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'".

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 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

  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 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.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Lost in translation

I will be the first one to admit that I do not have an affinity for learning other languages. Perhaps it is because learning English took it all out of me. Oh, I took two years of German in high school and a semester in college.  But beyond telling some one to "listen and repeat," counting to ten and asking you if you'd like to drink lemonade, nothing stuck. Oh, and I can say, "durch, für, gegen, ohne, um" (which means "by, for, up, to, without"). A group of us from Herr Haddock's German class turned it into a cheer at Basketball games for some reason.

I am not even sure why I tried to learn German. I've never been to Germany and I don't have a burning desire to go to Germany. I have, however, spent a great deal of time in Spanish speaking countries, so it would have been more productive to me to try and learn Spanish. Though I can also count to ten in Spanish, ask where the men's room is and order more beer.  And I didn't have to spend three years in a class room learning it.

It's not that I wouldn't love to be fluent in another language. I envy people who have mastered more than one language. It's just that I was never very good at diagramming sentences and grammar in English so trying to make the leap to grammar in another language was just too much. Plus I could never get the hang of formal and informal pronouns.

Monday, May 07, 2018

What if the Bard had a Blog?

I knoweth not about oth'r playwrites, but i spendeth not a most wondrous dealeth of timeth crafting mine own prose. Although i usually not sitteth down and hamm'r one out in five minutes, i rarely spendeth m're than a few minutes h're and th're during a day to writeth one. And i m're rarely ev'r doth a lot of rewriting 'r deleting. So, although mine own prose may not all beest most wondrous art, those gents art f'r the most parteth genuine

But oft,  i catcheth myself being extremely self-conscious. And i'm quaint sure t shows in mine own writing. I starteth w'rrying about being too negative 'r repetitive. I tryeth to soften stuffeth 'r int'rject a self-depreciating jab. And all of this happeneth at which hour i starteth to bethink i'm writing f'r an audience instead of f'r myself

Well enow, i've been writing f'r almost a fourteen years. And occasionally i've hadst regular readeth'rs. But exp'rience hast did teach me yond v'ry rarely doth regular readeth'rs stayeth regular readeth'rs. I can only guesseth at the reasons without wallowing too far into self-doubt and blaming t on mine own writing. F'r the most parteth i bethink t is just a byproduct of the way life is anon. Th're art just too many things tugging on our attention spans to focus on aught too longeth

Friday, May 04, 2018

Time is full of gopher holes

I was reading one of my past blog posts, (The blog/time continuum) that deals with the concept of people popping in and out of a blog (and your life) and only getting snippets of who you are at any given time and place. You can read it yourself if you want to get the full cosmic flavor.

But the image of people popping into your life at random points conjured up the image of gophers popping in and out of gopher holes. Or perhaps it is more like a metaphysical Whac-a-Mole game (because there are many times in my life where I wanted to whack people out of my life [figuratively, of course]). At other times I've wanted to reach in the gopher (or mole) hole and pull people back in who have disappeared for no apparent reason (but not in scary, stalker kind of way).

Maybe I should drag a groundhog into this analogy as well. Because they pop out of their hole and run scurrying away if they see a shadow. Or perhaps I should use my old nemesis the mountain beaver since I have a great deal more experience with them than gophers and groundhogs. But mountain beavers would be more relevant for people who pop into your life and just won't go away (kind of like relatives, Jehovah's Witnesses or timeshare salespeople).

But I digress with a lugubrious howl.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Monkey business improvised

I've come to the conclusion that blogging is writing's version of improv. Or at least the way I've always approached it. I rarely spend more than an hour or so writing a blog post. Sometimes a seed of a thought pops into my head and I start writing. So it kind of approaches real time writing. If I actually had a real time audience reading as I wrote, it would truly be blog-prov.

