Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This sounds like SOP for many businesses, too

The Six Phases of a Project

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4. Search for the Guilty
5. Punishment of the Weak
6. Praise & Honors for the Nonparticipants
There are many philosophies about what makes a person. You are what you think. You are the work you do. You are what you love. You are where you live. You are what you read, said Francois Mauriac, "but I'd know you better if you tell me what you reread."

-- The House at Royal Oak by Carol Eron Rizzoli, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Secret Babies

I recently became aware of a series of books published by Harlequin on the curious topic of "Secret Babies." I find peoples' apparent interest in these story lines hilarious. Sometimes Harlequin combines the Secret Baby theme with its other series topics like "Nascar" or "Sheiks" or "Millionaires" or "Mistresses."

Times have changed. The old Harlequin Romances used to be about meeting rich men at ski resorts, getting into the Candy Stripers to snag a doctor or having a falling out with the boy next door. Now the hot guys are into oil, hedge funds or some other sort of high finance.

Some favorite titles spotted:

Lock, Stock & Secret Baby
Secret Baby, Convenient Wife
Secret Sheikh, Secret Baby
The Mediterranean Millionaire's Secret Baby
Motive: Secret Baby
Triplet Secret Babies (!!!)
The Secret Baby Bargain
Innocent Wife, Baby of Shame

I swear, these are real Harlequin titles and you can actually buy them for very few buckerinos. One might ask, HOW can a baby be secret . . . especially triplet secret babies. And how can a wife be innocent and yet have a baby of shame? And do the Secret Sheikh and the Secret Baby know that each other exists?

I may have to actually read one of these things to find out what the attraction is.

And I still might not get it.

ALERT!

Harlequin has posted another blog entry on Secret Babies and the folks who looovvvve them.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trail of Breadcrumbs


This one made me laugh!

See more illustrations and creativity at:
http://lightnightrains.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Knit picker

Like the strange little creature in Edward Gorey's illustrated book, THE DOUBTFUL GUEST, I now have a nice little scarf. It is handmade, blue and green, composed of lots of tiny knitted squares and I found it waiting on a metal railing as I walked to work this morning.

It was colder than I had expected (but not too cold). Just about right for putting the little handmade scarflet to work.

Since I have decided to no longer bring precycled and found items to work, or to spend my own money baking stuff for the same place it's nice to adopt something for myself. Particularly something unique that didn't cost anything, was not made in China (I assume) and, no doubt, has an interesting history.

Lines written in the days of growing darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing, as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don't say
it's easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?
So let us go on

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

-- Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author, most recently, of "Swan: Poems and Prose Poems"

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shameful behavior

My level of disgust at the election process has reached new highs this year. I've avoided most of the stupidity because I got rid of the television and don't answer the phone in the evening. I voted early after educating myself by reading and checking up on the candidates. Good thing I did, because the two candidates for Governor gave us only ONE public debate. There should be a law against it . . . or a law requiring candidates for major political office to hold yeah number of public debates so that people have something to base their balloting on other than a lot of slanted ads and name calling.

At any rate, Oregon Public Broadcasting finally gave up expecting the candidates to agree to even one more debate and put up a "Virtual Debate" on its website. It includes questions that should be asked and comments by both candidates that relate to these questions. Its truly sad when a public radio station has to go to that degree of trouble to present information that candidates are apparently afraid to give us face-to-face.

The link is:
http://news.opb.org/elections/questions-candidates/

In case you have not held your nose and voted.

Can't think of English words to express that certain feeling?

L’esprit d’escalier: The feeling you get after leaving a conversation, when you think of all the things you should have said. Translated it means “the spirit of the staircase.” French

Waldeinsamkeit: The feeling of being alone in the woods. German

Meraki: Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. Greek

Forelsket: The euphoria you experience when you are first falling in love. Norwegian

Gigil: The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute. Filipino

Pochemuchka: A person who asks a lot of questions. Russian

Pena ajena: The embarrassment you feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Mexican Spanish

Cualacino: The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Italian

Ilunga: A person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time. Tshiluba, Congo

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just waited half an hour at the library to get a computer which happened to be next to an extremely smelly street person reading a newspaper. I can't stand it. Will have to come back later . . .

