Thursday, August 16, 2018

Forgetting to remember



I used to pride myself on having a great memory.  I could vividly recall experiences, people, places, and things people said. I've never been so good with names, but faces I would pretty much always remember. And having been semi-invisible most of my life, I have often remembered people who I've met or seen even when they don't have any memory of me.

I still remember things. But unless I make a conscious effort to dig up the memories I've discovered that more and more they have soften and become a bit fuzzy around the edges like and old school room film about "A Day at the Beach."

Of course part of it is due to aging. That's stating the obvious. But I think part of it is deliberate. Or subconsciously deliberate. Several months ago, I downloaded a meditation APP that guides you through a ten-minute meditation that in theory you are supposed to do every day. It has lots of different meditations to help you in lots of different areas. But I just do the same six or seven free ones over and over because I'm too cheap to pay an annual fee to unlock the rest.

The underlying message in the meditations is that you are working to stop the mind from thinking for ten minutes by just concentrating on your breathing (and the meditation narrator's voices and the sounds of frogs, flowing streams, birds and crickets in the background of the meditation). It makes you aware of how often in a given day your thought process pulls up a memory and puts it on replay in your head, repeating a thought or event over and over again.

The problem is that many of those types of thoughts or memories are about things you regret and can't do a thing about to change. Plus each time you replay the thought or memory in your head, you are making it real again even though it really no longer physically exists.

I think of this as dwelling on a mistake instead of learning from it. It's like watching the same movie over and over again and hoping the ending will change.

It doesn't.

So I think of the meditation as a way of training my brain to remember to forget. Or forgetting to remember. Because it is such a wasted effort to focus on a past you can't change instead of focusing on a future where you have a choice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Cable, the final Frontier


As with many people, I've been frustrated by the high cost of cable television, especially since most of what I watch anymore is streaming video through Amazon and Netflixs. I have cable bundled with telephone and Internet through Frontier. I've used their services for about eight years since we moved into our current home (and it was the only option). My cable package has included just about every premium channel out there and I've paid dearly for it over the years.

A few weeks ago I was shocked to see my bill had increased by almost a $100 over the monthly bill I was used to. Reviewing the bill didn't shed any light on why. It was full of service charges, taxes and unintelligible components. So I reached out to Frontier's customer service for an explanation. It launched a saga I'm sure many people who deal with cable companies are familiar with. But here is a sample of my chat sessions with Frontier customer service and tech support. I apologize for how long it is, but I wanted to give a true sense of how bad Frontier's customer service really is. The only customer service I have experienced that is as bad as their's is Boost Mobile.

My first session with Frontier was on July 31, 2018. Frontier's comments are in gray. Mine are in blue. My unarticulated thoughts are in parentheses. 

When you chat with us, you grant us permission to review your services during the chat to offer you the best value. Your current services will not be affected if you refuse permission by not proceeding with chat. Frontier has the duty to protect your information. This is your right under Federal law. For quality and security purposes, your session is recorded and may be monitored or reviewed.
1:17 PMTime H
My bill has increased almost $75 over the past two months. I'm trying to determine why? What is a Directory/Non-Reg charge?
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you for chatting with Frontier, Time. My name is Jade and I'll be assisting you today.
May I confirm your billing telephone number xxxxxxxxxx and this is the account we will be looking at together? 
1:18 PMTime H
Yes.
Jade1:18 PM
Thank you. 
Please bear with me while I'm reviewing the information on your account.
I see here that you have Phone, Internet, and TV services.
1:22 PMTime H
That is correct.
Jade1:24 PM
I have reviewed the account.
I noticed that your discounts expired in your June statement.
1:25 PMTime H
What discounts were those? I have had this service for eight years.
Jade1:26 PM
They were discounts for Internet, and TV services
While we are taking care of your services I will review your account to make sure you are getting the best value. 

(Translated this means Jade will review my account to see if she can get more money out of me and distract me from the real reason I had contacted Customer Service.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Great Cornholio Tournament


"I am the Great Cornholio!"
--Beavis

I just received an e-mail that started out:

"The Everett Clinic Beer Garden Cornhole Tournament in its 2nd year will be held at Taste Edmonds. The tournament will take place the first 3 hours each day in the Beer Garden, teams of two square off in a best 2 out of 3 single elimination competition. The top teams from Friday and Saturday will play until the winners are crowned."

