Friday, December 30, 2022

Dis chord, dat chord

Country music singersHave always been a real close familyBut lately some of my kinfolksHave disowned a few others and meI guess it's becauseI kinda changed my directionLord, I guess I went and broke their family tradition 
--Hank Williams Jr

I grew up without a lot of family traditions. Oh, we did the usual things white lower middle class families do like decorate Christmas trees, carve jack o lanterns, eat turkey and dye Easter eggs. We had barbecues with the neighbors and occasionally celebrated birthdays together, but in retrospect, it was all generic.

My family didn't come from recent immigrant stock so we had no old country traditions. My grandmother's (my father's mother) furnishings didn't come over on a boat. It mainly came from Sears and Roebucks. Some of it is considered antique now, but none of it was handmade or anything but functional.

My mother came from a family with 12 children. There was basically nothing passed down. At least there was nothing material passed on. They were poor and barely had food to eat. At times they lived in a tent. So the only tradition they passed down was survival and very little talk about what had been a hard life.

A couple of my mom's sisters would bring their families over for select holidays. They had followed in their family traditions of having lots of kids. So I had (and have) more cousins than I can count. My own mother had stopped at three (and one half sister I didn't know about until years after my mother died). My father was an only child who discovered he was adopted after my grandmother died.

So I guess family secrets are part of my family tradition. But I think it falls more into the category of things that no one talked about. Like my mother's nephew (son of her oldest sister) whose wife killed their five year old son (who had been born just a day before me in the same hospital) with a shotgun. The mother then turned the shotgun on herself. She left behind twin babies who later had mental struggles of their own.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Bizzaro world

 I have been coming into the office this week instead of working from my home as I have for more than two and a half years. And although I like returning to the structure of the office it is anything but normal. For one, hardly anyone else is in the office. So it is kind of like those post-apocalypse movies where everything has just been abandoned. 

I walk by what seems like endless rows of empty cubicles and offices. Supplies are piled empty reception desks. Kitchens are full of abandoned cups and plastic containers. Lets not even talk about what is inside of the refrigerators in the break rooms.

I work out in a gym in one of our office buildings. It used to be packed at lunchtime pre-pandemic. Now I often have it to myself. It is kind of nice, but also kind of unsettling.

There used to be coffee and sandwich places nearby. Now most of them are closed. So my coffee comes from a K-cup and it is consumed at my desk.

It struck me the other day that it is very likely that things will never return to the way it used to be. Most people have the option of working remotely and most people have exercised that option. 

We have already consolidated much of the office space we used to have into a couple of buildings. I packed up my spacious office back in August and moved to the 11th floor of my current building where I managed to squeeze 19 boxes of memorabilia accumulated in 25 years of working here into an office the size of small bathroom.

Even my commute has changed. I went from crowded trains that sometimes had people sitting on the stairs to the upper level to cars with a handful of people spread comfortably out with four seats to themselves. I am one of the few people who still wears a mask on the train. COVID shattered our world but now most just ignore that it still exists.

It helps a bit to be an introvert in this new world.  There is less forced interactions and most of them are via video. It is much easier to be detached in a video meeting. 

Still part of me misses normal (whatever that was).

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Playing opossum


Nothing like a random filter from Snapchat to inspire a blog post. I'm not even sure what product the opossum filter was supposed to be promoting. But the first thing that comes to mind when I think opossum (not that I think about them very often) is the concept that a opossum will pretend it is dead if it finds itself threatened. A quick Google search suggests that the opossum doesn't actually play dead. The fear actually triggers a catatonic state in the animal so it appears dead.

Regardless, most opossums I've seen actually are dead. Thus the joke, "Why did the chick cross the road? Answer, "To show the opossum that it could be done."

On another random note, I was at a conference in San Diego many years ago and attended a lunch session at the San Diego Zoo. One of the zoo keepers brought in a live opossum and urged us all to smell it. Not sure what the point was, but the opossum did smell pretty darned good.

Now that I've exhausted most of my relevant facts about opossums I'll digress about other random things. Before writing this post, I toyed with writing another post about how I am insecure about whether or not I'm funny. It was triggered by my son's reaction to a Christmas card I made him that said, "All I want for Christmas is an NFT." On the inside was a photo of his cat with a funky grin and a sailor hat. The caption read, "How about an NFC (Non-fungible Cat) instead?" I thought it was extremely clever. 

My son didn't.

Monday, December 19, 2022

It's the most wonderful time of the year


It's cold, gray, and threatening snow. COVID 19 has joined forces with the cold and the flu to make sure every one is feeling miserable or afraid of feeling miserable. We are either in a recession, coming out of a recessing, going into a recession or merely skipping along our merry way paying more for everything. The war still goes on in the Ukraine. Trump is still babbling incoherently about being cheated out of the presidency and vowing revenge. He still manages to avoid being held accountable for anything. Elon Musk has made Twitter even more of a shit show than it ever was.

