Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Being relevant


I asked the AI chat thingy what it meant to be relevant and it babbled on about meaning something to your audience. I don't really have an audience so I don't think that definition is relevant.

Ironic, don't you think?

Having recently turned 65, I struggle with being relevant. I think at some point being old sort of translated to being wise. Perhaps that was true in a world where you needed to be wise to survive long enough to be old. Now being old kind of means you are well...just old.

It's just that you are automatically considered irrelevant because your hair is white and your skin is wrinkled. That renders you (dare I say it) invisible. You don't count. You are out of touch. Your opinion doesn't matter.

So I am stuck in this body thinking my brain is young despite what I see in the mirror. What do I do? I can't totally ignore it. I am 65. I don't move as quick as I used to.  I forget things. I don't have much of a social life. But am I irrelevant?


Maybe we, as a generation, should step out of the way and let the following (or now) generations make a mess of it on their own until they reach our age and go through their own crisis. Then we can look at them through our rheumy eyes and say, "Sucks, doesn't it?"

Then it becomes more relative than relevant.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Nothing really matters


Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows

--Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody 

"Nothing. The absence of something. The void. The concept of nothingness has been a topic of philosophical debate and scientific inquiry for centuries. But what exactly is nothing?

In everyday language, we often use the word "nothing" to mean the absence of something. For example, if we say "there is nothing in the fridge," we mean that there is no food or drink inside. But this kind of nothing is still something – it's an absence of something tangible.

In a philosophical sense, nothing refers to the absence of everything – the absence of matter, energy, space, time, and even thought. This concept of nothing is much harder to understand because it is beyond our everyday experience.

From a scientific perspective, the concept of nothing is also complicated. Physicists have long studied the properties of empty space, or what they call a vacuum. But even a vacuum is not truly nothing – it contains particles popping in and out of existence and fluctuations in energy. According to quantum mechanics, even in the absence of matter and energy, there is still a level of uncertainty and unpredictability in the universe.

In some cultures, nothing is seen as a positive concept. In Zen Buddhism, for example, nothingness or emptiness is a state of mind that is necessary for enlightenment. In Western culture, however, nothing is often seen as negative – a void that needs to be filled with something.

So, what can we conclude about nothing? It's a complex concept that can be understood in different ways depending on our perspective. Ultimately, it may be impossible to fully comprehend the idea of nothingness because it is beyond our everyday experience. But the pursuit of understanding nothing can lead us to contemplate the mysteries of the universe and the nature of existence itself."


I have always prided myself on being able to write a great deal about nothing. So I challenged an AI Bot to write a blog post about nothing and it literally wrote six paragraphs about nothing. I emphasize "literally." It sounds good. It looks good. But it doesn't really have any substance. Which I suppose is ironic when you write about nothing.

I'm not sure I know how to feel about AI writing. Writing is the one think I've considered I can do well. Now a bunch of random binary numbers in the cloud can piece together words much better than your average high school junior. And I'm will to bet many of them are using AI to get around random English essays.

So far though, AI doesn't seem to be able to capture the subtle or the pun. This post about nothing didn't have anything clever to offer (which seems to be my downfall). Because I would have wrapped up this post about nothing just like I am going to:

I have nothing more to say.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Smile, damn you Sigmund, smile


I couldn't find any photos of Sigmund Freud smiling and it bothered me. After all, who would want to lay on a couch in front of this man and talk about your dreams about being chased by a giant carrot? The man is constantly scowling. 

I suppose psychoanalysts aren't suppose to show emotion. You can't give clues that something the patient said is significant or you are leading the witness. Wait that is a courtroom where someone is on trial for something that they may or may not feel guilty about. 

Ooooo, a Freudian slip!

Of course I just Googled Freudian slip and found umpteen images of Freud wearing women's underwear. How juvenile. And they all beat me to the pun as usual.

Ironically, the first thing I toyed with majoring in in college was Psychology. I took the obligatory Psych 101 lecture class in my freshman year. It was taught by a professor who looked remarkably like Sigmund Freud. But most of the lectures were by his assistant. Apparently the professor had a drinking problem and could only make it to class to hand out copies of a book he wrote and required for the course. Then he stumbled back to his office and slipped into tenured bliss and bourbon.

