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Thursday, October 10, 2019

To delete, or not to delete...


I pride myself on generally being able to begin writing with a germ of an idea and expanding it quickly into a cogent (if not necessarily entertaining) blog post without a lot of editing or rewriting. I may not be able to improvise playing music, but I have always seemed to be able to improvise writing on just about any subject.

But after 15 years and 1345 blog posts, I'm starting to notice that sometimes the stuff doesn't flow as easy as it used to. For one, I think I'm running out of things to say. Which is kind of ironic, because the blog post that prompted this one was one I just deleted called Talking about yourself. It was prompted by how I feel about blow hard's who can't talk about anyone but themselves.  This led to a declaration that I don't really like talking, period.

Then I realized that all I generally do is blog about myself. So I deleted the post. Because sometimes even I can't deny how self-centered and boring some of my blog posts are.

This is where feedback (something I truly hate) would be nice. When people used to read my blog and comment, I at least had some indication that I was being entertaining or educational or thought provoking. But no one but spammers leave comments anymore. And the joke is on them. Since no one reads my blog, no one is reading their spam either.

I can take some comfort in that.

Reflecting on things, it is not just my blog that doesn't get comments. In day to day life I don't get much feedback anymore. I don't hear, "Nice haircut" or "You look nice today." I don't hear many "thank you's" or "you did a great job on that," either.

Part of that is the politically correct world we now live in where everyone is afraid to make any personal comment about anyone or anything. And part of it is that dreaded invisibility cloak age puts on me.

I am speaking at a conference at the end of the month. I keep getting marketing e-mails from them asking me to attend the conference and listing some of expert speakers who are going to be there to entice me to attend. Then they list me and show my photograph.

Now that's invisible.

Monday, October 07, 2019

I'm a little bit country...


I've been binge watching Ken Burns latest documentary series, Country Music. The series has eight episodes that incorporate 16-hours of content. It begins with the roots of what we think of as country music and traces its meandering path to present day country.

I watched all 16 hours and as usual, I was amazed at Ken Burns sense of detail and history. The series brought back a lot of memories and created a few more. It's not that I grew up listening to country music. But I grew up in what I think of as a country place. And as I root around in my family tree, my people were all from country places.

I listened to Hank Williams as a little kid. I didn't know it was Hank. I remember in particular listening to his song Jambalaya.  I also listened to Tennessee Ernie Ford singing Sixteen Tons. That was pretty much the extent of the classic country that I knew. I did get exposed to some from watching television. I knew Roger Williams wrote King of the Road while staying in a sleazy motel in Garden City, a shady part of my hometown in Boise.

I also remember watching the Jimmy Dean show and thinking he looked and talked like a male version of my Aunt Irma. All of my many aunts and uncles talked country. It has a unique sound. It's slow and measured with a bit of a twang. It isn't southern, it's country. I think you can be from any state in the union and have a country accent. It's your people, not your place.


Friday, October 04, 2019

Inside my brain


I've been watching the documentary series, Inside Bill's Brain on Netflix. The brain it refers to is Bill Gates' brain. It has given me new respect for the man because I basically despise Microsoft and all of its products. But I appreciate what Gates has done with his charitable foundation once he stepped down from being the head of Microsoft (no pun intended).

I have to admit if I suddenly had billions of dollars being charitable wouldn't be my first thought. Oh, I'd eventually get there after exhausting all of the luxury things I could indulge in that I've never had before. After awhile I'd think of other things to do with the money. At least I think I would.

But it is painfully obvious that Bill Gates and my brains have very little in common. For one, although I am an introvert, I was never as socially inept as he apparently is. And although I was a voracious reader as a child and much of my early adulthood, I generally read fiction. Bill Gates is also a voracious reader but he reads non-fiction, dry as dirt stuff at the rate of 150 pages an hour and remembers 90 percent of it. I forget what I got up to go to the kitchen for.

I was a good student. I pretty much always got A's without studying too hard. Bill Gates apparently took a statewide math test before junior high and got the highest grade in the state. I hated math.

The one thing I have up on Bill and his brain is that I graduated from college. Bill dropped out and founded Microsoft. But he never finished college so that gives me a right to look down my nose at him even if his net worth hovers around the hundred billion level.

So I'm not a billionaire genius. Apparently you have to be pretty much on the spectrum to be considered a genius. So I'm wondering if it is really worth it to be a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

Okay if it means making billions of dollars I'd have to say yes. But it still hurts my brain to think about it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Self image


I think it is difficult to have a realistic view of what you look like to others. Because what do you have to base it on other than mirrors and photographs. And those are notorious liars.

Add to the mix the games your brain plays converting signals from your eyes and you really don't have a true image of anything let alone yourself. And let's not forget the unrealistic standards given us by Hollywood and ad agencies for what we should look like.

I have never considered myself handsome. As a boy I was, what I overheard my mother tell someone on the phone, stocky. I remember being teased by some classmates in grade school about how fast I consumed my lunch. They then started saying I had a spare tire.

