Friday, June 22, 2018

The blog is a jar

I started feeling inadequate the other day because Ze Frank, my new Internet hero, has thousands of followers, millions of views, 10s of thousands likes and has actually been asked to give TED talks.

After 14 years of blogging, the best I can do is get 34 people to follow me.

But then I rationalize and rehash the reasons why I have achieved no following or viral fame. Ze Frank does what he does for a living and has resources to promote his videos and projects. I blog as a hobby. I put absolutely no resources into promoting it other than free promotions offered me by Facebook in hopes that I'll then be lured into actually using my own money to promote my blog. I've tried using Twitter and Instagram to promote the blog, but again, I don't do paid promotion.

But why should I promote my blog? I don't sell anything. I've dabbled with Google ads and Amazon ads on my site, but my traffic is so pitifully low there is nothing to attract advertisers or to generate ad revenue.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lost in the wood

I think I have a bad case of wood karma.  A few posts back I wrote about me going all postal on a downed tree with a new chain saw. And I alluded to a checkered past I've had dealing with sketchy tree services and wood.

But back to my latest encounter with a chain saw. I stacked all of the wood I'd cut up next to my fence but near the sidewalk that abuts the street. My plan was to eventually haul it into my yard, stack it and use it for our outdoor fire pit.

So yesterday my wife tells me that she'd got a call from a friend of ours who happens to be a local police officer. She'd been driving past our home on the way to work and spotted some guy starting to load the wood I'd cut into his vehicle. She stopped, got out of her car wearing her police uniform and proceeded to lecture the guy about taking things out of other people's yard without their permission. I believe he mumbled something to her about thinking it was free to take because it was just sitting there. Fortunately I hadn't left my chain saw just sitting there or using his logic, someone would have assumed it was up for grabs, too.

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. On one hand, I can't believe the audacity of someone to just go on someone's property and assuming it was okay to take wood from a pile. On the other hand, I don't really have a wood burning fireplace and it will likely take me years of burning wood in my outdoor fire pit to get rid of the wood. So it wouldn't have been the end of the world to have the guy haul away the wood.

The true irony is that years ago when I'd had a couple of trees cut down in my yard, it took me ages to find some one who would take the wood without charging me a fortune to haul it away. I guess the trick is to leave it close to the road and pretend you don't want anyone to have it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wabi-Sabi you?

"In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is 'imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete'".

I kind of wished I'd know about wabi-sabi when I was in my 7th grade pottery class. Then I could have rationalized all of those lopsided pots and cups as being created in the "wabi-sabi" style. But if someone came up to me and asked me what I thought about wabi-sabi back then, I would probably have thought they were talking about the green horseradish paste you put on sushi. Not that you could find sushi in Boise when I was in 7th grade.

Now that I know that wabi-sabi isn't something you smear on sushi, I'm really digging the concept that what makes something truly perfect is its imperfections. The wabi-sabi aesthetic also embraces aging of an object as it is used and shows signs of wear and tear. My 60-year-old self is totally into that. 

Wabi-sabi values simplicity versus the intricate. It has roots in the monastic Buddhist traditions of starkness and lack of posessions. That part I have a bit of trouble with. I have always liked an abundance of stuff around me. I attract clutter and trinkets. A bare wall to me is an unpainted canvas dying for a portrait of dogs playing poker.

So maybe I am more of a Wabi-Kitsch kind of person. Though some may think I am simply a hoarder. I prefer to think that there is a method to my cluttered madness.

Clutter aside, I embrace the wabi-sabi concept that something incomplete is beautiful. I think of it as being like a jig saw puzzle. The joy in it is the process of completing the puzzle, not the completed puzzle (which is usually something boring like the image of a flower garden).

But wabi-sabi is also about impermanence. A flower blooms, wilts, decays and dies, becoming compost that nurtures future flowers.

I think of Dizgraceland as being very wabi-sabi. I'll be the first one to admit it isn't great literature (well maybe not the first one to point it out, though). So it is imperfect. It resides in the cloud on So god knows how long it will reside in the digital ether. So it is impermanent. And nothing is more open ended and therefor incomplete, than a blog.

