Monday, March 29, 2010

Bon Voyage to the Enchanted Isle


I bought a new CD of lullabies last week that was simply a collection of piano music. Most of them were beautiful medleys, combining classic soothing songs such as Golden Slumbers and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I played while sitting in the rocking chair in my daughter's room waiting for her to drift off to sleep. I'm not sure how effective it was getting her to sleep, but it effectively made me drift down memory lane.

Back in 1999 I discovered Commodore Cruise Lines. It was this tiny little line that only had three ships at the time I booked a cruise with them: the Enchanted Seas, Enchanted Isle and the Enchanted Capri. I booked the Enchanted Isle because it was cheap, sailed out of New Orleans and sailed to some places I'd never been to before at the time: Cozumel, Jamaica and the Grand Cayman.

At the time I was single and unattached and had gotten over the stigma of traveling alone. I was relatively new to cruising. I'd been on a couple of Carnival Cruises (a bit too big to cruise on alone) and two Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (cool, but a bit small). The Enchanted Isle was an old ship, built in coincidentally the same year as I was born: 1958. It had first been christened the Argentina (then it became the Veendam, Brasil, the Volendam, the Monarch Star and finally the Enchanted Isle)  It had very little of the glitz of modern cruise ships. But it had a certain charm. And it didn't overwhelm you when you traveled alone.

Somehow I ended up in this funky single cabin on the Sun Deck. The cabin was nothing to write home about, but its location was perfect. It was nestled off by itself right outside a tiny piano bar perched on the stern of the ship.  The beauty was that very few people on the ship knew the lounge was there. I couldn't miss it and I soon made it my hang out.

The lounge had huge windows overlooking the stern of the ship. You'd get this stellar views of the ships wake as you plowed first down (or up) the Mississippi and into the Gulf of Mexico. If you've ever been on a cruise out of New Orleans, you'll understand the odd melancholy feeling you get watching the pitch blackness of the water punctuated with the occasional gas flames from oil rigs dotting the Gulf.

What made this lounge perfect other than the lack of crowds, view and proximity to my cabin door was the piano player. The guy seemed to play non-stop and played music perfect for the romantic back drop of the sea slipping away behind the ship. I'd sit there sipping martini's staring in the thick darkness and let the soft piano music wrap around me.

I don't remember many other details about my cruise on the Enchanted Isle, but I'll always remember that piano bar. I took two more cruises on Commodore, one on the Enchanted Capri and another one back on the Enchanted Isle, but neither recaptured the lonely peace I felt listening to that piano music on that first cruise.

Commodore Cruise Lines went belly up in 2001, a victim of rising fuel costs and the marketing power of the mega cruise ship lines. Just out of curiosity, did an online search to find out what became of the Enchanted Isle. After the cruise line went bankrupt, it was laid up in Violet, Louisiana (which I assume means it became the equivalent of broke down Chevy up on blocks in white trash front yard). Someone changed the name of the ship to the New Orleans in September 2003 and then on October 24, 2003 it sailed it's last journey to Alang, India where it was broken up for scrap in December of that year.

If there is an afterlife for cruise ships, I like to think that the Enchanted Isle is gliding around the fourth dimensional waters of the Gulf of Mexico with the soft sounds of a piano serenading the salt air amidst the murmurs of phantom passengers clinking martini glasses in a Bon Voyage toast into infinity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Clutter Island

No one could ever accuse me of being a minimalist when it comes to my environment. I have always been a collector of curiosities (at least of things that are curiosities to me). One might say I am a connoisseur of the conversation piece. Others might say I accumulate weird crap.

When I was a boy my room was filled with treasures such as a football sized hornet's nest (sans hornets), various rocks, old bottles, Famous Monsters of Filmland models, feathers and other things I couldn't live without. I may have patterned by collector nature after my father. His workshop (a former chicken coop in the backyard that he'd expanded in a two-room shed that housed his power tools and fishing tackle) was crammed with bits and pieces of things salvaged over the years.

My mother was the opposite. Whereas my father was a compulsive accumulator, my mother was a compulsive eliminator. She was constantly cleaning and tossing things out. I am sure having three boys (four if you count my father) was a nightmare to her compulsively clean nature. But she was amazingly tolerant of most of our various collections.

As I got older, I used to accompany my father to country flea markets. I'd always had an affinity for the paraphernalia if the past. I loved bits and pieces of things that represented history. So I began to accumulate collectible odds and ends of questionable monetary value but priceless to me.

