Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Many years ago, I had an Astrology reading by an odd psychic who spoke with a Swedish accent although he was born and raised in Seattle.  He did a rambling reading that he recorded on a cassette tape. Nothing much stood out to me except for his prediction that I was going to be a social documentarian through technology that he implied was video.

At the time, I had very little to do with video. It was in the 1990s and people were still primarily using land line telephones so there wasn’t the proliferation of video captured by Smart Phones like there is today.  Truth be told, I have never really liked video. I’ll take a still photo any day because you can actually do something with it. Video requires too much effort to be viewed, so I don’t think it is a great way to document things.

I have always first and foremost considered myself a writer. So I ignored the psychic’s reference to video and assumed I would document via my writing. So blogging for 14 years confirmed to me that that is probably what the psychic was seeing. But if I am truly a social documentarian, shouldn’t more than 30 or so people actually read about what I’m documenting?

The explosion of YouTube has made me rethink whether I should venture into video as a medium to advance my status as a social documentarian. Watching Ze Frank’s massive quantity of video shorts that have been so well received has fueled my desire to figure out how I can do videos on YouTube as well.

But what would I do on video?  I know very little about how to edit video. I don’t want to shoot videos of me reading blog posts. One, I hate the way I look on video. I don’t have a great voice either. I just don’t think anyone would watch me reading a post Ze Frank style anyway.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Fortnite, or Virtual Reality Bites


As with Minecraft, I downloaded the latest computer game craze, Fortnite to make sure it was appropriate for my son to play. He has been obsessing about it for months because all of his friends play it. We had resisted letting him download it because it does have shooting as a component of game play. But he eventually convinced us that the depiction of violence was minimal.

The premise of Fortnite is pretty simple. You log in and you are assigned a character (unless you have purchased a character skin of your choice in the Fortnite store). Near as I can figure the characters are assigned randomly (including the gender and race of your character).  And each character is a buff Millennial decked out in stylish combat gear. You can also purchase even more stylish garb if you are picky about your flack jackets and ammo belts.

Once you have been assigned your character, you pick the type of mission you want to go on. You can go solo, in teams of two or squads of four, or you can take part in a free for all with 50 players in each team. When you have picked you mission preference, the Fortnite servers assign you to a game with other players presumably from all around the country if not the world.

You are then propelled into the game world where you run towards a blue bus that is disturbingly reminiscent of the Magic School Bus. After a short countdown you are on the flying bus above the Fortnite world. Then, after another countdown, you skydive out of the bus and choose from a variety of locales to land on the island like Fortnite game field. If you are on a small team with players you know (such as my son), you try and land near to each other. You are in free fall once you jump out of the bus. You can deploy a hang glider whenever want. It automatically deploys once you are near the ground.

Once you land, you begin searching for items to help you survive. You start out with a formidable pick axe. You can use it to hack down trees, break rocks or destroy buildings (much like Minecraft). You then search through abandoned buildings and houses for items to put in your pack. Most of these items are weapons (handguns, automatic rifles, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, and booby traps). You can also pick up medical supplies and potions you drink to increase your power or shield you. There are also treasure chests hidden in random places that have a cache of items. And random as it seems, you can find a llama pinata that contains a stash of items as well.

Once you have a gun, you pretty much shoot at anything that moves before it shoots you. To add to the anxiety, a storm that drops acid rain begins forming minutes after you land and you have to track your location on a map to make sure you stay within a shrinking circle that is out of reach of the storm. The game ends when you either die or are one of the last survivors of the winning team (the one with live players left).


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Not relevant


I attended an event at work earlier this week that highlighted that more than 50 percent of our workforce had been at my company less than a year. Translate that to 50 percent of our workforce are 30 or younger.

The event included a slide show on screens in the meeting space showing photos of staff at work. I wasn't in a single photo and I've been working there 21 years. 

I was overwhelmed by the feeling that not only had I become invisible as I'd aged, but now I wasn't relevant.

Not that I've felt relevant for some time now. It creeps over you in phases.  Though it isn't as obvious as becoming invisible. I started fading into the background when I turned 40. I was transparent when I turned 50. And I became completely invisible when I turned 60.

