Viewport

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mr. Green Jeans


You have to be a certain age now to know who Mr. Green Jeans was. He was a supporting character on a children's television program I watched as a child -- Captain Kangaroo. It was on the air from 1955 through 1984.

But this post isn't about Captain Kangaroo or even Mr. Green Jeans. It is about yet another aspect of my life that, although not ever considered as a career path, takes up a great deal of my free time -- gardening. Actually, it is less gardening and more yard work than anything else.

I actually wrote a post back in April called Dirt and weeds, that gave the history of my life pulling weeds. So I won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say, hardly a weekend goes by that I'm not mowing grass, pulling weeds or cutting back some invasive species of plant. And like Mr. Green Jeans, I often wear overalls. Though mine are not green.

The irony is that I wouldn't say I'm particularly good at it. I definitely don't have a green thumb when it comes to planting things. This is the third or fourth year that I've planted pumpkins and I've yet to actually have more than one or two by Halloween.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Mad Man


No, this isn't a post about Trump. It is another in my series of posts about my career choices. And although I've never actually worked at an ad agency, I have worked with ad agencies on the client side for more than 20 years.

I'm also nothing like Don Draper (though I wouldn't mind looking like him). But I like to think my role as a marketing director is close to being a creative director at an ad agency. And like a creative director at an ad agency, I don't actually come up with creative ideas any more. I just review them and creatively nudge them in a direction I think will work the best.

There was a time in my career that I was a freelance copywriter. I wrote several radio scripts and one television script. And in my day job, I wrote ad copy and campaigns on a very small scale. But I found myself in my true element when I began managing my first advertising agency contract for the company I work for.

For the most part, the attitude the ad agency people on Man Men, the television series, have about clients is pretty spot on. The creatives at an ad agency think working at an ad agency would be great if it weren't for the clients.  And it truly is the account people's job to make the clients think they are well liked, smart, funny and highly respected.  The operative phrase is "make the clients think."

In my early days working with ad agencies, I believed they liked me and thought I was incredibly witty. I also thought, as the client, I wielded the power to mold the creative work that placed before me. After a few years, I realized that the creatives  barely tolerated me and the account people actually thought my jokes were as funny as my children think my dad jokes are. And I realized that I was often being steered towards creative that the agency wanted to produce rather than the creative that would be the most effective.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Writer



"I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so."
~Neil Gaiman

I feel like I'm doing one of those theme weeks I used to do back in the good old days of Dizgraceland when I had my little band of people who commented on a regular basis. The theme seems to be career or talent paths I've taken or avoided.

Since I never made art or music my career path, I suppose I identify most as a writer. I have a degree in Journalism. I have written a blog for almost 15 years. My career path has mainly relied on words.

I think I can turn a pretty good phrase. I'm good with puns. I've always been good at writing headlines and I am a fairly creative copywriter.

I wrote a humor column for my college newspaper. I have written several unpublished short stories. I started a novel once but never finished it. I've ghost written articles for trade journals. I've written greeting cards (but only for family) and I've self-published several photo and travel books (but again only for my family). I have been a freelance copywriter and written umpteen brochures, newsletters, radio scripts and ads. I have also posted some pretty spiffy reviews on tripadvisor.com.

But I have never been what anyone would call commercially successful. One of the biggest disappointments of my life is that I never finished a novel and had it published (the key obstacle being never having finished writing a novel).

I know that the optimists out there would tell me that there is still time for me to write a novel and perhaps get it published. The pessimist in me says that having written more than 1300 blog posts with very little positive (or negative for that matter) feedback, no one wants to read anything I've written.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Musician

I can't remember a time when music wasn't a part of my life. But I don't think I ever really considered making music my career. I'm kind of glad of that. One, although I have played guitar for a little over 50 years, I am a good player, but not a great player. Two, I enjoy music too much to make it a job.


I got my first guitar when I was ten years old. I asked for one because I was inspired by watching the Glen Campbell Show on television and was impressed by his guitar playing. People also said I looked like a 10-year old Glen Campbell.



I had the guitar, but it took several years before I could figure out how to play it. I taught myself because my parents didn't have enough money to get me a guitar teacher and I don't take criticism well so having a teacher or tutor for anything makes me break out in sweat.

Not a great trait, I know.

I started band in 5th grade playing the soprano clarinet. I chose clarinet because my dad owned one and there was no way they would spring for a new instrument. I went on to band in junior high, but switched to the contra alto clarinet in 8th grade. I switched because the band director told me that I could only make it in concert band if I switched to the contra alto clarinet, because I wasn't a great clarinet player.

I stayed in band in high school. My sophomore year I played bass clarinet in the marching band and contra bass clarinet in the concert band. I became the drum major in marching band my junior and senior year. I also started playing bass guitar in the jazz band.