The spare tire disappeared in junior high. I was pretty skinny. That lasted into college. Along the way I had your typical teenagers battle with acne. And the style for hair at the time was long and pretty much unshaped.

I never had very good muscle tone. I wasn't athletic. I hated running. To this day I have skinny arms, huge calves and the spare tire has returned in a vengeance. I also have a big nose, big ears, a few double chins and crooked teeth. Oh and I have very gray, almost white hair.

Not a pretty picture.



Friday, September 20, 2019

Faded memories


Many years ago I bought a box at an auction that contained a bunch of old photographs. Most weren't in very good condition. Some included the name of the photographer and where they were taken but none included the names of the people.  The photo above is an example of one of the photos. Despite its condition, I love the photo. It appears to be of a group of friends wearing their best clothes and posing for posterity.

When I first got the photos I didn't really think of what to do with them. This was before digital scanning and Photoshop were really a thing. But several years back I scanned most of them with the thought that I'd eventually use them on my blog. A few days ago I decided to open up the files and see what I could do to restore them. Here's the restored version of the photo above.



Thursday, September 19, 2019

On remembering death

Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of my mother's death. I didn't remember it until some things popped up on Facebook today. I haven't really noted the anniversary from year to year. The last time I wrote about it in my blog was a year after she died.

I noted then that I didn't think the day a person dies should be the key thing you remember about them. It isn't something I put on the calendar. Like I said, I wouldn't remember the exact date unless Facebook wasn't so persistent about reminding us of things.

I couldn't tell you the day my father died either. I wasn't there so it wasn't quite as traumatic as when my mother died. And my father has been dead for 28 years. A lot has transpired since then.

I'm not good with death. I suppose no one is, but some people seem to handle it better. I mainly just shut it out. Oh, I can go through the motions. I can go to memorial services and be stoic and sympathetic. But I don't like death.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Smile without smiling


Smile without smiling sounds like a koan. Regardless, this disturbing photo of me with a Snapchat filter does the job quite nicely. I touched it up a bit because I didn't like me without my beard.

The photo reminds me of one I did some years back using only Photoshop. It was before Snapchat. My eyes are smiling in that one though.


It just goes to show you that a smile doesn't necessarily make you happy...or look happy. Though both of these are more of a grimace. It's kind of a Kirk Douglas look (Kirk Douglas was a famous movie star from the late 1940s...he was one of the first actors to play Spartacus...he is the father of Michael Douglas...I wish I didn't have to explain these things).


I have actually been told I have a nice smile...when I smile spontaneously. Too often I smile on cue, usually when I'm posing for a photo. Those are fake smiles. All you have to do is look at my eyes to know I'm not really smiling.

It's funny that we associate eyes with smiling when a smile is theoretically all about the mouth. For example:
When Irish Eyes are Smiling sure it's like a morn in spring
In the lilt of Irish laughter you can hear the angels sing
when Irish hearts are happy all the world seems bright and gay
but when Irish eyes are smiling sure they'll steal your heart away
I suppose it sounds better than, "When Irish mouths are smiling sure it's like a morn in spring."

I guess all we can do is grin and bear it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

For the birds


Apparently the ledge outside my new office is quite the gathering place for pigeons and occasionally sea gulls. It is on the fourth floor of my building. My other office was on the 8th floor of another building and only attracted a sea gull on rare occasions.

I'm thinking pigeons are afraid of heights.

There are now four pigeons on the window ledge....wait...five. Two are staring at me rather balefully. The other three appear to be sleeping.

Two flew away.

This is dramatic stuff. I'm thinking of setting up a web cam and streaming it live. I'll call it For the birds. Apparently that phrase comes from the 1940s and was originally "That's shit for the birds" referring to birds pecking on horse manure for seeds.

I think calling the web cam "Shit for the birds" might not be a good marketing move. Come to think of it, probably not a big demand anyway for a web cam of pigeons on my window ledge. There are three of them now, BTW. I'm thinking they are hanging out because of the rain. It's hard to tell with pigeons. They always look a bit confused.

I suppose I'd be a bit confused if my eyes were on the side of my head. What is that all about anyway? What genius genetic designer thought it would be a good idea to put birds eyes on the side of their heads? They can't have any depth perception. I'm surprised they aren't flying into shit all the time.

Then it would really be shit for the birds.

Monday, September 16, 2019

I saw It (2)


I took my son to see It Chapter 2 over the weekend. I had relented and let him stream the first chapter last year around this time. So when they released chapter 2 I agreed to take him to the theater and see it.

Okay, Pennywise the Clown (played by Swedish actor Bill SkarsgĂ„rd) is as creepy as hell. But then again, I think all clowns are as creepy as hell. And It and It Chapter 2 are 100 times better than the 1990s mini-series .  And they are a munch better adaptation of the book by Stephen King (who has a cameo in It Chapter 2...and let me say age has not made the man better looking).

I think I liked It better than It 2. Both are creepy, but chapter 2 seemed to rehash the same old storyline, just 27 years later. And as with the novel, chapter 2 doesn't really do a good job of explaining who or what Pennywise is or where he came from in a way a normal person can really comprehend.