On the home front we are in the middle of a two-month remodel that is heading into its fifth month. We had to have a $700 heart scan on our dog and one of our cats is still at risk of crystals in his bladder despite a $2,000 operation.

I love the holidays. 

On the bright side I seem to have an endless supply of shows to stream. I discovered White Lotus on HBO Max. I have Acapulco, Mosquito Coast, Echo 3 and Mythic Quest on Apple +. I have 1899 on Netflix and Tulsa King on Paramount +. So there is something positive in the world.

I went with my wife to the mall on Sunday so she exchange a sweater she got for my son for Christmas. Apparently it had a hole in it. Anyway, we went to Macy's where I was overcome with the stench of Aramis pouring out of the cosmetics area and disco music blaring at a display near the front of the store. The store was packed with frantic people lining up at cash registers where very weary looking store employees definitely didn't look like they appreciated the spirit of the holidays.

The mall, as one might imagine, did look like the scene of a zombie apocalypse. But instead of people shuffling along looking for brains (which you would be hard pressed to find in a mall) they were jostling each other trying to buy calendars with grumpy cat photos or Japanese overstuffed and unrecognizable animal toys.  It struck me that news of a recession hasn't reached the masses because there was a whole lot of consuming going on.

We escaped the mall and got stuck in traffic bogged down by a snow storm. All I could think was that I wish I was some place tropical. The prospect of a white Christmas appeals to me just about as much as accepting a job as the caretaker for the Outlook Hotel in The Shining

At least I have my iPad and streaming videos to look forward to.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The devil is in the details


I've been going to our local Rite Aid for years and walked by the ad on the top of this photo and wondered why it always looked familiar. I finally figured out why (with the help of Google and PhotoShop).

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

White Christmas


If you have been following my blog for some time (and god knows there must be thousands of you), you know that every year I decorate an all white tree with blue lights and nothing but Elvis related ornaments. It is a tradition that I started probably more than 25 years ago. 

This year we are remodeling our house and the space where I normally put up the Elvis tree is under construction. So no Elvis tree this year. Sorry Elvis.

But this post isn't really about my Elvis tree or lack thereof. My wife and I were in a restaurant on Saturday night and there were a group of people seated at a nearby table. An older couple were dressed as Mr and Mrs. Santa Claus.  I assumed they had been at a party or working a party. But still, it struck me as odd that they would wear their Santa suits to a restaurant. 

For some reason the sight of a table full of white people eating dinner with Mr and Mrs Santa Claus made me think how white of a holiday the secular Christmas is, especially in the small city I live in. It gave a whole new meaning to the term "White Christmas."

I had never thought of it that way before. I'd never considered that people of color had to put up with a white Santa, white Virgin Mary, white baby Jesus and white angels. This is all pretty ironic considering the event Christmas is supposed to be commemorating took place in a part of the world where I seriously doubt most of the people were white except for the Romans.

And Santa Claus really doesn't figure into the whole nativity aspect of Christmas anyway. He is part of marketing efforts to try and work a profit angle into the holiday. So as holiday spirited people think they are when they wear stupid Santa hats, they are really just feeding into the commercial spirit that really fuels White Christmas in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I usually get caught up in the non-religious hype of the holidays myself. I'd put up lights, listen to Christmas music and decorate my Elvis tree (and a more traditional tree) all in the spirit of the holidays. Generally I would attribute it to being for the kids. But deep down, it gave me comfort because this is something I grew up doing. But even as a kid, I knew Christmas was something that was cobbled together from lots of different traditions from many cultures and beliefs. I knew that Jesus wasn't really born on December 25. It was just an arbitrary date that likely coincided with some holiday the druids celebrated when the Romans conquered them.

I knew as a kid that Santa didn't exist. But I put up my stocking and accepted the jumbo Sugar Daddy bar and boxes of Life Savors. I opened my presents and experienced the post present depression of being more enthralled with the thought of presents than the actual presents themselves.

But still I grew up with a White Christmas that reflected my privilege of being a white person in America. So now I can't listen to Bing Crosby or Elvis dreaming about a white Christmas in the same way anymore.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Day of the dread


The Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican holiday to honor the dead. It is a time of remembrance, because the memory symbolically keeps the dead person alive.

Keeping our memory alive after we die seems to be a pretty common thread throughout human history. Kings build pyramids to be remembered. There are statues, portraits, tombstones, photos, memoires, and, of course, blogs. These are all attempts to keep memories alive after a person dies. But for the most part, I think they fail. Shoot, how many times have I railed on how I am invisible and forgotten while alive. I can only imagine what it will be like when I'm dead.