Do they not realize this is wrong on so many levels?

Okay, I realize the well intentioned people at the Taste Edmonds are talking about a game where people toss a bag filled with corn at a board with a hole in it. But (butt...heh-heh...heh-heh), anyone who has ever watched Beavis and Butthead remember the Great Cornholio and are aware that Cornhole is slang for the anus. And Cornholing is slang for anal sex.

From a marketing standpoint, naming something a cornhole tournament is really an unfortunate choice  unless you are targeting an entirely different demographic than I think the Taste Edmonds people are going for.  I think a safer choice would have been to call it a bean bag toss tournament.

Though there is an American Cornhole Association. So maybe I'm being totally sophomoric about this. But (butt...heh-heh...heh-heh) even the fact that there is an American Cornhole Association cracks me up (he said, "crack" heh-heh...heh-heh).

Regardless, I'm going to skip the Everett ClinicBeer Garden Cornhole Tournament. It's not something I want watch.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

No views is good views?


I'm convinced that there is very little chance that I will become the next YouTube sensation. Day after day I open my YouTube channel and am taunted with the "No Views" message on my posts. And there are no"likes" for the one or two videos that have been viewed.  In addition, no one has subscribed to my YouTube channel.

On the plus side, I haven't had any negative comments on my YouTube posts. Of course there haven't been any comments on my YouTube posts.

Over at the Medium I've had 116 people view my posts in the past month. But only 55 of those people actually read all the way through a post after viewing it. And three people became fans. I've signed up for the Medium's program that monetizes your posts if paid subscribers read them and like them. So far I've made $0.00. Their projections show that by the end of the month I should earn $0.00.

But hey, I'm not in this for the money. Though I also am in the Google Adsense program that randomly puts ads on my blog for which I am paid if people click on them. Although I've racked up almost $40.00 in ad revenues, it has taken five years to do so. And they won't pay you until you accumulate at least $100. At this rate, I should collect my earnings in another ten years.

It is a good thing that I never tried to truly make a living off from my writing. Something tells me I'd be behind the counter at a Starbucks taking fru-fru coffee drink orders to supplement my writing income.

Just for the record, I have a degree in Journalism and have spent a bulk of my career making a living by writing. It was just not writing things I wanted to write. Which goes to show you, when you write about stuff that you want to write about instead of what people want you to write about, your odds of getting read are substantially reduced. Though I seriously doubt many people were reading what I wrote when I was writing brochures and newsletters for a government agency. But at least I was getting paid.

I think I am a good writer. I just don't think I am a mainstream writer.

And don't think the irony of me writing yet another unread post about no one reading what I write escapes me.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

I want my MTV


Listen here, now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain't workin', that's the way you do it
Money for nothin', and your chicks for free
Money for nothin', and chicks for free
--Money for Nothing, Dire Straits

 I miss MTV. Oh, I imagine it is still around, but it can't be the same as it was when it launched back in 1981.  I had high hopes for it back then when I was 23 and had high hopes for lots of things. They mainly played music videos introduced by Video Jockeys (VJ's).

Music videos were unique back then. It added a whole new dimension to music. The videos added a visual storyline to the songs. It turned the singers and bands into screen stars. I really liked videos like Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo (I wish I was in Tijuana, eating barbecued iguana).

And there was Devo (Crack that Whip), Billy Idol (White Wedding), Cyndi Lauper (Girls just want to have fun), and Corey Hart (Sunglasses at Night). The stars didn't last long, but their videos are still etched into my brain.

It is hard to describe why music videos were a game changer at the time. I'd grown up listening to vinyl records and the radio. I loved the music, but it was one dimensional. Oh, there were some artists that had created things akin to music videos before. The Beatles had movies that bridged the gap between the songs and the performances (Hard Days Night and Help).  And there were the Monkeys who were a fictional band created for a television series in the late 60s.

But music videos seemed like the music vehicle of the future. I liked that MTV treated music videos like visual records and even had top 10 countdowns. I think the VJ's were even former disc jockeys.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Chameleon


I have worked in public transit for 36 years. I take public transit to work every day. I ride it to the airport when possible. But I still have to deal with owning a car.

And I've never had much luck with cars.