Days have passed and I had to add that, a week ago, it happened again. But this time it was a guy with uncontrollable flatulence. He cleared the entire table within five minutes of the time he sat down. There must be something (other than him) in the air this month . . .

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dud Dud Dud

The following blog posted on tabarnhart.net describes -- better than I can at the moment -- the biggest thing that bothers me about ex-Trailblazer-candidate-for-Governor, Chris Dudley (other than the fact that he has never run for - or served in - any public office at any time and his first shot is the governorship, his seeming aversion to any sort of public debate, and -- at the one debate he took part in -- the incredible statement that this was his "first election!" Not debate. Not race. Not campaign. No, apparently in his mind he has already been elected).

--

Dudley: Burning Down the House

in Willamette Week, Nigel “Pulitzerman” Jaquiss reports that Chris Dudley took a tax exemption on a house he let the Lake Oswego Fire Dept burn for a training exercise. The thought was nice — the Fire Dept needs the chance to practice skills under relatively controlled but realistic conditions — but the exemption was probably not legal. However, at the time, his accountant believed it was, so even if Duds is forced to repay the money, and he claimed over $140,000 for the $350,000 house, the issue isn’t whether he broke the law.

The issue is how much Chris Dudley puts his own wealth at the forefront of all he does. From moving to Camas to save a few bucks on taxes to working in the wealth industry to destroying an entire house for the tax savings, Dudley is about his vast and growing wealth. And as his comments on the minimum wage revealed so starkly, he not only has no idea what working- and middle-class Oregonians lives are like, he has no desire to gain that understanding. Remember: He did not speak up for minimum wage workers. He said it made no sense to earn a “high” minimum wage and get tips.

$17,000 a year, plus tips, makes no sense to Chris Dudley. Burning down a house to enhance his own wealth does.

--

Having lived in the Portland metropolitan area for most of my life, and having attended Marylhurst University, I came to appreciate the beauty of many of the old homes and grounds in Lake Oswego. It's become a common practice for home buyers to swoop into Lake O, snap up old property and promptly tear it down to erect a McMansion. Nothing, mind you, wrong with the old house. The house Dudley "generously" allowed the fire department to torch was simply not his cup of tea. That sort of perspective is so out of the realm of most struggling Oregonians today that the idea that a person who embraces it -- who cannot have the slightest idea of what it is like to make ends meet from day to day -- may be our governor, makes my blood run cold.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Ghost Kitten

It's only 1:14 pm and already this has been a very strange day in a high holidays, week-off, down-time away from the craziness at work period. Imagine that while you were listening to NPR, your hand strayed to the dial and you suddenly found yourself listening to something in a foreign language with a loud, screechy back beat.

The first person I saw on my way to St. Honore Bakery for life-affirming coffee and an almond croissant was the nameless yuppie albino guy with the buzz cut and the big butt. If I don't describe him in very flattering terms, it is because he's one of the few neighbors who won't speak to people who live in apartments east of NW 27th and throws paper and trash on the ground as he walks along babbling to his friends. To his credit, he doesn't seem to be a chronic cell phone or bluetooth abuser and I haven't seen him set foot on a Segway although it may only be a matter of time. This gentleman was walking along in front of me with an umbrella stuffed into the back of his pants. OK, if you don't want to carry your umbrella in your hand maybe you think stuffing it down the back of your pants solves the problem. But no, neighbor, it does not when it makes a large butt look even bigger, when you keep fiddling with it and when people behind you have a view that would mortify you if you were able to see it yourself.

A mere block further along I was horrified to see a tiny kitten, perhaps five-weeks-old, bounce out into the middle of 25th. Cars were coming from both directions and I thought, "you are going to be a kitten pancake." Amazingly, the little waif, who was in mid-road, managed to avoid both cars while being buffeted by the turbulence produced and deposited under a car parked on the east side of the street.

I dashed over, knelt on the sidewalk and looked underneath. No kitten. Calling, "Kitty, kitty" and making mama cat noises, I checked the front and the back of the car and then the bushes on the other side of the walk for good measure. No kitten! This morsel was too small to leap up into the undercarriage of the car so where did he go? All the way to the corner, I kept looking back to see if he would put in an appearance and . . . no kitten.

