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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blending in

I will be the first one to admit that there is nothing striking about my physical presence. I'm not young or particularly good lucking. Heredity has not given me an athletic build either. I'm not tall. I'm not short. I'm not a big man nor a small one.

If you walked into a room full of people, you would very likely not notice me. I doubt any of the people who I commute with on a regular basis via the train would be able to tell you I am a regular commuter.

It is not my intent to just blend in, but I do. I guess if the truth were told, I wouldn't want to stick out. I don't particularly like to draw attention to myself. I never have.

I do fancy myself as being a writer. And if I were to garner any attention to myself I would want it to be for my writing. If people like your writing, they don't care what you look like. I imagine if I were a famous writer, I would take the same path as J.D. Salinger or other reclusive authors. I can tell you that you wouldn't catch me at a bookstore doing any readings of my latest work. For one, I think my work is best read silently to one's self.

I also think it is better to create a sense of mystery about yourself if you are a writer. Years ago I wrote about meeting one of my favorite authors (at least back then) Mark Helprin at a book signing. I'd built him up in my mind as being this mystical figure imparting wisdom to his followers. I left the book signing disillusioned. I don't think I've read any of his books since.

A lot of the times when I'm writing I halfway pretend I'm talking (writing) to a friend who actually enjoys my company and my stories. That used to be easier when I had a larger group of people who commented on what I'd written. These days it feels more like I'm sitting in a room muttering to myself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Chain saw

I spent about six hours on Sunday using a chain saw to cut up half an Alder tree that split in half and fell on the slope in my backyard.  It wasn't pretty.

This was not my first venture into the realm of the lumber jack. About 13 years ago I blogged about my saga with having a tree service from hell cut down two trees in my back yard and the months I spent trying to get rid of the wood. That involved a great deal of splitting wood, but no chain saw.

I've tried on various occasions to describe the wild slop of property that is my backyard. Although it is cool to have half a stream (it flows into a very unpicturesque culvert half way across my property line) flow at the foot of the slope it provides the environment for wild plants and trees attracted to the water supply. This is not Christopher Robin's idyllic half acre wood.  We are talking red alder trees, some fir trees, a few cedar and lots of Rhododendrons.

And of course pervasive ivy, blackberry vines, horse tails, morning glory and monster weeds. The ivy has grown up the trunks of many of the alder trees. I believe that is the reason the particular tree that had split in two and fallen across my ancient fence. It had been overcome by ivy and fallen apart.

Normally, I would have left the fallen tree alone. But a good part of it had, as I said, fallen across my fence and was sticking out on the sidewalk. I still would have ignored it if I didn't worry that someone would complain to the city and I would have been ordered to do something about it like pay a tree service to remove it.

I don't like or trust tree services after my run in with them over a decade ago. I also don't want to pay one a fortune to do what I am perfectly capable of doing. So I did the sensible thing and ordered an electric chain saw on Amazon.

Friday, June 08, 2018

No write turns

It gets harder and harder to find a play on words that is unique or at least hasn't been used by umpteen other people. The write stuff, write on, two wrongs don't make a write and divine write were all used to death. So I had to settle for "No write turns." It only showed up in some posts about typos.

Damn you Google!

Not that "No write turns" makes any sense. But at least it is now uniquely my play on words. I suppose it could have some political ramifications as in don't turn politically right when you write.

Yeah, that's what I was going for.

My son is quickly learning the lesson about the shortage on original thought, too. Yesterday he was excited because he thought he came up with the phrase "Are you kitten me?" Then we Googled it and found there were thousands of uses of the phrase including on t-shirts and coffee mugs. They even took it to the next level with "Are you kitten me, right meow?"

Oh well, it is better to crush his creative spirit at a young age than to have him get to my age and realize the best you can come up with is "No write turns." I've had my share of heartbreaks with word play, mind you. My kids were playing at a school playground a few weeks ago and were climbing on the monkey bars when I had this cool idea for a bar called the Monkey Bar.