As I got even older I went through my obsession with Elvis stage. That merged with my obsession with collectibles, oddities and kitsch (another word for tacky). About the same time I discovered the Home Shopping Network and then the greatest crap collecting enabler of all time -- eBay.

You starting to get the picture here?

I tried telling myself I was buying all of this stuff to immerse myself in the Elvis phenomenon as background for a novel I was trying to write that involved Elvis and Quantum Physics (I won't bore you with the plot). But I was quickly surrounding myself with mountains of shot glasses, playing cards, license plates, newspapers from the day Elvis died, concert ticket stubs, liquor decanters shaped like the King and even swatches from sheets he reportedly slept on while renting a home in California.

I finally sort of got over the Elvis thing (though I still have some prime collectibles like a limited edition Elvis Epiphone guitar). But I still collected things. I started going to thrift stores and antique malls. I went through a phase of collecting vintage stoneware (Homer Laughlin diner plates, Coronado ware, etc). My house wasn't quite as bad as some of those places you see on the reality television programs about hoarders, but it was pretty bad.

What finally saved me from being crushed by my own clutter was getting married. I'd lived alone for 18 or so years before I met my wife. She shares my mother's minimalist approach to possessions. When we merged households, it was obvious that I needed rethink my lifestyle.

It wasn't easy at first. A part of me died when I packed load after load of mannequins, dishes, sombreros, and pictures of dogs playing poker into my pickup and donated them to the local thrift store. I think I turned over enough crap to my neighborhood Value Village to stock their shelves for a year.

We purchased a new house together and all new furniture. All that was left of my clutter collection was a modest number of boxes and bins that line shelves in our garage and a few prize possessions that decorate one room of our house that functions as my home office.

All and all, I've managed to curb my compulsive desire to collect things. Oh, I admit my work office retains some of my penchant for memorabilia. But it is organized in a quasi-tasteful manner and consists primarily of sports memorabilia and pictures my children have colored or painted.

I am glad I am no longer an out of control collect-a-holic. I still need a certain amount of clutter around me to feed my creative need for organized chaos, but all in all I am happy without out of control piles of crap everywhere. And since we had children, I get plenty of doses of clutter without having to create it myself.

But that's another blog post.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The foursquare.com gospel...

It's not bad enough that I am on Facebook and Twitter, I have been sucked into foursquare.com where I can check in online and let everyone in the world know where I am. There is no real reason to do this other than that you earn points and virtual badges along the way. If you check in enough times at a place you can earn the right to become the Mayor of that location.

I am now the mayor of, Edmonds Station,  the train station I use every morning. Oh there is another guy who calls it Edmonds Train Station who thinks he is the mayor, but I am using the correct name of the station and therefor deserve to be the true mayor of Edmonds Station.

This is one of the major flaws I see in Foursquare (other than that it exists at all). Since users define the place they are checking into a single place can show up several times on maps of what is around you based on your GPS coordinates under different names. Thus multiple people can simultaneously be the mayor of the same place.

How pitiful have I become? I am salivating like Pavlov's dog at the opportunity to become virtual mayor of a place by virtue of me "checking in" on Foursquare every day and being tracked by GPS on my Blackberry. What's even more pitiful is that Foursquare is supposed to be like Facebook and Twitter in that you network with friends who have joined so they can track your whereabouts. And I don't have a single friend on Foursquare because I am too embarrassed to ask my Facebook friends join for fear of what they'll think of me for being part of yet another stupid social network site.

On the plus side my Foursquare check ins and shout outs are fed automatically into Twitter so that all of the spam sites following me on Twitter can know where I am at any given moment.

Is this a great time we live in or what? What possibly can they come up with next to waste time?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Days of our lives (not the soap opera)

It occurred to me this morning as I backed out of the garage for thousandth or so time since we moved into our house how individual days blur together into non-distinct things. We rarely remember days unless they are birthdays or something tragic happened on them like 9-11. But we remember moments and snippets of our existence.

It is a phenomenon of time and memory. Perhaps it is aligned with that fourth dimension I have become obsessed with of late. If we step out of the three dimensional linear world view of time we can fold it upon itself, or stitch together moments into a time cloak that becomes our security blanket of experience.

I used to have a pretty darned good memory. It served me well in the academic world because I never really had to break a sweat and study too much. Most of what I read or heard just stuck. So I tested well and could bluff my way through just about any essay. But I can't say I necessarily understood everything I remembered.