Computers changed writing the way Gutenberg's press changed the way people accessed writing. It definitely changed the way I approached writing. Writing with a pen or pencil was slow and cumbersome. Typewriters were a bit better, but still you were at the mercy of typos and white out. The first time I experienced word processing and the ability to write almost as quickly as I think, I knew the world had changed forever. Or at least my world.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Let the wolves enjoy my bones

When I die, let the wolves enjoy my bones
When I die, let me go
When I die, let the wolves enjoy my bones
When I die, let me go  
When I die, you can push me out to sea
When I die, set me free
When I die, let the sharks come round to feed
When I die, set me free
Oh the world is dark,
and I've looked as far I can see
When the years have torn me apart.
Let me be  
When I die, let the flames devour me
When I die, set me free
When I die, throw my ashes to the breeze
When I die, scatter me  
Whole world is dark, and I've looked as far as I can see
When the years have torn me apart 
Let me be
Let me be
Let me be
Let me be 
Daylight is waiting for you
Daylight is waiting for you
Daylight is waiting for you
Daylight is waiting for you
--Down Like Silver, Wolves
I have been listening to Pandora a lot lately.  Sure, I have to listen to ads and I can't listen to the exact songs I like, but I can listen to songs that are similar to the songs I like. And that is how I discover gems like the song above that I am obsessed with. It's by singing duo Down Like Silver. It is a haunting song that apparently came out in 2011. But I just discovered it and wonder why the world isn't listening to it. They have other great songs, including one called, Idaho (go figure...neither of them is from Idaho. But Wolves is the one that messes with my soul.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Puns of steel

I am not sure why I am drawn to puns like a moth to flames. Most people just groan and shake their heads at puns. I find them satisfying the way a mathematician does at a chalkboard full of calculations. I especially like visual puns.

I mentioned that I joined a group on Facebook dedicated to puns. I posted the first photo below and no one got it. I didn't post the second photo because if they didn't get the first one, they'd never get the second one. I'll let you think about it for a bit before I explain.

The correct response is "Reed between the lions" which of course is a pun for "Read between the lines." It is so obvious to me that I am appalled I had to explain it to people in a pun group.

For some reason, famous composers lend themselves to puns. As does Arnold Schwarzenegger

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


blath·er·skite:Definition -  a person who talks at great length without making much sense. foolish talk; nonsense.

If I didn't have a great deal of equity invested in the name, "Dizgraceland," I think "Blatherskite" would be a great blog name. Not that I think that I am a blatherskite. At least not all of the time. I'm actually quite quiet if you meet me in person. Unless I've had a lot of coffee. Then I can be a blatherskite with the best of them.

Speaking of blatherskites, I joined a pun page on Facebook called The Punitentiary because I've always enjoyed a good pun (which is an oxymoron). But I have to admit I'm getting a bit weary of the constant stream of puns floating by in my new roll. At first I jumped right in and tried to one up the punsters for each post. Because that is what people in puns do. They hop aboard a puns train of thought until they reach the caboose.

Some of the Punitentiary don't seem to recognize a caboose and they turn the train of thought in to messy derailment. Puns only work when you don't have to try to hard. It's very easy to slip into blatherskite territory.

Monday, April 23, 2018

How does your garden grow?

It was uncharacteristically sunny over the weekend which means I once again don my overalls, rubber boots and tackle the weeds that insist on populating a good portion of my property. I also took this opportunity to remove a grape arbor that was collapsing under the weight of grape vines that have never really produced any grapes.

I have written about my backyard before, but a good journalist never assumes the reader has read anything he has written before and provides enough background to give context to his story. And though I was never a very good journalist, I will say that my house is built on the edge of a slope that flows down to a stream. The stream is called Shell Creek (though I haven't a clue why, there aren't any shells in it). It runs on the surface up to my property line and then goes into a culvert that diverts it under the road next to my house.