Turning onto Thurman, I was treated to the sight of an otherwise seemingly normal 20-something eating a cookie and walking toward me wearing only the bottoms of blue plaid pajamas.

A block later, my purchase of a paper at Food Front was interrupted by a loud, crazy guy standing in the doorway yelling that the management needed to call the cops on the Equal Rights canvassers because they were Nazis and had put a swasika on the window. Curious eyes turned to the window which was completely blank. The guy railed for a minute or so and then left.

Which brings me to a story that I read in the Oregonian after finally sitting down to my coffee at St. Honore. This front page article titled, "Use of illegal drugs up 9 percent, study finds" notes that Ecstasy and meth use increased by double digits in 2009. Washington sez, "The rate of illegal drug use rose last year to the highest level in nearly a decade, fueled by a sharp increase in marijuana use . . ."

A clueless cog in the governmental bureaucracy machine, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, seems primarily outraged by the rise in weed use which he blames on "eroding attitudes" and a growing number of states approving medicinal marijuana.

Apparently Mr. Kerlikowske hasn't considered that we're in a deep recession and that many people are severely depressed, broke and out of work. Maybe it hasn't entered his mind that the market for medical marijuana has grown since we live in an MS and Parkinson's belt, we have an large aging population of baby boomers with associated aches and pains plus a bumper crop of various injured and tramatized veterans of our country's various wars, preemptive attacks and occupations.

Perhaps Mr. Kerlikowske doesn't see what I see on the street. Some of it isn't as weirdly harmless as a ghost kitten or a guy with no fashion sense. Some of it makes you want to cry. People who once had enough to live on, who have no family, whose social and government support networks have evaporated. People who could steal but, instead, try to make it by picking bottles and precycling things out of dumpsters. A few days ago I watched a guy on a bike approach the smoking bench outside the building where I work. He deftly upended the butt pail into a newspaper, carefully folded it up, stuffed it into his pack and rode off on an old bike. I flashed on the stories of German aristocrats picking the butts of American GIs out of the gutters in postwar Berlin. If these people can scrape together enough to occasionally self-medicate because they can't afford a counselor of a pharmaceutical company's overpriced antidepressants who can blame them?

Apparently self-righteous people like Mr. Kerlikowske. These same people, it seems, agreed with Mr. Obama that poverty includes people who make a quarter of a million dollars.

It's all a matter of perspective and today, I ask these questions because I need to write them down.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stoppard me if you've heard this one

Playwrite Sir Tom Stoppard (73) recently told the president of the London Library: "I have a spasm of envy for the person that was killed by a falling bookcase, as long as it doesn't happen prematurely. [It] would be a good way to go. You go when you are in a good frame of mind and you are doing something pleasant and interesting. A lot of people would say, 'I would rather have a heart attack at the height of sexual passion.' On the whole, I would prefer to be killed by a bookcase."

Monday, August 30, 2010

I think you're sauceome


Go right now and visit the wonderful, true, heartfelt, hardass world of Sarah Becan!

I think you're sauceome

Many more cartoons, recipes, etc. just click the buttons.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

There's only one way we want to die . . .

. . spontaneous combustion. The unexplained phenomenon of being so guilty and happy; so obsessed, so driven, and so fanatical that you just burst into flames for no apparent reason. On the street. At work. Hopefully, for me, in an airport. And if we work together, it could happen to us all at once when we're out somewhere causing trouble. It's a beautiful death, dramatic, scary, internally cleansing, and all you leave for the rest of the world to see is a really good pair of shoes. I have a lot of books on spontaneous combustion, or "fire from heaven" as it has been called, and all the pictures of the lucky dead are the same. Ashes. Shoes. Ashes. Shoes. So it all boils down to a religious lesson. Be prepared. Always wear stylish shoes. They won't be comfortable. They shouldn't be. It hurts to be this pure.

-- John Waters, Role Models, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Long for this world

A new and interesting book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner explores the scientific battle against - and the nature of - aging.