I guess like all people who toy with majoring in Psychology, I was hoping it would help me figure out myself. I don't think I would ever have made a good Psychologist (though I can be a decent listener). I just don't think I could have listened to people spouting their problems all day without rolling my eyes and thinking about lunch before looking at my watch and saying, "Well, that's all we have time for today) right in the middle of a major breakthrough.

It's not that I don't care about people's problems. There was a time in my life when I thought I was extremely emphathetic and could figure out how to help people with emotional problems.  I eventually discovered that have the time I was projecting how I would feel on other people and with women, I was an asshole for trying to fix their problems and not just listening.

At least if you are a counselor, you are being paid to be an asshole.

I imagine I have admitted in my blog on many occasions that I have seen counselors in the past. And although they were generally very nice people, I can't say that they did me a lick of good. I in fact felt worse on many occasions because of the debt I was racking up paying someone to listen to me. 

This is not to say that counseling or therapy is good for some people. I, however, have never felt better having spilled the beans (outside of my blog) about my feelings or emotional shortcomings. It's not that I want to hide my feelings, I just want to keep them to myself where they are warm and cozy.

So it is best that I changed my major umpteen times after dabbling in Psychology and settled on Journalism. It may not have been lucrative, but I can crank out 1000 words in about five minutes with very few rewrites.

It may not make Sigmund smile, but I'm quite proud of it.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Force you


I saw Star Wars when it first came out in 1977. It was unknown at the time. There were no lines. I was blown away and saw it a couple more times but the lines came. I have seen every Star Wars film since. I have been to the Star Wars section of Disneyland. I am a fan, but not obsessive. But the one thing I always believed in from the film was the Force.

Okay, the cool thing about the force is that it was a higher power but not religious. You could tap into it without being dunked in water or going to Sunday School. You didn't have to be saved, but it saved you anyway. 

It's kind of what I came to believe in after rejecting religions and metaphysical scams. I think there is a force in the world. Maybe it is nature. Maybe it is just what goes on at the subparticle level with atoms and such. But I do think everything is connected. It's like the ocean. It's hard to imagine a separate drop of the ocean. It's all one thing. So maybe that is the force.

The thing I do struggle with with that concept is losing my individual self to the force. It is what I worry about when I die. I don't like the idea of losing myself and being merged with the whole. It is selfish, I know, but I've spent a long time being me and thought of not being me is unnerving. 

In all fairness though, none of the Jedi seem to lose themselves after dying. Obi Wan, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Yoda and eventually Luke seem to fade in and out like benevolent ghosts encouraging others to trust the force. 

I could kind of use that kind of encouragement. When my parents passed I half-way thought they would watch over me in some way. But nada. Oh, they occasionally pop up in a dream or two, but I can't recall being comforted. This does not bode well for the afterlife.

Funny we call it the afterlife. It's this optimistic hope that there will be something. It would be a shame if there were nothing. It would make living kind of pointless if we just ended. Which leads me full circle to it being nice to at least think we rejoin the Force.

Or am I being too Forceful?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Breaking Bad (wind)


For whatever reason, my son is a bit obsessed with Walter White of  the Breaking Bad series. I am not sure why. I don't think he has ever watched an episode of the show.  It first aired in the year he was born -- 2008. Maybe that is the connection. 

I watched the entire series. I like Bryan Cranston, the actor who played Walter White. I have been watching his current series on Showtime called Your Honor where he plays a judge who goes bad trying to protect his son after a hit and run accident that kills a New Orleans mobsters son.

Cranston can't avoid breaking bad.

Anyway, my son was putting together a collage poster for his Spanish class with random photos cut from magazines. The photos were supposed to say something about his interests. There were several dogs and some cats. And smack dab in the middle of the poster he printed out and pasted a photo of Walter White.

I loved the randomness of it. In some way he has my sense of humor, though he would never admit it. And he is much more literal than I am. But I love that he appreciates the absurd. 

So I couldn't help putting my face on Walter White. Though I look a bit more like a Orthodox Jew than Walter White. And the art program I use to turn it into a cartoon like image gave me a serious unibrow.

But I kind of like it anyway. 

I'm bad.