My biggest complaint about It Chapter 2 was how long it was (It was ten minutes shy of three hours long). Fortunately I was in a movie theater with recliner seats drinking a $5 bottle of water (don't get me started on concession prices). I wouldn't say the movie was slow. It made me jump several times and I'm not easily spooked.

I have to say, although the adult cast was good, I don't think they were as likeable as the young cast of the It one. The first movie had a kind of Stand by me nostalgic quality to it. Not that you can really feel nostalgic about fighting an ongoing battle with a killer clown who chewed off your little brother's arm. But you kind of got a sense that the kids in It one had created a bond of friendship that most of us long for but never really have. It Chapter 2 reveals that none of them stayed in touch for 27 years.

Though I think that is closer to reality than people being friends for life with their friends from grade school. Hell, most of my friends from grade school are dead.

Anyway, It Chapter 2 is entertaining, especially if you are a Stephan King fan.

My son liked It, too.

I do crack myself up.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Once more into the windmill



Of course, he carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be... Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat. But, what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what they might be, why, we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.
--Justin Playfair (George C. Scott) in the movie They Might be Giants 
I have been fascinated with Don Quixote for years. I had the above poster (sans my head) in my dorm room in college. And this isn't the first post I've written about him. I think the first was back in 2006 called Windmills or giants.


It was the movie They Might be Giants, that peaked my interest in Don Quixote. It is a 1971 film starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward. Scott plays a mentally ill man who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes. Woodward plays a psychiatrist named Watson. The best part of film is the above quote by the main character explaining to a certain extent why he believed he was Holmes and was trying to find Moriarty, his arch nemesis. He chased Moriarty for the same reason Don Quixote fought with windmills, because they might be giants.

It is concept that has inspired me for years. We shouldn't stop doing what we believe in just because other think it is pointless.

I think it is why I have been blogging for 14 years.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Hello darkness


Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence 
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence 
--The Sound of Silence, Paul Simon
It is fall once again in Seattle. And the gray returns. Soon it will be dark in the morning when I go to work and dark when I come home.

Not sure how I ended up in such a place. I thought Boise was depressing. Well, it was depressing. But it was more about the people and politics than the weather. Though it would get oppressively hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But I don't recall the rain.

Seattle has the rain. And the clouds. And I've begun to think the people aren't all that great either. Maybe it is cursed by the native Americans or indigenous people who it belonged to until the white people moved in. Or maybe it has always been depressing.

Not that I'm a "walk into the light" kind of person.  I've moved into a corner office at work and it has been hard for me to get used to having so much light. I pretty much keep the shades drawn. When I was a teenager, my room was in the basement. There was pretty much no light.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ch-ch-ch-changes



Strange fascinations fascinate me
Ah, changes are takin'
The pace I'm goin' through 
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Ooh, look out you rock 'n' rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Turn and face the strange
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time
--Changes, David Bowie 
I attended a memorial service over the weekend for the husband of a friend of mine. He was in his early 80s and passed on at an assisted living home. It was a nice celebration of the man's life with many of his life long friends telling stories, mainly from their youth.

I didn't know many of the people who attended the memorial. The ones I did were primarily people I'd worked with years ago who had long since retired.  And although I wasn't the youngest person there, I was one of they younger of the older people.

What struck me about the people I did know was how much they had aged since I last saw them. It's like that when you only have occasional contact with people. You don't get to see them gradual age. It just seems to happen over night.

I can imagine they felt the same way about me.

Aging is something you don't think about until it is rudely thrust upon you. There were so many years that I honestly never thought I would get old. It would help if you never looked into a mirror or looked at photos of yourself. You could stave off old age much longer. Oh, you would start to notice aches and pains and how long it takes you to stand up. But still, inside you don't feel old (as long as your mind stays clear).

Which brings me to Bowie's song Changes. He wrote and recorded the song when he was 24 years old.  And it has been conjectured that Bowie was writing about the changes artists go through as they reinvent themselves. It has also been suggested in a Rolling Stone article at the time, that it could be "construed as a young man's attempt to reckon how he'll react when it's his time to be on the maligned side of the generation schism."

I think in plain speak, it could be said that Bowie was having a premonition of what it would be like to be old and being blamed by all of the young people for everything that is wrong in the world. Sadly and ironically, Bowie only lived to be 69, which from an old person's perspective on things, isn't very old. But as an artist, Bowie certainly did go through a multitude of changes.

Now I'm not an artist, but I have gone through a multitude of changes in my own life.And so has the world and my little slice of it. I thought about that this morning as I walked from the train to my office and passed what for years had been a Tully's Coffee Shop. That company went belly up in September of 2018. The shop, which I'd frequented for almost 20 years has been boarded up. Though I hear rumors a pastry shop is opening in its place.

It is the other annoying curse of getting old to constantly point out to less than enthusiastic listeners what used to be. So in that sense, time may change me, but maybe I can trace time.