I got my driver's license when I was 14. Idaho allowed kids that young to drive because many needed to drive farm equipment.

I didn't.

By the time I had a driver's license, my parents owned a 1967 Chevy Bel Air and a 1972 Chevy truck.  Those were my driving options.

Since my dad rode his bike to work, he would sometimes let me drive the truck to junior high. It gave me some clout with the girls I had crushes on to be able to offer them rides home after school. It didn't give me enough clout to actually date any of them. Not that I could have driven anyone anywhere on a date. Though I had my driver's license at 14, you couldn't drive at night until you were 16.

I did eventually get a permit to drive at night on a specific route when I turned 15 and needed to drive to marching band practice. That's when I got in my first accident. It was while driving the 67 Chevy. An old lady ran a stop sign and t-boned the car.

By the time I was driving at night without a permit at aged 16, I drove the same 67 Chevy into a metal pole at the band room while trying to turn into a narrow drive way and drop off a bass guitar amp. It dented the front fender.

When I was 17 or 18, I bought my first car: a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85. It was white with a red top and red bucket seats. It was a classic, but it was a boat. If I'd held onto it and taken care of it, it would be worth thousands today. But I traded it in and bought a 1973 Toyota Celica.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Dark Tourist


I've been binge watching Netflix's new series Dark Tourist. It is a documentary about a subset of tourism that involves visiting places that are historically associated with death and tragedy. New Zealand journalist David Farrier focuses on that area of travel, known as dark tourism.

Farrier travels to a different place in each episode, visiting destinations and have experiences that aren't on your typical travelers must see list. He visits a death-worshipping cult in Mexico, soaks up radiation left behind in Fukushima, Japan, meets vampires in New Orleans, and travels to Africa to become a Voodoo initiate.

On an even more disturbing level, he takes serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer tour with Dahmer-obsessed tourists and visits with Hollywood fans of Charles Manson. Oh, and he visits a place in Cambodia where you can shoot heavy duty military weapons and shoot cows or chickens.

The series confirms that humans are a disturbed lot.

I think the closest I've ever come to being a dark tourist was visiting the Ford Theater in Washington D.C., (where Lincoln was shot), the Kennedy museum in Dallas, the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. But I visited those places out of admiration of the men, not out of morbid curiosity to see where they were killed.

I find people's adulation of serial killers the most disturbing. I am also disgusted at the amount of media attention paid to the background of the people who carry out mass shootings. No one should be memorialized for being a killer.

I suppose if I was to psychoanalyze Dark Tourists, I'd say they are people afraid of death who go to these morbid places to confront their fears.

Or more likely, they are just whack jobs.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Digging holes


"The only job you start at the top is digging a hole."
I don't dig digging holes. Not that I dig that many holes. You tend to only dig holes if you have something to put in one.

That said, I dug two fairly large holes over the weekend. I didn't start out to dig holes. But when you own a home and start doing chores, one thing leads to another.

I set out to mow the front lawn. It is a narrow strip of grass maybe eight by thirty feet. It takes more time to get out the mower, extension cord (it's an electric mower), broom and trimmer than it does to actually mow the lawn. While mowing the lawn I noted for the thousandth time that, for whatever reason, there were two sunken areas in the lawn. They were on either end of the lawn and were maybe a foot and a half each in diameter.

The thing about these sunken areas is that you can't really mow them. The mower passes right over them and the grass growing in them doesn't get cut. I always have to come back with the electric trimmer and trim the grass. Then it looks funky.

I finished mowing and edging the lawn and decided it was time to do something about the sunken areas. I figured I cut up the sod over the indents, fill them with soil and put the sod back.  So I grabbed and edging shovel and began cutting the sod on the first sunken area. It went fairly quickly. I pulled up a large square of sod off the indent and set it aside.

That's when my wife walked up and told me once again how she would like to rip up all of the grass and just put in shrubs and trees. I nodded, thinking it would be nice not to have to mow the lawn, but also thinking it would be a new patch of earth for the horsetails and other evasive weeds to conquer. Then my wife suggested that rather than filling in the sunken areas with soil and covering them back up, we should plant a couple of trees to take us one step closer to her dream of a landscaped front yard.