I thought it was cool when we bought the house to have a stream down below the house. But after lots of expenses for shoring up retaining walls and dealing with water leaks in my basement because of the underground streams that feed Shell Creek, I'd be happy to live somewhere on higher, flatter ground. I also would like a normal backyard that isn't constantly trying to revert back to nature. Every year I battle horse tails, blackberry vines and mountain beavers. And all are nurtured by being close to water.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I do confess

I was going to title this post "Laughing matter" but since I search my past posts these days to prevent too much repetition I discovered that I've written a few too many posts with similar titles and tone (I do confess 1,223 posts to be exact). So I chose "I do confess" instead. I googled "I do confess" and discovered that Shakespeare used that line often in his plays. So I feel I am in rare company using the line.

"I do confess" may be my new "but I digress."  But I do confess I think I replaced "but I digress" with "Pause for a lugubrious howl"some time back. I also confess that I don't really remember half the time.

More often than not, when I am trying to think of something to write about, I reread some past posts. Sometimes I'm surprised, sometimes I'm amused and some times I'm embarrassed. A person's writing style is a bit like their fingerprint. They are all unique and if you read some one's stuff enough, you could pick their writing out of a writing line up (that's the one, right there, I'd recognize that dangling participle anywhere).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

An oldie but a goodie: Jukebox of the Gods

Blogger's note:

This post originally appeared on June 1, 2005. I was trying to explain to a friend the other day how Elvis' life and mine got intertwined many years ago when I tried to write a novel. She said I could still write it. That made me think about the book and why I never finished it. But this post explains better than I can verbally articulate (again) why that probably won't happen.

Take the "T" out of "Trust,"
And all you're left with is rust.
That's the first line of a country song my old friend Michael and I tried to write one time on a trip to Reno. We were sitting in a bar in Fitzgerald's drinking shots of tequila with a cheap beer back while listening to a country band. The band was asking for requests and I kept shouting, "Friends in Low Places." They tried to ignore me, but they eventually gave in and played a weak rendition of the song. They didn't seem too enthusiastic about it, though.

That's when we decided to write our own country song. Michael came up with that first line. "Hey," he said. "Did you know if you take the "T" out of trust, all you are left with is rust?'"

It may have been the tequila, but I thought it was pure "f-in" genius. So I finished the first verse:
Take the "T" out of Trust,
And all you're left with is rust.
Like this old pick-up truck,
Broken down, out of luck.

Take the you out of we,
And all I'm left with is me.
Sitting here all alone,
Staring hard at the phone.
At that point the muse left both Michael and I (I am pretty sure this did have something to do with the tequila) and we never finished the song.

I kind of view that song as a symbol of all of the unfinished things in my life. I've encountered many of those unfinished things I as we purge my house of clutter in preparation to sell it. For example, there's the wooden ship model of the Coast Guard training ship, the Eagle. I started building it in 1983. It will never see the wind beneath its sails.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Not down for the count (yet)

I was watching a program on Facebook TV yesterday about the homeless epidemic. The commentator said the average life expectancy of someone living on the streets was 58 versus 78 for a non-homeless person. And although I was shocked at how short a person's life was who was homeless, I was also a bit taken back that in theory I only have another 18 years to live.

My father died from stomach cancer when he was 76 years old. My mother died when she was 87 years old. So if I live to an average of their ages I would be about 82. That still only gives me another 22 years. But if I have to work until I'm say, 68 years, that would only leave about 14 years to enjoy retirement.  And who knows what my health will be like.

Doesn't seem quite fair, because if I work that long I will have been working for 44 years.

Mortality sucks. I know that everyone eventually dies, but when you start to quantify it into the number of years you have left, it becomes too real. And all of the cliches in the world about enjoying your life sink in.

Monday, March 19, 2018

On turning 60

My 60th birthday is just a few days away and although I am risking alienating my millennial followers by revealing my advanced age, I do so as a chronicler of my own life.

I looked back at a post I made when I turned 50. I was more focused on having a 17-month old toddler in the house and a new baby arriving later in the year.  And looking back, turning 50 didn't have the same feeling of mortality closing in on me as 60.

