Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming through in waves...



There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ships smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what youre saying.
--Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb


I firmly believe people hear only what they want to hear. Which strikes me as odd when they also only hear what they want to here when they are reading (which shouldn't be the case unless you are reading out loud). But then I suppose we only see what we want to see as well. So it is a wonder that any one communicates in the first place.

I suppose if someone is saying something you want to hear, and you are hearing what they want you to hear, it's pretty easy to assume you are on the same wavelength...that is until they say something you don't want hear or you hear what you want to hear and not what they are saying.
This is pretty much why I don't think it is an easy proposition to change someone's mind about something they feel strongly about. And it is why I think we only read blogs written by people who share the same opinions. I'm as guilty as the next person as starting to read something that I don't agree with, muttering to myself, "you are full of shit" and clicking on my merry way. Tolerance of opposing viewpoints has never been one of my virtures.

This is not to say I won't listen to a well thought out arguement about something I haven't made up my mind about. I've even been known to change my mind about things I have made my mind up about, but only when presented with pretty good evidence that I've been full of shit in regards to that topic.

I just think it is hard if not impossible to listen to anyone without filtering everything through our own biases. And those biases can be based on experience, education or crap your parents filled you with growing up. But the minute someone starts down a road that deviates from your road, the detour signs start popping up.

Have you ever noticed how people are more subsceptible to new (and often ridiculous) ideas when they are vulnerable due to some mental or emotional upheaval in their lives? That's when the religious cults and personal coaches move right in. Because nothing is more comfortable when you world is crumbling around you than to have someone offer to save you if (the big if) you believe in their way as the only way.

I doubt if me writing this will really change anyone's mind about communication and listening...that is unless you already feel the same way I do about it. So once again I've defeated my own point in writing at all.

Sigh.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Voo do you think you are?


I thought about making the title of this post, "Stick it," but thought people might take it the wrong way. I'm not even sure of my point...ha, ha....point...stick it....pins....I get it. No stop. I am killing myself.

No wait, I remember my point. Blogger is once again killing me with lost posts and now lost comments. Why do you hate me Blogger? What did I do to you? Don't I hype your parent company, Google every chance I can? Don't I sell your ads on my blog to my massive audience of 10 or so regular readers? Why are you sticking it to me?

And speaking of Voo Doo dolls, I kind of think they are cool. And since New Orleans is one of my favorite places, I have seen my share of Voo Doo dolls. I even own a few. You can buy them in Voo Doo shops throughout the French Quarter. You can even buy Voo Doo doll refrigerator magnets. Ironically, most of the Voo Doo dolls you can buy in New Orleans were actually made in China. I get a kick out of that. But I shouldn't poke fun at Voo Doo dolls.

There I go again.

Anyway, I don't claim to know alot about Voo Doo dolls or Voo Doo. I do think it is funny that god fearing Christian tourists from the Bible belt will waddle through the French Quarter drinking $1.00 beers, stop in a Voo Doo shop and take home a souvenir Voo Doo doll refridgerator magnet or Gris Gris chicken foot key chain for Aunt Mabel.

Not that I condone or knock Voo Doo or Voo Doo dolls (or Gris Gris chicken foot key chains for that matter). But I do find it annoying that Blogger can't provide me with the security I so greatly seek out of a blog content management system.

Ouch. I just felt this sharp pain in my...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Still Life Tractor

I grew up in Idaho, but I didn't grow up on a farm. Lot's of people have that misconception about states like Idaho. They assume that if your potatoes are famous, you obviously were somehow raised with agriculturally roots (or tubers in the case of Idaho).

Also, for the record, Idaho potatoes aren't much different than Washington potatoes. They just have a better press agent. I never thought much about potatoes growing up other than to wonder why our potatoes were famous. When I became a teenager, I learned to tape over the "atoes" part of the "Famous Potatoes" on our license plate.

I actually grew up in a suburb of Boise. Oh, it had once been farmland. My backyard had once been part of an orchard and my grandparents had raised chickens, including capons (surgically altered chickens who were sterile, but grew quite large). But it wasn't a farm.

