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May 31, 2004

PICTURES-BEHIND-THE-EYES MYSTERY NEARLY EXPLAINED: ENTOPTIC PHENOMENA

Fundus OculiAll the comments I got on this subject were interesting but the closest to a solution was from Fred of fragments from floyd who mentioned the fundus. I searched Google and discovered optometrist Terry Mendoza's very informative site about sight and sent him an e-mail with my query. I got a prompt and helpful reply, part of which I quote below, for the benefit of anyone else who has a tiny cinema behind their eyelids.

But first, examine this picture of the Fundus Oculi (image courtesy M.N. Watts, The City University) and then look again at my drawing of the whirly thingy. Not a bad match between the blood vessels and my diagram, eh? Here's Terry Mendoza speaking:

"The phenomenon you describe is one of a family of such 'visions' termed entoptic phenomena. The first thing I should caution is that pressing on the eyeball is not a good thing to do as if there is a fragile area of retina this could be sufficient to start a retinal tear (detachment). Stimulation of the retina gives rise to electrical signals being sent to the brain which are interpreted as light, or arrangements of light. Usually the retina is stimulated by light falling on its photoreceptors, but in the phenomenon you describe, the pressure on the eyeball is distorting the underlying retina. This stretching of the retina is what gives rise to simple patterns of light."

Terry also gave me two great links: Visual Basic and Entoptic Images which describe the phenomenon and relate it, as some of the commenters here did, to hallucinogenic and other types of visions and archetypal patterns. This is all fascinating and I will look into it further but part of my mystery is still not solved: the examples illustrated and described do not ressemble those images I've seen which are not patterns, but realistic faces, figures, etc. A recent one - I know nobody will believe this but I swear I didn't invent it- was a small yellow rectangle with ragged edges, in the middle of which was handwritten the word "you". How could this be produced by a stretching of the retina? I accept the entoptic explanation but there's got to be more to it.

One thing occurs to me: "Stimulation of the retina gives rise to electrical signals being sent to the brain" - could it also work the other way round? Signals from the brain being sent to the retina? I will stop here and go to sleep and see if dreams provide any new information. Many thanks to Terry Mendoza and to all of you for your input.

COMMENTS

May 28, 2004

THINGS YOU'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW BUT DIDN'T ASK ME

I am number 42 (yesterday) 44 (today) on a list compiled by Troubled Diva of the most linked UK weblogs and I know it's completely meaningless but nevertheless gives me a small glow of satisfaction that a one-year old cartoon is on such a list at all. The fact that Belle de Jour is currently No.1 has woken my dormant competitive instinct and I'd be really chuffed to knock her/him off that pedestal. Everybody but me has had something to say about BdJ and it's time I added my rant to this irrelevant bloggossip.

Whoever the real BdJ is, that blog's DNA can be found in Cosmopolitan and other How To Treat Men As Sex Objects As Well As Being Feminine and Cute And Able To Discuss the Arts glossy magazines; and in Sex and the City that daring investigation into women who lunch and deeply debate...hey, this is really ground-breaking...dicks and cunts and vibrators while at the same time wearing designer wardrobes and giving/receiving blowjobs and hunting for the Perfect Designer Soulmate...hey, wow, are we empowered or what? That's where Belle de Jour is coming from, to coin another cliché, and the literary pretension is yet another layer of gloss on the nail polish. Her Call Girl Life is Pretty Woman Hollywood-style designer label antiseptic prostitution and yes, the style sells like hotcakes. So what? Any woman who's had.....(fill in the number of sex partners)... could tell you more observant, funnier, sadder, sleazier, sexier, less self-centered tales. (No, I'm not going to do it). As for prostitution as lifestyle, maybe all the girls from Eastern Europe who are being er, recruited, into that career could be persuaded to blog about it? From the trenches, as it were.