I think we dread death because we can't imagine becoming nothing. I think of the hundreds if not thousands of people I've met in my life through school or work. And as much as I enjoy their company when they are around, once they move on, they are gone. Very few stay in touch. Some even die and you have a twinge of sadness, but then everything moves on. 

But where is is moving on to? Last night I watched a movie on Showtime called After.Life. It stars Liam Neeson as a mortician who may or may not have the ability to communicate with the newly dead people he is preparing for viewings at funerals. One of those is Christina Ricci who may or may not be dead. The movie is pretty good at keeping you guessing until the end (no pun intended). But although the movie dealt with helping people to move on, it also did give any idea where you would move on to.

Of course, the reason is that the only way you can know where you move on to is by moving on to it. And despite what Tik Tok would like you to believe, once you have moved on, there isn't a social media channel for the dead to share posts with the living. If there was Zuckerberg would have exploited it by now and it would be called something like Dead Line or After Thoughts. There would also be controversies over all of the marketing information that was being harvested from the platform and companies would be figuring out ways to sell stuff to dead people.

Like every other social media platforms the one for the dead would also be rife with live people pretending to be dead and dead people pretending to be live. So basically you still couldn't trust anything that was posted. 

But there is no such social media platform and we don't really have anyway to know what happens after we die. Well, except for Ouija boards, and they open up a whole new can of worms.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Tears of a clown


You are probably sensing that I spend way too much time playing with the filters on Snapchat. But for me, it is a logical progression from the years I've spent Photoshopping my face on various animate and inanimate objects. It is also less labor intensive.

You (and I am as usual addressing the generic you - the now and future reader of my blog) may also think that I am enamored with my own face since I use it in so many of my posts. There are many reasons I generally use my own image. One, just as Van Gogh and many artists throughout history created self-portraits because they could always rely on their availability as a model, I use my own image because I'm always available. I avoid Photoshopping my family's faces on things for my blog to protect their privacy. Though I do Photoshop their faces on greeting cards (much to my children's chagrin).

In all honesty, I don't like my face. I cringe at photos of myself. I cringe when I look in a mirror. Photoshop and Snapchat filters allow me to fix some of my facial flaws. It's kind of like putting on a costume for Halloween so you can see what it feels like not to be you for awhile. And it has the advantage of not having to spend hours applying and removing makeup. 

Despite my morbid fear of clowns, mimes and those people who hand out food samples at Costco, I kind of like the way I look as a twisted, crying clown even though it does remind me a bit of Tammy Fay Baker (who was married to a clown). The image above reminds me of those black velvet clown paintings from the 60s. 

Ironically, the only thing I use Snapchat for is the filters. I have never sent anyone a Snapchat. I don't have a clue as to how it works or why you would send someone a Snapchat instead of a text. I vaguely know that the messages you send on Snapchat disappear after short time so I image it has something to do with sending naked photos of yourself to someone.  

I guarantee you that if I ever used it for that purpose the recipient would definitely want it to go away quickly.

Sad clown.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Trust me


I'll be upfront with you. I can't seriously tell you that I am an authority on anything. This is problematic as a blogger, because most people look to bloggers to be authorities on something like food, fashion or pest control. I am nothing more than an observer who has spent more than six decades staring in morbid fascination at life. And I suppose I've learned a lesson or two, but I can't say I've mastered anything.

For some reason, people like it when someone states something with great authority, like the earth is flat or there is only one god. It takes a lot of the ambiguity out of things. You don't have to question or think about it. So like a sheep, you can follow blindly and hope the path you are on leads you to the truth or in a sheep's case, food.

But when I studied journalism years ago, we were taught that all "facts" had to be verified by trusted sources. And the more trusted sources you had, the better the chances were that your story was true. Problem is that I don't think there is such a thing as a trusted source. Every institution invents truths to justify their existence and behavior. Let's face it, governments lie, churches lie, celebrities lie and corporations lie. I've spent enough time in marketing to know that something doesn't necessarily have to be true to sell a product or concept. People just have to believe it is true.

So you are really better off taking the position that nothing is true. But trusting nothing does create a very lonely existence. This is why religions turn to faith as the justification for their lies. If you have faith in something, it doesn't have to be true. Even science bases it's truths on failed experiments and elimination of things that don't work. What is left should be the truth, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

So in conclusion (because I believe every train of though should have a caboose), don't believe anything you read, watch, hear, smell or feel.

Trust me on this.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Take a hard write


Writing, per se, has never been hard for me. After years of journalism and copywriting, I don't really struggle to write a sentence or paragraph. Occasionally I am quite prolific. And occasionally I don't have anything to say. But occasionally I say it anyway. Lately I've just been sifting through old blog posts that I think were pretty good and reposting them on Medium in hopes someone else will think they are pretty good, too. But as I have noted before, most people are on Medium to be read, not to read. 