Hundreds already exist, including photos of monkeys drinking at a bar.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Losing self-eh-steam

 I wrote her off for the tenth time today
And practiced all the things I would say
But she came over I lost my nerve
I took her back and made her dessert  
Now I know I'm being used
That's okay because I like the abuse
I know she's playing with me
That's okay 'cause I've got no self-esteem 
Self EsteemThe Offspring
I watched a short video on Facebook this morning while waiting for my train. It was on a channel called Obsessions that is produced by the New Yorker.  This episode was titled Selfies, Millennials, and Narcissism. The premise was that the self-esteem movement of the 90s has led to a generation of depressed narcissists. 

Apparently the problem began when we started telling our kids (and ourselves) that they were special and could accomplish anything. And low and behold when our kids (and ourselves) discover that that may not be the case, they (or we) become despondent.

Social media has exacerbated this problem by making people think that everyone else is having a better time than they are. And the plethora of carefully staged and filtered selfies is further distorting people's self-image issues. 

Though I would argue this is not a new problem. When I was growing up it was the fact that everyone in magazines, on television and in the movies were better looking and in better shape than I was. This was actualized by the fact that elite in my schools were always jocks and cheerleaders, elevated in social status because of their looks and physical abilities.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The last movie star

After lamenting in my last post about my weary 60-year-old bones, I stumbled upon a film on Amazon Prime called The Last Movie Star starring an 82-year old Burt Reynolds essentially playing himself as an 82-year old former film star faded into obscurity. Reynolds character is invited to an independent film festival in Nashville to receive a lifetime achievement award. Upon arriving at the festival and being put up in an Econo-Lodge he discovers that the film festival takes place in a bar and the organizers are two Millennials who really just liked his old films.

The film is interspersed with clips from Burt Reynolds' actual films like Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance. It was eerie seeing the 82-year-old Reynolds next to his 40-something self on the big screen. Once again I was struck at how much harder it must be for movie stars to face aging while records of their young, attractive selves are out their rubbing their lost youth in their faces.

Critics were not overly kind to the film, using phrases like "overly sentimental" and "strikes a note of banality" in their reviews. I find that ironic. I imagine those reviews were written by people who have yet to face aging. Because aging is fraught with sentimentality and banality. I'd like to revisit those critics when they are shuffling alone in their walkers lost in their own banal existences and getting all misty eyed about when they were once a film critic.

Although, other than Siskel and Ebert I couldn't even tell you the name of another critic. Because they are like ticks feeding on the carcases of the famous.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Weary bones

I thought about reprising my post about one of my favorite songs of late (Wolves by Down Like Silver,) but no one seemed to pay much attention to that post (which is a strong indication that no one cares what I listen to on Pandora...though it is a great song). But the songs I've been drawn to of late seem to indicate that I'm more aware than normal that my bones are weary.

I will note here that there is an indie alternative folk trio from Longmont, Colorado called "Weary Bones." But I am referring to my actual weary bones both literally and figuratively. The weary bones in my hands I attribute to the amount of yard work I've done in the past few weeks. The weary bones in my legs and feet I attribute to the 5k run I did with my daughter last Saturday that I didn't know I was going to participate in until the morning of the race (long story).

The general, overall weary bones I'm experiencing I attribute to aging. And when I stepped off the elliptical machine this afternoon it dawned on me that that aspect of my life isn't going to change. It's where the trite old saying, "I ain't getting no younger" comes from.

I don't know why that should be such an epiphany. We're born. We get older. We die. It's a given. Yet we, or at least I, hold out hope that I'll be the exception to the rule. That I'll wake up one day and my bones won't be weary. My hair will be brown again and my face will match the mental image I'm staring out through.

Maybe that is where the myth of heaven comes from. You imagine that when your spirit leaves your body you glide into the light and are reunited with all of your friends and family who passed before you. I guess I just have always fantasized that I wouldn't have to wait until I died.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Minifigure of speech

I think having a Lego minifigure of myself would be kind of cool. And I imagine you could pay to have one made, but it wouldn't be the same as actually being a bonafide minifigure. Because it isn't really an authentic minfigure unless Lego makes a shitload of them and people want to collect it.

So I'm just putting it out there to Lego and the universe that I would make a pretty bitching grumpy old man minifigure. I would be the perfect addition to your Lego town. My minifigure would be yelling at kids to get off his lawn or yelling at the neighbors to stop setting off fireworks or he would call the police.