COMMENTS

May 26, 2004

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP, YES THEY ARE
(detail of photo from Michael Moore's website)

Michael wins the PalmeI was going to lay off politics for a while but this isn't politics, it's sheer exhilaration that Michael Moore won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Fahrenheit 9/11. When it gets American distribution, and it surely will, watch the sparks fly. Here's a quote from the Washington Post:

What's remarkable here isn't Moore's political animosity or ticklish wit. It's the well-argued, heartfelt power of his persuasion. Even though there are many things here that we have already learned, Moore puts it all together. It's a look back that feels like a new gaze forward. The movie points to social and financial connections between the Bush family and wealthy Saudis, including the royal family, Prince Bandar (the Saudi ambassador to Washington) and the bin Laden family. It shows startling footage taken by camera crews who were embedded with the American forces in Iraq. And it spends time with such people as Lila Lipscomb, a Michigan mother who changes from patriotic support for the Bush administration to heartbroken despair after she loses a son to the war. There are so many powerful moments to point to, all for different reasons: the visceral terror of a household in Baghdad, as young American soldiers break in to arrest someone; the candid testimony of American soldiers who express their disgust at the situation there; interviews in Michigan with impoverished African Americans, a social group that has been a breadbasket for U.S. Army recruitment. To watch this movie yourself is to realize with dawning appreciation that the director of "Bowling for Columbine" has finally learned to put his movie where his mouth is.

COMMENTS

May 25, 2004

PICTURES-BEHIND-THE-EYES MYSTERY: CAN YOU SOLVE IT?

I'm already breaking my blogging abstinence rule but listen: this is either total trivia or a revolutionary Nobel-prize-in-the-hand revelation. Remember, you read it here first.

Put your hands over your eyes so that your fingers cover your closed lids and press down on your eyeballs gently. No light should be getting in. Now, what do you see, if anything?
Write it down. Ask everyone you know to do the same. Tell me in comments, post it on your blogs, start a meme. We need lots and lots of answers to establish if:
a) I'm some sort of freak, or
b) this is a normal phenomenon and, if so,
c) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I've tried it many, many times and it doesn't always happen but when it does, this is what I see:
A sort of cartwheel made of light spins round and round in wide wobbly circles, generally anti-clockwise. The diagram I've drawn is only a rough approximation - the actual thing is more blurry. Then, usually on the bottom right of my field of vision, tiny pictures start appearing and dissolving. They are often negatives, light on dark, and always sharp but strange, surreal,mostly faces or figures. Sometimes they're still pictures, sometimes moving. It's like being inside a tiny cinema. I look at these images
with tightly closed eyes and I don't understand what I'm seeing. They're not related to my surroundings, they don't ressemble anyone I know or anything I've ever seen. I'm not imagining or inventing but actually looking at them. The pictures are so fascinating that it's hard to go back to normal open-eyed vision.

I am completely sober and not on any drugs, medical or recreational. I am a rational, down to earth person, as you may have noticed, and I do not believe in little green aliens or large green monsters (apart from the human variety). I do not have visions and have never done astral travelling. The only eccentric beliefs I have are
belief in God, love, and peace on earth. So you can trust me when I tell you that what I've described above is fact, not fiction, and I have to know if other people see something similar behind their eyelids. What are these pictures? Are they stored inside my brain? Are they memories? Is my brain creating them as I watch? How come I can see them though my eyes are closed?

Is there an ophthalmologist in the house? Neurologist? Brain surgeon? Optician? Shaman?

COMMENTS

May 24, 2004

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM AND TO FRIENDS

A very pleasant Saturday afternoon visit from Steven Green of worldwidewebly famous Plep, that lovingly selected and daily updated collection of mind-expanding and eye-opening links. I shamelessly picked his well-stocked brain and he was generous enough to let me do so, to the extent of sitting down at the Mac with me and applying his professional techpertise to finding the specific sequence of arcane words and symbols that finally allowed Yaron's website and Flying Sugar Press to fly away from my cozy nest into his own domain. I urge all of you art appreciators and creators to link to it so that it gets the wide recognition it deserves and won't be lost in vast, teeming and lonely cyberspace.

And don't miss Dem's original new strips and wonderful graphic novel-in-progress which I am extremely jealous of, in view of the fact that mine is not so much in progress as out to lunch. Well I can't do everything. God is leaving messages on my answering machine all the time asking me to call back. Why can't he understand I'm too busy struggling with blog dependency issues?

