Monday, July 30, 2018

Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Car-ma Chameleon

I have worked in public transit for 36 years. I take public transit to work every day. I ride it to the airport when possible. But I still have to deal with owning a car.

And I've never had much luck with cars.

I got my driver's license when I was 14. Idaho allowed kids that young to drive because many needed to drive farm equipment.

I didn't.

By the time I had a driver's license, my parents owned a 1967 Chevy Bel Air and a 1972 Chevy truck.  Those were my driving options.

Since my dad rode his bike to work, he would sometimes let me drive the truck to junior high. It gave me some clout with the girls I had crushes on to be able to offer them rides home after school. It didn't give me enough clout to actually date any of them. Not that I could have driven anyone anywhere on a date. Though I had my driver's license at 14, you couldn't drive at night until you were 16.

I did eventually get a permit to drive at night on a specific route when I turned 15 and needed to drive to marching band practice. That's when I got in my first accident. It was while driving the 67 Chevy. An old lady ran a stop sign and t-boned the car.

By the time I was driving at night without a permit at aged 16, I drove the same 67 Chevy into a metal pole at the band room while trying to turn into a narrow drive way and drop off a bass guitar amp. It dented the front fender.

When I was 17 or 18, I bought my first car: a 1965 Oldsmobile Cutlass F-85. It was white with a red top and red bucket seats. It was a classic, but it was a boat. If I'd held onto it and taken care of it, it would be worth thousands today. But I traded it in and bought a 1973 Toyota Celica.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dark Tourist

I've been binge watching Netflix's new series Dark Tourist. It is a documentary about a subset of tourism that involves visiting places that are historically associated with death and tragedy. New Zealand journalist David Farrier focuses on that area of travel, known as dark tourism.

Farrier travels to a different place in each episode, visiting destinations and have experiences that aren't on your typical travelers must see list. He visits a death-worshipping cult in Mexico, soaks up radiation left behind in Fukushima, Japan, meets vampires in New Orleans, and travels to Africa to become a Voodoo initiate.

On an even more disturbing level, he takes serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer tour with Dahmer-obsessed tourists and visits with Hollywood fans of Charles Manson. Oh, and he visits a place in Cambodia where you can shoot heavy duty military weapons and shoot cows or chickens.

The series confirms that humans are a disturbed lot.

I think the closest I've ever come to being a dark tourist was visiting the Ford Theater in Washington D.C., (where Lincoln was shot), the Kennedy museum in Dallas, the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. But I visited those places out of admiration of the men, not out of morbid curiosity to see where they were killed.

I find people's adulation of serial killers the most disturbing. I am also disgusted at the amount of media attention paid to the background of the people who carry out mass shootings. No one should be memorialized for being a killer.

I suppose if I was to psychoanalyze Dark Tourists, I'd say they are people afraid of death who go to these morbid places to confront their fears.

Or more likely, they are just whack jobs.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Digging holes

"The only job you start at the top is digging a hole."
I don't dig digging holes. Not that I dig that many holes. You tend to only dig holes if you have something to put in one.

That said, I dug two fairly large holes over the weekend. I didn't start out to dig holes. But when you own a home and start doing chores, one thing leads to another.

I set out to mow the front lawn. It is a narrow strip of grass maybe eight by thirty feet. It takes more time to get out the mower, extension cord (it's an electric mower), broom and trimmer than it does to actually mow the lawn. While mowing the lawn I noted for the thousandth time that, for whatever reason, there were two sunken areas in the lawn. They were on either end of the lawn and were maybe a foot and a half each in diameter.

The thing about these sunken areas is that you can't really mow them. The mower passes right over them and the grass growing in them doesn't get cut. I always have to come back with the electric trimmer and trim the grass. Then it looks funky.

I finished mowing and edging the lawn and decided it was time to do something about the sunken areas. I figured I cut up the sod over the indents, fill them with soil and put the sod back.  So I grabbed and edging shovel and began cutting the sod on the first sunken area. It went fairly quickly. I pulled up a large square of sod off the indent and set it aside.

That's when my wife walked up and told me once again how she would like to rip up all of the grass and just put in shrubs and trees. I nodded, thinking it would be nice not to have to mow the lawn, but also thinking it would be a new patch of earth for the horsetails and other evasive weeds to conquer. Then my wife suggested that rather than filling in the sunken areas with soil and covering them back up, we should plant a couple of trees to take us one step closer to her dream of a landscaped front yard.

Friday, July 20, 2018

It's not YouTube, it's me

Okay, I've ventured into YouTube in a futile effort to validate my self-perceived creative talents and once again I have confirmed that my middle aged invisibility in the real world has infected my social media self as well.

Granted I've only posted two home made videos to my YouTube channel, but only one has been viewed and I suspect that was by me. And after viewing YouTube's tutorials on how to be discovered on YouTube, I am even more frustrated. Because their algorithm only displays your videos to more people based on the number of likes and subscriptions. This seems to me to be kind of a catch-22. Because if no one sees my videos, how can they like them or subscribe?