I have to admit that my memory isn't what it used to be. There are various factors in play here. Despite my best efforts, I am aging. And since having children, sleep deprivation and a constant state of chaos have worn have dulled a more than a few of my synapses. And I suffer from a malady typical of adults. I have way to much to think about so some things slip off the dinner plate of my brain.

So days blur together. But I savor moments.

Sometimes at night, when I am sitting in the dark in the rocking chair in my daughters room waiting for to drift off to sleep, I am flooded by moments. The rough cut of my life flickers on the big screen. It is fortunate that the brain doesn't keep a day by day log of the mundane. I'd be tripping over myself when I reminiscence trying to find the remote and fast forward to the interesting parts.

It is fascinating too, how moments can impact your whole life. Mistakes and triumphs make an endless loop in our thoughts. And each time they play they become more ingrained in our history and magnify tenfold from the original moment.

I don't want to resort to Hallmark platitudes touting cliche things like, "today is the first day of the rest of your life" or "live each moment as if it were your last." Such statements cheapen experience. I'd rather treat the moments as a touch of eternity than see them as the next step towards death.

And to think, all of this was triggered by the monotony of my daily routine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I am sick of hearing about health care reform

I am going to just go ahead and admit it right up front. I haven't a clue as to what it actually means that a health care reform bill has been passed. I have tried sifting through the many "news" reports about it, but I glaze over after skimming through paragraph after paragraph describing the historic nature of it and the ugly process that it involved to pass it. The only thing I do know is that the government will now require everyone to have health insurance and that insurance companies will no longer be able to refuse coverage to people with preexisting conditions or cancel your insurance if you use it because you are sick.

Obviously the reporters writing about health care reform don't say much about what it actually means because they don't understand it themselves (though the MSN Money page has some better info as to what it means). And the scary thing to me is that I am probably more informed about health care reform than your average person (including I'm sure many of the senators and congress persons who debated it). I consider myself a fairly liberal person and have always voted Democrat. This doesn't mean I am a Democrat, I just find them less scary than the Republicans. I would just soon all of them just left me alone.

That being said, I am a bit skeptical about the government managing anything as large as a nationwide health care program. It's not that I don't think everyone deserves health care, I just question the logic of requiring people to buy it or get fined. If you can't afford it in the first place, fining you for not buying it seems pointless. And even if the government had program to subsidize people who couldn't afford it, the problem remains that many of these people would be unaware of the programs because they are illiterate or just plain distrustful of government.

I am also unclear as to whether this reform will improve the quality of care you receive. I've been to the emergency room at my local hospital with a family member and came out thinking we might have been better off applying leeches to suck out the evil spirits than deal with the on call doctors. I don't even have much faith in my regular doctor. The only thing he seems to do when I come in is refill my prescriptions and charge me $250 for 20 minutes of his time.

I do resent that the whole healthcare reform thing is being used by both parties as political maneuvering to gain control. Ironically, it doesn't really matter which party is in the majority, they all still muck about with each other's pet projects to make sure no one ever really gets what they wants, including the general public. It is a great truth that an elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.

I can't believe I am writing about political crap in my blog. I need to get back to focusing on things that really matter, like are clams really happy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today is the first day after yesterday

I survived another birthday. Good thing they only come onces a year. It is kind of nice to be fussed over now and then, but the introvert in me cringes at being center stage in person. I'm much more comfortable as the Wizard of Oz.

It may seem odd to hear (read) a person who goes to great lengths to draw attention to themselves on the Web call themselves an introvert. One, I've resigned myself to be just one of millions of anonymous souls screaming into the ether on the Web and never really being heard. Two, even if I was discovered as a writer, I have the security of the two-dimensional curtain of words to keep me covered. In toddler terms, my writing is my fuzzy.

I used to want to be a novelist. But you know, I think I'm too ADD to focus on all the intricate threads of plot and character that really good novelists (and some really bad ones) have to do. I would also dread having to spend months (or years) working on a novel and then having it rejected outright by publisher after publisher. It was bad enough going through that with short stories. Not that I blame them with my short stories. I don't even know who reads or writes them these days.

Blogging is pretty much the perfect medium for me. I love the random spontaneous quality of it. I think I'm pretty good at rambling prose without a readily defined purpose. I think it is a good way to lower a bucket into the well of the subconscious and see what is going on in the fourth dimension (there it goes rearing it's cosmic head for the third or fourth post in a row).