Go sample the intriguing curry now being served at Joe's cinema: I predict that this budding auteur/director will one day put Quentin Tarantula in the shade where he belongs. And Dick's inspired reminiscing - the latest about his schooldays - puts many household name writers in the shade. What talent lurks here on my blogroll and beyond! If I don't give each one the fulsome and frequent praise they deserve it's not indifference but envy. No it's not, I really love them all. It's just that I'm so busy with, er....

COMMENTS

May 22, 2004

ADDICTED TO BLOGGING?

Blog addictMy name is Augustine and I am an addict, a blogging addict. I dream at night of things I have blogged, should blog or did not blog. I ruminate on comments that have been made or have not been made on my blog or that I might make or will make in other blogs. I check my stats more than once a day. More than twice a day. Allright, I check my stats a lot. I also check my Technorati rati quite a lot. I read the newspapers and feel guilty that I am not blogging about the news because nobody will know what's going on in the world if I don't blog about it. It's my duty to blog about all the injustice and lies and horror because if people don't read it in my blog then they won't know it's happening. It's also my duty to blog about the meaning of life and everything because if it's not in my blog then where are people going to find out? It's also my duty to translate my every passing thought and observation and experience into bloggish because if I don't then, well, then I'm not a good and frequent blogger and nobody will visit me. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from my screen for more than a day even when I'm not blogging - I tap my fingers aimlessly on tables or armchairs and look pale and withdrawn. Enough already. I have decided to go into rehab. But since there are not, as yet, rehab clinics for blogaddicts, I have drawn up my own rehabilitation regime. Feel free to adapt it to your own needs.

1. Blog only once a week, choose a day (haven't decided which day yet).
2. Check stats only once a week (you cannot be serious??)
3. Visit fave blogs/new blogs only once a week (not the same day I do my blog)
4. Blog only about what I'm good at - eg interviewing God etc.
5. Spend more quality time with real life.

Before I start my cure, I have a message for George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon and all those who, under whatever flag or pretext or ideology or lie or fanaticism or blindness, are driving the world to ruin:

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO !!!!!!!!!!

Below from Aron Trauring's Israel Peace Weblog:

"KILLINGS IN GAZA, 200+ HOME DEMOLITIONS BY ISRAELI ARMY AS PALESTINIANS AND ISRAELIS RISE UP IN PROTEST, BUSH SUPPORTS WAR CRIMES IN GAZA. This week, Israelis and Palestinians have taken to the streets en masse to protest the Israeli army's destruction and killing in Gaza -- so on whose behalf does Bush support Israel's war crimes? "

And from The Guardian, May 22:

"A US sergeant who left the battlefield in Iraq because of moral objections to the war was found guilty of desertion at a court martial yesterday. He could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to a year. Camilo Mejia had argued that he left his unit as a matter of conscience after six months during which he witnessed shootings of Iraqi civilians, including children. But an eight-member jury drawn from officers and enlisted soldiers, including six who had served in Iraq, found him guilty of desertion."

And this is worth reading concerning Nick Berg's death.

COMMENTS

May 16, 2004

BREL ON STUPIDITY AND ME ON GROWING A LYCHEE

The anger that so many of us all over the world are feeling and, as bloggers, expressing online is different from the normal ranting that humans are prone to. There seems to be a new and growing collective consciousness that stupidity is no longer acceptable as the guiding principle in world affairs and in our lives.

This morning, unbidden, a few words from a long-forgotten song by the genius singer/songwriter Jacques Brel popped into my head. I googled and found the complete lyrics to "L'Air de la Bêtise" ("Stupidity's Song") and I've rough-translated part of it below because it is so relevant. The official site for Jacques Brel is here , there are pictures here and if any of you have never heard Brel sing, I suggest that you beg, borrow, buy or download his entire repertoire because nearly all his songs are masterpieces and that's no exaggeration. Btw, he didn't sing in English - it's worth learning French just to understand his lyrics.