The thing is, no one can truly prepare you for your own aging. When you are young, you can't really fathom it. I remember being a teenager and calculating that I'd be 42 when the Millennium happened and thought that would be so old. I also assumed I would be married and have a family. Little did I know that I wouldn't marry until I was 47 and would have a young family when I was headed into middle age.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Year of the dog

Okay, this is technically a photo of me as a wolf baying at the moon, but it's close enough to a dog. And my Chinese Zodiac sign is the dog. And this is the year of the dog.

In the grand scheme of things that means nothing at all.  I tried looking up what it means to be a dog in the Chinese Zodiac and everything I read was as vague as what it means to be a Pisces in the our western Zodiac. I am one of those people who believe you read what you want to into horoscopes.

In my younger days I studied Astrology. Well, I took a couple of classes in something called the Experimental College. I could draw up a person's chart. Then I would use astrology books to interpret the chart. I was sort of good at it. But I did attribute much of it to the power of suggestion. The people I did charts for honed in on the stuff they liked in their charts and poo-pooed the rest.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Talking on trains

I realize that not everyone commutes to work via train. So this post may not be relevant to everyone. Then again most of my posts aren't. But maybe people can relate to my annoyance at small talk in general.

If you use public transit, you are likely aware that there are two types of commuters -- introverts and extroverts. Introverts take their seats and tune out everything and everyone around them. They have headphones, books, tablets with them to help get over the fact that they are trapped in a small, confined space with strangers who don't always respect personal space requirements. Introverts also may curl up in a ball and pretend they are asleep (or dead) to prevent interaction on a train.

Extroverts, on the other hand, don't read, sleep or listen to music. They talk. They laugh loudly. They band together in noisy groups and bond for the 25 minutes to an hour they are on the train. And they are oblivious to the fact that they are torturing the introvert commuters who they occasionally trap in the seats around them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hearts and flowers

I thought about writing a post about the history of Valentines Day, but all you have to do is Google it, it didn't seem worth the effort of regurgitating stuff from other websites. I actually just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to Photoshop my face on a cupid anyway.

I do think the holiday (and I use that term loosely since we don't get the day off) is just another example of capitalism exploiting the masses with ritual traditions that require spending lots of money. If you are involved in any kind of relationship, it is pretty much expected that you better be sending cards, flowers, candy to your loved one and take them out to dinner.

I've taken to making my own cards these days, so I like to think I'm sticking it to the man. It's not so much the cost of the cards that gets me, it's insincerity of pawing through a rack of cards some schmuck copy writer has written and giving it to your loved one as a sign of your love. I prefer develop my own with Photoshop and a color printer. At least it demonstrates that I'm investing my time and talents to create the sentiment.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Screaming streets

I work in a colorful part of downtown Seattle, in a neighborhood that straddles the International District and Pioneer Square neighborhoods. It is generally an okay area to walk around during the day, especially if you make it to the more touristy parts of the International District and it's variety of foods and tourist shops. And Pioneer Square has been taken over by more trendy restaurants and condos.

But still the area has an edge. Our work campus has expanded over the years, so meetings can take you outside of your own building to run the gauntlet of street people, crack heads and Jehovah's Witnesses. I generally go out with my headphones on playing Spotify. It helps shut out some of the street noise.

It's an area where you pretty much always need to be aware of your surroundings. Today I was waiting at the crosswalk for the light to change and watched a very angry and agitated man across the street screaming and waving his arms. He had that erratic behavior either brought on by drugs, lack of drugs or voices in his head. I feel sorry for these people, but I still plot my path to avoid them as much as possible.