I suppose the self-indulgent quality of my writing is why I'm not successful at it. Though I have to say, one of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins, has gained his share of success by writing self-indulgent yet brilliant fiction. I used to fancy that I wrote in the same style as him. Maybe that's why I like his work.

One of my new favorite authors is Garth Stein. I just finished his book The Art of Racing in the Rain and was truly blown away by how great it was. And he lives in Seattle as well. But he isn't self-indulgent.

Neither one of them spend much time Photoshopping their face on random images. I still have the one up on them in that niche.

Oh well, curtains for now.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Another day older...

I know it seems self serving to write about your own birthday on your birthday. But you know, why have a blog if you can't be self indulgent.

I have always had mixed feelings about my birthday. Being born the day after St. Patrick's Day has often left me with this "day late and a dollar short" feeling. But once I found out my father was adopted and having done quite a bit of research on my family tree, I really don't have any Irish roots to cling too, so not being born on St. Patrick's day is no longer an issue.

My birthday is the day before my brother's birthday. He is four years older than me. I am sure that me being born the day before his birthday did nothing to improve his feelings toward his baby brother when I was brought home from the hospital (which would explain why he would use any excuse to hit me while we were growing up). My mother used to more or less combine our birthday celebrations. On occasion she would recycle my cake for his celebration the next day.

I was raised Christian Scientist. And my mother's interpretation of the church doctrine was that we were neither born nor would we die. So she tried to downplay birthday celebrations as much as possible. I only recall one actual birthday party growing up that had anyone but my immediate family. I believe it was my 5th birthday. I had a Humpty Dumpty cake. One of my gifts was a Casper the Friendly Ghost doll. It had a string that you pulled and Casper would make friendly ghost pronouncements. Eventually the voice box wore out and it would only spout ghostly gibberish in a disturbingly raspy voice. I don't know what happened to the doll. It probably ended up on a farm with many of the dogs we had growing up that mysteriously disappeared. If I had it today, I imagine it would vetch a fair amount on eBay (as would my Munster Family lunch box that also vanished into the fourth dimension).

As I entered my early teens, my birthdays got even less special. When I turned 15, my mother wrapped up a package of underwear and gave it to me for my birthday. I know she had good intentions. Underwear is a necessary evil and I realize I probably needed some. But birthdays are for getting something you want, not something you need and would have gotten anyway. To this day, I do my best to avoid giving practical gifts.

It is funny how you look forward to birthdays when you were younger. I remember wanting to get older. Turning 18 meant I could vote. Turning 19 meant I could drink legally (in Idaho at the time). Turning 21 meant I was considered an adult and could gamble, drink and more or less partake in any vice that was taxable, legally. I guess the point I started putting on the brakes for wanting to get older was 25. Turning a quarter of a century old hit me at the time as auspicious. Next thing I knew I was 30. I blinked and I was 40 being serenaded at a downtown Red Robin by a pretty bad Elvis impersonator and then later that evening. standing on a table top in a Hooters down by Lake Union with several Hooters waitresses doing a very bored version of a happy birthday song.  Another decade screeched by me and I turned 50 (which put my anxiety about turning 25 seem silly).

Now I am 52. It is one of those in between birthdays that doesn't carry any direct baggage like 30, 40 or 50. Its only significance is that it puts me a step closer to 60 and that kind of freaks me out. It also signals to me that I have more of my life behind me than in front of me. I'm not looking forward to approaching the finish line and seeing the grim reaper with his checked flag waiting to wave me in.

So I take solace in the concept I've been toying with lately that time is not a straight line, but an circle or oval. Actually it is more like a ball of yarn that keeps winding around itself getting bigger and bigger, occasionally overlapping, but not necessarily repeating. If that is true, then my mother had it right all along. Life neither begins nor does it end. It just is.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Silence of the shamrocks


The Web is all abuzz about a shamrock shortage in Ireland threatening St. Patrick's Day celebrations on the Emerald Isle. Harsh winter weather coupled with new farming practices (treating the beloved Irish plant as a weed since it essentially is)  has severely diminished the availability of shamrocks.

Personally, I could think of worse disasters on St. Patrick's Day. It is not as if they have been hit with a shortage of green beer or corn beef and cabbage. Give me a break.