Friday, July 20, 2018

It's not YouTube, it's me


Okay, I've ventured into YouTube in a futile effort to validate my self-perceived creative talents and once again I have confirmed that my middle aged invisibility in the real world has infected my social media self as well.

Granted I've only posted two home made videos to my YouTube channel, but only one has been viewed and I suspect that was by me. And after viewing YouTube's tutorials on how to be discovered on YouTube, I am even more frustrated. Because their algorithm only displays your videos to more people based on the number of likes and subscriptions. This seems to me to be kind of a catch-22. Because if no one sees my videos, how can they like them or subscribe?

I am at a loss for assigning compelling key search words to my videos, too. But if someone does a search about clams, unread blogs, or middle aged humorist, I think I have that niche covered.

Turning my blog posts into videos is hard work. I am going to experiment with audio narration to see if that helps. Because I've found using iMovie titles for the narrative is tedious and not real compelling.

I've just had a flash of  Deja Vu that I've written this post before about making and narrating videos.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?


Many years ago, I had an Astrology reading by an odd psychic who spoke with a Swedish accent although he was born and raised in Seattle.  He did a rambling reading that he recorded on a cassette tape. Nothing much stood out to me except for his prediction that I was going to be a social documentarian through technology that he implied was video.

At the time, I had very little to do with video. It was in the 1990s and people were still primarily using land line telephones so there wasn’t the proliferation of video captured by Smart Phones like there is today.  Truth be told, I have never really liked video. I’ll take a still photo any day because you can actually do something with it. Video requires too much effort to be viewed, so I don’t think it is a great way to document things.

I have always first and foremost considered myself a writer. So I ignored the psychic’s reference to video and assumed I would document via my writing. So blogging for 14 years confirmed to me that that is probably what the psychic was seeing. But if I am truly a social documentarian, shouldn’t more than 30 or so people actually read about what I’m documenting?

The explosion of YouTube has made me rethink whether I should venture into video as a medium to advance my status as a social documentarian. Watching Ze Frank’s massive quantity of video shorts that have been so well received has fueled my desire to figure out how I can do videos on YouTube as well.

But what would I do on video?  I know very little about how to edit video. I don’t want to shoot videos of me reading blog posts. One, I hate the way I look on video. I don’t have a great voice either. I just don’t think anyone would watch me reading a post Ze Frank style anyway.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Fortnite, or Virtual Reality Bites


As with Minecraft, I downloaded the latest computer game craze, Fortnite to make sure it was appropriate for my son to play. He has been obsessing about it for months because all of his friends play it. We had resisted letting him download it because it does have shooting as a component of game play. But he eventually convinced us that the depiction of violence was minimal.

The premise of Fortnite is pretty simple. You log in and you are assigned a character (unless you have purchased a character skin of your choice in the Fortnite store). Near as I can figure the characters are assigned randomly (including the gender and race of your character).  And each character is a buff Millennial decked out in stylish combat gear. You can also purchase even more stylish garb if you are picky about your flack jackets and ammo belts.

Once you have been assigned your character, you pick the type of mission you want to go on. You can go solo, in teams of two or squads of four, or you can take part in a free for all with 50 players in each team. When you have picked you mission preference, the Fortnite servers assign you to a game with other players presumably from all around the country if not the world.

You are then propelled into the game world where you run towards a blue bus that is disturbingly reminiscent of the Magic School Bus. After a short countdown you are on the flying bus above the Fortnite world. Then, after another countdown, you skydive out of the bus and choose from a variety of locales to land on the island like Fortnite game field. If you are on a small team with players you know (such as my son), you try and land near to each other. You are in free fall once you jump out of the bus. You can deploy a hang glider whenever want. It automatically deploys once you are near the ground.

Once you land, you begin searching for items to help you survive. You start out with a formidable pick axe. You can use it to hack down trees, break rocks or destroy buildings (much like Minecraft). You then search through abandoned buildings and houses for items to put in your pack. Most of these items are weapons (handguns, automatic rifles, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, and booby traps). You can also pick up medical supplies and potions you drink to increase your power or shield you. There are also treasure chests hidden in random places that have a cache of items. And random as it seems, you can find a llama pinata that contains a stash of items as well.