I still felt relevant at 40 because it was still possible to bridge the gap between generations and have common popular points of reference. This was due in a large part to not having much contact with  Millennials at the time since most of them were in grade school

Even when I turned 50 I felt more relevant than I do now, though more via my writing than in person. My hair had pretty much all turned gray by the time I turned 50. And it was that gray hair that made me transparent and less relevant to the world when I met people in person.

The milestone of turning 60 is the game changer both online and in the real world. Since I have made no secret of how old I am in my blog, I have sensed that my relevancy to the larger demographic that uses the Web has diminished exponentially.


I suppose I could lie about my age. I could curb my obsession with Photoshopping my face or things or just use younger photos of myself like people do on dating sites. I could write about trending things and drop the names of popular entertainers and musicians that Millennials listen to. But that would be the virtual equivalent to having a senior bro bun, wearing an earring and trying to get my garage band back together (not that I was ever in a garage band).


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Higher learning


Posting about teaching my children how to start and tend a fire started me thinking about all of the things I learned more by doing then by having someone show me how to do them. I suppose I learned some of them by watching my parents do them. But many things I've done in my life, I had to figure them out by reading books, asking people or just doing.

Of course now there is the Internet and YouTube how to videos up the yin yang (and I'm not referring to the symbol).

Unless you have lots of money to pay other people to do things (which I don't), owning a house forces you to learn lots of things (many the hard way) about maintenance. When I bought my first house it was a VA repo that was structurally fine, but cosmetically beat to hell. I moved in highly enthusiastic about DIY projects.


Monday, July 09, 2018

Smoke gets in my eyes


Now laughing friends deride
Tears I can not hide
Oh, so I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes
 --Smoke gets in your eyes
Fourth of July came and went and I didn't even light a sparkler. Oh, I helped my kids pull the strings on a few poppers that were hardly worth the effort. You pull the string and you hear a slight pop and some pitiful streamers shoot out on the lawn to be cleaned up the next morning. Nothing like the satisfying bang of a firecracker used to bring in my youth. Of course, the odds of losing a finger or two have gone down as well.

But I did build a fire in my outdoor portable fireplace that had been rusting in the backyard since last year. I used a wire brush and some flame resistant black spray paint to get rid of the rust in preparation for the Fourth. It has become a tradition to build a fire and roast marshmallows for smores on the Fourth while we wait for the fireworks to begin at an athletic field near our house.

The city allows those unsafe and insane fireworks because they are set off by professionals who know what they are doing. If I could just strategically cut down two of the neighbors trees, we'd have a pretty darned good view of the fireworks from our back deck. As it is, we can just make out the sky rockets over the tips of the trees.  But it beats fighting the hordes of people who go to the athletic field to get a close up look at the fireworks.

But back to the fire. Unlike the campfire at our recent camping adventure, I don't have bundles of expensive wood to stoke the fire. I use accumulated scrap lumber and tree branches that I've pruned over the years. This year's fire was fed by what was left of a grape arbor I'd torn down a few months ago. I couldn't use any of the recent cut alder wood because it was still too green to burn properly. Wood, like wine, needs to age.



Friday, July 06, 2018

Points of views


After discovering the Internet works of  Ze Frank I have binge watched all of his True Facts videos and many of his A show by Ze Frank spots. And I have to say I feel late to the party. In many ways the guy is a comic genius and I missed his work for years.

And he stopped creating the A show spots about five years ago.  And he seems to have gone from the president of Buzzfeed motion pictures to the chief research and development officer and doesn't appear to have produced anything public facing for several years.  This has apparently caused some agitation amongst his fan base.

I know this only by Googling him to find out about his work. So I don't want anyone to think I am a stalker or anything. I was just curious about someone who could create such great laugh out loud stuff as True Facts about Morgan Freeman (with millions of views).