I tried this same approach when I started my blog many years ago. I posted several unpublished short stories I'd written many, many years ago and posted them on my blog.  In 17 years they have only been viewed by a few hundred people. Not a very impressive statistic considering your average Tik Tok post gets several hundred views often in less than a few hours. 

The Internet is both a boon and a curse to writing. It provides you an inexpensive way to expose your writing to the world but it also buries the world in a sea of content that also makes it near impossible to be heard or read. And even if you are read, the reader moves on within seconds and rarely returns. 

I think writing started to die when we started to refer to it as content. Now it is just another so much garbage used to fill the infinite space in the cloud. A writer is viewed, swiped and forgotten in milliseconds. 

I wonder how the classically great writers would have fared in the age of the Internet? I wonder if Hemingway would have reached for his shotgun (or bottle of rum) earlier in his life if he had to post his writing in a blog rather through a publisher?

Not that I ever really liked Hemingway's writing even though I've grown to look like him in my old age.

Moliere said, "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money." If he was alive today he would have discovered you can't even give it away.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Mock of ages


I thought "Mock of ages" would be a clever title for a post about aging. I then Googled it and found out it is the name of a Def Leppard Tribute Band in Atlanta. Go figure.  It does illustrate one of the challenges of aging: you discover there are no new ideas.

Since re-engaging with Medium again, I've seen lots of posts from people in their early 20s bemoaning how much of their lives have passed without them feeling like they have accomplished enough. Most of them have 60 or more years ahead of them but they are oblivious. Try being in your 60s and realizing you have maybe 20 years left.

Twenty years. It's not a lot of time, and adding insult to injury, much of my time left is going to be dealing with the inevitable impacts of aging. I will continue to slow down while time speeds up. 

But no one wants to read about the grim future of aging. Though I am bombarded daily with the grim headlines about nuclear holocaust, plagues, global warming, economic downturns and the end of democracy. So don't point fingers at me for being a Debbie Downer when it comes to growing old. It's something you don't think about...until you do. 

Some people like to point out examples of people who accomplished relatively great things after they turned 70. They cite people like Ronald Reagan and Joe Biden. But Reagan lost it all to Altzheimer's and Biden is ridiculed in social media for displaying his age.

There is something about seeing old people that brings out a visceral reaction in young people. Hell it brings out a visceral reaction in not so young people. Maybe seeing old people makes them have to face the inevitable reality that they will be old eventually, too. And then there is the other eventuality they have to face as well.

It's why for the most part people look right through you when you are old. You fade into the scenery. You stand in lines at the grocery store or Starbucks and are ignored. 

So maybe I understand why some aging musicians would get together to form a tribute band called "Mock of Ages." I just don't get why it would be a tribute to Def Leppard.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Pulling your head out


Definition of head-in-the-sand

unwilling to recognize or acknowledge a problem or situation

--Merriam Webster 

It is hard to believe we still live in a time where some people believe the world is flat, racism doesn't exist, COVID is just the flu, global warming is a myth and government should regulate people's bodies and sexual orientation. It is also hard to believe that people believe an ex-president is still above the law and can threaten democracy without consequences. 

I will leave it to your imagination to guess who that ex-president is (it is not Obama and his name rhymes with "take a dump."

I had high hopes for the Internet when it first appeared. Who wouldn't like a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips with a few key strokes. I have a degree in Journalism. And at the time they taught us the importance of verifying the truth of everything you write unless it was your opinion and then you at least had to admit it was just your opinion. Who would have dreamed that at some point there was so much garbage being spewed in cloud that you'd have to prospect every bit of data for a rare glimmer of truth. There is no such thing as a trustworthy source any more.

Tik Tok is a perfect example of lie after lie in a medium we were taught at one time should be proof -- video. After all, you have to trust what you can see with your own eyes, right? But swipe through the never ending clips on Tik Tok and you are overwhelmed by the "truth." Big Foot and UFO's thrive on Tik Tok as do ghosts and endless tales of narcissists and heartbreak. One could come away believing every conspiracy theory ever concocted.

But I remember looking at Tik Tok before the pandemic and there were all of these videos from China predicting the spread of COVID. It sounded like conspiracy BS. And then boom we were on lock down and two and a half years went by. 

So what is real and what is just crap? And why do people spread the fertilizer of fake news? To become Tik Tok famous? Are their lives so insignificant that they need to set their farts on fire on video to get followers and fleeting fame?

