Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Coincidence, serendipity, whatever you call it …

OK, this post is going to be a tracing through of a lot of one thing leading to another leading to another, a la the former PBS/BBC television series "Connections" (which reminds me, I still haven't explained how the Earth's being spherical led to my car getting totaled, but I'll get around to that).

First, Captain JP put up a post about a website that maps photos taken online. This website not only plots where the photos were shot; it also makes an educated guess about how many photos were shot by locals versus how many photos were shot by tourists. Now, according to this website, London is not only the most photographed city in the world; a preponderance of photographers in London are actually locals and not tourists.

This got me to thinking about Japan, a country whose people seem especially fond of cameras and photography. I have heard it said, for example, that Mount Fuji is the most photographed mountain in the world. Think about it; there's even a brand of film named after it.

That led me to think about Fujiyama itself – even before there were cameras and film, the mountain was special to the Japanese people, and artists were making images of it. The most famous of these artists was Katsushika Hokusai, (1760-1849), who created a series of woodblock prints depicting the mountain, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. The best-known of these prints is "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," which depicts three boats whose occupants are taking refuge as a massive wave crashes down upon them. Fujiyama is merely part of the background of this drama. This picture is also used as a signature image on Zen's Sekai II, although Zen has stretched the picture horizontally, so the wave isn't so steep.

In 1985, the science fiction author Roger Zelazny, who lived in Santa Fe at the time, wrote the novella "24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai," inspired in part by the mountains of Northern New Mexico, and in part by Hokusai's work. Zelazny won a Hugo and was nominated for a Nebula for the novella.

Meanwhile, mathematicians have been looking at Hokusai's style. I can't pretend to know very much about fractals, except to admire the images they produce, but the way Hokusai depicts the foam on the waves in his art is, according to what I've been told, an accurate rendition of fractals in action.

Then, Joe over at The Horse's Mouth put up a video featuring big waves. Duuuude! The weird thing was that I kept looking for fractal curls in the foam of the waves – at least during the few nanoseconds when I wasn't watching for the surfers' next moves – or wipeouts. What would Hokusai have done if there were surfers in his view?

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