But you don't have to be a stalker to find out about Ze Frank. He pretty much bares what is going on in his head in his The Show and A Show series. And he has done several TED talks talking about his life and career.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Top of the world


I wished I was smarter
I wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way my wife does
I wish it had been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could have stood where you would have been proud
But that won't happen now
That won't happen now 
There's a whole lot of singing that's never gonna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
She's never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
Top of the world 
--Patty Griffin, Top of the world
Top of the world is one of my favorite Dixie Chicks song. It was written by Patty Griffin who is also one of my favorite artists.  Top of the world is one of those songs that kind of tears at my gut and makes me tear up when I try singing along.

I stumbled onto the lyrics and chords for Top of the world last week and began playing it on my guitar. Again, I could barely get through it without choking up. For some reason it stirs up strong emotions in me.

Maybe it's because it is obviously a song of great regret. And you can't get to middle age without your fair share of regret.

Though I guess I would technically only be classified as middle aged if I was going to live to 120.  But the Oxford English Dictionary defines middle aged as being between 45 and 65.  I guess I'm more three-quarter aged. So I have a quarter more regret than the rest of the middle aged people.


Friday, June 22, 2018

The blog is a jar



I started feeling inadequate the other day because Ze Frank, my new Internet hero, has thousands of followers, millions of views, 10s of thousands likes and has actually been asked to give TED talks.

After 14 years of blogging, the best I can do is get 34 people to follow me.

But then I rationalize and rehash the reasons why I have achieved no following or viral fame. Ze Frank does what he does for a living and has resources to promote his videos and projects. I blog as a hobby. I put absolutely no resources into promoting it other than free promotions offered me by Facebook in hopes that I'll then be lured into actually using my own money to promote my blog. I've tried using Twitter and Instagram to promote the blog, but again, I don't do paid promotion.

But why should I promote my blog? I don't sell anything. I've dabbled with Google ads and Amazon ads on my site, but my traffic is so pitifully low there is nothing to attract advertisers or to generate ad revenue.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lost in the wood


I think I have a bad case of wood karma.  A few posts back I wrote about me going all postal on a downed tree with a new chain saw. And I alluded to a checkered past I've had dealing with sketchy tree services and wood.

But back to my latest encounter with a chain saw. I stacked all of the wood I'd cut up next to my fence but near the sidewalk that abuts the street. My plan was to eventually haul it into my yard, stack it and use it for our outdoor fire pit.

So yesterday my wife tells me that she'd got a call from a friend of ours who happens to be a local police officer. She'd been driving past our home on the way to work and spotted some guy starting to load the wood I'd cut into his vehicle. She stopped, got out of her car wearing her police uniform and proceeded to lecture the guy about taking things out of other people's yard without their permission. I believe he mumbled something to her about thinking it was free to take because it was just sitting there. Fortunately I hadn't left my chain saw just sitting there or using his logic, someone would have assumed it was up for grabs, too.

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. On one hand, I can't believe the audacity of someone to just go on someone's property and assuming it was okay to take wood from a pile. On the other hand, I don't really have a wood burning fireplace and it will likely take me years of burning wood in my outdoor fire pit to get rid of the wood. So it wouldn't have been the end of the world to have the guy haul away the wood.

The true irony is that years ago when I'd had a couple of trees cut down in my yard, it took me ages to find some one who would take the wood without charging me a fortune to haul it away. I guess the trick is to leave it close to the road and pretend you don't want anyone to have it.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wabi-Sabi you?


"In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is 'imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete'".
--Wikipedia

I kind of wished I'd know about wabi-sabi when I was in my 7th grade pottery class. Then I could have rationalized all of those lopsided pots and cups as being created in the "wabi-sabi" style. But if someone came up to me and asked me what I thought about wabi-sabi back then, I would probably have thought they were talking about the green horseradish paste you put on sushi. Not that you could find sushi in Boise when I was in 7th grade.

Now that I know that wabi-sabi isn't something you smear on sushi, I'm really digging the concept that what makes something truly perfect is its imperfections. The wabi-sabi aesthetic also embraces aging of an object as it is used and shows signs of wear and tear. My 60-year-old self is totally into that. 