Shoot I have several shamrock plants myself. Which leads me to wonder how they could have a shortage in Ireland. I can't seem to kill mine. My cats eat the shamrocks down to the nubs every couple of weeks and the things snap right back.

And since there doesn't seem to be a shortage of shamrocks in the states, (you can find them in any grocery store around this time of year) perhaps we should organize a Shamrock Aid movement here to ship some to our friends in Ireland. I'm sure all of the various iterations of the Lord of the Dance productions could go on television and stage a telethon to raise money for the effort. And U2 and Bono are big on causes. I am sure they could bring a tear to the eye of the American public over the shamrock blight in Ireland.

And what kind of Irish name is Bono anyway? Isn't that the name of the guy who was married to Cher? Oh, after a brief Google search I discover that it is a nickname. It is short for the latin Bonovox which means "good voice." I could debate that because I'm not a big U2 fan.

But I digress.

I wonder if the Illuminati have something to do with this whole shamrock shortage thing. After all the shamrock is supposedly the symbol St. Patrick used to teach the heathens that used to inhabit Ireland about the Holy Trinity and the Catholic Church. Maybe we need Tom Hanks to investigate. Hold the word "shamrocks" up to a mirror and it reads "skcormahs," by the way. That must mean something. Maybe it is Klingon.

Oh well, Happy St. Patrick's Day anyway!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The blog/time continuum

It occurred to me, that since most people stumble on my blog doing random Google searches, most of what I write may seem like nonsense. But to quote Gary Zukav, "Nonsense is nonsense only when we have not yet found that point of view from which it makes sense."

Taken out of context most of what I write is nonsense.  But since the only person who has followed my blog from the very beginning and stayed with it up until now is me. So everyone else lacks the continuity of understanding where I came from and how I arrived at where I am.

It is that fourth dimension of the space/time continuum that physicists banter about. We are all three dimensional creatures so we are unable to perceive a fourth dimension. We can only intuit that it is there. This is true in blogs and this is true in life.

Think about it. It is rare that you have someone in your life (other than yourself) who knows everything that happens to you from the beginning to the end, day in and day out. People pop in and out of your life at various points. And they only know you as who you are at that point in your life. Oh, you can recite your story from the beginning and watch their eyes glaze over right around the point where you describe how you were potty trained at a very late age. And sometimes they retain some of what you have explained about your past. But more often than not you are to other people that person they perceived from the time they met you.

Even people who know the present you aren't with you 24/7.  Your spouse isn't around you during that 8 to 12 hours that you are at work and your co-workers aren't around you that other 8 to 12 hours you are at home. Most people's families are only around them on holidays and funerals. So you end up knowing people in chunks of time and filling in the gaps with your own projections of who a person is.

So is it any wonder people feel misunderstood most of the time?

Reading an unfamiliar blogger's most recent post for the first time is like arriving at an archeology dig after all the dirt has been cleared from a tomb. It is difficult to conceptualize how much dirt had to be carted away and sifted to get to this point. Okay, most blogs have archives. But who in their right mind is going to go back six years and read 800 or so posts just to see how the blogger arrived at where they are today?

And with search engines, most people don't even arrive at the latest post.  It's like someone finding your high school graduation photo, thinking it is a current photo of you and then discovering that you are really a middle aged man who no longer wears a tuxedo with a ruffled shirt (which is literally happens on many online dating sites that include "recent" photos).

I think I understand why people don't follow your blog or your life on a regular basis.  It is hard enough following your own life without taking on another one who isn't part of your immediate family.

But I also think I understand why I blog. It is a record of my fourth dimension. It's those parts of my life that don't go on a resume or into a biography. It is the odd little bits of minutia of my existence that explain on a broader level who I am.

I blog, therefore I am.

But I still don't like green eggs and ham (I couldn't resist saying that).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saving daylight in a jar and other useless pastimes

I am not a big fan of daylight savings time. Moving the clock an hour forward screws me out of an hour's sleep. I lose enough of it already without the government mucking about with the clock. As it is, I end up wasting a beautiful commute by train along the Puget Sound staring at my own reflection in the dark glass. I'd rather see the sun or at least the brighter shades of gray that the sun eeks out for Seattle than my own less than sunny reflection.

I find it arrogant anyway that anyone would have the gall to regulate time to begin with. Why do we have to parcel it out in neat little portions? Isn't good enough to say it is day when the sun is out and night when it isn't?

I think when the government has to get in the business of telling everyone what time it is, then they have too much time on their hands. And if they have too much time on their hands than why do we need to save it anyway.

