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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.