JOHN HORVATH Jr : Chameleon
LAURIE JOHN : Now You See It
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JOHN HORVATH Jr Chameleon
NOW YOU SEE IT… If a picture paints a thousand words then a moving picture demands a tremendous amount of information. If you aim to transmit this information, in a t.v. broadcast for example, you can quickly hit the limits of what is known as bandwidth because the picture information, already huge, has to be continuously updated. All kinds of dodges are employed to squeeze all the updating information required through the transmission pipeline. One such was the idea that if the only moving things were, say, the players in a cricket match, the only information you needed to update was their movements. Most of the picture, the pitch, remained the same. As is often the case, this idea was borrowed from nature. Most frogs and many lizards have to make do with tiny brains so how on earth can they ever move fast enough to catch their rapidly moving prey? The answer is that a frog or lizard will typically and literally only see something if it moves. This cuts down the picture analysing requirements enormously. Add to this the fact that the little beast weighs practically nothing so that it has almost zero inertia and you have an animal that lives and drives comfortably and skillfully in the fast lane. Far and away faster than any bulky, lumbering human being. All this is delightfully explored by John in his poem about catching, or trying to catch a chameleon. The language John uses is feather-light. Here is an inconsequential story with virtually no content and the approach reflects this from the start. He is not even sure whether we are talking about a lizard or a salamander. All the chameleons I have ever seen have no eyelids, just a fleshy eye covering with a pin-hole to see through and with the un-nerving ability to point these in opposite directions. John’s is evidently a different species with eyelids that blink (arresting metaphor, this) like morse code. By clever feinting he manages to catch it. “There!” he exclaims. “What?” says his wife. “Caught a chameleon!” If lizards are good at detecting the slightest movement, kids can hear a pin drop a mile away and come running in. Not easy to impress kids, but here’s his chance. Unfortunately the lizard has other plans and by the time the poet opens his hand to show his catch, quick as pressurized flatulence, it has gone. Was it ever there? Unfortunately, seeing is believing. The kids don’t see the lizard so it was all made up. Wasn’t it? And the poem fizzes to a finish in a burst of indignant expostulation. Quite apart from the fact that this is a work by a skilled practitioner and so is a delight to read, this poem just goes to show that poetry can elevate a mere, airy soufflé of almost nothing into a work of art. Thank you, John. Laurie John, 10 February 2015
All the fine arts are species of poetry--Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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