I do know that there is nothing romantic about being a farmer or growing up on a farm. It is hard work. It is also by necessity a cruel life. You learn not to grow attached to animals. I never wanted to be a farmer.

My best friend in grade school did grow up on a farm. It wasn't that far from my house. It was a dairy farm. I actually helped him hook cows up to milking machines a couple of times. I stopped when a cow stepped on my barefoot in the milking barn. It turned its head and stared at me dumbly in the way only cows can as I screamed (more in fright than in pain...the floor was thick with cow dung and it cushioned my foot). The cow stood there chewing its cud and enjoying the show for about five minutes until my friend convinced it to move its foot off from mine. It responded by lifting its tail and adding to the dung piles on the floor. Cows are very basic creatures without much of a conscience. I remember this incident when I order prime rib or don my leather jacket.

There were perks to growing up in an agriculture state. I got my driver's license when I was 14. Law maker's in Idaho wanted to accommodate the needs of farmer's who needed their teenaged sons to drive tractors. I never drove a tractor. The first car I drove was our family's 1967 Bel Air Chevy that was the same color green as the milking barn floor on my friend's farm. The second vehicle I drove was my dad's 1972 Chevy pickup. My 81-year old mother still drives that truck.

The first time I ever really left Idaho (other than quick trips with my parents across the border to Oregon to buy things and avoid sales tax) was in 1973 when my high school band flew to California to play at the half time of a then LA Rams game versus the SF 49ers. I was 15. It was my first time on an airplane, my first time staying in a hotel without my family and my first time to really experience how the rest of the world viewed Idaho.

We were standing in line at a television studio waiting to go watch a taping of a Bobby Goldsboro Show (very few of you will have a clue who that is, but trust me he was kind of cool in 1973). One of the studio pages came out to lecture us on how to behave and lead us into the studio. He shouted out, "Come on Spuds, let's go." I knew then I needed to get out of Idaho.

There is no such stigma about Washington State. Oh, you get the stupid rain jokes. And you have to endure the rantings of Washington "Natives" (not to be confused with Native Americans) telling you how great the state was until all of those Californians moved in. But I can pretend to be a native Washingtonian. I nod when people talk about JP Patches (an obnoxious clown who hosted a local children's television show). And I pretend to remember long dead Ivar Haglund's folk singing on commercials promoting his touristy seafood restaurants on the waterfront (he was alive when he did the commercials).

But every now and then I hear a television jingle in my head that was recorded long ago in Boise, Idaho about a product I believe was made out of potato byproducts:

Dairy Snow, Dairy Snow,
Breakfast made in Idaho.
Dairy Snow's delicious, nutrious don't you know?

And when I hear that jingle in my head, I get a little misty about my Idaho roots and I tell myself, "Thank god I'm not a country boy and got away. "

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The path



I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.
-Rocky Horror Picture Show
I suppose life would be simpler if our paths were always clearly defined or we always knew where we were headed. But then again, we might not choose to travel the paths if we knew where they were headed.

More often than not, however, there are many paths before us. But once we set foot on one path, they merge and the only way to progress is keep moving (though human nature dictates that we worry about whether or not we chose the right path).

The cliche tells us that life is journey, not a destination. But I think a lot about the right path and whether or not I am facing many paths with one destination or many paths with many destinations. And what is that destination or destinations? It can be paralyzing at times. Because I am, by nature a wanderer and, though it seems easier to walk where others have walked, I dream about places where others haven't been.

When you are young and just starting out on the path, it seems endless. Wandering off the path didn't seem to matter. There was plenty of time. But the path gradually begins to narrow. It also becomes steeper and steeper. You find yourself locking into career choices and obligations. You buy houses and cars. Wandering off the path stops being an option. So you continue to climb.

As you approach the summit, you hope for relief. Then boom, you are headed down the slope and picking up speed. It's times like these that you start wishing you had had the brakes checked regularly, because they don't seem to be working. And I'll be damned if there isn't what appears to be a cliff within sight at the end of the path. Or is it a gate?

It seems logical that being middle aged is a time of doubts. You know where you've been. And with the realization that time is running out, you begin to wonder about the feasibility of many of those dreams and aspirations you had when you were staring at the summit. For me, it is also a time to wonder about those skills and talents that I assumed I had in my youth, but now seem less than stellar in the eyes of others.

