Monday, October 01, 2007

Walking past the ghost tree in Madison's Owen Park at twilight

Walking Past the Ghost Tree in Madison's Owen Park at Twilight
Owen Conservation Park off Old Sauk Road near Crestwood, is one of Madison's prettier parks in daytime. With its 3.4 miles of trails, it's an unusually good hiking location in the heart of the city, with lots of alternate routes to keep the regular hiker from from getting jaded or bored. Go where the whim of the moment takes you -- 93 acres of prairie and oak savanna spread out all around you, filled with coneflowers, goldenrod and bluestem.

All this begins to drop away as darkness falls and the sunlight is replaced by a spectral twilight. In this crepuscular half light, details fade away, bats take to the sky, and creatures of the night begin their nocturnal scurrying in the underbrush. And the pale, bleached limbs of this solitary, dead tree begin to emerge from the surrounding darkness like a ghost. And Halloween is still a month away.


Dr Diablo said...

You do have a knack for capturing spooky images, MadMan. This is such a chilling photo that I've cancelled my plan to hike at Owen Park tomorrow noon. I hope you'll revive your "Floating Bob" Lafollette snapshot for Halloween.

Given your doggedly support of local artistic talent, I suspect you're laboring excessively over your report on the Madison Area Open Arts extravaganza. Cut some corners and slap that thing up while the event can still benefit from the publicity! I'm told that attendance at the Opening was sparse, so your coverage will give this showcase of regional talent a much-needed boost.

Dr Diablo said...

MadGuy, you have often been a passionate advocate for our arboreal brethren, pleading for the lives of trees destined to be stacks of planks at Menard's. It is therefore unsettling when you post this stark image of a vitiated, spectral tree and then vanish for 4 days. Has this dead tree become a ghastly sentinel at Letter From Here gates that have swung shut forever?

I'm sure I speak for thousands in expressing the hope that you will soon post again. I'm sorry if I drove you away with the demand for coverage of the Open Arts Festival. It's OK if you didn't attend. I didn't.

The Great Diablo said...

Folks, I, uh, want to apologize on behalf of MadGuy for the interruption in service. As you can see, my posted efforts to smoke him out have been futile. Cold content will cause the hitbox to stop whirring, so I'm worried that he will lose the following it has taken him so many years to acquire. Tell you what. I hope you will pardon my feeble efforts to fill in for him, but somebody has to step up.

How about some music? Settle back and enjoy the song stylings of Dr Diablo and the Letter From Here Orchestra as they perform "Too Darn Hot!" Uh-one-and-uh-two and...wait. I don't know how to create MP3 files, so let's go in another direction. Since MadGuy has evoked a Halloween astmosphere, let's talk about magic.

A lot of magic tricks are simple once you know the explanation. The reason they're hard to figure out is that magicians use MISDIRECTION, getting you to look in the wrong place at the wrong time to detect the secret. Often, the stunt is already over by the time you're looking. Here's an example, one that I have used and that you are free to borrow.

You tell a group that you can predict what number a person will guess before they make the guess, and that you will prove it. A volunteer comes up front and is invited to pick any number between 1 and 10 and write it on a pad or blackboard. Let's say he picks 4.

With much funfare, you instruct him to overturn the lectern. When he does, the number 4 is written on paper taped to the lectern's bottom.

How do I do it? Actually, before I reveal the secret, I will invite suggested solutions. Don't spoi things if you know this trick, though. I used to teach a unit on Parapsychology at a college and used tricks like this to show how sleight of hand and misdirection could accomplish the "supernatural." It was surprising how seldom students would see through this trick. Nothing like a little parlor magic to boost end-of-semester teacher ratings. MadGuy is on record as deploring pandering, but whether you're teaching or blogging, serious content is the Express Route to Oblivion.

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Diablo, thank you for your concern, but I haven't given up the ghost. A combination of colliding deadlines at work, an out of town business trip, a monstrous cold (don't you just hate to fly in that condition? -- it wasn't pretty), and more deadlines all conspired to keep me away from LFH. But I'll be back in fine fettle soon.

Meanwhile, I certainly appreciate your efforts to fill in and keep the restless hall entertained so that the audience doesn't wander away. Your efforts confirm my feeling that a blog from Dr. Diablo is long overdue. Please contact me if you'd like some handy tips on how easy it is to get started.

Meanwhile, I'd sure love to find out how that cool trick is performed.

Dr Diablo said...

M-M-MadGuy! Thank God, you're safe! My fear was that you had fallen victim to the same dark forces that claimed the Ghost Tree. Or, worse yet, that you and your readers had slipped away to another site, ditching me and the couple of other posters whose contributions are not constructive. Welcome back.

Instead of revealing the secret of trick #1, I'll describe trick #2, another stunt which I performed before undergraduate audiences to great acclaim. My colleagues muttered that I was an attention-seeking sellout. While the allegation was undeniably true, the implication that this was bad was question-begging.

In this trick, I distributed sheets of paper and envelopes to students. I told them I would prove the reality of clairvoyance by discerning the contents of unopened envelopes. I asked them to write their )1 home town, 2) hobby and 3)favorite food on the sheets and seal them in the envelopes after folding and wadding them to their satisfaction. As they wrote, I turned my face to the blackboard. I had a student collect the envelopes in a box and place it before me. Another student volunteer mixed up the envelopes.

I would then select an envelope, hold it to my forehead, and murmur in a somewhat disembodied tone, "I see a large pit with a giant Whopper in it. Pit..burger..someone here is from Pittsburgh. I see a catcher's mitt, so he obviously plays softball. I hear a clock saying tock..tock..tock-o. His favorite food is tacos. Is this someone's sheet?" A student would raise his hand. I would proceed through most of the pile of envelopes, always guessing correctly.

This trick employs a device often used by stage mentalists. It was an bigger smash than trick #1.