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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Milky Way



The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within.
--Google
The Milky Way bar is a chocolate-covered confectionery bar manufactured and distributed by the Mars confectionery company. Introduced in 1923, the Milky Way bar's American version is made of nougat topped with caramel and covered with milk chocolate, similar to the Mars bar sold outside of the U.S. 
--Wikipedia
I don't know about you, but I find it ironic that the Milky Way bar is manufactured by the Mars Company, especially because if you eat too many Milky Way bars you won't have a heavenly body.

Dad joke.


I was never really a fan of Milky Way bars though. I'm just not into nougat. Because what the heck is nougat anyway. Okay, it's sugar, egg whites with an occasional nut thrown into the mix. And it doesn't really have anything to to with Milky Way, the galaxy.

I have always been fond of the Milky Way the galaxy. Because pretty much every star you see without a super telescope is part of the Milky Way. And our star, the sun, is part of the Milky Way. So the Milky Way is basically where we live.  The nearest other galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away.

That's far out...literally. Makes sending a person to the moon seem like a stroll around the block.

I've mentioned one too many times laying on my back on a camping trip staring up at the stars and marveling at the shear number of them. Is it little wonder mankind dreams of a heaven that is in the stars and a hell that is here on earth (or below it...though you already know I think black holes are where hell is at). 

But not once when I was a kid laying on my back staring up at the Milky Way did I think about the candy bar. Or at least not about that candy bar.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Black hole



A black hole is a region of spacetime exhibiting gravitational acceleration so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole.
 --Wikipedia
So maybe black holes are hell. After all, nothing, including light can escape from them. But then again, I sometimes think my blog is a black hole. I keep posting and nothing seems to escape from it into the universe.

I did Google "black hole" before writing this post, but all I discovered is that no one seems to be able to simplify the description of a black hole enough for me to understand it and in turn post about it in my typical cynical and sarcastic manner. Thus the Wikipedia definition.

I was impressed by the types of questions that pop up on Google about black holes, like: "Can a black hole kill you?" Now, my response to such a question would be something along the lines of, "If you are hanging around in a seedy bar in a sketchy neighborhood and a black hole wanders in, I'd suggest looking at your watch, muttering something about being late and hightailing it out of there." The  short answer actually is, "yes, a black hole can kill you." Apparently your body would be pulled apart as you got near the black hole. The process even has a name, spaghettification (which makes you wonder what spaghettification and meat balls looks like).

But don't we  have enough real things in the world that can kill you on a daily basis to worry about a black hole knocking on our door and turning us into cosmic spaghetti? The nearest black hole is apparently 3000 or so light years away from us anyway, so I imagine I'll be long gone before the remote possibility of a black hole sucks the life out of earth.

Apparently black holes are the result of a dying star. When all of the energy in the star that was pushing outward burns out, all that is left is the heart of the star. And apparently that heart is so dense that its gravity sucks everything around it in with such force that even light can't escape. I've known people like that in my life.

Why should you or I care about black holes, you may ask? I haven't a clue. And as far as I'm concerned, black holes suck.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dust in the wind (or space)



neb·u·la : ASTRONOMY a cloud of gas and dust in outer space, visible in the night sky either as an indistinct bright patch or as a dark silhouette against other luminous matter.
I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone 
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity 
Dust in the wind 
All they are is dust in the wind
--Dust in the wind, Kansas
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar
--Sigmund Freud (perhaps)
Unlike most of my blog posts, this one began with me messing around in Photoshop and creating an image of me staring into a nebula that looks quite a bit like a giant eyeball. I had no motivation to do this other than my love of Photoshop and its filters. I liked the image so much that I had to post it and now I need to come up with some text that somehow gives it some cosmic meaning.

But if the image is art, I shouldn't have to explain it. Because one thing I've learned from artists over the years is that sometimes they don't have a clue as to what their work is supposed to mean. They rarely admit it, however.

Does everything have to mean something, though? Is there really any cosmic significance behind the Mona Lisa's smile? Even Starry, Starry Night was likely just a schizophreniac's view of a night sky.

Not that I don't fall into the trap of trying to find meaning in things. Though I hate platitudes like, "Everything happens for a reason." Does it really? Maybe Popeye's sold out of its new chicken sandwich because of the hype not because they are miraculously good sandwiches.

I will likely never no. I have never tried a Krispy Kreme doughnut, either. Being in marketing has taught me not to get too caught up in persuasive messaging.

Though I do think it is human nature to try and find meaning in things, particularly their own lives. It is easy, however, to get too caught up in that tail chasing exercise. Perhaps this is why the super computer in Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy answered the question, "What is the meaning of life?" with "42." When questioned further about the answer it responded that people were just not asking the right question.