Friday, March 10, 2023

When you're strange


When you're strangeFaces come out of the rainWhen you're strangeNo one remembers your nameWhen you're strangeWhen you're strangeWhen you're strange

-- The Doors 

Once again I started to write a blog post with a title I thought was clever and then searched my own archives and found I had written a post with the same name back in March 2009. The post was titled Kindness of strangers.  Basically (since you likely won't click on the link to read the post), it was about the anomaly of writing blog posts and baring your soul to what amounts to total strangers. This was back when I still clung to mistaken assumption that there was a regular group of strangers who hung on every word I wrote.

By strangers I was referring to people I didn't know, not odd people (though I have had my share of odd people read my blog).  And when you come down to it, I am a bit strange myself. I used to embrace that strangeness, but more and more I have grown quite self conscious about being strange. It's a catch-22.

I think this is one of those circle of life things. When I was a teen ager, I definitely wanted to stand out as unique but at the same time I didn't want to be (as my teen aged son says) the "strange kid." Too often being strange puts you in a fringe category that the management speak people call "success inhibitors". Unless you have lots of money like Elon Musk, being strange doesn't work in your favor in the business world. It sort of works in the creative/art world, but then again you are spending most of your time making espresso drinks or waiting tables so being strange doesn't really matter.

But back to that circle of life thing. I am now a hop and a skip away from turning 65 and have returned to that place where I want to be unique but at the same time, I don't want to be that "strange old man." This is difficult when your wardrobe consists of t-shirts that say, "What day is it?" and you wear the same pair of baggy jeans for months at a time. 

I have always taken pride in the fact that my blog is strange. It is so strange that I prefer that only strangers see it. I'm well past the point thinking people who know me would understand it. But I also still struggle (as demonstrated by the number of self pity posts I write) that my blog doesn't resonate with many people (or web bots for that matter). I can't remember the last time I had a comment about a post that wasn't spam about hair extensions or male enhancement drugs.

Where are my faces coming out of the rain? I mean, I barely wrote anything during much of the pandemic and no one noticed. Now that I am back posting no one seems to notice either. Did I mention I'm just about a week away from turning 65? There's not that much more time left for me to start trending. 

With my luck, a day after I finally come to the end of that circle of life, some famous person with a billion followers will discover my blog and post, "Hey you have to read this guys stuff, it's profound and hilarious!"

Wouldn't that be ironic Alanis?

Friday, March 03, 2023

Bright. Light. City.


I have been to Las Vegas six times in my life and I've never really gotten used to it. Three of those times have been to attend conferences so much of the time has been spent sequestered in conference rooms in large casinos wondering what the light of day looks like. 

The latest trip was to attend a conference. The hotel was Planet Hollywood which years ago was the Aladdin. It is a huge hotel and casino. I was on the 30th floor and I think there were 15 to 20 more floors above me. It was souless hotel like the rest with a casino designed to confuse and daze all who passed through it. And you couldn't help pass through it to get to anything. 

I don't play table games at casinos. It is too stressful for me to interact with a dealer. I play slots now and then, but I miss the old ones with handles and playful themes. The slots in the Planet Hollywood Casino were huge modern machines with complicated lines and bets. I lost $20 in five minutes and was done.

I spent most of my time at the conference or sitting in my room watching home renovation or cooking competition shows. The room was nothing special. Two queen beds, a television and a bathroom. No housekeeping the entire five nights. Not sure whether that is a COVID thing or a hotel trying to cut corners thing. And my pet peeve was they gave you paper cups, no glass cups and no coffee maker. 

I didn't go to any shows. I did go on a city tour provided by the conference hosts. That's where I got my selfie with the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. I also saw the major changes the strip has gone through since my last visit. Many of the classic old casinos are gone and replaced with mega properties or just boarded up. Hardly a buffet to be found.

I also got my photo taken with an Elvis impersonator at a conference reception. I think this is my third photo with Elvis in Las Vegas in almost three decades (second at a conference...that one was with Marilyn too). 

The King stays young and I keep getting older. And I think I'm finally too old for Vegas.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Getting to know me


This photo is what I used to believe was my first memory. I am sitting in my big brother's lap on a blanket in my front yard. My other brother is holding our dog Lucky's head.  The other kid is our neighbor from across the street. In retrospect, I may just think this photo is of my first memory because it is one of the few baby photos I have of me. I do recall my mom telling me that Lucky nipped me and my mom scolded him. She claims he would sit and protect me after that. Lucky eventually was sent to "live on a farm" because he had a habit of biting people. Lucky wasn't.