Dizgraceland epitomizes wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is art. Therefore Dizgraceland is art.

I wonder if the wabi-sabi aesthetic also includes being self-serving.  Because then I am really knocking it out of the park.

Friday, June 15, 2018

That was then, this is now

I was inspired by Internet performance artist Ze Frank's book, Young Me, Now Me: Identical Photos, Different Decades to create the above photo. The young me on the left was five years old. The photo strip was taken by a product demonstrator in Skaggs Drug Store in downtown Boise in 1963. It was an early Polaroid Camera that produced the photo on the spot. 

The old me on the right was produced with my iPhone and a bit of Photoshop 55 years later. Other than the glasses, beard, gray hair, a few more chins and a bigger head, I don't think I've changed much. My ears don't stick out as much, though they have gotten a bit longer.

I discovered Ze Frank by watching some of his True Facts videos on Facebook and then YouTube. At first I thought they were serious documentary films about various obscure animals. But I quickly discovered that Frank is a comic genius and the videos are full of quirky commentary that is laugh out loud funny. 

Frank has done many Web projects that showcase his own hilarious brand of humor. He has also appeared on several TED talks.  He is currently the chief of research and development for BuzzFeed. 

From what I've seen of Frank's work, he has a remarkably similar sense of humor and has produced many projects that remind me of my journey with Dizgraceland and the Web. For example, I Photoshopped my face on an echidna back in 2007.  Frank featured an echidna in one of his True Facts videos about Pangolins. And though I haven't been a speaker on a TED talks, I do have a brother Ted. We just don't talk much.

I think the main difference between Frank and I is that he is  successful. Oh and  he has thousands of followers...okay maybe more than a million follow True Faces. About 56,000 follow him on Facebook. 

At last count 29 people follow my blog and a whopping 34 follow Dizgraceland on Facebook. But I've only been blogging 14 years. I'm thinking that gap between Frank's huge following and mine is closing...slowly...very slowly.

Regardless, I greatly admire Frank's work and happy that he has realized my dream of making people laugh at his work on the Web...and I mean laugh because it is funny, ha, ha, not laugh AT his work. 

I do wonder what kind of name Ze is though.

Not that there is anything wrong with it.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sticking out

Okay, I've made the point in my last post that  I pretty much blend into the scenery. So I figured I probably should give "sticking out" some attention just to be fair.

Again, it's not that I want to stick out. I'm a card carrying introvert. Well technically my card says, Marketing Director, but trust me, I am by definition, an introvert.
Definition of introvert
1 : something (such as the retractile proboscis of some worms) that is or can be drawn in especially by invagination
2 : one whose personality is characterized by introversion; especially : a reserved or shy person who enjoys spending time alone 
Okay, I don't have a retractile proboscis, so I am by the second definition above, an introvert. Though I wouldn't really characterize myself as shy, but I do like spending time alone. I hate crowds, meetings, flying coach on airplanes, standing in lines, parades, concerts, fairs, festivals, popular movies, or anything else that puts me in proximity to lots of people.

I'm not particularly fond of meeting new people, small talk, riding public transit or elevators, either. And I believe I've expressed a few times, my fear of those people who hand out samples in grocery stores.

I realize this makes me seem like a major whack job.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Blending in

I will be the first one to admit that there is nothing striking about my physical presence. I'm not young or particularly good looking. Heredity has not given me an athletic build either. I'm not tall. I'm not short. I'm not a big man nor a small one.

If you walked into a room full of people, you would very likely not notice me. I doubt any of the people who I commute with on a regular basis via the train would be able to tell you I am a regular commuter.

It is not my intent to just blend in, but I do. I guess if the truth were told, I wouldn't want to stick out. I don't particularly like to draw attention to myself. I never have.

I do fancy myself as being a writer. And if I were to garner any attention to myself I would want it to be for my writing. If people like your writing, they don't care what you look like. I imagine if I were a famous writer, I would take the same path as J.D. Salinger or other reclusive authors. I can tell you that you wouldn't catch me at a bookstore doing any readings of my latest work. For one, I think my work is best read silently to one's self.