A couple of years ago, I read a book I found in the library on a cruise ship. It was about all of these people who really didn't achieve major life accomplishments until they were in their 50s and 60s. The book talked about major scientific discoveries and career changes. So I suppose there is hope for me.

All I have to do is keep moving down the path. And maybe that is a gate at the end. But I imagine that if I open it, I'm likely just going to find another path.

Or a cubicle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It ain't worth nuthin', but it's free!


Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose,
And nothin' ain't worth nothin' but it's free.
--Kris Kristopherson
Got to love that line. It describes blogging perfectly. Unless you are a corporate blogger pimping your words for pennies (speaking of worth nuthin') everything you post is gratis.

Now one might argue that you get what you pay for. And this is a pretty good response to trolls and contrarians who use comments to pull the teeth out of the gift horse they've ridden for free. But it is also why people don't value free blogging. If you aren't paying for it, it can't be worth anything. Right?

Unfortunately, this is how most people view it. Writing, art and photography can't be any good if no one is paying you to do it. Fortunately most of the great artists throughout time weren't aware of this or Van Gogh's sunflowers would be gracing someone's bathroom wall instead of an art museum.

Maybe it is because we come from a capitalist society that we can't value anything we don't pay for. Studies have shown that if we removed fares from public transportation, ridership would likely drop. But charge for it and people will ride and look for ways to try to get out of paying the fare.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen consultants paid to give the same advice I'd already given. The difference was that they charge more.

I'm glad, however, no one is paying me to blog. Because if I was paid to blog, I'd also be paid to blog what whoever paid me to blog wanted me to blog. And then I wouldn't be free...Literally.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Don't try this at home


Tess and I were in Vancouver, Washington this weekend for our niece's first birthday party. While we were there, we visited old Fort Vancouver. It isn't really old. It is a reconstruction of a fort that was built on that spot. Still it is kind of cool. They have cannon lying around randomly and for some reason, I have difficulty simply posing normally for photographs, especially around cannons.
I think it is a guy thing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

In blogs they never hear you scream (well, almost never)

I scream,
You scream,
We all scream,
For ice cream.
--Billy Moll
I've written about screaming before. But to most people, blogs are like rivers. You generally jump into them at midpoint, and it takes too much effort to swim upstream to see where they've been. So trust me that screaming is not a new topic for me.

Many things make me scream inside these days. David Hasslehoff as a judge on a mindnumbing Amercian Idol ripoff called America's Got Talent is one of them. Under no circumstances would I ever associate David Hasslehoff with talent and having him judge other people's talent is a travesty. His fellow judges Brandy and some British twit who thinks he is Simon aren't much better. But then again neither is the "talent" America is supposed to have: Dave the Horn Guy, Bobbie Badfingers (a self-proclaimed "snappist") and Leonid the Magnificent (whose only talent seemed to be cross dressing and weeping).

The best talents were the child prodigies like 11-year old Taylor Ware, a self-taught yodeler who is in the finals and Natasha Le, an 8-year old classical pianist who finished just outside of the finals. Sadly I'm afraid Natasha was one of those poor stage kids driven by her mother to practice piano three hours a day. She will likely need therapy after having the British twit judge harangue her for making mistakes in her performance. She's 8-years old asshole. What talent do you have?

Other than bad television, the things making me scream inside are the usual things: diet, exercise and the "It's Groundhogs Day" quality of my job. Oh, the sideshow freaks that shop at my local Safeway have been good for internal screaming as well.

Other than that, life is pretty good.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The hunger


I miss that time in my life that I could eat anything I wanted (in moderation) and I stayed skinny as a rail. And even if I gained a few extra pounds, it was a simple matter to shed them.

Those days are gone.

I've always been fond of food. My mom would tease me because at the beginning of every meal, I'd ask, "What's for dessert?" I don't think I was ever really fat as a kid, but I remember one time some kids in grade school watched me wolf down my lunch and then called me "Tim H**** the Big Eater." Then the same kids started calling me "Tim H**** with the spare tire." I freaked out.