I can't answer for Douglas Adam's as to where the number 42 came from as the meaning of life. But I do find it interesting that both Elvis and his mother died at aged 42. Jackie Robinson's jersey number was 42. In Egyptian mythology, there are 42 questions asked of a person making their journey through death. The Gutenberg Bible is also known as the "42-line Bible", as the book contained 42 lines per page. There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil. The Orion Nebula is also known as Messier object M42,

If that doesn't have some cosmic significance, I don't know what does.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fame

Remember my name, fame
I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly, high 
I feel it comin' together
People will see me and cry, fame
I'm gonna make it to heaven
Light up the sky like a flame, fame
I'm gonna live forever
Baby, remember my name
Remember, remember, remember, remember
Remember, remember, remember, remember

--Fame, Irene Cara

I'm feeling a bit self-conscious about my latest posts. For whatever reason, I've dissected different aspects of my life to over share with god knows who. Not that it is anything new. I have been blogging for 15 years and have shared about all there is to share about my life.

At least I'm not on TikTok blurting out crap in one minute installments. And yes, I still indulge in watching TikTok videos while I wait for my train in the morning and on my evening commute. For the most part TikTok makes me sad. There are so many people out there who want to be "TikTok famous" and I think it is because they think it will make their lives worth something.

But all fame is fleeting. And TikTok fame is more fleeting than most. What is truly sad is TikTok caters to people who feel marginalized. Lots of young people in service industries. And way too many people who shop at WalMart.

Even if I felt the urge to make a TikTok video, I am so outside the age demographic for doing so that I'd be immediately ostracized. So I just flip through the videos, marveling at this glimpse into generations that are surging up behind us and shaking my head.

It's not that I don't understand that desire for fame. It's why I wanted to make it as a writer. It's why I've blogged for so many years to no avail. I want to be remembered for something, anything...good, that is. I'd be happy if that was just my children. If they would someday say, "Dad, you made a difference in my life."

But in my experience, people don't do that much. I don't remember saying that to either of my parents. So, I'm not holding out hope for my children saying that to me. In reality, it is them that have made a difference in my life.

So perhaps that is the key. I need to say that to them.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Traveling man




“Of the gladdest moments in human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of Habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many Cares and the slavery of Civilization, man feels once more happy.”  
 ― Richard Francis Burton
Growing up, we didn't do a great deal of traveling. For the first 13 years of my life, we'd spend two weeks each summer camping at the Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho, a campground at the Middle Fork of the Boise River or at Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho.

It wasn't until I was 14 years old that my parents took me on a road trip to check out some desert property my father bought through an ad in back of a True West magazine. It was located in Alamosa, Colorado. My parents and I set off the summer before I entered 8th grade leaving my older brothers at home to watch the house (big mistake it turns out).

Our first stop was a run down motel outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was the first motel or hotel I'd ever stayed in.  It was pretty run down. They seemed surprised that we wanted a room for the entire night. They did up sell us to a room with a color television in it. That was a major treat for me since we still only had a black and white television at home.

Some time later I saw a program that talked about Rock Springs being a crime ridden stop over for the drug trade at the time with a corrupt police department.

The road trip included stops at several small towns and motels on the way to Alamosa (where we discovered that my father's purchase was pretty much barren desert property with nothing but cactus). We also passed through Denver and Colorado Spring. And we visited the Custer National Monument at the Little Big Horn.

When we returned home, we discovered my brothers had several party's, shattered the sliding glass door to our patio and let my pet rabbit escape.

Despite my brothers' indiscretions, I still thought the road trip was kind of cool.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Daddy Dearest or being a papa isn't always pretty


Okay, disturbing as this image is, I just use it to spoof on another of my roles in life (and for me, late in life) -- being a father. The Internet being what it is, I won't share too much information here about my children or show photos. Suffice it to say I married late in life and had children when most people my age were anticipating being grandparents.

There are pros and cons for being an older parent. On the pro side, I've just about exhausted all those things that distract you in your 20s and 30s. My career is established and doesn't monopolize my time. And I make an okay salary and have excellent benefits. That is definitely a plus if you are going to have kids. My patience level is also much better than it was when I was younger.

The cons: helping out at one of my kid's classrooms and being referred to as "that grandpa dude." I also dread going to curriculum nights and being the oldest person in the room by at least 20 years. In addition, although I'm in fairly good shape, it still is a challenge physically to keep up with young children.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Funny Man


I am not sure where my sense of humor came from. Neither of my parents were particularly funny (though my father, like all fathers, thought he was). Nor are my brothers funny. In fact, I can't think of a single person from my formative years who was funny.

Regardless, my sense of humor is one thing I hold on to as part of who I am. Despite my insecurities about my blog not going viral because of my rapier wit, I am a funny man (and I mean "funny, ha, ha," not "funny, not right in the head").