Once you have a gun, you pretty much shoot at anything that moves before it shoots you. To add to the anxiety, a storm that drops acid rain begins forming minutes after you land and you have to track your location on a map to make sure you stay within a shrinking circle that is out of reach of the storm. The game ends when you either die or are one of the last survivors of the winning team (the one with live players left).


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Not relevant


I attended an event at work earlier this week that highlighted that more than 50 percent of our workforce had been at my company less than a year. Translate that to 50 percent of our workforce are 30 or younger.

The event included a slide show on screens in the meeting space showing photos of staff at work. I wasn't in a single photo and I've been working there 21 years. 

I was overwhelmed by the feeling that not only had I become invisible as I'd aged, but now I wasn't relevant.

Not that I've felt relevant for some time now. It creeps over you in phases.  Though it isn't as obvious as becoming invisible. I started fading into the background when I turned 40. I was transparent when I turned 50. And I became completely invisible when I turned 60.

I still felt relevant at 40 because it was still possible to bridge the gap between generations and have common popular points of reference. This was due in a large part to not having much contact with  Millennials at the time since most of them were in grade school

Even when I turned 50 I felt more relevant than I do now, though more via my writing than in person. My hair had pretty much all turned gray by the time I turned 50. And it was that gray hair that made me transparent and less relevant to the world when I met people in person.

The milestone of turning 60 is the game changer both online and in the real world. Since I have made no secret of how old I am in my blog, I have sensed that my relevancy to the larger demographic that uses the Web has diminished exponentially.


I suppose I could lie about my age. I could curb my obsession with Photoshopping my face or things or just use younger photos of myself like people do on dating sites. I could write about trending things and drop the names of popular entertainers and musicians that Millennials listen to. But that would be the virtual equivalent to having a senior bro bun, wearing an earring and trying to get my garage band back together (not that I was ever in a garage band).


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Higher learning


Posting about teaching my children how to start and tend a fire started me thinking about all of the things I learned more by doing then by having someone show me how to do them. I suppose I learned some of them by watching my parents do them. But many things I've done in my life, I had to figure them out by reading books, asking people or just doing.

Of course now there is the Internet and YouTube how to videos up the yin yang (and I'm not referring to the symbol).

Unless you have lots of money to pay other people to do things (which I don't), owning a house forces you to learn lots of things (many the hard way) about maintenance. When I bought my first house it was a VA repo that was structurally fine, but cosmetically beat to hell. I moved in highly enthusiastic about DIY projects.


Monday, July 09, 2018

Smoke gets in my eyes


Now laughing friends deride
Tears I can not hide
Oh, so I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes
 --Smoke gets in your eyes
Fourth of July came and went and I didn't even light a sparkler. Oh, I helped my kids pull the strings on a few poppers that were hardly worth the effort. You pull the string and you hear a slight pop and some pitiful streamers shoot out on the lawn to be cleaned up the next morning. Nothing like the satisfying bang of a firecracker used to bring in my youth. Of course, the odds of losing a finger or two have gone down as well.

But I did build a fire in my outdoor portable fireplace that had been rusting in the backyard since last year. I used a wire brush and some flame resistant black spray paint to get rid of the rust in preparation for the Fourth. It has become a tradition to build a fire and roast marshmallows for smores on the Fourth while we wait for the fireworks to begin at an athletic field near our house.

The city allows those unsafe and insane fireworks because they are set off by professionals who know what they are doing. If I could just strategically cut down two of the neighbors trees, we'd have a pretty darned good view of the fireworks from our back deck. As it is, we can just make out the sky rockets over the tips of the trees.  But it beats fighting the hordes of people who go to the athletic field to get a close up look at the fireworks.

But back to the fire. Unlike the campfire at our recent camping adventure, I don't have bundles of expensive wood to stoke the fire. I use accumulated scrap lumber and tree branches that I've pruned over the years. This year's fire was fed by what was left of a grape arbor I'd torn down a few months ago. I couldn't use any of the recent cut alder wood because it was still too green to burn properly. Wood, like wine, needs to age.



Friday, July 06, 2018

Points of views


After discovering the Internet works of  Ze Frank I have binge watched all of his True Facts videos and many of his A show by Ze Frank spots. And I have to say I feel late to the party. In many ways the guy is a comic genius and I missed his work for years.