When I started junior high school and entered puberty, my body changed dramatically. I was very skinny. I generally got by each day eating a single hot dog for lunch. My favorite dinner was Kraft macaroni and cheese or a cream cheese omelet. That was about it.

I was skinny throughout most of my early adult life. I started doing aerobics when I was 29 because, no matter how skinny I was, I still saw "Tim H**** with the spare tire" in the mirror.

By the time I hit 40, the spare tire started to inflate for real. I was still doing aerobics, but the weight didn't fall off the way it used to. And as I've crept into middle aged, I've also had to deal with high blood pressure, high cholesteral and aching joints. Work started cutting into my workout time. Although I've always been aware of fat content and nutrition, I caught myself backsliding and endulging. It is amazing how easy it is to justify a burger and fries as an occasional thing until you catch yourself justifying them on a weekly basis.

It was my decision to quit my deteriorating downtown gym and buy a stationary bike that has launched me on a new crusade to trim the fat and get myself to a point where I don't cringe at the reflection in the mirror. It has almost been three months and I ride the bike for 45 minutes a day. In addition to fat, I have forced myself to now take into account calories, portion size, processed foods, starches, carbohydrates and other factors that affect weight.

I'd like to say the pounds are falling off. The reality is that they are inching off not unlike a glacier in Alaska. I am committed, though I really miss just eating. It is a challenge not to grab a sandwich and a bag of chips at lunchtime without calculating what the calorie cost is.

I think I'm doing pretty good. But occasionally, just occasionally, I want to run into a KFC and scream, "Give me a bucket of extra crispy, a cartoon of mashed potatoes, gravy and a pie." I don't know why I would want to do this. I haven't eaten in a KFC since I was in my 20s. I imagine it is just the ghost of the big eater telling me to do eat bad things.

I'd better quit for now. It's time for lunch and I have a well proportioned, low fat and low calorie meal calling my name.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quiz team



I received a notice about my 30th high school reunion back in May. It took place the weekend of July 8th. I didn't go.

I went to the reunion Web page and looked at photos of some of the 67 out of 491 people that attended and I reaffirmed why I didn't attend. I barely recognized anyone. I almost got queasy imagining what it would have been like being there and milling about while people who didn't recognize me while I was in high school tried to figure out who the hell I was 30 years later. The most disconcerting thing about looking at the photos of the reunion was trying to equate the faces of these 48 year old middle aged people with their 18 year old former selves.

On the reunion page, I also discovered a photo someone had sent in from 1973 (my freshman year). The photo was of the finals of a Junior Varsity Quiz match between my Junior High (East) and our rivals, North Junior High. Junior Varsity Quiz was one of those local television programs where junior high school students competed answering Jeopardy type questions about a variety of academic subjects.

I remember the match. We'd studied for months for the competition, spending our lunch hours in a classroom quizing each other using a Jeopardy Play at Home game. The rest of my team froze under the television lights, but I worked the buzzer like a pro. I was in the zone and whipped out five correct answers.

It wasn't enough. We lost and went down in Junior Varsity Quiz flames, forever to be forgotten. I didn't even know this photo existed until it surfaced on the reunion page, submitted by a member of the other team.

Maybe if we'd won that match, my life would have been different. Maybe I'd have gone on to Varsity Quiz and maybe prime time. I could have got an agent and branched out into movies or at least a sit com. I could have been somebody and maybe have attended my 30th high school reunion. I could have been a contender. Instead, I'm a punk. I'm a wornout palooka with a blog.

Life is funny like that.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Heads in the clouds


Well on his way, his head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices, talking perfectly loud.
But nobody ever hears him,
Or the sound he appears to make.
And he never seems to notice .....

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down.
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning around.
--Fool on the hill, the Beatles
There are a select group of blogs I read on a regular basis. Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I can actually know people based what they write in their blogs. Or I fool myself into thinking they can know me based on what I write in my blog.

It's not practical when you think about it. Reading a blog is like looking through one of those hotel room peepholes. You only see a small portion of the world and it is skewed at best.

I actually think I say more in my blog about myself than I would if I were writing one of those mindnumbing daily journal type blogs. But still, it no more reflects the complete me than Van Gogh's Starry Night reflected the complete Vincent.