In the almost two decades I've been writing this blog, I've offered up quite a few biographical tidbits about my life. I have written about trying to interview my elderly parents about their lives before they died. Neither was very forthcoming. I think they had just settled into their old age and didn't really want to think about the past. Most of what I gleaned about their lives came from stories they would tell us as kids on long car rides to go camping or musings around campfires.

Unlike most children, I was actually curious about who my parents were before they became my parents. But since they are dead and most of the people who knew them when they were young are dead, I will never have more than a sketch of who they were and who they wanted to be.

My own children don't seem to really care about who I was or who I am. I accept this because they are immersed in their now and the complications of being teen agers. I generally try to avoid telling stories of when I was their age. I like to think I can tune into the clues given by eye rolls and distant stares and have stopped volunteering stories of my youth.  I come from a distant time that they can't relate to. And the things I used to be proud of (like being a drum major at a school with a "Braves" mascot and wearing full buckskins and a headdress) are now considered incredibly not politically correct. My daughter is particularly embarrassed that I participated unknowingly in cultural appropriation by dressing as a Native American Chief. 

My high school has since abandoned their inappropriate mascot image of an Indian brave if not the name. In 2019 they changed the name of the mascot from "Braves" to "Brave" (which they somehow thought was more acceptable). But when I visit their web page there is no mention of a mascot Brave or not. Their logo, however, is now a capital "B" for Boise. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Non Angli sed Angeli


Upon seeing English slave children in Rome, Pope Gregory I the Great, supposedly said 'These are Angels, not Angles'. He apparently said this because the English kids had blonde hair and looked more like how he imagined angels looked than your average dark haired Roman. He then sent St Augustine and 40 monks to England in 596 to convert Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. I think everything went downhill from there.

According to my 23 and Me DNA results, I'm about 99 percent European and my ancestors primarily came from England. This came much to my chagrin because I grew up thinking I was Irish. Instead I am predominantly English and potentially an angel.

I did have blonde hair until I was about six or seven years old. And since I was very well behaved, most of my grade school teachers thought I was an angel. Mostly I was afraid of authority and kept my mouth shut. So maybe I am (or was) an angel.

My son was born with red hair that eventually turned blonde. He has a head of curly blonde hair now, as a teenager, and can look angelic. He also looks like a young Peter Frampton and could be a rock star (if he had any interest in singing or the guitar).  If he is an angel, he is a sullen one. 

I am pleased to say that St. Augustine and his 40 monks must have not gotten through to my ancestors. As far as I know, I don't come from a long line of Christians. From what I have researched on, I come from a long line of poor farmers and farm hands who likely didn't realize they were angels and may have been Christians, but in name only. They were mainly focused on making ends meet.

I have to admit that I have a bias against being a Christian. I have found that when someone professes to be a good Christian it is intended as a way of implying they are one of the chosen and everyone else is going to hell. To which I am always tempted to tell them to go to hell and keep their beliefs to themselves. 

The irony of Pope Gregory I's proclamation was that he thought the young English kids looked like angels but were more than likely pagans who worshipped trees and earth spirits. Plus they were slaves. They probably wouldn't mind having angel wings so they could fly away and smite their enslavers with bolts of lightning. 

Those are my kind of angels. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Old new me


This is a modified version of a pre-selfie selfie I posted about in August 2019 (Time after time). I have to say, I am kind of fascinated by this version versus the actual version of me posing in my 60s as my 20-something self. I was going to call this post "Reflections" but I used that some time ago when I posted about preferring to take photos of myself in the mirror because it looked more like me to me because that was the image I was used to seeing.

I like this stylized version of my study of my young and old self better because it also seems kinder to my old face (which I have become painfully subconscious about). The funny thing is that I relate more to the old young self than the current self. It is the old young self I see in my mind, not the new old self I see in the mirror.

I am not alone in this phenomenon. When my mother was in her 80s she told me she felt the same way. So it is this nasty trick time plays on you. 

But my age did get me a discount at the movie theater on Saturday night when my wife and I went to see Tom Hanks latest movie A man named Otto. It was a good movie but a bit on the depressing side because Tom Hanks plays an aging engineer who was forced into retirement with the goal of committing suicide rather than endure a life alone after his wife died of cancer. And Otto is also a kind of anal retentive dick who doesn't seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities. He is kind of like a cross between Rain Man and Oscar the Grouch.