On the guitar front I had bought a better acoustic guitar while in junior high and I learned a few more chords. Then I bought an electric bass guitar from Sears. I figured it would be easier to play since it only had four strings and you didn't actually play chords. So I sort of taught myself to play it. This gave me the opportunity to play bass for the jazz choir when it performed in a music competition. It also gave me an opportunity (or so I thought) to appear sort of cool.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Artist


There was a time that I toyed with majoring in art and becoming an artist instead of a writer. I suppose I ended up being a writer because I wasn't certain how you actually could support yourself being an artist.

Not that you can support yourself being a writer unless you followed the meandering career path I did and became a copywriter and then a marketing person. Growing up in a relatively poor family instilled in me the desire to be gainfully employed. Being an artist or an artistic writer doesn't lend itself to gainful employment. The term, "starving artist" wasn't created for nothing.

Over the years I've known a few artists. And none of them were able to support themselves strictly through their art. And as I've said, I only supported myself through writing by writing what other people wanted me to write. This blog is the perfect illustration of what happens when you simply write for yourself.  No one reads what you've written and certainly no one pays you to read what you've written.

But even the writers who have a certain amount of success have done so by selling out. I follow one of my favorite current authors, Garth Stein, on social media and the guy always seems to be hawking himself like literary snake oil. His most famous book, The art of racing in the rain, has just been released as a movie and Stein is still marketing himself.

So I'm starting to think that true art isn't commercially successful. Or at least it isn't successful when you are producing it. Case in point Vincent Van Gogh.


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

I love technology

I do. I really do love technology.  But I question it at times.

For example I am a bit baffled when my Apple Watch reminds me to stand to achieve my daily goal of standing up. I wouldn't have understood the importance of standing up a few years ago. But once you hit 60 it seems more like a reasonable goal.

The thing that really baffles me, however, is that I can ignore my watches reminder to stand up and then 10-minutes later it will congratulate me for achieving my stand up goal despite the fact that I have remained sitting.

The watch does the same thing with my daily move goal (and by move it is not referring to exercise, but to simply not remaining comatose). I can be sitting in a meeting and the watch starts heaving platitudes to me for achieving my move goal even though I've been sitting at a table for an hour.

I wear my Apple watch while I do my daily hour of elliptical exercising. But even after an hour working out the watch sometimes chides me to do a brisk ten-minute walk to achieve my daily exercise goal.

I also love Amazon's Alexa and my Echo devices, but Alexa can be a bit troublesome at times. Because every time my 12-year old daughter asks for some music like say, "Alexa, play the soundtrack from Disney's Descendents 3" Alexa will respond with, "Playing Fat Daddy's Get Bent album three." And of course the songs Alexa misunderstands and plays all have explicit lyrics.


My watch just congratulated me on achieving my move goal and I've been sitting here for 20 minutes typing this post. Maybe it admires my typing speed.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how far we've come with our devices. I would be lost without my phone (literally without its GPS function). But I wonder at times whether we depend too much on it. I mean really, do I need to ask Alexa to pause the video I am watching when the remote is literally two inches from my hand?

I just have to sit back and appreciate that I live in the future that used to be just science fiction when I was a kid. But at least back then no one had to remind me to stand up or move.


Friday, August 02, 2019

Time after time


I've posted this image of a contact page I made from negatives shot with a large format camera I bought years ago. These were the only photos I ever took with the camera. It is locked away in a foot locker in the garage. It's been there for years.

The photos were shot in the late 1980s. I'm guessing when I was in my early 30s. I was growing my hair out in another rebellious phase. And I still fancied myself as an artist trapped in an office worker's body.

The photos were black and white. I hand-colorized them in a style made popular at the time on Saturday Night Live. I hadn't yet discovered Photoshop. And this was long before digital photography and long, long before smart phones.

I ran across the digital version of these photos the other day and started playing around with my smart phone and Photoshop to recreate the photos now. So I converted them back to black and white and reposed my 61-year old self in similar shots.


First I have to say I miss my long hair (at least how it looked, not taking care of it). And I want to go on record that it takes courage to compare your aging self to your young self. Time makes things shift. My nose and ears seem bigger. I grew extra chins.


But one thing I learned from this exercise is that, although I don't always recognize myself when I look in the mirror, there are certain parts of me...my expressions and my eyes that confirm that I'm still in there.

Some where.

Monday, July 29, 2019

You dirty rat!


Fifteen years ago, I wrote about the dilemma of trying to get some dead thing removed from the crawlspace under my house. There simply do not seem to be businesses who dedicate themselves to removing rodents who inconveniently die under your house (or in the attic for that matter). Back in 2004, my only alternative was to either go under the house and remove the dead thing or wait it out until it decomposed to a point where it stopped smelling.

I chose the latter. It was only when I sold the house and an inspector crawled into the crawl space and noted there were bones from a small animal there.

So now, 15 years later, I smell that familiar smell of something dead and decaying. But this time it was in my garage. And since I am now married and have two children, the option of waiting it out until whatever it was rotted away didn't seem to be prudent.