From Abraham Verghese's New York Times book review (8/1/10):

"This is a good time to be mortal," Weiner writes, noting that life expectancy in the developed world is abouat 80 years, and improving. Yet evolution has equipped us with bodies and instincts designed only to get us to a reproductive age and not beyond. "We get old because our ancestors died young," Weiner writes. "We get old because old age had so little weight in the scales of evolution; because there were never enough Old Ones around to count for much in the scales." The first half of life is orderly, a miracle of "detailed harmonious unfolding" beginning with the embryo. What comes after our reproductive years is "more like the random crumpling of what had been neatly folded origami, or the erosion of stone. The withering of the roses in the bowl is as drunken and disorderly as their blossoming was regular and precise."

Which suggests, in what I persist in putting an optimistic slant on, that once we are not compelled or directed or driven by hormones or demands of one kind or another we may began to choose to travel whatever random path beckons, for whatever reason.

"Drunken and disorderly" . . . or whatever.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Why not drop by . . .

. . . and see what the Friends of Irony are up to?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The one we feed

One day an old Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson. He said:

“There are two wolves fighting inside all of us - the wolf of Fear and Hate, and the wolf of Love and Peace.”

The grandson listened, then looked up at his grandfather and asked, “Which one will win?”

The grandfather replied:

“The one we feed.”
"Some men are a list of ingredients with no recipe."
-- from The Matter by Kim Addonizio

"Not every man is born with a boat to catch."
-- Carly Simon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Every reformation must have its victims.

You can't expect the fatted calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels over the prodigal's return.

-- The Complete Works of Saki

Sunday, July 11, 2010

500,000 people worldwide . . .

. . . die each year in road accidents. Apparently this is an acceptable sacrifice for the freedom of the road.

"Two-thirds of these deaths involve pedestrians," says anti-car activist Jan Lundberg, "of which one-third are children. Just in the United States about forty-two thousand people die per year because of auto collisions, nearly as many as the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam. Everybody knows someone who has died or been seriously injured in a car crash, yet cars have insinuated themselves into our social life - and into our psyches - so thoroughly that we somehow accept these deaths as inevitable, or not shocking, as opposed to perceiving them for what they are: a direct and predictable result of choosing to base our economic and social systems on this particular piece of technology."

What's worse is that even more people die each year from respiratory illness stemming from auto-related toxins than die from traffic crashes.

"We have become slaves to these machines. If a group of aliens came to this planet and said they would bring us all sorts of goodies like jet skis, tomatoes in January, computers, and so on (or at least they would bring them to the richest of us), on the multiple conditions that we offer up to them a yearly sacrifice of a half-million human lives, change our planet's climate, individually spend increasing amounts of time serving them, and socially devote an ever-increasing amount of land and other resources to their service, we would rebel in a flash. Or at least I hope we would. But that's the reality we face."

-- For more . . . Jan Lundberg's website: Culture Change
"I've known that there have existed people who were whole. I have known some. They went about almost naked, they did not have money, they were hunter/gatherers, gathering a lot more than hunting. They 'knew' things they could not possibly know. They slept in huddles, like cats do. They were nomads. They avoided confrontation and were appalled by (human) violence. Of course they were not civilized."

-- A man from Hawaii, in correspondence with Derrick Jensen

The way

On certain days, powers converge and a theme emerges. A couple of days ago, something decided that it was going to be a day where people from out of town continually approached me for directions. First, two young Japanese ladies on W. Burnside asked about how to find the stop for the #56 bus. At Powell's an older gentleman in the coffee shop wanted to know how to get to OMSI. Then, on the streetcar, two greyhaired grandparents who were confused about where the shopping districts were were dissuaded from debarking at the Good Samaritan Hospital stop (where there are no shops) and instead exiting at NW 23rd & Marshall and walking south. If I hadn't gone home then there would probably have been more. I picture them wandering about downtown Portland looking for yet another person whose unofficial duty of the day is giving directions.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Culture of Make Believe

Earlier this year, David Edwards, the author of Burning All Illusions, said to me, "If the first rule of a dysfunctional system is 'Don't talk about it,' then our primary goal should be to tell the truth, to be as honest as we can manage to be. When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, 'Fantastic - I wasn't mad or alone in thinking that, after all!' So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this external and internal propaganda system. At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift. In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness."