I should write a letter to whatever government commission there is that dreams up and regulates time and ask them to free up some of the time that have on their hands and stop messing around with springing forward and falling back. Just changing all of the clocks and watches in my house wastes alot of my time. And I can never figure out how to change the time on my cheap digital watch that I bought to wear when I travel so that people in third world countries wouldn't think that I had any money even though they know that you are American and have much more money then they do and can afford to travel to third world countries in the first place. Ever time I try to change the time on that watch I end up switching it to military time and starting a stop watch that I can't stop. And I really hate military time because I have too much to think about already without subtracting 12 from whatever time the watch says in order to figure out what time it really is. But since I can't figure out how to change the time and end up switching it to military time I end up having to subtract 12 hours and then add an hour to make up for daylight savings time. Or I suppose I could just subtract 11 hours and have done with it.

But I digress.

I really don't like daylight savings time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Aunty-social media

I'm getting sick of hearing the phrase "social media marketing" bantered about like it is the new savour of businesses looking to lure in the face of a "sagging economy" (another phrase I'm sick of). Social media has become the new spam. I can't even tell you the last time I got an e-mail from Nigeria offering me millions of dollars in exchange for my bank account information. I kind of miss the spam wars.
But I digress.

Being ever the forward thinking person, I have been trying to think of what the next trendy thing will hit the digital world once people realize that the emperor that is social media isn't wearing any clothes. So I am looking into developing an anti-social media site. Maybe I'll call it Defacebook or Hater. Instead of friends or followers, you could have enemies or stalkers.  The point of the site would be to alienate people as opposed to networking. Lord knows I've been doing that my entire life.

Of course, I Googled Defacebook and someone has already thought of it. They will now go on my list of enemies. There is also a Hater.com created by a major league loser. He's on my list.

Let's see, what other things could I call the site. Facebutt.com has been used. So has Inyourfacebook.com. Erasebook.com is out there. I was thinking maybe started Facedbook as a site where you could post drunk comments. But that is used as well. Shoot, Debasebook.com is gone as well. Somebody snagged outtamyfacebook.com, too. Wait! Getoutofmyfacebook.com is available! But I'm not paying $10.95 a year to register it. Sigh.

There isn't much wiggle room on creating an anti-Twitter site. I imagine Shitter.com has been used, but I'm not going to Google it at work. Mindlessprattle.com is available, however. But it would be too close to encouraging the same content as Twitter. Antitwitter.com has been taken, but Auntytwitter.com is available. I'm not sure most people would get the pun, though.

This confirms my theory that there are no new ideas or products left in the universe. There are just new ways to package them. So maybe I'll just go work on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I could have been somebody...

"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am..."
--Marlon Brandon in On the Waterfront
At what point in your life do you start having those "I coulda been somebody" moments? I know I started having them in my early 20s as I switched majors five or six times and settled on Journalism. Then I had them as I meandered through a career that didn't really have much to do with Journalism. At the same time I had them about my attempts at getting published. I continue to have those moments every now and then as I crest the hill of middle age.

Youth has this nasty habit of slipping away in a cowardly fashion. There is only so long you can kid yourself that aging is only happening to everyone else around you. It is that damned mirror that shatters the delusion.

But, I console myself with the Zen-like response that rather than dwell on who or what I could of been, I should accept who I am and strive for who I want to be.

It sounds good anyway.

Sometimes, when I rail on about never having carved a niche of fame for myself that would mean I left my mark on the world, I remind myself that even the famous are only famous for a moment. Especially in this digital age where ADD is the norm, things don't even remain in the public eye the standard 15 minutes prescribed by Andy Warhol.

Time makes even somebodies into nobodies. I imagine that someday even (forgive me for saying this) Elvis will be forgotten. Monuments crumble, pages of words turn to dust, and names of the faces in photographs are forgotten long before the photographs themselves fade away. So it is ironic that we are obsessed with being remembered.

At this point in my life I am content that the most important thing that I have accomplished and will leave behind me is my children.

So I guess I am a somebody after all.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Is this blog on?

Although I am a seasoned (but not necessarily tasteful) blogger, I still find myself tentative when I explore the other social media outlets such as my new Twitter toy. It reminds very much of when I got my first tape recorder as a kid. I was so excited about it, but the first time a microphone was turned on in front of me I froze. Then maybe I'd dip my toe into the waters and murmer a soft, "testing, one, two, three."

