Category Archives: Subjectivity

D. H. Lawrence

Self-Pity (1929)
by D. H. Lawrence

I never saw a wild thing
Sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

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Filed under Poems, Subjectivity

Chad Gifford.

Don’t worry if you like it.  Decide whether it is good.

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Filed under Expectancy, Subjectivity, Sureness

Marian Wright Edelman

I’m not a big reblogger, but since she says it best…  here it is.

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Filed under Subjectivity, Sureness

…the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd…

Editorial: This colloquialism describes the rush actors get on stage. I love its poetry and the gist it evokes.

I am bowled over by the amount of energy we humans spend on our daily performances. We have so many roles to play: deli customer, brother-in-law, subway rider, employee, professor, sports fan, sonbrotherhusbandfather. It is endless. I find that in some instances I slide right into roles effortlessly—because they just are. Other times I need to pause and reset before the show can go on. Problems arise if I make the transition from role to role too quickly, for instance I can be too brusque when I go from coworker to adviser or from subway rider to father. But in all these roles, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary, if you can remember to breadth in, if you can remember to open your ears, the thrill of life (the smell… the roar…) is palpable.

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Filed under Editorial, Quotes, Subjectivity

Zeitgeist as parent

Editorial: My six-year old daughter saw two turtles mating at a science museum and mentioned offhandedly that they were making baby turtles.  We have not talked with her all that much about procreation but the Zeitgeist does have a way of seeping everywhere—even into the minds of Kindergarteners.  My friend who was standing next to my daughter agreed that the turtles were probably making baby turtles and that was that.  Then just the other day my daughter and I were waiting on the curb at a crowded NYC bus stop when a double-long city bus pulled up with this exact Sundance advertisement plastered along its side.  If you have been in this spot before then you know what it feels like to have a huge, high-gloss advertisement like this one take over your entire field of vision.  As we shuffled towards the door of the bus and passed the shirtless gentleman with the high-tops and blindfold (sic) my daughter stopped dead in her tracks, gazing at the larger-than-life image.  When we finally boarded the bus a focused conversation began about who tends to like whom in this world.  My daughter reported that in her Kindergarten class “like” between her classmates went in four directions: Girls who like Girls (common); Boys who like Boys (also common); Girls who like Boys (somewhat common); Boys who like Girls (not common at all).  She then fell silent for a moment before making this point about the advertisement: Papa, the boys who like boys in that bed are going to need help from the girls to make babies.  

Thanks, Zeitgeist, for taking care of this one.  Persistence seems to be your best technique. 

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Filed under Editorial, Expectancy, Images, Subjectivity

eMailing with NASA

Editorial: I recently had this eMail exchange with a Junior ESA/Hubble Public Information Officer from the NASA Education and Public Outreach Department.  This fine officer (‘OU’) has renewed my belief in spending tax dollars on space research if only to keep our infinitesimal brains slightly open to the notion that our dear earth is but a speck of dust floating across an infinite sea.  Go, NASA, go.
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Dear OU,

I just read and thoroughly enjoyed “A Snowstorm of Distant Galaxies” at this website: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1017a/

It says in the last line of the article that “the field of view of the image is about 3 arcminutes across”.  Can you give me some idea how wide or how narrow a field of view this might be when I’m looking up at the night sky?  For example, does this entire image occupy a tiny portion of the night sky?  To the naked eye does this snowstorm appear as many stars or perhaps less?  In short, I have no point of reference for what an arcminute might be.

Thank you,
CG
New York City
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Hi CG

Good question!

It’s pretty narrow – the full Moon is about 30 arcminutes across, so if you imagine a square about a tenth of the width and height of the Moon, that’s roughly what’s covered here. What you see in this picture is also very faint (hence the exposure times of 67 and 33 minutes through the different filters) – so it wouldn’t actually be visible as anything at all with the naked eye.

All the best,
OU
München, Germany
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Hello, OU,

Thank you so much for answering my question. It’s awesome to think that such a tiny piece of the sky can be so full and active and meaningful.

Can I pester you with one more question?  I’ve been looking at the image with my 6-year old daughter and we want to know how NASA even knows which tiny patch of blackness to study?  Meaning, if you are telling us that this little piece of the sky is too faint to see with the naked eye (such that it requires long exposure times), how do you know to point the cameras in that direction (versus all the other tiny black corners of the night sky)?  The size and scale seems overwhelming…

Thanks again,
CG
New York City
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Hi CG

To a large extent, it’s building on the work of other telescopes. The night sky is not a complete mystery – there are detailed maps of the sky that mean astronomers have a fair idea of what they’re likely to see when we point Hubble in any given direction. (Indeed – when astronomers apply for observing time, they have to say what they’re hoping to observe, and why).

There are a couple of special cases when Hubble has deliberately been pointed at the unknown, though. This picture, for example: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0406a/ (which is also 3 arcminutes across – it’s the standard size of image taken by Hubble’s main camera), was taken deliberately in a completely dark bit of sky with an extremely long exposure (about 280 hours), just to see what it would reveal. Because there was nothing bright there to outshine the very faint, distant galaxies, this spot has given us the deepest view of the cosmos ever.

You’re absolutely right about the sky being an overwhelming size – observing time on Hubble and other major observatories is hugely oversubscribed, and so has to be rationed as a result. There’s no way Hubble could ever study the whole sky in that level of detail.

All the best,
OU
München, Germany

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Filed under Bagatelle, Subjectivity

Bob Dylan

Steal a little and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot and they make you king

from Sweetheart Like You (1983)

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Filed under Quotes, Subjectivity