The primary point is this: I now understand that the dissonance I felt for so long is a natural step in rejecting one's socialization - a less refined term would be brainwashing. It is not possible - at least in my own case - to move from one way of perceiving the world to another without a transition of confusion, loss, even hopelessness. Had I known this earlier - had I an understanding of how transitions occur - my period of questioning my sanity may have been shorter, my desperation less deep. This may have been a good thing. Or it may not have been a good thing: My search for a community of like hearts and minds (in books and in person) may then have been less intense, less immediate.

I don't suppose that at this point it much matters. That particular transition is over for me, and so far as the other transitions and transformations that take place now, more or less routinely, I have come to accept dissonance - confusion, contradictory impulses, fear - as something not to be feared in and of itself, but in a sense to be welcomed and entered into as a necessary doorway to new understanding.

-- from The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen
"If I were permitted to write all the ballads I need not care who makes the laws of the nation."

-- Andrew Fletcher

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Two recent Oregonian headlines . . .

. . . that might be (but aren't) related:

"Seaside man arrested in I-205 hit-and-run"
and
"Woman who hit dead horse wins $2.7 million"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Seen on Tri-Met Tales

"An elderly fellow once sat next to me. He smelled like a box of crayons and it was quite pleasant."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

– Sproul Hall Steps, December 2, 1964
Mario Savio, "Bodies Upon the Gears" speech

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Absurdity of Debt

"When a person with spare money helps an entrepreneur start a business, it should be seen as a risky investment, not as a loan. Entrepreneurs should be financed by investors who stand to lose their money if the business fails — it should not be seen as a repayable loan. No debt! This approach will massively reduce malinvestments because it will encourage high levels of due diligence. Moral hazards are eliminated when people have skin in the game. A reduced incidence of malinvestments will in turn make the inevitable recessions mild and brief, as opposed to the economic meltdown we are currently living through (and which has barely begun). For the situations in which borrowing money is inevitable, the borrower should resort to peer-to-peer lending and let the lenders compete on interest rates. Additionally, debt should be seen as a temporary measure, not as a permanent feature of life."

For more on "The Absurdity of Debt" click here

Friday, June 25, 2010

5-second Star Trek quiz

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and 'Ensign Gomez' beam down to a planet. Which one isn't coming back?
"Don't you wish there was a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work."

- Gallagher

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Precycling Imperative

The city's new recycling bins frustrate me. From what I read in blogs, they frustrate homeowners as well, although for different reasons. Joe or Jayne Homeowner doesn't like them because they don't stack and fit easily next to the back door or just inside the garage; they are intrusive. They take up room that isn't really available. They are in the way.

I dislike them because, while they encourage recycling, they discourage precycling. Precyling allows magazines which have already been read but are still current or interesting to go on to be read by others. It enables brown paper grocery bag reuse. I've read derogatory online comments regarding the rescue and reuse of magazines and other paper materials in collection bins on the basis that it is cheating the city or the recycling company. I doubt that that's true. City workers are not going to sort through paper trash to pull out usable magazines or other material to sell and if they are selling the paper by weight or volume the small amount of magazines or paper bags removed by precycling wouldn't noticeably impact the weight or volume of material received.

The new bins are huge and they have lids, both of which discourage precycling. Material is not visible or even within reach in some cases. The act of opening a bin in front of a residence feels a little too much like invasion while pulling magazines and bags from an open yellow bin never did.

Fortunately, since the City of Portland has become increasingly anal about trash, the various colored bins cannot hold just any material and so stuff that is not organic, paper, glass or composed of certain types of plastic cannot be put into them. Clothing, mechanical devices, furniture, etc. still find their way to the curb where they can be claimed and gently ushered into a future that may involve cleaning, repair and rehoming.

In New York City, city lots sprout small flea markets and trading and repurposing fairs on the weekend. I'm not sure why this really hasn't taken off in Portland.

Meanwhile, I'm overcoming some of my reluctance to open the new bins and delve for treasures.

Behold: a link to a New York Times Q/A exchange in its column, The Ethicist, titled, "The Recycling Thief." Author Randy Cohen is "pro-foraging." Yea!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Encyclopedia geriatrica

"Stop trying so hard. He doesn't like you. Jesus, don't kiss an ass if it's in the process of shitting on you."