If my father had had a minifigure, his would have been yelling at the neighbors not to race up and down the alley on their motorcycle. That was his grumpy old many gig. I don't have an alley so I don't yell at motorcycles too much.

But I suppose there really wouldn't be much of a market for a grumpy old man minifigure that looks like me. I seriously doubt that even my kids would want one. They see me all the time anyway and think minifigures only exist for superheros and famous people.

The other day my daughter was writing out a list of famous people like Alexander Hamilton, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. I am not sure why she was making a list of famous people. Anyway, I asked her if I was on the list and she told me no, because I wasn't famous. My son pretty much agreed.

So you see my kids  wouldn't see the point in a minifigure of me.

But I still think it would be cool.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What's in a name?

I was playing Russian Roulette with movies on Netflix while working out and watched a documentary called The Strange Name Movie. Here's Netflix's description of it:
"Ordinary people with extraordinary names open up about the ridicule, judgment and rewards that come with having an attention-grabbing moniker. What's in a name? Plenty, especially for the likes of Al Dente, Stuart Putz, Jeanine Cobbledick and Linda Slutsky."
I thought this would be a stretch to create a documentary about, but I'll be damned if all 52 minutes of it wasn't highly entertaining. Maybe it is because I have a sophomoric sense of humor and love the fact that someone would name their kid Tim Burr, Donald Duck (Senior, Junior and the Third) or Ronald McDonald.

There was also a guy named Paul McCartney who married a woman named Linda. And there was Asian American gentleman named Donald Sutherland who enjoyed the disappointed looks on hostesses faces when he made a reservation at a restaurant and they were anticipating Donald Sutherland the actor. There was also a young man named Bond, James Bond.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame, who tells your story?  
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your StoryLin-Manuel Miranda
Good question. I suppose I do. Oh, not after I'm gone. But now, through this blog, in bits and pieces. My story is woven in and out of the posts. You can find little tidbits of my life and thoughts.

Not that that is why I started blogging. It just started evolving that way. Because, if nothing else, I think I am a pretty good storyteller. And since I am not famous and not constantly shadowed by the press looking for trivia about my life, it falls to me to tell my story. But for the life of me though, I don't know why anyone cares about the lives of famous people anyway.

I've written before about wishing that I had more of my parent's stories. My father died before I thought to ask him what his story was. And I waited too long to ask my mother. By the time I did, much of it had faded from her mind.

My children will at least have my blog. For what that is worth. They may not care. I occasionally try and tell them what it was like for me growing up or at various stages in my life. But I think it is the nature of youth not to hear such stories. At least when I'm gone, and if they want to know, this blog will be there...or somewhere...for them to find out.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Not my own private Idaho

Through an odd twist of fate, I have over the years returned to the place I was born on business. When my mother was still alive, it entailed carving out time to visit her and taking her out for at least one dinner. In the years since she died, I haven't had the opportunity much to go back to Boise on business. I was pulled to other places like Los Angeles or Burbank to produce video ads.

But another opportunity came up and I just returned from a few days and nights in Boise shooting some video for a new ad campaign. The shoot took me into parts of Boise that are charming and give one the impression that the entire city is like that. But it was nothing like the parts of the city I grew up in. I tried explaining this to the people I was with, but they essentially just shrugged.

It is difficult to explain that, despite the changes, Boise will always be haunted by the specter of growing up there. Being a tourist there is one thing. But living there is another. Once you get out of the downtown and the higher income neighborhoods, you're left with strip malls and tract homes from the 50s. It is a flat, sprawling place.

And I wouldn't say I had a bad childhood. Nor did I have more than my fair share of teen-aged angst. I just felt compelled in my early 20s to run as far from the place as I could get knowing I'd be mired there unless I did.

Now granted, I did enjoy the slower pace on this trip. Seattle has become a hectic city. It is fraught with crowds, traffic,  and homelessness. It is expensive to live here. So the thought did occur to me, "What if..." But then I remind myself that Boise is landlocked and conservative. I don't want my children growing up there.

But it is a nice place to visit.