I am not sure when my sense of humor started developing. I remember sitting in our family room watching television and my father asking me what was on the TV and I'd say something like, "A light, some plastic flowers and a TV guide." He would of course be irritated with me and tell me not to be smart (which is kind of an ironic thing for a parent to say to his kid."

One time at dinner, my father asked me to pass the butter. I pulled the cube off from the butter dish and tossed it to him. On retrospect, although a bit funny, that wasn't a good choice.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mr. Green Jeans


You have to be a certain age now to know who Mr. Green Jeans was. He was a supporting character on a children's television program I watched as a child -- Captain Kangaroo. It was on the air from 1955 through 1984.

But this post isn't about Captain Kangaroo or even Mr. Green Jeans. It is about yet another aspect of my life that, although not ever considered as a career path, takes up a great deal of my free time -- gardening. Actually, it is less gardening and more yard work than anything else.

I actually wrote a post back in April called Dirt and weeds, that gave the history of my life pulling weeds. So I won't rehash it here. Suffice it to say, hardly a weekend goes by that I'm not mowing grass, pulling weeds or cutting back some invasive species of plant. And like Mr. Green Jeans, I often wear overalls. Though mine are not green.

The irony is that I wouldn't say I'm particularly good at it. I definitely don't have a green thumb when it comes to planting things. This is the third or fourth year that I've planted pumpkins and I've yet to actually have more than one or two by Halloween.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Mad Man


No, this isn't a post about Trump. It is another in my series of posts about my career choices. And although I've never actually worked at an ad agency, I have worked with ad agencies on the client side for more than 20 years.

I'm also nothing like Don Draper (though I wouldn't mind looking like him). But I like to think my role as a marketing director is close to being a creative director at an ad agency. And like a creative director at an ad agency, I don't actually come up with creative ideas any more. I just review them and creatively nudge them in a direction I think will work the best.

There was a time in my career that I was a freelance copywriter. I wrote several radio scripts and one television script. And in my day job, I wrote ad copy and campaigns on a very small scale. But I found myself in my true element when I began managing my first advertising agency contract for the company I work for.

For the most part, the attitude the ad agency people on Man Men, the television series, have about clients is pretty spot on. The creatives at an ad agency think working at an ad agency would be great if it weren't for the clients.  And it truly is the account people's job to make the clients think they are well liked, smart, funny and highly respected.  The operative phrase is "make the clients think."

In my early days working with ad agencies, I believed they liked me and thought I was incredibly witty. I also thought, as the client, I wielded the power to mold the creative work that placed before me. After a few years, I realized that the creatives  barely tolerated me and the account people actually thought my jokes were as funny as my children think my dad jokes are. And I realized that I was often being steered towards creative that the agency wanted to produce rather than the creative that would be the most effective.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Writer



"I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so."
~Neil Gaiman

I feel like I'm doing one of those theme weeks I used to do back in the good old days of Dizgraceland when I had my little band of people who commented on a regular basis. The theme seems to be career or talent paths I've taken or avoided.

Since I never made art or music my career path, I suppose I identify most as a writer. I have a degree in Journalism. I have written a blog for almost 15 years. My career path has mainly relied on words.

I think I can turn a pretty good phrase. I'm good with puns. I've always been good at writing headlines and I am a fairly creative copywriter.

I wrote a humor column for my college newspaper. I have written several unpublished short stories. I started a novel once but never finished it. I've ghost written articles for trade journals. I've written greeting cards (but only for family) and I've self-published several photo and travel books (but again only for my family). I have been a freelance copywriter and written umpteen brochures, newsletters, radio scripts and ads. I have also posted some pretty spiffy reviews on tripadvisor.com.

But I have never been what anyone would call commercially successful. One of the biggest disappointments of my life is that I never finished a novel and had it published (the key obstacle being never having finished writing a novel).

I know that the optimists out there would tell me that there is still time for me to write a novel and perhaps get it published. The pessimist in me says that having written more than 1300 blog posts with very little positive (or negative for that matter) feedback, no one wants to read anything I've written.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Musician

I can't remember a time when music wasn't a part of my life. But I don't think I ever really considered making music my career. I'm kind of glad of that. One, although I have played guitar for a little over 50 years, I am a good player, but not a great player. Two, I enjoy music too much to make it a job.


I got my first guitar when I was ten years old. I asked for one because I was inspired by watching the Glen Campbell Show on television and was impressed by his guitar playing. People also said I looked like a 10-year old Glen Campbell.



I had the guitar, but it took several years before I could figure out how to play it. I taught myself because my parents didn't have enough money to get me a guitar teacher and I don't take criticism well so having a teacher or tutor for anything makes me break out in sweat.

Not a great trait, I know.