You can't really know what it is like to be another person. Shoot,most of us struggle just to know what it is like being ourselves. But you want other people to know you, don't you? And you want them to like you, too. Protest all you want, but no matter how many times any of you say, "I don't care what anyone thinks about blah, blah, blah..." you are really screaming to be understood and accepted.

And then paradoxically, we hide in our blogs, afraid someone is going to see us. This is why many writers prefer fiction to fact. Scratch a novelist and you're going to find someone hiding behind a plot they "created." All fiction is based on fact. Fiction just allows you to tidy up reality and make it a tad more palatable. Fiction also allows you to recreate reality in a way you wish it was. It also allows you to fast forward through the boring bits of our existence.

So isn't blogging just one big game of hide and seek?

God I am full of metaphors today.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

See me, hear me...


I was sitting on my exercise bike this morning going nowhere and flipping through television channels trying to find something to watch that would take my mind of the pain of exercising. My primary complaint about satellite and cable television is that no matter what time you randomly turn on the television, odds are you will only be able to watch programs that started at least 20 minutes ago.

Normally I'm pretty anal about having to watch a program from the very beginning, but I don't mind so much when I'm just looking for something to watch while I'm exercising. And I really don't mind as much when it is a program that I've seen before. So I was mildly pleased to discover Tommy by the Who playing on one of the premium channels. I've seen it several times.

When I tuned to it, Anne Margaret was just giving birth to Tommy while twin nurses sang in unison, "It's a boy Mrs. Walker, it's boy."

I like the Who and I like the Rock Opera, Tommy. But I had forgotten how bad the movie adaption of the Rock Opera was. It just has scene after seen of random weird ass stuff that is even a bit bizarre for me. The scene I've never really understood is one where Anne Margaret is rolling around in a room filled with what appears to be pork and beans. She seems pretty into it, too.

But weird as the movie is, I still like the music even though many of the lyrics are politically incorrect ("That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball."). Tommy wouldn't be the same if Pete Townsend had chose to use politically correct terms like "That hearing impaired, speech impaired and seeing impaired person sure plays pinball well."

If you don't know anything about Tommy, it is about a boy who witnesses his mother and her new lover kill his father who was presumed already killed in World War II. The boy, Tommy, is told that he never saw anything, he didn't hear anything and he won't ever say anything about it. He becomes deaf, blind and mute. Eventually he connects with a pinball machine and becomes a pinball wizard or champion and makes major bucks.

It's no DaVinci Code.

But the movie does have musical performances by Elton John, Tina Turner, The Who, and Eric Clapton. One of my favorite songs from Tommy is See me performed by Roger Daltry. Tommy sings plaintively, "See me, hear me, touch me, feel me."

Which is pretty much how I feel about blogging (at least the see me, hear me part).

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Howard Finster



I like to own original art. Unfortunately, I can't really afford to own much original art. The second best thing for me is to own signed and numbered prints. At least then I know the original artist put his or her mark on it.

I just purchased an ORIGINAL Howard Finster work of art that is also signed and numbered. So I am pretty jazzed about that. Plus the subject is Elvis at aged 3.

Alabama born Howard Finster died in October 2001 after creating 10s of thousands of original artworks inspired by god (though many of the subjects were Elvis and Coca Cola). When Howard died, he was living at his four-acre Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Georgia. The place was an artwork in its self.

Howard apparently was recruited by god to paint sacred artworks. Most of them include Biblical quotes or references to Jesus. Mine says:
ELVIS AT 3. HOWARD FINSTER. FROM GOD MAN OF VISIONS. SPEAKING TO YOU BY FOLK ART- MY HANDS. GET TIRED. BUT NEVER STOP. I. MEASURE YOUR SOUL FROM BOTTOM TO TOP. I. CAN.T. STAND TO SEE YOU LATE. JUST OUSIDE OF GODS. GATES. TO ALL OF YOU. I. MAY NEVER MEET. GET READY TO JOION ME ON GODS GOLDEN STREETS. WHERE YOU AN I. WITH ANGELS MEET. WHERE I WILL BOWE AT JESUS FEET. GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

I don't know why god didn't help Howard with his puncuation, but his message is pretty clear.