Excerpt from "L'Air de la Bêtise" words & music by Jacques Brel

Mère des gens sans inquiétude
Mère de ceux que l'on dit forts
Mère des saintes habitudes
Princesse des gens sans remords
Salut à toi Dame Bêtise
Toi dont le règne est méconnu
Salut à toi Dame Bêtise
Mais dis-le moi: Comment fais-tu
Pour avoir tant d'amants
Et tant de fiancés,
Tant de représentants
Et tant de prisonniers
Pour tisser de tes mains
Tant de malentendus
Et faire croire au crétin
Que nous sommes vaincus

Mother of those without anxiety
Mother of those said to be strong
Mother of sanctified habits
Princess of those without remorse
Hail to you Dame Stupidity
You whose realm is little known
Hail to you Dame Stupidity
But tell me: how do you manage
To have so many lovers
So many betrotheds
So many representatives
And so many prisoners?
To weave with your hands
So much misunderstanding
And to persuade the idiots
That we are finished?

And here, on a more positive note, is the miracle of a baby lychee growing from a seed I saved and recently planted.

Have you ever eaten a fresh lychee? Far superior to the canned version served for dessert in all Chinese restaurants. The rough, warty skin conceals a fruit of such exquisite sweetness and sensuality that eating and handling one should be X-rated. Interestingly, lychees are traditionally associated with romance in China, where the lychee originates, because an emperor's concubine liked them so much that he had relays of horses carrying them for hundreds of miles to satisfy her craving. I wouldn't mind a repeat of that performance for my delectation.

Watching this wonderful creature emerging on my kitchen windowsill I marvel at how little it needs to achieve its glory - a bit of soil, light and water, that's it. So many people on earth strive and struggle and despair their lives away yet we could all be at peace with only a bit of soil, water, and light...outer and inner.

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May 13, 2004

BLOGGERS BARELY SEEN IN LONDON BAR

 

 

Last night was the night 40 or 50 bloggers met - or didn't meet - in the basement of the International Bar off Trafalgar Square. The walls were Inferno Red, lighting minimal, noise maximal and food almost gone by the time I arrived at 8:30. I was delayed because at the last minute I decided to make a Blaugustine badge: printed blue lettering on a red background stuck to an old "I am nearly famous" badge. This turned out to be entirely invisible in the red mist. But stickers had been thoughtfully provided on which bloggers wrote their names or aliases. Unfortunately I couldn't read them because people, on the whole, are much taller than I am and it's silly to stand on tiptoe to read their lapels.

The truth is that I am not a great live (as in"non-virtual") networker. To be a successful Live Networker you must have at least two of the following: height, hutzpah, charisma, a good memory, lots of acquaintances, a bottomless supply of small talk, and a mastery of the art of selling yourself without appearing to do so. Fame, gorgeousness and genius are also a big help in working a room. Now, I may have one of these qualities but certainly not two. So I prefer to do my networking hidden behind my computer screen.

All the same, I was glad to meet two people I knew only from their blogs: the idiosyncratically insightful and innovative Ming (Flemming Funch) and the delightfully informative Annie Mole, whose blog makes even London Underground's miseries seem fun. I had brief shouting conversations with both of them and I'm not sure what any of us said but it was nice to see them in the real world anyway. I shouted with three or four other friendly bloggers and will look up their sites when I can find the cards they gave me. I'm sorry for not listing more names but it's all a bit blurred, not due to alcohol consumption - I only had two beers and was home in time to catch Newsnight.

One more thing:
camera flashes were pointed in my direction a few times and I want to warn you that if you should happen to see photos anywhere on the net purporting to be of me DO NOT BELIEVE THEM!
It's bad enough being trapped behind the remarkably unphotogenic countenance of Natalie without having to endure the ordeal of mistaken identity. I demanded that N provide a snapshot of herself taken in the mirror this morning so as to prove that she stayed home and was not with me last night. She was only half awake when this was shot which accounts for the half-closed eyelids. Behind her is the same half-finished painting which appeared in a previous photo of her studio. The best thing in this photo is the reflection around the edges of the mirror.

COMMENTS

May 12, 2004

CAN THERE BE TRAINING CAMPS FOR GOODNESS?

The latest horror news: a video of the revenge beheading of a kidnapped American civilian. (See Joel's eloquent post on The Death of Nick Berg). We know that horror begets horror, violence begets violence and terror begets more terror but, oblivious to the chain of cause and effect, self-righteous voices are now screaming: "Barbarians!"
Yes, such actions are barbaric. Yes they are monstrous. Yes they are evil. But let all those who are screaming:"Barbarians!" look inside their own hearts and minds and let he who is incapable of barbarism cast the first stone.