I also think it is better to create a sense of mystery about yourself if you are a writer. Years ago I wrote about meeting one of my favorite authors (at least back then) Mark Helprin at a book signing. I'd built him up in my mind as being this mystical figure imparting wisdom to his followers. I left the book signing disillusioned. I don't think I've read any of his books since.

A lot of the times when I'm writing I halfway pretend I'm talking (writing) to a friend who actually enjoys my company and my stories. That used to be easier when I had a larger group of people who commented on what I'd written. These days it feels more like I'm sitting in a room muttering to myself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Chain saw

I spent about six hours on Sunday using a chain saw to cut up half an Alder tree that split in half and fell on the slope in my backyard.  It wasn't pretty.

This was not my first venture into the realm of the lumber jack. About 13 years ago I blogged about my saga with having a tree service from hell cut down two trees in my back yard and the months I spent trying to get rid of the wood. That involved a great deal of splitting wood, but no chain saw.

I've tried on various occasions to describe the wild slope of property that is my backyard. Although it is cool to have half a stream (it flows into a very unpicturesque culvert half way across my property line) flow at the foot of the slope it provides the environment for wild plants and trees attracted to the water supply. This is not Christopher Robin's idyllic half acre wood.  We are talking red alder trees, some fir trees, a few cedar and lots of Rhododendrons.

And of course pervasive ivy, blackberry vines, horse tails, morning glory and monster weeds. The ivy has grown up the trunks of many of the alder trees. I believe that is the reason the particular tree that had split in two and fallen across my ancient fence. It had been overcome by ivy and fallen apart.

Normally, I would have left the fallen tree alone. But a good part of it had, as I said, fallen across my fence and was sticking out on the sidewalk. I still would have ignored it if I didn't worry that someone would complain to the city and I would have been ordered to do something about it like pay a tree service to remove it.

I don't like or trust tree services after my run in with them over a decade ago. I also don't want to pay one a fortune to do what I am perfectly capable of doing. So I did the sensible thing and ordered an electric chain saw on Amazon.

Friday, June 08, 2018

No write turns

It gets harder and harder to find a play on words that is unique or at least hasn't been used by umpteen other people. The write stuff, write on, two wrongs don't make a write and divine write were all used to death. So I had to settle for "No write turns." It only showed up in some posts about typos.

Damn you Google!

Not that "No write turns" makes any sense. But at least it is now uniquely my play on words. I suppose it could have some political ramifications as in don't turn politically right when you write.

Yeah, that's what I was going for.

My son is quickly learning the lesson about the shortage on original thought, too. Yesterday he was excited because he thought he came up with the phrase "Are you kitten me?" Then we Googled it and found there were thousands of uses of the phrase including on t-shirts and coffee mugs. They even took it to the next level with "Are you kitten me, right meow?"

Oh well, it is better to crush his creative spirit at a young age than to have him get to my age and realize the best you can come up with is "No write turns." I've had my share of heartbreaks with word play, mind you. My kids were playing at a school playground a few weeks ago and were climbing on the monkey bars when I had this cool idea for a bar called the Monkey Bar.

Hundreds already exist, including photos of monkeys drinking at a bar.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Losing self-eh-steam

 I wrote her off for the tenth time today
And practiced all the things I would say
But she came over I lost my nerve
I took her back and made her dessert  
Now I know I'm being used
That's okay because I like the abuse
I know she's playing with me
That's okay 'cause I've got no self-esteem 
Self EsteemThe Offspring
I watched a short video on Facebook this morning while waiting for my train. It was on a channel called Obsessions that is produced by the New Yorker.  This episode was titled Selfies, Millennials, and Narcissism. The premise was that the self-esteem movement of the 90s has led to a generation of depressed narcissists. 

Apparently the problem began when we started telling our kids (and ourselves) that they were special and could accomplish anything. And low and behold when our kids (and ourselves) discover that that may not be the case, they (or we) become despondent.

Social media has exacerbated this problem by making people think that everyone else is having a better time than they are. And the plethora of carefully staged and filtered selfies is further distorting people's self-image issues. 