And he stopped creating the A show spots about five years ago.  And he seems to have gone from the president of Buzzfeed motion pictures to the chief research and development officer and doesn't appear to have produced anything public facing for several years.  This has apparently caused some agitation amongst his fan base.

I know this only by Googling him to find out about his work. So I don't want anyone to think I am a stalker or anything. I was just curious about someone who could create such great laugh out loud stuff as True Facts about Morgan Freeman (with millions of views).

But you don't have to be a stalker to find out about Ze Frank. He pretty much bares what is going on in his head in his The Show and A Show series. And he has done several TED talks talking about his life and career.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Top of the world


I wished I was smarter
I wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way my wife does
I wish it had been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could have stood where you would have been proud
But that won't happen now
That won't happen now 
There's a whole lot of singing that's never gonna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
She's never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
Top of the world 
--Patty Griffin, Top of the world
Top of the world is one of my favorite Dixie Chicks song. It was written by Patty Griffin who is also one of my favorite artists.  Top of the world is one of those songs that kind of tears at my gut and makes me tear up when I try singing along.

I stumbled onto the lyrics and chords for Top of the world last week and began playing it on my guitar. Again, I could barely get through it without choking up. For some reason it stirs up strong emotions in me.

Maybe it's because it is obviously a song of great regret. And you can't get to middle age without your fair share of regret.

Though I guess I would technically only be classified as middle aged if I was going to live to 120.  But the Oxford English Dictionary defines middle aged as being between 45 and 65.  I guess I'm more three-quarter aged. So I have a quarter more regret than the rest of the middle aged people.


Friday, June 22, 2018

The blog is a jar



I started feeling inadequate the other day because Ze Frank, my new Internet hero, has thousands of followers, millions of views, 10s of thousands likes and has actually been asked to give TED talks.

After 14 years of blogging, the best I can do is get 34 people to follow me.

But then I rationalize and rehash the reasons why I have achieved no following or viral fame. Ze Frank does what he does for a living and has resources to promote his videos and projects. I blog as a hobby. I put absolutely no resources into promoting it other than free promotions offered me by Facebook in hopes that I'll then be lured into actually using my own money to promote my blog. I've tried using Twitter and Instagram to promote the blog, but again, I don't do paid promotion.

But why should I promote my blog? I don't sell anything. I've dabbled with Google ads and Amazon ads on my site, but my traffic is so pitifully low there is nothing to attract advertisers or to generate ad revenue.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lost in the wood


I think I have a bad case of wood karma.  A few posts back I wrote about me going all postal on a downed tree with a new chain saw. And I alluded to a checkered past I've had dealing with sketchy tree services and wood.

But back to my latest encounter with a chain saw. I stacked all of the wood I'd cut up next to my fence but near the sidewalk that abuts the street. My plan was to eventually haul it into my yard, stack it and use it for our outdoor fire pit.

So yesterday my wife tells me that she'd got a call from a friend of ours who happens to be a local police officer. She'd been driving past our home on the way to work and spotted some guy starting to load the wood I'd cut into his vehicle. She stopped, got out of her car wearing her police uniform and proceeded to lecture the guy about taking things out of other people's yard without their permission. I believe he mumbled something to her about thinking it was free to take because it was just sitting there. Fortunately I hadn't left my chain saw just sitting there or using his logic, someone would have assumed it was up for grabs, too.

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. On one hand, I can't believe the audacity of someone to just go on someone's property and assuming it was okay to take wood from a pile. On the other hand, I don't really have a wood burning fireplace and it will likely take me years of burning wood in my outdoor fire pit to get rid of the wood. So it wouldn't have been the end of the world to have the guy haul away the wood.

The true irony is that years ago when I'd had a couple of trees cut down in my yard, it took me ages to find some one who would take the wood without charging me a fortune to haul it away. I guess the trick is to leave it close to the road and pretend you don't want anyone to have it.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wabi-Sabi you?


"In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is 'imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete'".
--Wikipedia

I kind of wished I'd know about wabi-sabi when I was in my 7th grade pottery class. Then I could have rationalized all of those lopsided pots and cups as being created in the "wabi-sabi" style. But if someone came up to me and asked me what I thought about wabi-sabi back then, I would probably have thought they were talking about the green horseradish paste you put on sushi. Not that you could find sushi in Boise when I was in 7th grade.