Wabi-sabi values simplicity versus the intricate. It has roots in the monastic Buddhist traditions of starkness and lack of posessions. That part I have a bit of trouble with. I have always liked an abundance of stuff around me. I attract clutter and trinkets. A bare wall to me is an unpainted canvas dying for a portrait of dogs playing poker.

So maybe I am more of a Wabi-Kitsch kind of person. Though some may think I am simply a hoarder. I prefer to think that there is a method to my cluttered madness.

Clutter aside, I embrace the wabi-sabi concept that something incomplete is beautiful. I think of it as being like a jig saw puzzle. The joy in it is the process of completing the puzzle, not the completed puzzle (which is usually something boring like the image of a flower garden).

But wabi-sabi is also about impermanence. A flower blooms, wilts, decays and dies, becoming compost that nurtures future flowers.

I think of Dizgraceland as being very wabi-sabi. I'll be the first one to admit it isn't great literature (well maybe not the first one to point it out, though). So it is imperfect. It resides in the cloud on blogger.com. So god knows how long it will reside in the digital ether. So it is impermanent. And nothing is more open ended and therefor incomplete, than a blog.

Dizgraceland epitomizes wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is art. Therefore Dizgraceland is art.

I wonder if the wabi-sabi aesthetic also includes being self-serving.  Because then I am really knocking it out of the park.

Friday, June 15, 2018

That was then, this is now



I was inspired by Internet performance artist Ze Frank's book, Young Me, Now Me: Identical Photos, Different Decades to create the above photo. The young me on the left was five years old. The photo strip was taken by a product demonstrator in Skaggs Drug Store in downtown Boise in 1963. It was an early Polaroid Camera that produced the photo on the spot. 

The old me on the right was produced with my iPhone and a bit of Photoshop 55 years later. Other than the glasses, beard, gray hair, a few more chins and a bigger head, I don't think I've changed much. My ears don't stick out as much, though they have gotten a bit longer.

I discovered Ze Frank by watching some of his True Facts videos on Facebook and then YouTube. At first I thought they were serious documentary films about various obscure animals. But I quickly discovered that Frank is a comic genius and the videos are full of quirky commentary that is laugh out loud funny. 

Frank has done many Web projects that showcase his own hilarious brand of humor. He has also appeared on several TED talks.  He is currently the chief of research and development for BuzzFeed. 

From what I've seen of Frank's work, he has a remarkably similar sense of humor and has produced many projects that remind me of my journey with Dizgraceland and the Web. For example, I Photoshopped my face on an echidna back in 2007.  Frank featured an echidna in one of his True Facts videos about Pangolins. And though I haven't been a speaker on a TED talks, I do have a brother Ted. We just don't talk much.


I think the main difference between Frank and I is that he is  successful. Oh and  he has thousands of followers...okay maybe more than a million follow True Faces. About 56,000 follow him on Facebook. 

At last count 29 people follow my blog and a whopping 34 follow Dizgraceland on Facebook. But I've only been blogging 14 years. I'm thinking that gap between Frank's huge following and mine is closing...slowly...very slowly.

Regardless, I greatly admire Frank's work and happy that he has realized my dream of making people laugh at his work on the Web...and I mean laugh because it is funny, ha, ha, not laugh AT his work. 

I do wonder what kind of name Ze is though.

Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sticking out


Okay, I've made the point in my last post that  I pretty much blend into the scenery. So I figured I probably should give "sticking out" some attention just to be fair.

Again, it's not that I want to stick out. I'm a card carrying introvert. Well technically my card says, Marketing Director, but trust me, I am by definition, an introvert.
Definition of introvert
1 : something (such as the retractile proboscis of some worms) that is or can be drawn in especially by invagination
2 : one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone 
Okay, I don't have a retractile proboscis, so I am by the second definition above, an introvert. Though I wouldn't really characterize myself as shy, but I do like spending time alone. I hate crowds, meetings, flying coach on airplanes, standing in lines, parades, concerts, fairs, festivals, popular movies, or anything else that puts me in proximity to lots of people.

I'm not particularly fond of meeting new people, small talk, riding public transit or elevators, either. And I believe I've expressed a few times, my fear of those people who hand out samples in grocery stores.

I realize this makes me seem like a major whack job.