The first step towards truth is pulling your head out of the sand and paying attention. And it is important not to allow yourself to become so polarized in your beliefs that you are only receptive to truths that match your own. Objective articles attempt to show both sides of the story and stick to facts, not conjecture. 

 It isn't easy to focus on the truth. All of the social media algorithms are designed to feed you what you want to hear, not what you should hear. And even if you pull your head out of the sand, it is important to clean the sand out of your ears and eyes. 

The truth should be taken with a grain of salt, not a grain of sand. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Medium Rare


I've been dabbling with posts on again despite being dropped from their associate program  where you earn cash if people actually read your stuff (generally in five to 10 cent per month chunks). I was dropped because I didn't have the minimum 100 followers.

Putting my bruised ego aside I have set out to try and get 100 followers. The easiest way to do this apparently is to follow other Medium writers who post articles that urge you to follow them and they will follow you. It's kind of like the early days of Twitter where there were lots of Ponzi schemes to get followers by following random people.

I have my doubts about the platform in general. The average age of the content contributors seems to be about 24.  And there is quite a bit of content about writing tips. So being 40 years older than the average contributor and having been a professional writer for about 40 years, there is a bit of a generation gap. I have a hard time relating to 20 something's identity crisis' and I don't really need to know the top ten words not to use while I blog. 

Conversely, the 20 somethings really aren't interested in the foibles of being an aging creative and the crisis' I encounter just by looking in the mirror and discovering my body is shrinking while my ears and nose grow grotesquely.  

So the question is is there any way to to bridge the gap and is there any point?  I'm an old dog who doesn't think he has any gray matter left to learn new tricks and most of the young dogs seem to be more interested in humping legs than listening to the mutterings of a gray dog. And being the father of two teenagers, I am well aware that being old is not perceived by them as being wise. Nothing makes them glaze over like a sentence that begin with, "I remember when...."

I was the same way when I was young. I was confident that I knew everything and I resented anyone who suggested I didn't. Took me years to realize that they were right. Now I am confident that I basically don't know anything. But this creates a paradox. Why should anyone listen to anything I say if I admit I don't know anything, especially if I am telling a young person they don't know what they are talking about.

The thing is that I've earned the right to admit I don't know everything through a a wealth of mistakes and experience.

So there.

Monday, August 29, 2022

I see the beast, but where's the beauty?


I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Disney and their parks, hotels and stores. Despite their continued business model of squeezing ever last dollar out of visitors to the Happiest Places on Earth, I continue to grumble and book trips to the Magic Kingdom. And I'm joined by millions of others who flock to the parks daily to consume their churros and turkey drumsticks as they shuffle off to a ride.

The question is why? I have never been to Disneyland when it wasn't crammed with miserable looking people desperately trying to get to the next ride that has less than an hour wait. And the infamous lines that wind around like a snake swallowing it's own tail continue to get more elaborate and deceptive. The replaced fast pass kiosks with a Genie Plus App that you have to pay $20 a day per person to use to join the rebranded "Lightning Lane" on select rides. The catch is, if you can actually figure out the app (and it is working) you can only use it once per select ride per day and once you use it on one ride you can't use it on another ride for a few hours. 

The Genie Plus also isn't good on the most popular rides like Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, Spiderman Academy or the Radiator Springs Race. You have to pay an additional $15 to $20 to get in the Lightning Lane. 

Then you have to hope the ride doesn't break down before your window of time to use the Lightning Lane. Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean broke down several times while we were there last week.

Consumption at the parks always blows me away. Despite astronomical food prices (like $7 for a soda served in a small plastic grenade in Star Wars Land) people move through the park like locust munching on high priced popcorn and Disney branded snacks. If you are lucky enough to get a reservation at a restaurant like the Blue Bayou you can plan to spend $29 for a Monty Cristo sandwich. I bought my son kid's chicken meal for $10 that included one thin strip of chicken. We asked for another two strips of chicken on the side so he wouldn't starve. Each additional strip cost another $10.

The thing that has always baffled me about Disneyland is the hordes of people who flock there despite the expense and crowds, just to try and carve out a piece of the promised dream -- a fantasy world of magic. And I know it sounds hypocritical because I'm one of them. Part of me harkens back to that kid in me who one day dreamed of going to that place Walt Disney hyped on television promising to bring a carousel of color to my black and white world.

But the only color Disney seems to promote is the color of money. I'm sure they have huge teams of people calculating algorythms that keep the crowds moving and consuming just out of reach of the dream. 

I did note in this last trip to Disneyland that despite the outrageous cost of going there, it isn't a place for the rich and beautiful. It attracts the want to be rich and beautiful. And no matter how bad you feel about how you look, all you have to do is go to Disneyland and discover that maybe, compared to the unwashed masses, you don't look so bad or fat as you thought.