The movie had lots of flashbacks to a young Tom Hanks (played by one of his sons who has an incredibly large head). We see his young, beautiful girlfriend who becomes his wife. Unlike Otto, she is likeable. We see lots of the young Otto and the old Otto. And we see Otto's young wife, but we never really see the wife when she ages. 

In between lots of flashbacks and Otto trying unsuccessfully to kill himself, the story revolves around the main character treating just about everyone like crap be still somehow is found endearing to them. He redeems himself by helping everyone (even though he can't stand them), being treated as part of the neighbor's family then then dying of having too big of a heart (please) and leaving them everything. The movie ends with the neighbors driving off in his new truck after grieving his passing for maybe ten minutes.

Tom Hanks has come a long way from his Bosom Buddies days and lighthearted movies like Splash.

Anyway, what struck me about the film (other than how depressing it was) was that the main character was only three years older than me and that I got a senior discount to watch the film. There has got to be something ironic (or poetic) about that somewhere. I just can't quite put my finger on it.

Maybe it is that who we are in our 20s and who we are in our 60s are nothing like each other.

Friday, January 27, 2023

If you mess with the monkey...


...expect some feces to be flung.

My Monkey Playing Cymbals has popped up in umpteen of my posts since I first introduced him in August 2004. He is my self-professed muse. He reminds me in his own monkey way to grin and bear it. Though his visage seems more frozen in a grimace than a grin. 

The monkey is a symbol with cymbals that he no longer plays. 

I don't know what that means, but I like how it sounds. 

The monkey sat out the pandemic alone in my abandoned office in downtown Seattle on the fringe of the International District (which has kind of become a no person's land that even Starbucks won't serve anymore). I found him sitting patiently when I returned to the office last August with the primary goal of packing up my old, spacious corner office with lots of windows and stuffing 25 years of memorabilia into 19 moving boxes that were transported to an office that is half as big and is sequestered on the interior of an 11th floor far from any direct light.

When I finally unpacked all 19 boxes into my tiny office I began to understand the people featured on Hoarders. I like to think my hoard has a bit more order than your typical hoarder.  I'm an ordered hoarder. All of my stuff has meaning to me. There are several props that have been used in the various television commercials I've created over the years. This includes rubber hands, a gas mask, a fake man in the iron mask mask and signs from a transporter portal from a shoot in L.A. just before the pandemic.

And of course I unpacked the monkey. He was a bit pissy about being left alone for two years and then being stuck in a box. But I could tell he was relieved to be back on a shelf above my desk and computers where he could once again lord his muse musings over me.

I have to admit that my pandemic posts without the monkey's help were pretty pitiful. I wouldn't tell the monkey that. He has too big of an ego as it is. But I have missed his moronic grin/grimace and his beady little sunken eyes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Still life?


So far, 2023 seems remarkably like 2022. Still, other than mind numbing inflation, COVID teaming up with the flu and other respiratory ailments, and (depending upon which expert you hear from) a looming recession, it is still better than 2021 and that dung heap of 2020 when everything spiraled out of control.

The significance for me this year is that I turn 65 in a few months. I finally gave in to the masses of junk mail urging me to sign up for Medicare and enrolled in the first level via the social security website. Like Dante's Inferno, there are several levels of Medicare, each more confusing than the last. Social Security does its best to add to the confusion with lots of legal mumbo jumbo and many links leading to attempts to simplify the language of bureaucracies (which even the Rosetta Stone has a hard time cracking).

It is not that I need Medicare at this point in my life. I am still working and have fairly decent health coverage. But in that not so distant future when I actually do retire I understand I'll need every cent of healthcare support I can get. Still the Social Security urges you to delay taking social security benefits until you are in your 70s so you can maximize the amount of your month allocation. I'm convinced they are actually hoping you delay taking it so the likely hood of you developing dementia and forgetting about it or dying and not collecting at all occur. 

And it is not that I think Social Security will ensure my survival after retirement. Even if I wait until I'm in my 70s to take it, the monthly payment is still about what I now bring home in a week. So I can only hope my 401K survives the bleak markets we are riding. I am sometimes afraid the only cruise I go on after retirement will be on an ice flow.