I started band in 5th grade playing the soprano clarinet. I chose clarinet because my dad owned one and there was no way they would spring for a new instrument. I went on to band in junior high, but switched to the contra alto clarinet in 8th grade. I switched because the band director told me that I could only make it in concert band if I switched to the contra alto clarinet, because I wasn't a great clarinet player.

I stayed in band in high school. My sophomore year I played bass clarinet in the marching band and contra bass clarinet in the concert band. I became the drum major in marching band my junior and senior year. I also started playing bass guitar in the jazz band.

On the guitar front I had bought a better acoustic guitar while in junior high and I learned a few more chords. Then I bought an electric bass guitar from Sears. I figured it would be easier to play since it only had four strings and you didn't actually play chords. So I sort of taught myself to play it. This gave me the opportunity to play bass for the jazz choir when it performed in a music competition. It also gave me an opportunity (or so I thought) to appear sort of cool.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Artist


There was a time that I toyed with majoring in art and becoming an artist instead of a writer. I suppose I ended up being a writer because I wasn't certain how you actually could support yourself being an artist.

Not that you can support yourself being a writer unless you followed the meandering career path I did and became a copywriter and then a marketing person. Growing up in a relatively poor family instilled in me the desire to be gainfully employed. Being an artist or an artistic writer doesn't lend itself to gainful employment. The term, "starving artist" wasn't created for nothing.

Over the years I've known a few artists. And none of them were able to support themselves strictly through their art. And as I've said, I only supported myself through writing by writing what other people wanted me to write. This blog is the perfect illustration of what happens when you simply write for yourself.  No one reads what you've written and certainly no one pays you to read what you've written.

But even the writers who have a certain amount of success have done so by selling out. I follow one of my favorite current authors, Garth Stein, on social media and the guy always seems to be hawking himself like literary snake oil. His most famous book, The art of racing in the rain, has just been released as a movie and Stein is still marketing himself.

So I'm starting to think that true art isn't commercially successful. Or at least it isn't successful when you are producing it. Case in point Vincent Van Gogh.


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

I love technology

I do. I really do love technology.  But I question it at times.

For example I am a bit baffled when my Apple Watch reminds me to stand to achieve my daily goal of standing up. I wouldn't have understood the importance of standing up a few years ago. But once you hit 60 it seems more like a reasonable goal.

The thing that really baffles me, however, is that I can ignore my watches reminder to stand up and then 10-minutes later it will congratulate me for achieving my stand up goal despite the fact that I have remained sitting.

The watch does the same thing with my daily move goal (and by move it is not referring to exercise, but to simply not remaining comatose). I can be sitting in a meeting and the watch starts heaving platitudes to me for achieving my move goal even though I've been sitting at a table for an hour.

I wear my Apple watch while I do my daily hour of elliptical exercising. But even after an hour working out the watch sometimes chides me to do a brisk ten-minute walk to achieve my daily exercise goal.

I also love Amazon's Alexa and my Echo devices, but Alexa can be a bit troublesome at times. Because every time my 12-year old daughter asks for some music like say, "Alexa, play the soundtrack from Disney's Descendents 3" Alexa will respond with, "Playing Fat Daddy's Get Bent album three." And of course the songs Alexa misunderstands and plays all have explicit lyrics.


My watch just congratulated me on achieving my move goal and I've been sitting here for 20 minutes typing this post. Maybe it admires my typing speed.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how far we've come with our devices. I would be lost without my phone (literally without its GPS function). But I wonder at times whether we depend too much on it. I mean really, do I need to ask Alexa to pause the video I am watching when the remote is literally two inches from my hand?

I just have to sit back and appreciate that I live in the future that used to be just science fiction when I was a kid. But at least back then no one had to remind me to stand up or move.


Friday, August 02, 2019

Time after time


I've posted this image of a contact page I made from negatives shot with a large format camera I bought years ago. These were the only photos I ever took with the camera. It is locked away in a foot locker in the garage. It's been there for years.

The photos were shot in the late 1980s. I'm guessing when I was in my early 30s. I was growing my hair out in another rebellious phase. And I still fancied myself as an artist trapped in an office worker's body.

The photos were black and white. I hand-colorized them in a style made popular at the time on Saturday Night Live. I hadn't yet discovered Photoshop. And this was long before digital photography and long, long before smart phones.

I ran across the digital version of these photos the other day and started playing around with my smart phone and Photoshop to recreate the photos now. So I converted them back to black and white and reposed my 61-year old self in similar shots.


First I have to say I miss my long hair (at least how it looked, not taking care of it). And I want to go on record that it takes courage to compare your aging self to your young self. Time makes things shift. My nose and ears seem bigger. I grew extra chins.


But one thing I learned from this exercise is that, although I don't always recognize myself when I look in the mirror, there are certain parts of me...my expressions and my eyes that confirm that I'm still in there.

Some where.