"Son, no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn't invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that."

Just two of many from Sh*t My Dad Says

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"No one has breakfast at Tiffany's."
-- Carrie Bradshaw

Friday, June 4, 2010

You Say L'Engle I Say LeGuin

As an answer to the New Yorker magazine's, "20 Under 40" book list, Ward Six posted a new list of chosen proven authors, "10 Over 80: Writers to Go Back and Read."

Visitors to the site make comments and add names. At one point, the original poster responds with a mea culpa:

"I forgot Ursula LeGuin because I temporarily confused her with Madeleine L'Engle and thought she was dead."

I have difficulty distinguishing them as well. Ditto for Merle Streep and Glenn Close and I still don't know if Abe Vigoda is dead or alive.

“You know, I’d like my life back.”

We know how you feel, Mr. Hayward, because we'd like our Gulf back. But I suspect you'll be getting your wish long before we get ours.

From Pete Lit
http://www.petelit.com/

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Can my toddler visit your chickens?

Weird request spotted on Craig's List:

"My 2.5 yr old daughter is currently obsessed with chickens after watching a Netflix movie about chickens. Is anyone with a small brood of chickens willing to let my family visit them this weekend? We have been to the Oregon Zoos petting area but we aren't really up for a hectic trip to the zoo on a holiday weekend. We would make sure she is aware of rules such as being quiet and gentle. Please email if ya' got some chicks that are up for being on display & thanks!"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No expanation necessary


For more Perry Bible Fellowship:
http://pbfcomics.com/

Friday, May 28, 2010

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

-- Bertrand Russell

Irony & Absurdity

Found on Craig's List . . .

Under NW apartment rentals:

"For your comfort pets, smoking are not allowed. "

and

Under Books:

"I have very old books. Please make an offer. All are from the mid 1950's. I have two boxes."

Concepts of "comfort" and "old" are relative.

Dear Author

Dear Mrs. Lessep,

Thanks for letting us read, once again, "The Mistletoe's Little Shoes." After careful consideration, we have concluded that this work still does not meet our needs. I am sorry you were misled by the phrase "does not meet our needs at this time" into thinking you should submit it again. In the publishing world "at this time" really means "forever."

A. Whittaker,
Editor at Soup

-- From The Cry of the Sloth: A Complete Account by Sam Savage, 2009

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Someday: LOST - Back in the Day

This coming Sunday (tomorrow) LOST will come to a conclusion . . . or if not a conclusion, at least the end of the final episode. LOST is the sole reason I still have a television and continue to tweak the rabbit ears in a vain attempt to maintain digital reception. I'll miss it. Clever non-cable (read: you don't have to pay more to receive it) programs are getting rarer and rarer.

I'm not on Twitter but the tweeting about LOST is interesting to read. I like this one:

"Thanks to LOST, my husband's wedding vows included the sentence, 'I want to be your constant,' and half the guests got it."

Twenty or thirty years into the future, that line's gonna date you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Fight

If such a thing as a "Freedom Fry" can exist, then is it much of a stretch to imagine that there might be "Traitor Tots" out there? "Chicken Plot Pie?"

I think not.

Sitting on the Gutenberg Bible

There's very likely a house somewhere where illiterate people are using a Gutenberg bible as a baby booster seat.

"I reckon it's a holy book," they might say, scratching their heads, "But it's just the size to get that baby right up to the table. Ain't no good for anything else. It's kinda old, though, and we'd probably toss it iffen we could find a good-sized encyclopedia instead."

I stop at a paper sale and rummage half-heartedly through the boxes of old recipes and greeting cards with Cocker Spaniels. Suddenly, here are original hand-drawn Christmas cards by Marc Davis, one of the original nine old men of Walt Disney Studio. The creator of Malificent, Tinkerbell and Cruella DeVil once sent holiday greetings to a friend in Oregon and nobody in the Odd Fellows lodge had a clue.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Operator Also Makes Ice

Discovered on a thread related to answering machine messages:

"Hello, this is the refrigerator speaking. The answering machine is on vacation but if you'll leave your name and telephone number, I'll write it on a piece of paper and stick it to myself with one of these little magnets."
"I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 26, 2010

Two from Bukowski

"You've been to college, haven't you?"