Anyway, I first discovered Howard Finster during my Elvis years. I was pleased that Howard considered Elvis sacred enough to paint (he painted a few Marilyn Monroe's as well). At one point he created album covers for REM and the Talking Heads. Coca Cola also commissioned him to paint a giant Coca Cola bottle for the 1996 Olympics.

I unfortunately didn't discover Howard in time to meet him or buy one of his works in person. But that is what is cool about eBay. You can buy anything. And there was something that drew me to this piece. So folks, you are looking at one proud owner of a Howard Finster original.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sometimes I even freak myself out


I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
(Ooh!)
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
(Change His Ways-Ooh!)
And No Message Could've
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make That . . .)
Change!
--Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror
Nawwwwwwwwwwwww!

Flights of fancy



If you've ever flown Alaska Airlines you have probably noticed the large face on the tail of their airplanes. For the longest time, I could have sworn it was the face of Ben Johnson, the cowboy actor who won an Academy Award for The Last Picture Show. Now although this seemed an odd choice to me, I accepted it as just one of those things.

Eventually it was brought to my attention that the face on the tail of the airplane is that of an unknown Eskimo. That does make more sense then Ben Johnson since the airline originated in Alaska. Though I am willing to bet that not too many Eskimos fly Alaska Airlines.

Which leads me to today's point: I fly Alaska Airlines...alot. I have an Alaska Airlines credit card and I am enrolled in their frequent flyer club. So shouldn't it be my face on the tail of at least one Alaska Airlines jet? I think so.


There.

So much for my jet-stream of consciousness.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rock me Amatimus


I would like to be a child prodigy, but I'm too old. This is not to say I wasn't a gifted child, my gifts were just smaller than others and I hid them well. I hid them because I was gifted enough to realize that if you let people know you were smarter than you looked you quickly became a target for the other even less gifted children.

I suppose it is okay that I wasn't overly gifted. Because there is nothing sadder than an adult child prodigy. They are like those grown up child stars that no one likes any more because they stopped being cute. It's not that child prodigies stop being smart, they just generally grow into their smartness and thus become ordinairy smart adults whose emotional growth was stunted because they were child prodigies. That is seldom a pretty sight.

I had a former child prodigy as a teacher when I was in 8th grade accelerated math (which I sucked at). He had got his math degree when he was about 16 years old and for some reason ended up teaching at a junior high when he was about 22. He was one of the most immature adults I'd ever encountered and we tortured him unmercifully for it (which brought him to the verge of tears while standing at the front of the classroom on more than one occasion) . He quit after one year. It was just as well, because he may have been brilliant at math, but he had no idea how to convey complex concepts to eight graders.

I think the trick for child prodigies is to die young like Mozart to avoid the post-prodigy depression.

There. I just justified Photoshopping my face on Amadeus Mozart. I'm more gifted than I suspected.

The rocky path to empathy


My almost 14-year old niece has returned to Boise after a five day visit. I did not profess to understand teenagers before she visited. After five days with one in our house, I profess to know even less.

I believe communication is the common denominator that breaks down most barriers. It is the way we discover things about each other and determine how to interact. Now granted, I prefer written communications to the spoken word, but I think I can carry on a conversation equally as well as the next person. But then I spent five days with my niece.

It was not unlike playing charades with a caveman. Almost nothing Tess or I could say could illicit more than a nod, shrug, or grunt. I felt like Annie Sullivan in the Miracle Worker (Helen Keller's story) when I could get my niece to string together more than five consecutive words into a sentence.

I sensed that the problem wasn't that my niece wasn't an accomplished talker. Her constant companion was a cell phone. I'm assuming that somewhere, somehow, she was talking to someone, but presumably someone around her own age that didn't suffer from adult standards of what constituted a conversation.

At one point, Tess, our niece and I were watching a program about Johnny Depp on television. An image of Depp's movie, Edward Scissorhands flashed on the screen and Tess asked our niece if she'd ever seen the movie. She shrugged and mumbled something about a teacher showing it to them in class. Tess saw the opening and seized on the topic and asked why the teacher had screened Edward Scissorhands for her class. Our niece replied, "To teach us about empathy."