The problem is and always has been thinking about what I want to say. I am a much better writer when I just write. And I am much cleverer when I am not trying to be clever.

Such is life.

I follow Rainn Wilson on Twitter. He plays Dwight on the Office. I follow him not because I particularily care about what he has to say, but because his was one of the first names I recognized when I signed up for Twitter and was given a list of people to potentially follow. I am one of about 1.8 million people who follow him. I can't even imagine a fraction of that many people reading what I wrote on the spur of the moment. But so far Rainn seems unfazed by the whole thing and tweets away random posts all the time.

I bet he doesn't even think about it. I would be sweating bullets over each word and then regretting it when I hit the button to post. That is the difference between writing and tweeting. A writer traditionally crafted his or her words carefully over time, edited them, reread them, submitted them for publishing, had them rejected several times and then if the publishing gods were feeling in a particularly favorable mood, published. Bloggers and tweeters just crap out the stuff and flush it into the digital ether.

Not that there isn't some art to writing and publishing almost in the same breath. That old adage about a thousand monkeys hammering away at typewriters eventually producing the complete works of Shakespeare holds true with the blog and twitter worlds as well. True greatness can be achieved by any monkey if you place the banana bits on the right keys.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Dark train ride of my soul

I have to admit that, after all of my derisive comments about Twitter, I am kind of getting a kick out of blurping out random tweets. It is kind of liking having digital Tourette Syndrome.

The "dark train ride of my soul" tweet just came to me as I sat on the train this morning staring at the dark, churning waters of the Puget Sound. It was just such a contrast to the weekend. Saturday was actually balmy with blue skies as far as the eye could see. But I blinked and we return to the dismal charcoal drawn landscape that is the Pacific Northwest.

Cool as I think "dark train ride of my soul" is, I stole a bit of it from one of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams. In addition to writing the brilliant Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, he wrote a series of books featuring Dirk Gently and his holistic detective agency. One of the best was called, The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul. It has been so long since I read it that I couldn't even tell you much about the plot, but it was funny as hell.

But partially plagerized or not, "dark train ride of my soul" still has a nice ring to it. It adds a little contrived intrigue to what is a pretty mundane commute. If anyone actually reads my random tweets (or this blog) they might imagine I am thinking deep thoughts while I ride the train rather than wondering what my wife packed me for lunch.

There is a certain irony to visualize public transit as a conveyor of souls and that the road to enlightenment would have a route number. Charon, after all, collected fares. The only difference now would be he'd have to accept an ORCA smart card and deal with the bloody beeping it makes when you tap it on the reader before getting on the train.

I would suggest that the best conveyor of souls would be the train and not the bus. A soul train (pardon the pun) has much more dignity than a soul bus (not to mention being a heck of a lot more comfortable). Some could argue that an airplane would be the more appropriate conveyor of souls. But after my recent business trip to Fort Lauderdale and the hours of airports and flying coach, I think flying is closer to hell than to heaven.

Anyway, save your soul and gas. Take the train to work.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I tweet therefore I spam...

Hypocritical as it seems, I couldn't resist opening up a Twitter account after ranting about social media sites and smart phones yesterday. I actually had a Twitter account that I rarely used before. But it suddenly dawned on me that it could be an interesting experiment to tie one to my blog. And I have to admit I'm kind of beginning to get the hang of it (if not the purpose).

Near as I can figure, Twitter is for people who don't have the attention span that Facebook requires. This is not to say that Facebook truly requires any attention. It is basically a way to stay in touch with people without actually ever interacting with them. There is a ironic kind of beauty in that.

Twitter doesn't bother with niceties like sharing photos, lists, interests or terribly deep thoughts. It's more the place to share brain farts. And since brain farts like real farts shouldn't linger, you only have 140 characters at a time to spout whatever random thought you are trying to convey.

Just as Facebookers collect "friends," Twitterers compete to collect followers. Because the more followers you collect, the more connected you are apparently supposed to feel. God knows you want as many people as possible to smell those oh so fragrant brain farts I was referring to.

And similar to blogging where you link to other people's blogs with the expectation that they will link to yours and create this parasitic relationship, I get the impression that when someone "follows" your tweets, they expect you to follow theirs. This is not unlike two people farting in bed and holding the covers over their heads.

I'm really beating this brain fart analogy to death.