Though I would argue this is not a new problem. When I was growing up it was the fact that everyone in magazines, on television and in the movies were better looking and in better shape than I was. This was actualized by the fact that elite in my schools were always jocks and cheerleaders, elevated in social status because of their looks and physical abilities.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The last movie star

Blogger's note: I wrote this post about Burt Reynolds' last movie back in June. I am glad that he had an opportunity to make it before he died on September 6, 2018. RIP Burt!

I stumbled upon a film on Amazon Prime called The Last Movie Star starring an 82-year old Burt Reynolds essentially playing himself as an 82-year old former film star faded into obscurity. Reynolds character is invited to an independent film festival in Nashville to receive a lifetime achievement award. Upon arriving at the festival and being put up in an Econo-Lodge he discovers that the film festival takes place in a bar and the organizers are two Millennials who really just liked his old films.

The film is interspersed with clips from Burt Reynolds' actual films like Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance. It was eerie seeing the 82-year-old Reynolds next to his 40-something self on the big screen. Once again I was struck at how much harder it must be for movie stars to face aging while records of their young, attractive selves are out their rubbing their lost youth in their faces.

Critics were not overly kind to the film, using phrases like "overly sentimental" and "strikes a note of banality" in their reviews. I find that ironic. I imagine those reviews were written by people who have yet to face aging. Because aging is fraught with sentimentality and banality. I'd like to revisit those critics when they are shuffling alone in their walkers lost in their own banal existences and getting all misty eyed about when they were once a film critic.

Although, other than Siskel and Ebert I couldn't even tell you the name of another critic. Because they are like ticks feeding on the carcases of the famous.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Weary bones

I thought about reprising my post about one of my favorite songs of late (Wolves by Down Like Silver,) but no one seemed to pay much attention to that post (which is a strong indication that no one cares what I listen to on Pandora...though it is a great song). But the songs I've been drawn to of late seem to indicate that I'm more aware than normal that my bones are weary.

I will note here that there is an indie alternative folk trio from Longmont, Colorado called "Weary Bones." But I am referring to my actual weary bones both literally and figuratively. The weary bones in my hands I attribute to the amount of yard work I've done in the past few weeks. The weary bones in my legs and feet I attribute to the 5k run I did with my daughter last Saturday that I didn't know I was going to participate in until the morning of the race (long story).

The general, overall weary bones I'm experiencing I attribute to aging. And when I stepped off the elliptical machine this afternoon it dawned on me that that aspect of my life isn't going to change. It's where the trite old saying, "I ain't getting no younger" comes from.

I don't know why that should be such an epiphany. We're born. We get older. We die. It's a given. Yet we, or at least I, hold out hope that I'll be the exception to the rule. That I'll wake up one day and my bones won't be weary. My hair will be brown again and my face will match the mental image I'm staring out through.

Maybe that is where the myth of heaven comes from. You imagine that when your spirit leaves your body you glide into the light and are reunited with all of your friends and family who passed before you. I guess I just have always fantasized that I wouldn't have to wait until I died.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Minifigure of speech

I think having a Lego minifigure of myself would be kind of cool. And I imagine you could pay to have one made, but it wouldn't be the same as actually being a bonafide minifigure. Because it isn't really an authentic minfigure unless Lego makes a shitload of them and people want to collect it.

So I'm just putting it out there to Lego and the universe that I would make a pretty bitching grumpy old man minifigure. I would be the perfect addition to your Lego town. My minifigure would be yelling at kids to get off his lawn or yelling at the neighbors to stop setting off fireworks or he would call the police.

If my father had had a minifigure, his would have been yelling at the neighbors not to race up and down the alley on their motorcycle. That was his grumpy old many gig. I don't have an alley so I don't yell at motorcycles too much.

But I suppose there really wouldn't be much of a market for a grumpy old man minifigure that looks like me. I seriously doubt that even my kids would want one. They see me all the time anyway and think minifigures only exist for superheros and famous people.

The other day my daughter was writing out a list of famous people like Alexander Hamilton, Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. I am not sure why she was making a list of famous people. Anyway, I asked her if I was on the list and she told me no, because I wasn't famous. My son pretty much agreed.

So you see my kids  wouldn't see the point in a minifigure of me.

But I still think it would be cool.