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The mystery echinocereus. It’s supposed to be E. dasyacanthus, but the flower doesn’t match the seed list description. (This is another instance where the camera doesn’t get the color quite right, though it’s closer than yesterday’s photo. The flowers are a slightly more purplish than they appear here. This goes for the ones in the header art, too.)

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There’s a wisteria vine I pass when I go to work. In spring every year it becomes a solid wall of lavender. This year, however, the late freeze killed all the buds. The vine has come back, and it has even managed to produce a few racemes, though it’s a pitiful display compared to the usual spectacle. (The camera has difficulty accurately capturing some shades; the flowers are less blue and more violet than in the picture.)

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I don’t think I’ve ever posted a picture of my dulcimer. This was the eighth one I built, back in 1993. It has a cedar soundboard, sixteen treble and sixteen bass courses, and is most playable in keys with a sharp or two.

Chain reactions

Pythagoras Switch is a science show for small children. Each episode follows the same format. Puppets introduce a video on a such topics as how the shapes of objects are clues to their manufacture or use, or static electricity, or how technology imitates nature. After that, a youngster controls his father or grandfather with a cardboard “father switch.” There is also some very simple animation, and either the “algorithm march” or the “algorithm exercise,” sequences of simple movements performed in canon. Children old enough to read the subtitles are likely to be bored by the very elementary level of most of the show.

What makes Pythagoras Switch worth watching are the Rube Goldberg mechanisms that open and close the show and separate the segments. Here’s a collection of these “Pythagorean devices.”

Here’s the algorithm march, performed by ninjas:

Five episodes that I know of have been subtitled. There’s quite a bit available on YouTube.

Children’s theatre of the absurd

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There’s a mysterious door in the floor of five-year-old Ami’s room in her family’s new home. It leads to Animal Yokocho, or AniYoko, a parallel universe inhabited by talking animals. Three of the animals pop out of the door every day to play with Ami: Kenta, the high-strung bear; Issa, the gentle panda; and, Iyo, the playful, deranged rabbit. They do things differently in AniYoko:

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Continue reading “Children’s theatre of the absurd”

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While there is no such thing as normal Kansas weather, the past several months have been more bizarre than usual. Fall gave way to spring in early January. Then winter came, followed by spring again in March. Then winter returned in April, abruptly ending the flowering fruit tree season. I noticed today that a flowering crab along my route to work managed to produce a few last flowers.

Only apparently real

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The first Philip K. Dick book I ever bought. I now have more titles by Dick on my shelves than by any other writer.

It’s Philip K. Dick week. Four of his novels are being reissued by the Library of America: The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s about time. The Man in the High Castle is an obvious choice: it’s possibly his best, and it’s one of his more approachable titles for non-SF readers. ((Eve Tushnet comments on the The Man in the High Castle here (scroll down to February 4, 2006).)) The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is also outstanding. Ubik, however, is a mess. It should have been Dick’s masterpiece, but the first seventy or so pages are so painfully bad that I can’t recommend it. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is included, I suspect, because a popular movie that I hated was based loosely — very loosely — on it. Instead of the latter two novels, I would have suggested Martian Timeslip and a selection of his short stories.

The new edition provided the occasion for Charles McGrath to write an account of Dick, emphasizing Dick’s mental instability, amphetamine use and “pulpish sensibility.”

In the current issue of Commonweal, John Garvey writes a much more detailed and sympathetic appreciation of Dick’s work, focusing on the gnosticism of this most peculiar Episcopalian convert. (It’s not available online unless you have a subscription.) He comes much closer than McGrath as to why Dick is worth reading:

In these and his other stories, Dick creates characters struggle who not only for salvation, for ultimate truths, but sometimes merely to be decent human beings — and the two struggles are really one. What reality is and what it means to be authentically human are intrinsically linked. Dick’s answers, such as the are, range randomly from new-age nonsense, through his own episodes of delusion and paranoia, to a Gnostic Christianity that contains more of the pain and compassion of real Christianity than most Gnostic visions. Many Gnostic writings advance an elitism that delights in being among the chosen in who the divine light resides. Dick saw glimmers of the shattered divine light in many confused and struggling people, and he found something of cosmic significance there, both in the light and in the struggle.

A lot of movies have been made from Dick’s stories. I’ve only seen Blade Runner, which I loathed — I had read the book, which the movie betrayed. I may watch A Scanner Darkly someday, but I expect that it will also disappoint me. I gather that the dramatic works that best evoke Dick’s spirit are not directly based on his work, e.g., The Matrix (which I haven’t seen) and Serial Experiments Lain. Satoshi Kon’s new movie, Paprika, has been described as the collision of Hello Kitty and Philip K. Dick.

J-rock, soundtracks and early music

For Erik‘s amusement, here is the most recent iTunes shuffle. Sorry, no piano music, though there is an accordion on the first one.

In Peace, 梶浦由記 — Noir OST II

Minna Dareka ni Aisarete — SeraMyu

Binchou Ondo, Kadowaki Mai — Binchou-tan OST

Si Habeis Dicho, Marido, Circa 1500 — Music from the Spanish Kingdoms

さようなら, Kagrra

Peach Pie on the Beach, Polysics

Desde hoy mas, me madre (Sephardic), The Boston Camerata/Joël Cohen — The Sacred Bridge – Jews & Christians in Medieval Europe

Bel m’es, quan vei chanjar lo senhoratge, Camerata Mediterranea/Joël Cohen — Lo Gai Saber – Troubadors et Jongleurs (1100-1300)

Sebrina, Paste And Plato, Jellyfish — Spilt Milk

Ondas do mar / Altas undas que venez suz la mar, Camerata Mediterranea/Joël Cohen — Lo Gai Saber – Troubadors et Jongleurs (1100-1300)

Against tidiness

Callirhoe involucrata is a member of the mallow family with brilliant magenta flowers. It blooms throughout the summer, but its prime flowering time is right now through the next week or two. There are some large patches of callirhoe along the bike path in south Wichita, along with some stands of blue tradescantia. I had planned to take a few photos of them after work today and post one of them as today’s picture. However, the City of Wichita, demonstrating its conviction that neatness matters more than beauty, mowed the area, scalping the sprawling plants. Maybe this weekend I’ll find an intact patch elsewhere.