So far, I've confined my tweets to word play with the words "tweet" and "twitter." I'm not sure how long I can keep that up. Eventually I will likely have to resort to mind numbing tweets about having popcorn stuck in between my teeth and trying to dig it out with a ball point pen cap. Or I could resort to mobile tweeting and get into the TMI category while voiding myself in the restroom. I think I'll pass on that option.

Pass on that option...get it? I crack myself up.

Tweeting actually comes easy to me. I have always been a pretty decent headline writer. It stems from my days working on the college newspaper before the digital age made it possible to make even the longest headline fit in the smallest space. In the days of typesetting, you had to write the headline to fit. I also like puns, so hopefully I'll never have to truly resort to mundane or TMI tweets.

I'll save those pearls for my blog.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Guess where I'm blogging from...

I have never hid my distain for cell phones. Before them, I hated land lines. Nothing good has ever transpired over the phone. But we live in a nation possessed by the need to stay connected constantly. This was very apparent on my recent trip to Florida.

I know it is not unusual to see people talking on cell phones in airports. And I have even got used to the fact that people will talk on their phones while locked in the semi-privacy of a restroom stall (but I still think it is disgusting). But I was appalled when I got off my plane in Houston, went into the restroom to use the urinal and there next to me was a guy talking on his cell phone while he was using the urinal.

Okay, what is so important that you can't wait until after you take a whiz to talk about. If it was a businss call, how professional could you possibly come across if you are holding your junk in one hand and talking on the phone with the other. He wasn't even using a Bluetooth headset for christ's sake.

I know I must appear to be a dinosaur when it comes to mobile technology, but I really think there are times in our lives when we need to unplug. I say this despite my addiction to my Blackberry and e-mail. Sometimes you have to just step away from Bluetooth and stop talking or texting. The bathroom is one of those places.

I say this even though the conference I attended had umpteen sessions on Social Media. The digital fungus of social media sites are spreading around the world. Our worldview is being condensed into 140 characters or less. Pretty soon we'll be saying, "Johnny can't read...but he cn txt!"

Other than my Blackberry, I have resisted wading into the smart phone world. I suppose eventually I'll give in. Then I too will relentlessly look for "apps" that will make the thing indispensible. God knows I need my phone to tell me I've walked 100 paces and burned three calories in the past ten minutes.

Oh well, I have to stop and go tweet everyone that I've blogged and make sure my RSS feed gets it on Facebook as well.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Mad as a hatter

First, I want to state that I like Johnny Depp. I don't personally know him, but I have always admired his acting if not always his choice of movies. I thought he was brilliant in Dead Man, the quirky Jim Jarmusch western. You can't diss on Edward Scissorhands and he played an uncanny Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing. And he has become synonymous with pirate for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.

But he has made a few films of questionable quality such as Don Juan De Marco in which he co-starred with a Jabba the Hut looking Marlon Brando. And his interpretation of Willy Wonka in the remake was just downright creepy.

I write all of this because of the way Depp looks in his latest Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland. I haven't seen the movie yet (since it hasn't be released) but from the trailers, I have to say it looks as though he has taken his Willy Wonka character and ratcheted up the creepy factor threefold. Look at his photo and tell me he doesn't look like a drag queen version of Madonna (or maybe just Madonna).

I will likely still see Alice in Wonderland (when it makes it's way to cable). But I am betting I will be disappointed. It's not because it won't be true to the book. I always found the Lewis Carroll original incomprehensible and a bit creepy too. My daughter was given a pop-up version that gives me nightmares.

Now having said all this, I have to get something else off my chest about Johnny Depp. He was recently voted the sexiest man alive. Okay, I will admit that Depp, in his prime, was a pretty handsome guy. But he is only five years younger than me and from some of the photos I've seen of him on the red carpet, he looks like he should be holding up a cardboard sign and asking people for spare change. How is long, stringy hair and an untrimmed beard sexy? And speaking of untrimmed facial hair, somebody has got to tell Brad Pitt to lose the stupid beard.

I know this must sound like sour grapes on my part. I long ago gave up on the goal of becoming the sexiest man alive. But at least I try to comb my hair and shave once in awhile. If I'd known looking like I lived in my car was sexy, I would have given up bathing years ago.

BTW, did you know that the term mad as a hatter is thought to stem back to the days when people who crafted beaver top hats went a bit daft from inhaling the chemicals used to cure the beaver pelts.

I digress, but Johnny Depp still needs a makeover.