Fortunately the man just paced back and forth for awhile screaming at people passing by, threw what appeared to be an apple on the sidewalk and moved on down the street. I could still hear him as I scurried across the crosswalk and through the plaza over the International District bus and light rail tunnel station. I avoided eye contact of the Jehovah's Witnesses who stand there every day with their signs and literature racks. I have to admit that I prefer them standing passively on the sidewalk with their PR for god materials over them coming to my door trying to force me to take a Watchtower brochure.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Me and my shadows

It was rainy and gray here on Groundhogs Day, so no shadow to frighten the groundhogs. So maybe Punxsutawney Phil should move to the Pacific Northwest. If he lived here chances are he'd never see his shadow and we could get on with spring.

Though spring here just means more rain.

Being that it is cloudy and rainy here a great deal of the time, you don't see your shadow a lot. Though I suppose technically everything is in the shadow of the clouds, so we are walking around in a shadow all the time.

At least that's the way I feel at times.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How many Presto Logs could a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck didn't want to chop wood?

A woodchuck is simply a groundhog. But "How much ground would a groundhog hog if a groundhog could hog ground?" doesn't have the same ring to it as a woodchuck chucking wood. But since groundhogs or woodchucks don't appear to spend too much time at the gym, I'm thinking they wouldn't spend too much time chucking anything that required a lot of effort.

That's why I pose the philosophical question about how many Presto Logs would a woodchuck chuck. Because I figure if they were tasked with dealing with anything so they could stoke a fire, they'd head on down to the mini-mart and stock up on pre-formed Presto Logs.

These are, unfortunately, the types of things I think about these days. The alternative is dwelling on politics, nuclear holocaust and the many offenses we heap on each other because of our gender, race or personal hygiene habits. I'm thinking dwelling on woodchucks is less depressing then bemoaning the world going to shit.

Pardon my French (though I suppose I would have said Merde if I was speaking French or shiest if I was using my high school German...though Herr Haddock, my high school German teacher didn't really approve of us using German expletives though they are all I seem to recall other than asking where the library is in German).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

They might be angels

It snowed on Christmas Eve for the first time in umpteenth years. An while it disappeared within a day or two, it reminded me of the magic of snow to transform the world. It is a weather game changer.

Having it snow on Christmas Eve amplified the magic tenfold. Even I, a jaded adult who hates what snow does to the daily commute, was excited to see snow blanketing everything.  I helped my children make a snowman in the front yard and watched my daughter make snow angels. It was one of those moments.

Now, a few weeks later, looking at the photo of the snow angel triggered something. Why is it we picture angels and other magical creatures like fairies with wings? I Googled it and got a lot of religious bible babble about depicting the power of god. But nothing that explains why angels would need wings.

But then again, many demons and imps are depicted with wings, too. Though they are more like bat wings than the feathery angel wings. And fairy wings are more like butterflies. But the common link is wings.

Perhaps its because we envy creatures that can fly. And because our ancestors looked to the skies for heaven we associate flight with the divine.

Monday, January 08, 2018

For unto you was born a king

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that today is Elvis' birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 83 years old. God only knows how much he would weigh.

Elvis died in 1977 when he was 42 years old. The number 42 is, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the "Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything", calculated by an enormous supercomputer named Deep Thought over a period of 7.5 million years. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question was.

I wonder if Elvis knows what the question is.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Out with the old grill, in with the new

I got a new grill for Christmas. My old grill was about four years old and had all but fallen apart and was crusted with burnt remnants of meat that was also likely four years old. The grills had burnt through and the burners were riddled with holes.  So it definitely was time for a new grill.

But what do you do with a derelict grill? In the past, when I had a truck, I would have hauled it to the dump. If it was in better condition, I would have wheeled it out to the sidewalk and put a sign on it that read, "FREE." So I spent the Saturday before New Year's Eve dismantling it.

I had originally assembled the thing when I bought it. So I knew the number of parts and screws I would be encountering. But years of grease and being exposed to the elements had left most of the screws rusted and frozen. So with a hacksaw, my Dremel tool with cutting wheel and a pry bar, I proceeded to dismember my old friend.

It wasn't pretty. But I succeeded in breaking it down into chunks that would fit in a trash can (albeit it will take several trash cycles to get rid of the entire thing).