This is one of those posts that you start writing without a real point and then you find you've tapped into some bottled up bile and resentment. It got twisted in with all of the stress of travelling after almost three years of pandemic induced isolation. Mix in the stress, expense and the cold I got when we returned home (I've tested negative for COVID four times so I've concluded I just have a bad cold) and you get a pretty negative review of Disneyland.

But I'll bet you we eventually go back.

Monday, August 22, 2022

So happy I could cry


I have written several posts about crying at the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland. So after going there yet again last week to celebrate my son's 14th birthday, I decided to do a photo series I call, "Crying at the Happiest Place on Earth." This is me crying on the first day in the park after walking about 30 miles in sandals and rubbing my feet raw.

This is me crying in the hallway outside our room in Disney's Grand Californian. It is a beautiful hotel decorated in Mission style furniture on a grand scale that awes you when you walk into the lobby. It also features premium priced (but not premium quality) food that will bring tears to your eyes (like $20 chicken strips and a $25 dollar pepperoni pizza).

One cool aspect of staying at the Disney Grand Californian is that you have your own entrance into the California Adventure Theme Park. This is me crying in line waiting to go on the Grizzly Bear River Run where they promise you will get wet and probably soaked. There is also a huge probability that you will get queasy on the spinning river raft and another huge probability that the ride will break down after you have waited in line 45 minutes to get on it.

One of the more exciting rides in California Adventure is the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout ride. It used to be the Tower of Terror Ride with a spooky Twilight Zone theme. They switched it over to Guardians of the Galaxy when they bought the franchise. This is me crying in front of the tower after losing control of several bodily functions during the third or fourth free fall elevator drop. That is me in the back row left.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

You stream, we stream, we all stream...

I finally cut the cable and rely completely on streaming content for my television consumption. I got sick of paying for cable that kept increasing in cost without increasing the number of channels I had access to. I was down to basic cable that was basically useless. Other than allowing me to access a few local channels (which I rarely watched anyway) it offered me nothing.

So now my cable bill only includes high-speed Internet and phone land lines. I would get rid of the phone, but my wife insists we need it for emergencies and to receive countless robo calls offering me extended warranties on my car and alerting me that someone is buying expensive things with my Amazon account.

The only down side to streaming versus cable is the number of apps I end up paying for to get premium content. I have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, Disney +, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount, Showtime and PBS.  It still is cheaper than basic cable and I only have to watch commercials on Peacock.

Unlike cable, which was a cultural desert of crap channels, I find myself with almost unlimited choices of things to watch. I have binge watch tons of great original content. The downside in discovering some new series and watching all of the available episodes is waiting for a new season. And sometimes they never come because Netflix or Amazon decides not to continue with the series. But even when they do come, it is sometimes after so long that I forget the plot line of the previous seasons.

What I really like is that, unlike watching premium channels on cable, I can watch a movie or series from the beginning anytime I want. I'm not at the mercy of tuning in at a specific time. And who needs a DVR? DVD's have also become obsolete. Everything is in the cloud waiting to waft down to your on demand.

I remember writing posts in the past about the marvels of DVRs and being able to pause live television. And I remember bitching about having too many cable channels and not enough good content. Who would have dreamed we would eventually be able to stream just about anything we want and any time we want. 

I can't even imagine what and how we will be watching content five or ten years from now. Maybe all we will have to do is close our eyes and content is streamed into our brains.

If that happens I know what I'll be doing at staff meetings in the future.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Picture me, if you will...


I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time experimenting with filters on Snapchat. I don't ever actually send any messages on Snapchat. I don't have a clue how it works. But I do know how to capture photos of my face with odd filter effects. It takes less time than Photoshop.

If you don't know me (which applies to just about everyone), you'd think I like my face. On the contrary, I am appalled by it, especially as it ages. I struggle with selfies to try and hide the double chin and sagging flesh. Filters at least hide some of the flaws.

Ironically, I hate having photos taken of myself. Inevitably, I look huge. And photographs always seem to capture me in the most unflattering poses with my mouth have open. Selfies with filters remedy some of that.

They also help me indulge in role playing fantasies. For example I think I would have made a pretty good cowboy.

Though I don't think I could pull off being a clown.

I find it quite horrifying, actually.

But overall filters makes me smile (in a genuine way, of course).

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Old man, look at my life


Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were
Old man, look at my life
I'm a lot like you were

Lullabies, look in your eyes
Run around the same old town
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you
I've been first and last
Look at how the time goes past
But I'm all alone at last

Rolling home to you 

--Neil Young 

 I have always liked the song, Old Man by Neil Young. I can't say the lyrics ever made sense to me other than a young man telling an old man that he was young like him at some point in his life.


