in Prescott for 36 years and I still take the local nature for granted. It’s amazing how downright blasé you can become over time about such things. It’s usually when we have visitors from out of town, often from metropolitan areas where the only real wildlife tends to hang around liquor stores, that I realize how fortunate we are, and how each of us really needs to take time from work and commuting and the damn TV and the addictive internet to get out and have a look around town for something besides the weekly arts and crafts festival. We’re doubly fortunate because our house backs onto one of the several major creeks that run through town. That gives us access not only to more wildlife but to a greater variety of visitors, as critters that tend to hang out elsewhere come down for the occasional drink. There’s the rare bobcat, and deer, and skunks. We had a bear once, a long time ago, and of course coyotes and javelinas are a steady presence. But to get a real feel for Prescott city wildlife you have to pay attention to the birds. I’m not going to turn this into a birdwatcher column. For one thing, there are better local resources available and for another, I’d probably

  • Planetary appropriation: On drawing a line in the sand

    Feb 27, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author in a Tuareg headdress. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster I was born here. This is my culture: all of it. I cannot “appropriate” what I was born to. By born here, I mean on this world. Planet Earth. I am, at base, not a tribalist. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very glad to have been born into the largest, most powerful, and sometimes (though not always) the “best” tribe: the USA. But my home is the planet. Its cultures are my culture. In the past couple of decades there has been a lot of talk, not to mention yelling and screaming, over something called cultural appropriation. To give one example, as residents of the state of Arizona we are probably more familiar than most with the term, given the interminable arguments over what constitutes cultural appropriation of Native American art. There’s a fine line (and there has to be a line) between utilizing cultural memes out of admiration and as the basis for one’s own artistic endeavors. The best way to do this is via authentication. But even with authentication the lines can blur. Take sand paintings. If the Navajo Nation was able to collect a royalty not only on every cheap rendition of a sand painting that’s sold in the Southwest but also on every skirt, t-shirt, dinner plate, light switch cover, piece of upholstery and

  • The distancing has begun: Considering a virtually reality-free exist-stance

    Jan 30, 17 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author in a Tuareg headdress. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster I have nothing against virtual reality. But I worry where it may lead. It’s just getting started and there’s nothing to stop it. The idea that we can put on a pair of goggles and be anywhere, do anything, is too seductive to be disavowed, too tempting to be ignored. Want to be Superman for an hour? Slip on your VR goggles. Always wished to visit Bora Bora? It’s VR time (and you can even eliminate the annoying jet skis in the lagoon). Have a fear of heights but always dreamed of scaling Everest? Move your arms and legs and VR will do the rest. Harmless entertainment, you say? I suppose it is. What concerns me are the inevitable ramifications as both the technology and its acceptance continue to mature. I’m writing this just before Christmas. I love Christmas. The sparkling, chromatic municipal decorations as well as the lesser ones that are purely domestic. The excitement on the faces of children as their parents convoy them through the mall. Even the crowds in the stores, though there’s always a grumpy gus standing in the checkout line complaining to all who’ll listen about how long checkout is taking. I love the crispness and crackle in Prescott’s air and the turquoise-framed view of snow on the San Francisco Peaks and

  • A simple query: When is it better not to leave well enough alone?

    Dec 30, 16 • ndemarino • 5enses, Alan Dean Foster's PerceivingsNo CommentsRead More »

    The author in a Tuareg headdress. Courtesy photo. By Alan Dean Foster In this case, the answer is chocolate. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad answer for any question. What do you feel like doing today? Chocolate. Is there anything I can do for you? Chocolate. What do you think of Trump’s latest cabinet appointment? Chocolate. Just saying the word puts a smile on the face of most folks. Unless, alas, they happen to be allergic to the stuff. But for the rest of us, simply the mention of CHOCOLATE! conjures up a feeling of joyful expectation. Hearing the word brings forth remembrances of the taste, the silkiness, the sweet charge of energy and contentment as it melts in your mouth that … Excuse me a moment. Time for a quick trip to the pantry. There (*sigh*). That’s better. You won’t mind if I nibble a little while I pontificate, will you? When I was growing up, chocolate was, like so much else in life (especially pre-puberty), simple. There was Hershey’s, and for the youthful connoisseur, Nestlé’s, both simple milk chocolate loaded with sugar. That was it. If you wished to dally in exotics, you got Hershey’s with almonds, or Nestlé’s Crunch. I gravitated toward Crunch because it was made with crisped rice and I could, on occasion, fool myself into thinking that I was actually eating

Celebrating art and science in Greater Prescott.

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