Whenever evil acts are discovered to have been perpetrated by people perceived as Good, there is an assumption that the offenders were either ordered by their superiors to perform such acts, or led astray by bad companions, or that they believed their actions served a higher purpose.
When evil acts are perpetrated by those perceived to be intrinsically evil, their actions are not speculated about: they are Evil, and that's that.
In the first instance, the culprits are seen as essentially good but capable of committing wrong actions under certain circumstances.
In the second case, the culprits are seen as essentially bad and acting in evil ways because that's what they do.

Isn't there a third way?

Since it has been proved that human beings can be conditioned to perform evil, can it not also be proved that they can be conditioned to do good, and to refuse to do evil?

At 1:20 AM last Saturday (May 8) on Channel 4 here in London there was a very interesting and frightening documentary called "The Truth About Killing". One of the things which most impressed and appalled me was the army training camp somewhere in America where the mayhem of war and violence is super-realistically simulated in order to de-sensitize soldiers to the horrors of the real thing.

It made me think:
Why couldn't camps be created where situations of conflict are likewise realistically simulated but people are trained to go in and resolve them by peaceful and rational means? And where they learn to reject being coerced into acting in evil ways, under any circumstances.

I know that non-violence training has existed for a long time and that peace-making and conflict resolution groups are active in many places. Could they all come together in a global effort to set up training centres in every country, every town and village on the planet? Centres where the good in human nature is held up as our strength rather than our weakness. Where the good is nurtured, challenged, brought face to face with situations in which it must confront evil with goodness, rather than with evil. Is this an impossible dream?

COMMENTS

May 6, 2004

TESTING TESTING: preview of Yaron's new website made by Natalie

The Joker linocut
Natalie was commissioned last year to design and build a website for an artist friend, Yaron Livay. It has taken her far too long and, frankly, I was getting a bit fed up with all the fussing and fiddling with this work and the neglecting of me. So I put my foot down and said that if she didn't finish the job in the next few days, I would simply walk out. That pulled her up sharpish and lo and behold, a series of sleepless nights have done the trick and the website for Yaron, brilliant artist printmaker, is finally ready.

I have given N permission to preview it on our site so that we can see how it looks and if it works. It can then be transferred to another hosting server and start its own life in cyberspace.

Update: Yaron's site is being transferred to his own server. I'll post the URL when it's ready.

The Joker-- Linocut by Yaron Livay

COMMENTS

May 1, 2004

"FIGHTING FOR CIVILIZATION"

Didn't Bush and Blair and their supporters say words like these not long ago in their impassioned defense of their War on Terror? Didn't they say that we are the good guys, the civilized, the ones who uphold moral values - decency, democracy, humanity and all those other fine and righteous things? Didn't they also say, and doesn't some of the media often repeat, that the bad guys are uncivilized barbarians?

This page will not be fouled with the dirty pictures of American military personnel abusing Iraqi prisoners but if anyone has yet to see them they are here and here is a full report in the New Yorker. David Hoffman - always sane, balanced and compassionate - has further links at Humanity Check . What is even more shocking than the actions of those particular male and female soldiers who were sent to Iraq to 'fight for civilization' are the inane, obscene grins on their faces, grins that say "Hey, we're just having some fun!" In defense of their actions it has been claimed that they did not receive proper training on how to deal with prisoners. Proper training?? And these are adults, brought up in the land of the free, the brave, the good and the civilized. Are they saying that, without proper training, everyone would have done the same in those circumstances?

In today's Guardian there are reports that British troops in Iraq have also been involved in torture of prisoners and detainees. Of course not all American, British or other coalition soldiers behave this way and it is because of the conscience and courage of some that such despicable actions come to light. Eventually, maybe it will be recognized that those individuals who dare to blow the whistle and who refuse to participate in anti-human actions are the real heroes, the truly civilized.

Read this enlightening article by Naomi Klein: Mutiny is the only way out of Iraq's inferno.

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