Actually Neil Young was writing the song to an old man who was the caretaker of a ranch he bought in Northern California when he was 25. Apparently the old man had lived on the ranch for a long time and couldn't believe a 25 year old could afford to buy it. So Neil Young wrote the song to rub his face in it.

Well he said he wrote it to tell the man that they weren't that different than each other. He just had got rich young by playing a guitar, smoking weed and singing in a weird falsetto voice. The old man on the other hand was taking care of the young man's cows and mending fences for what I imagine was minimum wage. 

I'm a lot like you were....NOT.

I can tell you that when I was 25, I wasn't imagining I was anything like old men. I didn't want to think about getting old. And at that age I was thinking 40 was old. Now 40 seems pretty young to me. I do remember being depressed when I turned 25 because I'd let a quarter of a century go by with out much to show for it. I'd like to go back in time and slap my 25 year old self a few times.

 Speaking of getting old, I've been watching Virgin River on Netflix (don't judge). In addition to young, attractive actors, the cast includes Tim Matheson and Annette O'Toole as an aging couple. If you don't remember who they are, Tim Matheson starred in the 1978 movie Animal Shack. If you really want some trivia, he was also the voice of Johnny Quest in the 1964 cartoon. Annette O'Toole was in lots of movies and series in the 1980s and 1990s. She was Lana Lane in Superman III. She was also in a 1982 remake of Cat People that I panned in a review in my college newspaper. My review headline was "Cat People belongs in the litter box." Anyway she was pretty hot back then.

But Virgin River shows what happens to all of us when we age. Matheson, once a heartthrob, plays a crotchity old country doctor. O'Toole plays his very unlikeable wife. Even when the doctor begins losing his eyesight and his wife suffers a brain injury, it is difficult to like either character. And the challenge for me is that I keep picturing them the way they looked in the early 1980s. 

Time is not kind to any of us. 

Now lest you think I am age shaming I must remind you that I am pretty much in the same boat (which could desperately use a new coat of paint). It is just a bit jarring to see these actors who I picture in their iconic young roles, growing old. It's like going to your 40th or 50th high school reunion and wondering who all the old people are.

Now that I am in this hole, I am going to stop digging.

Oh man, look at my life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Going to town


My wife and I took our daughter to see a performance of Hades Town at the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle last Saturday. It was the first major performance I've seen since the pandemic. And I have to say it was one hell of a show. 

The place was packed and while most people wore masks, it was kind of freaky being in a crowd. COVID has made me hyperaware of things like that. Not that I've ever liked crowds. But I never used to worry about crowds of people making me sick.

It is amazing how the pandemic changed our lives. And it is amazing how we've changed how we respond to it. In the beginning we were washing our hands several times a day and using hand sanitizer like it was holy water protecting us from the devil. Masks went from a novelty to a necessity. And god forbid we were ever within six feet of another person. Gone was shaking hands and hugging.

But now no one cares about hand sanitizer, social distancing and for the most part masks. Even so, reports are increasing of yet another surge in COVID cases and health officials telling us we should wear masks and avoid crowds. No one really listens.

I enjoyed Hadestown immensely. But that night we got a message that they cancelled the evening performance due to illness and COVID affecting the cast. I was a bit surprised though the understudy had been playing the role of Orpheus in the show we saw. So I wonder who else got sick between the matinee and the evening performance.

In case you've never heard of Hadestown, it is a musical based loosely on the Greek myth of Orpheus travelling to the underworld to bring back his wife Eurydice. Spoiler alert: he fails. The music from Hadestown is amazing. The audience gave the show a major standing ovation (not always a given in Seattle). And it was well deserved. I highly recommend you catch a show if you can. Or at least listen to the soundtrack. It is pretty haunting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Don't Pandemic II


I thought I was yet again being too clever by half when I thought of turning Douglas Adam's "Don't Panic" from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into "Don't Pandemic." But of course, Google showed me I wasn't the first clever person to use the phrase. And ironically I was looking over some of my past posts and discovered I'd titled post "Don't Pandemic" earlier in the pandemic. Once again I am repeating myself without being aware of it.

But this time I put my face on the "Don't Pandemic" character so at least that is something original. 

I don't know what to think about the pandemic now. After about two years of hourly headlines describing the onslaught of new variants sweeping through the world Covid has been pushed to page five of the virtual news pages behind classified ads for lost pets. Occasionally a click bait headline pops up promising that Covid isn't dead yet and the next one is going to be the mother of all strains that will wag it's behind at your boosters.

But the price of gas and groceries seems to be more frightening.

Now that my kids are out of school for the summer and I no longer have to shuttle them to and from school and play practice, I have returned to the office several days a week. I have to tell you, it actually feels pretty good to ride the train to work again and sit at a desk that isn't in a basement surrounded by boxes, dog beds and meowing cats. 