I was stunned to hear a complete sentence and and more than a two-syllable word. But I rose to the occasion and asked, "And did you learn about empathy." She rolled her eyes and said, "No, I'd seen the film before." She then got up and went to the guest room, presumably to talk on her cell phone. Tess and I sat there staring at each other in confusion.

I guess I need to rethink empathy, because although I was 14 once, I haven't a clue what it's like to be one now. The best I can hope for is realigning my expectations and hope I can communicate with our niece when she reaches 30.

But then again I could just call her on her cell phone and giggle alot.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

All parts included?


I never found the Frankenstein monster particularily scary. I suppose when Boris Karloff's interpretation of the creature appeared on the big screen, it was frightening. But it seems just laughable now. Ed Quinn took care of that when played Herman Munster in the 60s television series and turned the monster into sitcom joke.

I have read Mary Shelley's book that started the whole thing -- Frankenstein. She never really intended that the creature Baron Von Frankenstein sewed together out of old body parts would be a monster. It was Dr. Frankenstein who was intended to be the monster for trying to play god and create a man without going through the proper channels. And the problem with Dr. Frankenstein's creature was that he could bring it to life with a bolt of electricity, but he couldn't dole out a soul. The book explored the moral issues of what defines a person, the living body or the soul. I don't think the question was answered.

Still, it is an interesting question. There was nothing more frustrating as a kid than to buy a monster model kit, begin putting it together and then discover that some of the parts were missing. An even more interesting dilemma would have been if the kits came with a disclaimer: Soul not included.

Regardless of who glues together the parts, I think there are lots of people out there missing a few crucial ones. Few people would argue that monsters like Ted Bundy or Gary Ridgeway either didn't have souls included or they just weren't attached correctly. Regardless, somebody wasn't following the directions. Who was it?

At various times in my life, I've looked in the mirror and tried to see my soul. Because I'm pretty sure my mother told me I came with all of the parts included. I look into my eyes. And I look at the creases in my skin. Then I blink and I wonder. Wouldn't it be easier to know that you are truly complete if you could actually see the soul?

Monday, July 10, 2006

On the ball



I am not really much of a baseball fan. I didn't grow up glued to the radio or television listening to baseball games. Oh, I played baseball (or our version of it in the backyard). But I can't quote any statistics and I barely know who Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are. So suffice to say, mystical analogies involving baseball aren't my forte (I did see Field of Dreams, however). This is my disclaimer about yesterday's photo from Saturday's Mariners game. I simply thought it was a cool photo.

I am not dissing America's pasttime, either. I am lucky enough to live in an area that has a professional baseball, football and basketball team (most of them owned in some way by Microsoft billionnaires). We also have a racetrack, a hockey team and a soccer team. It is a varitable sports mecca.

Yet still, I remain relatively ignorant of the nuances and mechanics of most sports. I attend almost purely for the spectacle of observing professional sports and professional sports' fans. If watching gladiators and feeding various religious groups to the lions was still politically correct, I would probably attend those events as well. I just might pay more attention to what is going on in the arena rather than focusing on ordering pizza and beer.

Ironically this all meshes with my acknowledgement of my mediocraty as well and my standing as a nondescript middle manager. I have very little extensive knowledge of anything. But I am a warehouse of information about the vagarities and generalities of many things. I am very astute at nodding at precisely the right moment in an indepth conversation focusing on subject matter I am not well versed in. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the philosophy that the key to relative success is sincerity and that once you've learned to fake it, you have it made.


Oh, sometimes I envy those people with obsessive passions such as sock monkeys and law enforcement spokespersons. But more often than not, I find peace in my lack of passionate obsession with any one sport or pasttime. There is a certain sense of freedom in not knowing much about anything.

And before someone mentions obsessively Photoshopping my face on various animate and inanimate objects, I will premptively cry out, "That doesn't count." It is more of a mild mental aberration than an obsessive pasttime.

Plus I can stop any time I want.

I just don't want to.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Freeze Frame


Tess and I took our niece to a Mariners game yesterday. They were playing the Detriot Tigers, currently the best team in baseball. They remain the best team in baseball.