Now that I know that wabi-sabi isn't something you smear on sushi, I'm really digging the concept that what makes something truly perfect is its imperfections. The wabi-sabi aesthetic also embraces aging of an object as it is used and shows signs of wear and tear. My 60-year-old self is totally into that. 

Wabi-sabi values simplicity versus the intricate. It has roots in the monastic Buddhist traditions of starkness and lack of posessions. That part I have a bit of trouble with. I have always liked an abundance of stuff around me. I attract clutter and trinkets. A bare wall to me is an unpainted canvas dying for a portrait of dogs playing poker.

So maybe I am more of a Wabi-Kitsch kind of person. Though some may think I am simply a hoarder. I prefer to think that there is a method to my cluttered madness.

Clutter aside, I embrace the wabi-sabi concept that something incomplete is beautiful. I think of it as being like a jig saw puzzle. The joy in it is the process of completing the puzzle, not the completed puzzle (which is usually something boring like the image of a flower garden).

But wabi-sabi is also about impermanence. A flower blooms, wilts, decays and dies, becoming compost that nurtures future flowers.

I think of Dizgraceland as being very wabi-sabi. I'll be the first one to admit it isn't great literature (well maybe not the first one to point it out, though). So it is imperfect. It resides in the cloud on blogger.com. So god knows how long it will reside in the digital ether. So it is impermanent. And nothing is more open ended and therefor incomplete, than a blog.

Dizgraceland epitomizes wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is art. Therefore Dizgraceland is art.

I wonder if the wabi-sabi aesthetic also includes being self-serving.  Because then I am really knocking it out of the park.

Friday, June 15, 2018

That was then, this is now



I was inspired by Internet performance artist Ze Frank's book, Young Me, Now Me: Identical Photos, Different Decades to create the above photo. The young me on the left was five years old. The photo strip was taken by a product demonstrator in Skaggs Drug Store in downtown Boise in 1963. It was an early Polaroid Camera that produced the photo on the spot. 

The old me on the right was produced with my iPhone and a bit of Photoshop 55 years later. Other than the glasses, beard, gray hair, a few more chins and a bigger head, I don't think I've changed much. My ears don't stick out as much, though they have gotten a bit longer.

I discovered Ze Frank by watching some of his True Facts videos on Facebook and then YouTube. At first I thought they were serious documentary films about various obscure animals. But I quickly discovered that Frank is a comic genius and the videos are full of quirky commentary that is laugh out loud funny. 

Frank has done many Web projects that showcase his own hilarious brand of humor. He has also appeared on several TED talks.  He is currently the chief of research and development for BuzzFeed. 

From what I've seen of Frank's work, he has a remarkably similar sense of humor and has produced many projects that remind me of my journey with Dizgraceland and the Web. For example, I Photoshopped my face on an echidna back in 2007.  Frank featured an echidna in one of his True Facts videos about Pangolins. And though I haven't been a speaker on a TED talks, I do have a brother Ted. We just don't talk much.


I think the main difference between Frank and I is that he is  successful. Oh and  he has thousands of followers...okay maybe more than a million follow True Faces. About 56,000 follow him on Facebook. 

At last count 29 people follow my blog and a whopping 34 follow Dizgraceland on Facebook. But I've only been blogging 14 years. I'm thinking that gap between Frank's huge following and mine is closing...slowly...very slowly.

Regardless, I greatly admire Frank's work and happy that he has realized my dream of making people laugh at his work on the Web...and I mean laugh because it is funny, ha, ha, not laugh AT his work. 

I do wonder what kind of name Ze is though.

Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sticking out


Okay, I've made the point in my last post that  I pretty much blend into the scenery. So I figured I probably should give "sticking out" some attention just to be fair.

Again, it's not that I want to stick out. I'm a card carrying introvert. Well technically my card says, Marketing Director, but trust me, I am by definition, an introvert.
Definition of introvert
1 : something (such as the retractile proboscis of some worms) that is or can be drawn in especially by invagination
2 : one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone 
Okay, I don't have a retractile proboscis, so I am by the second definition above, an introvert. Though I wouldn't really characterize myself as shy, but I do like spending time alone. I hate crowds, meetings, flying coach on airplanes, standing in lines, parades, concerts, fairs, festivals, popular movies, or anything else that puts me in proximity to lots of people.