And being in downtown Seattle isn't as scary as I thought it would be. Now granted I am exposed to a narrow part of downtown each day. I have a two minute walk from the train station to my office building and I don't venture out much. Me and the pigeons are above it all on the fourth floor of my building. And next month I move to the 11th floor of another building. I will be in a much smaller interior office so I'll be even more insulated from the real world.

Although I wear a mask on the train, very few people seem to care anymore. The train isn't full, but it rarely was before the pandemic. I also don't wear a mask in the office. There are only a hand full of people here. It is kind of nice. 

Most of my meetings are still virtual. That is also nice. The only difference from remote is that I am wearing slacks and a dress shirt instead of pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. I also don't have a dog scratching at my leg for attention.

It's almost like the world is back to normal for me.


Monday, April 04, 2022

Old dog


I try to avoid commenting about work in my blog. But I've spent the last three Fridays and finally my birthday in an all day leading with purpose workshop. This is not a training I've sought out. It is not a training I would have sought out. There is nothing that involves four full days of psycho babble that I would purposedly seek out.

It's not that I don't want to learn new things, but these consultant led trainings, on Zoom not in person complete with virtual break out rooms aren't learning opportunities. They are mindnumbing wastes of time. I am not a stupid person, but the language of consultants and management training is incomprehensible. 

Things like "generous listening." It translates to paying attention to what someone is saying to you even though it is stupid. There are 360 surveys that give you feedback from peers, direct reports and your manager. They are all over the map --say more, say less, listen more, act more, stop rolling your eyes.

I don't like feedback. I can dissect myself with a blunt tool without someone else's opinion. But providing feedback that I don't like feedback is not socially acceptable. I must drink the Koolaid and adopt the lingo, at least until I actually retire or expire.

At my age I am set in my ways and I don't think making lists and personal goals is going to change that. I can't even remember half of the crap I've "learned" in trainings anyway. 

This dog don't want to hunt no more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Gray and white


I live in a gray and white world, literally and figurative. At times it seems like there is never sunshine in the Pacific Northwest. The sky always seems gray and blotched with drizzle. It seems worse than it was when I first moved here more than 40 years ago. Maybe it is climate change. Maybe it is just me aging, graying and whiting.

My hair is gray and white. I am like a printer running out of ink. I am fading.

Maybe it's the pandemic or social unrest or the economy or the war in the Ukraine that making me gray. Or should that be blue? 

Was it a coincidence that Oscar Wilde's character was Dorian Gray? But I suppose his portrait grayed while he stayed black and white. Though I wish I had a portrait that grayed and aged while I stayed the way my mind sees me -- young and strong. The mirror, however, betrays me.

Which is why I try to avoid mirrors. But there are times, like when I am getting my hair cut, that I can't avoid the mirror. Even on the endless video meetings I am forced to stare at my gray face and double chins. More than two years of this has taken its toll.

And speaking of being invisible (there's one of those old digressions) there is nothing like being in a video meeting with about a hundred people that makes you actually invisible. No one really sees you. If they did see me, I wonder if they would think they are tuning in an old black and white television show.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Free as a bird

So I think I've set a new record for not blogging. Something about a pandemic that just keeps my muse from musing. It's difficult to be motivated to write when nothing seems too amusing.

I did go into the office a couple of weeks ago for the first time in almost two years. I was greeted by a stack of mail a foot high on my desk.

The monkey playing cymbals was watching over it for me. He hasn't changed. He did seem a bit more skitterish than I remember.

I also noted my desk calendar was open to March 2020, the month when it all seemed to go to hell. It was like something right out of the Twilight Zone. This whole scenario is like a bad dystopian novel.

Speaking of dystopian plots, I began watching this series on HBO Max called Station Eleven. It is about a future world where many of the people were killed off by a deadly flu. 

Sound familiar?

It's odd, but the pandemic seems to be losing steam, not because COVID had gone away but because people are just sick of it (pun intended). The intensity of the first year was replaced by hope that vaccines would end it last year. But the endless variants threw a wet blanket on hope towards the second part of 2021. And now people just seem to say WTF. Lots of mask mandates are being lifted.  

I've never liked wearing masks, but I've done it. The biggest pain is remembering to put them on. And I have never found a good solution for keeping my glasses from fogging up. Plus they make my ears pull down and look even bigger than they are. And they really draw attention to my double chin.

Not that my looks matter. I've become even more invisible during the pandemic. I still walk every day. And my wife gave us a family gym membership for Christmas. But working out in a mask sucks. And I'm really sick of walking the same routes for almost two years.

Anyway, why, you ask, is this post called "Free as a bird?" Because it strikes me how ironic that phrase is, especially now that we are all more or less captives in our homes and communities.