I am at a loss for assigning compelling key search words to my videos, too. But if someone does a search about clams, unread blogs, or middle aged humorist, I think I have that niche covered.

Turning my blog posts into videos is hard work. I am going to experiment with audio narration to see if that helps. Because I've found using iMovie titles for the narrative is tedious and not real compelling.

I've just had a flash of  Deja Vu that I've written this post before about making and narrating videos.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?

Many years ago, I had an Astrology reading by an odd psychic who spoke with a Swedish accent although he was born and raised in Seattle.  He did a rambling reading that he recorded on a cassette tape. Nothing much stood out to me except for his prediction that I was going to be a social documentarian through technology that he implied was video.

At the time, I had very little to do with video. It was in the 1990s and people were still primarily using land line telephones so there wasn’t the proliferation of video captured by Smart Phones like there is today.  Truth be told, I have never really liked video. I’ll take a still photo any day because you can actually do something with it. Video requires too much effort to be viewed, so I don’t think it is a great way to document things.

I have always first and foremost considered myself a writer. So I ignored the psychic’s reference to video and assumed I would document via my writing. So blogging for 14 years confirmed to me that that is probably what the psychic was seeing. But if I am truly a social documentarian, shouldn’t more than 30 or so people actually read about what I’m documenting?

The explosion of YouTube has made me rethink whether I should venture into video as a medium to advance my status as a social documentarian. Watching Ze Frank’s massive quantity of video shorts that have been so well received has fueled my desire to figure out how I can do videos on YouTube as well.

But what would I do on video?  I know very little about how to edit video. I don’t want to shoot videos of me reading blog posts. One, I hate the way I look on video. I don’t have a great voice either. I just don’t think anyone would watch me reading a post Ze Frank style anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fortnite, or Virtual Reality Bites

As with Minecraft, I downloaded the latest computer game craze, Fortnite to make sure it was appropriate for my son to play. He has been obsessing about it for months because all of his friends play it. We had resisted letting him download it because it does have shooting as a component of game play. But he eventually convinced us that the depiction of violence was minimal.

The premise of Fortnite is pretty simple. You log in and you are assigned a character (unless you have purchased a character skin of your choice in the Fortnite store). Near as I can figure the characters are assigned randomly (including the gender and race of your character).  And each character is a buff Millennial decked out in stylish combat gear. You can also purchase even more stylish garb if you are picky about your flack jackets and ammo belts.

Once you have been assigned your character, you pick the type of mission you want to go on. You can go solo, in teams of two or squads of four, or you can take part in a free for all with 50 players in each team. When you have picked you mission preference, the Fortnite servers assign you to a game with other players presumably from all around the country if not the world.

You are then propelled into the game world where you run towards a blue bus that is disturbingly reminiscent of the Magic School Bus. After a short countdown you are on the flying bus above the Fortnite world. Then, after another countdown, you skydive out of the bus and choose from a variety of locales to land on the island like Fortnite game field. If you are on a small team with players you know (such as my son), you try and land near to each other. You are in free fall once you jump out of the bus. You can deploy a hang glider whenever want. It automatically deploys once you are near the ground.

Once you land, you begin searching for items to help you survive. You start out with a formidable pick axe. You can use it to hack down trees, break rocks or destroy buildings (much like Minecraft). You then search through abandoned buildings and houses for items to put in your pack. Most of these items are weapons (handguns, automatic rifles, shotguns, machine guns, grenades, and booby traps). You can also pick up medical supplies and potions you drink to increase your power or shield you. There are also treasure chests hidden in random places that have a cache of items. And random as it seems, you can find a llama pinata that contains a stash of items as well.

Once you have a gun, you pretty much shoot at anything that moves before it shoots you. To add to the anxiety, a storm that drops acid rain begins forming minutes after you land and you have to track your location on a map to make sure you stay within a shrinking circle that is out of reach of the storm. The game ends when you either die or are one of the last survivors of the winning team (the one with live players left).

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Not relevant

I attended an event at work earlier this week that highlighted that more than 50 percent of our workforce had been at my company less than a year. Translate that to 50 percent of our workforce are 30 or younger.

The event included a slide show on screens in the meeting space showing photos of staff at work. I wasn't in a single photo and I've been working there 21 years. 

I was overwhelmed by the feeling that not only had I become invisible as I'd aged, but now I wasn't relevant.

Not that I've felt relevant for some time now. It creeps over you in phases.  Though it isn't as obvious as becoming invisible. I started fading into the background when I turned 40. I was transparent when I turned 50. And I became completely invisible when I turned 60.