I'm not particularly fond of meeting new people, small talk, riding public transit or elevators, either. And I believe I've expressed a few times, my fear of those people who hand out samples in grocery stores.

I realize this makes me seem like a major whack job.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blending in


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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Chain saw

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 08, 2018

No write turns


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

Damn you Google!

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

Yeah, that's what I was going for.

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

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

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


Thursday, June 07, 2018

Losing self-eh-steam


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The last movie star

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Weary bones


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

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

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

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

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


Friday, June 01, 2018

Minifigure of speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I still think it would be cool.

Friday, May 25, 2018

What's in a name?


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

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


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story


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

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

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Not my own private Idaho

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

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

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

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

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

But it is a nice place to visit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Wizard of odd



On this day in 1856,  Lyman Frank Baum (who went by L. Frank Baum because he didn't like his first name), the man who wrote The Wizard of Oz was born.  He died 63 years later on May 6 in Hollywood. His last words to his wife were "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands."


After writing the Wizard of Oz, Baum liked to spend winters at the Del Coronado Hotel near San Diego, California. Coincidentally, there was lots of shifting sands at the Del. Also coincidentally, my wife and I spent a few nights at the Del Coronado before we got married, had kids and couldn't afford such luxury.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Taking care of business


As I write this post, I am watching the second part of a two-part documentary on HBO called, Elvis Presley: The Searcher. I have watched many documentaries about Elvis. I have read many books about his life. But having just go back from my first trip to Graceland in March, watching this documentary has been a different experience.

I had seen many photos of Graceland. I have a miniature model of Graceland that I set up under my Elvis tree each Christmas. But hokey as it sounds, there is just nothing like actually being there in person. The images I see in the documentary are now familiar places I've stood and experienced.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

Artificial Intelligence


ar·ti·fi·cial
ˌärdəˈfiSHəl/
adjective
  1. 1.
    made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.

    "her skin glowed in the artificial light"
  2. 2.
    (of a person or a person's behavior) insincere or affected.

    "an artificial smile"


My wife was asking Siri a question on her iPhone and Siri referred to her as Teresa.  She prefers to be called Tess, so she told Siri to "Call me Tess, not Teresa." Siri then started referring to her literally as "Tess not Teresa." It took us awhile, but we eventually convinced Siri to just call her "Tess."

I haven't had that problem with Siri. We don't talk too much. I talk to Alexa more often. But she hasn't graduated to calling me anything. She actually seems a bit distant. Or perhaps she just seems that way because I've given her a British accent. And I don't really say much to her other than "Turn on Elvis" (which is the name of the lamp I've programmed to be controlled by Alexa). She generally just turns on the lamp and responds, "Okay." Or sometimes she doesn't turn on the lamp and says, "I can't find office." This can lead to a prolonged argument about my pronunciation that ends with me just reaching over and turning on the lamp manually.

I imagine Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will eventually be a bit less artificial and a bit more intelligent. But I suppose then instead of just turning on the lamp Alexi will say, "Do it yourself, I'm busy...you are just like your lazy brother Dan."

I can hardly wait.


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Found in translation


On the same day I posted my Lost in translation post, an anonymous person left a comment on a post I made on election day 2016 (If this is Tuesday then there must be an election). Ironically it wasn't in English. It was a single sentence:  Depois, coloque ácido salicílico sobre as verrugas. At first I though it was Spanish so I ran it through a Spanish translator. It came back with "Depois, put salicylic acid on the warts." I Googled "Depois," the one word that didn't translate and discovered it is a Portuguese word for "afterward."

So I ran the phrase through a Portuguese translator and it gave me the English translation "Then put salicylic acid on the warts." Random as this comment is, I decide to approve it because it has been awhile since anyone has commented and I wanted to give this one the benefit of the doubt and hope anonymous was metaphorically suggesting that "warts" are Trump followers (since the post was about the stupidity of Trump and his followers) and we should put salicylic acid (a treatment for acne) on them. Either that or this was from an oddly stupid spammer who forgot to enter a link to his site that sells salicylic acid. If that is the case, I politely suggested in English, "Que seus genitais caiam."  This is Portuguese for "May your genitals fall off."

Maybe I am bi-lingual after all.