We detected the smell on Friday afternoon. I kind of hoped it was just the cat's litter boxes. But by Friday night, even I couldn't deny the unmistakable odor of something dead. While I was eating my breakfast Saturday morning my wife reminded me I needed to go in search of the source of the odor.

Our house is a split level with a daylight basement. So there is no crawlspace. The garage is built upon a concrete slab, so that further narrowed down the possibilities for where the smell was coming from. Our first thought was the attic. There was a small access hatch on the ceiling of the garage.

So I donned work clothes and retrieved my extension ladder and reluctantly ascended to the attic.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The reluctant runner


I have never been an overly athletic person. This is not to say that I don't attempt athletic things, I'm just not particularly good at them. One of the few "C" grades I ever received was in 7th grade Physical Education. Part of it was that PE involved running a great deal and I have always been of the mind that a human shouldn't run unless they are being chased by a wild animal.

I did go out for various sports in junior high. I was on the 7th grade wrestling team but never won a match. I played intramural volleyball. I played basketball in 8th grade but was on the 5th quarter team. We only played after the regulation four quarters were over. They threw in the extra quarter so we got an opportunity to actually play. No one stayed to watch us however. Even the cheerleaders packed up when we were playing.

I was on the tennis team in 9th grade. But again, I don't think I ever won a game.

I was also on the Junior Varsity Quiz team in 9th grade and I was president of the chess club, but those don't count as athletics.

I had to take PE again my sophomore year in high school. I got an "A" grade in it because the instructor believed in grading on effort not skill. I didn't go out for any sports, but I was in the marching band and was the drum major my junior and senior years.

I didn't do much athletically my first few years in college. When I moved to Seattle to finish my education, I did participate in intramural volleyball again.

After college I played tennis occasionally. I also played on my office softball team. But I pretty much sucked at baseball. I blew out my ankle trying to slide into third base. I got the "Rodney Danger-in-the-field, I deserve no respect" award that year at the end of the year party.

I did manage a work volley ball league for a few years.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Hobby hoarse



My entire life, I have dabbled in hobbies but none has ever really stuck. Oh, I suppose you could say Elvis is my hobby. I have a massive collection of Elvis Christmas ornaments that I use to decorate my annual Elvis tree. But it isn't something I do year round.

As a kid I tried collecting stamps for awhile. But I got bored after awhile. And I collected a bunch of stuff related to the Apollo space program around the time Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It is in a box in a trunk.

My brothers and I build famous monsters of film land models. They, like much of my childhood toys, didn't survive.

I collected antique bottles for a brief time. It was something I did with my dad while he was using his metal detector to discover hidden treasures in ghost towns. I dug up some really cool old bottles. Not sure where they are now.

I collected shot glasses and snow globes from places I traveled for awhile. The shot glasses are packed somewhere and the snow globes dried up.

During later vacations, my wife and I started to collect native American masks and masks carved by indigenous people in Mexico. Some still hang on our walls.

I went through a phase of collecting vintage restaurant ware many years ago before I was married. I'd visit antique malls and thrift stores looking for Homer Laughlin crafted dinner ware and the like. I had cupboards full of the stuff for awhile. Most of it returned to the thrift stores. I do have a pretty good collection of Coronado stuff that we sometimes use on holidays.

I collected troll dolls including a two-headed troll for awhile that lined a shelf at work. I haven't a clue where they are. I have a hunch they ended back at the thrift store, too.

I did have an expensive hobby of collecting guitars for awhile. I think it was because I was searching for one that would improve my guitar playing ability.

I have a ton of Star Wars bubble gum cards somewhere from 1977 when Star Wars first came out. I assumed at the time that they would be worth something. Every now and then I go on eBay to see what they might be worth today and discover that lots of people had the same assumption and they really aren't worth much.

That describes most of my Elvis collection as well (including a limited edition Elvis themed Epiphone guitar).

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

No stopping

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

--The 5 Man Electrical Band



There is something about signs that trigger me.

I was in L.A. last week shooting some ads for my agency. And there were so many signs. One was on the video monitor I was watching the shoot on.


Signs just beg me to challenge authority. Signs are created by petty people to try to control other people. And the irony is that, when there are too many signs with too many words on them, people just ignore them.


I just can't stop myself.




Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Flying monkeys


I saw on Twitter that Trump told world leaders today that the U.S. has the cleanest air and cleanest water in the world because he had been elected. I couldn't help but re-post the claim with a comment that first he had monkeys flying out of his butt.


But of course, CNN reported a poll in which 54 percent of Americans believe Trump will be re-elected. And I read another report that said his administration was working to open up national game reserves and fisheries to hunters and fisherman because there weren't enough places where American's could be introduced to those wonderful past times of killing fish and endangered animals.

I want out of this bizarro universe in which crap like this keeps happening.