I still felt relevant at 40 because it was still possible to bridge the gap between generations and have common popular points of reference. This was due in a large part to not having much contact with  Millennials at the time since most of them were in grade school

Even when I turned 50 I felt more relevant than I do now, though more via my writing than in person. My hair had pretty much all turned gray by the time I turned 50. And it was that gray hair that made me transparent and less relevant to the world when I met people in person.

The milestone of turning 60 is the game changer both online and in the real world. Since I have made no secret of how old I am in my blog, I have sensed that my relevancy to the larger demographic that uses the Web has diminished exponentially.

I suppose I could lie about my age. I could curb my obsession with Photoshopping my face or things or just use younger photos of myself like people do on dating sites. I could write about trending things and drop the names of popular entertainers and musicians that Millennials listen to. But that would be the virtual equivalent to having a senior bro bun, wearing an earring and trying to get my garage band back together (not that I was ever in a garage band).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Higher learning

Posting about teaching my children how to start and tend a fire started me thinking about all of the things I learned more by doing then by having someone show me how to do them. I suppose I learned some of them by watching my parents do them. But many things I've done in my life, I had to figure them out by reading books, asking people or just doing.

Of course now there is the Internet and YouTube how to videos up the yin yang (and I'm not referring to the symbol).

Unless you have lots of money to pay other people to do things (which I don't), owning a house forces you to learn lots of things (many the hard way) about maintenance. When I bought my first house it was a VA repo that was structurally fine, but cosmetically beat to hell. I moved in highly enthusiastic about DIY projects.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Smoke gets in my eyes

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I can not hide
Oh, so I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes
 --Smoke gets in your eyes
Fourth of July came and went and I didn't even light a sparkler. Oh, I helped my kids pull the strings on a few poppers that were hardly worth the effort. You pull the string and you hear a slight pop and some pitiful streamers shoot out on the lawn to be cleaned up the next morning. Nothing like the satisfying bang of a firecracker used to bring in my youth. Of course, the odds of losing a finger or two have gone down as well.

But I did build a fire in my outdoor portable fireplace that had been rusting in the backyard since last year. I used a wire brush and some flame resistant black spray paint to get rid of the rust in preparation for the Fourth. It has become a tradition to build a fire and roast marshmallows for smores on the Fourth while we wait for the fireworks to begin at an athletic field near our house.

The city allows those unsafe and insane fireworks because they are set off by professionals who know what they are doing. If I could just strategically cut down two of the neighbors trees, we'd have a pretty darned good view of the fireworks from our back deck. As it is, we can just make out the sky rockets over the tips of the trees.  But it beats fighting the hordes of people who go to the athletic field to get a close up look at the fireworks.

But back to the fire. Unlike the campfire at our recent camping adventure, I don't have bundles of expensive wood to stoke the fire. I use accumulated scrap lumber and tree branches that I've pruned over the years. This year's fire was fed by what was left of a grape arbor I'd torn down a few months ago. I couldn't use any of the recent cut alder wood because it was still too green to burn properly. Wood, like wine, needs to age.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Points of views

After discovering the Internet works of  Ze Frank I have binge watched all of his True Facts videos and many of his A show by Ze Frank spots. And I have to say I feel late to the party. In many ways the guy is a comic genius and I missed his work for years.

And he stopped creating the A show spots about five years ago.  And he seems to have gone from the president of Buzzfeed motion pictures to the chief research and development officer and doesn't appear to have produced anything public facing for several years.  This has apparently caused some agitation amongst his fan base.

I know this only by Googling him to find out about his work. So I don't want anyone to think I am a stalker or anything. I was just curious about someone who could create such great laugh out loud stuff as True Facts about Morgan Freeman (with millions of views).

But you don't have to be a stalker to find out about Ze Frank. He pretty much bares what is going on in his head in his The Show and A Show series. And he has done several TED talks talking about his life and career.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Top of the world

I wished I was smarter
I wished I was stronger
I wished I loved Jesus
The way my wife does
I wish it had been easier
Instead of any longer
I wished I could have stood where you would have been proud
But that won't happen now
That won't happen now 
There's a whole lot of singing that's never gonna be heard
Disappearing everyday without so much as a word somehow
Think I broke the wings off that little song bird
She's never gonna fly to the top of the world right now
Top of the world 
--Patty Griffin, Top of the world
Top of the world is one of my favorite Dixie Chicks song. It was written by Patty Griffin who is also one of my favorite artists.  Top of the world is one of those songs that kind of tears at my gut and makes me tear up when I try singing along.

I stumbled onto the lyrics and chords for Top of the world last week and began playing it on my guitar. Again, I could barely get through it without choking up. For some reason it stirs up strong emotions in me.

Maybe it's because it is obviously a song of great regret. And you can't get to middle age without your fair share of regret.

Though I guess I would technically only be classified as middle aged if I was going to live to 120.  But the Oxford English Dictionary defines middle aged as being between 45 and 65.  I guess I'm more three-quarter aged. So I have a quarter more regret than the rest of the middle-aged people.