We were seated in some fairly decent seats, close enough for me to snap some digital photos of Ichiro Suzuki, my favorite Mariners player. Despite the hype, I think Ichiro is a pretty impressive player and person. Regardless if he actually hits the ball, his presence on the field commands respect.

My digital camera has this annoying quality of taking a photo a split second after you click the shutter button. I've learned to compensate by anticipating movement when I shoot a photo and clicking a second early. With baseball players, this was quite a challenge. I had to focus, and then click when I thought the pitcher had released the ball and hope for the best.

I was kind of proud of the above photo because it stopped time an instant before the ball reached Ichiro. What I really like about the photo is that it illustrates very nicely the quantum physics concept I bring up every now and then about how the observer plays an important role in the outcome of any given event. Looking at this photo, you don't know whether Ichiro swings and misses, Ichiro swings and connects, Ichiro doesn't swing and it is a ball, or Ichiro doesn't swing and it is a strike. Of course, Ichiro could also get hit by the ball.

Now if I'd been doing time lapse photographer, you could watch several frames and see the outcome. As it was, I don't remember what happened next because I was focused on this one moment in time. As time dims my memory of the rest of the game and the outcome, this photo will be the reality. And the beauty of the photo is that it shows only potentialities. How perfect is that?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Low man


I used to think that the desireable location in any organizational structure was on top. I figured that if you were on top, you made the rules and everyone below you pretty much did what you said and you could just comfortably sail through life.

I was very young and naive.

Look at nature. Flowers grow at the top of the plant, are cut and put in a vase to die. The rest of the plant lives on. Trees are topped but the trunk keeps growing. The lead goose flying south for the winter is the one hunters usually target. And it's the first prairie dog to stick his head out of the hole that gets it shot off.

In the military, officers are primary targets (to their own troops as well). In most cases, it is the CEO of a company who takes the blame for scandal of his or her subordinates and resigns in disgrace. A successful actor or actress soon finds themselves the target of the paparazzi and see their popularity spiral down the toilet. Bottomline is that anyone rising to the top only seems to enjoy the view for a few moments before they are looking at the shoe in their face from the next person climbing up to take their place.

I am comfortable in my mediority. I am one of the repulsive middle managers of life that THE Michael wrote about a few weeks ago. I am sustained in my life and career by the mild distain of my subordinates and the smug attitude of my "superiors" who are positive that I am no threat to them. Because I am comfortable being stuck in the middle. Everyone else either rises or falls. I simply move forward.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Deer me


Yes, deer


There was this strip of wetlands between our hotel and the beach in Ocean Shores. One evening I looked out the window and saw three deer grazing peacefully, seemingly oblvious to the cars and fireworks on the beach just yards away. I will always be in awe of seeing wild animals outside of a zoo. I must have snapped 30 or photos of the deer.


I am glad that we can still see animals in the wild. But I can't really say that these animals were in what traditionally we think of as "the wild." It makes me sad that we are destroying so much of their habitat that they are showing up in suburban areas.

Hardly a day goes by in Seattle when I don't see some report of a bear spotted in someone's backyard going through garbage cans. In most cases animal control tranquilizes the animals and move them deeper into the dwindling woods (if they aren't killed by the tranquilizers).

But I can't help but wonder how much longer "wild" animals can stand against the tide of civilization. I imagine that more and more we will see the urbanization of the animals like the raccoons that dwell in our midst, eating our garbage and cat food. Or these deer that graze on a narrow strip of wetlands between hordes of beachgoers and multi-unit developments.

Maybe that's why I took so many photos of the deer. Who knows how long I'll be able to do even that?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Back from the beach

We just got back from a couple of nights at a resort near Ocean Shores, Washington. It is clear, hot and blue everywhere else in the state, but somehow the beaches of Washington are perpetually a watercolor gray.

Most of Washington beaches are incredibly flat. You can easily get the impression that you are standing on the edge of a great, liquid desert.

But still, the beaches have their own beauty that shifts with each wave.


And even the inevitable dead sea creatures become temporary sculptures.

You never know what will wash up on a beach.