"Yes, but college can never make a man intelligent. It can only educate him."

***

"To the accusers I say, go ahead and accuse; the praisers I say, go ahead and praise; to the woman who loves me, I say go ahead and love me; to Marina I say, go ahead and become a wonderful woman; to my car I say, go ahead and keep running so I won't have to buy another one; and to my typewriter I say, go ahead and tell me more things, more and more things, different things; go ahead, go ahead, go ahead . . ."

-- From his newest: ABSENCE OF THE HERO: Uncollected Stories and Essays Vol. 2 1946-1992, April 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Hey, if a burning bush started talking to me, I would fucking listen, dude. If that happened to me, I would listen as carefully as I could."

-- Robert Crumb in an interview with Vanity Fair re. his graphic novel, The Book of Genesis

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Don't cry because it's over,
Smile because it happened.
"

-- Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What aren't you doing?

The following, while rather long, is a column I've saved in my files for 25 years because it speaks to me. It was written by Mark Seymour, a columnist for Graphics Journal. It was published in February of 1985 and I read it first while working as a typesetter for a Portland printing company:

I made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. It had a lot to do with not recognizing the kind of work I do in my head, as opposed to the kind I do in the world.

Most of us, I think, make assumptions about what we're going to be when we grow up. Those of us who grew up in the Fifties and Sixties had to consider the assumption we weren't going to grow up at all, that squat, black mushroom clouds would decide our future for us. But many of our ideas were based on what we thought we should be doing. For white, suburban middleclass kids like me, the future was college, and then a nice white collar job pushing papers around.

That construct, of the office job, got ground in pretty deep in my case. Both my father and his father had management jobs in engineering industries. So that vision was, perforce, the way a man made his living. My mother's father, on the other hand, was a self-employed cabinetmaker; it was never stated that this was an occupation somehow beneath me, but the message was delivered none the less. My memories of his shop, of the smells of the planed lumber, and the sounds of nails and pegs being driven home, are some of the best of my childhood. [Even more pungent, there was an actual, working icehouse next door to his shop. To find out that you had to make ice, not just pop it out of the refrigerator, was fascinating.]

So, what the hell does a cabinet shop and an icehouse have to do with graphic design? Not much. What they are, and I think each of us has some memories like them lurking in the back of our heads, are indicators to what I really am. And that tites into a lot of the things I've been complaining about in this column: the loss of tradecraft, and the evolution of printing into an electronic experience.

The situation is, unfortunately, that I'm a dirty hands guy in a clean hands job. And it's only going to get worse from here.

I was having lunch the other day with Janaia Donaldson, who teaches design for the UC Santa Cruz extension program. We were discussing the latest attempts at computer graphics, and fantasizing about the wonders of a mouse- or graphics tablet-driven machine similar to the Scitex, where you have the capability to zoom in on a single dot and modify its density and color. What a notion: dot by dot drawing at 300 lines to the inch.

But at the same time, what a loss. I've talked before about a generation of designers coming along who'll never know what rubber cement thinner smells like. Now, what about an entire generation who won't know what paint smells like. Or know how to handle a brush, or pencils, or even a felt pen. Just crank up the cursor, put the dots where you want them, and print it.

Somehow, that sensory deprivation, losing that sensual part of the process, is what we're faced with. Rapidly I'd resigned to it, but I don't have to like it.

What should I have done? What turn did I miss? Probably several, along the way. Most of us perform sort of an amoeboid dance with life; lurching along from one stimulus to another, seeking the path of least resistance. The driving force is usually that terrible insistance that I have to have a job. Which really means you have to have money. Now, I'm certainly in favor of having money. As much as possible. I've always said that I'd like nothing better than to have them back up the armored car and dump the sacks of hundreds on the porch. But, somehow, they never seem to get around to it.

So, that nasty requirement for things like the rent, and food, and some new books occasionally, keeps us moving when, perhaps, a little reflection might send us in an entirely different direction. I had a moment like that, fifteen years ago, and I missed it. What did I want to do? Print books. Not publishing, like I do now, but actually print them. By hand. Lead type, handset, handmade paper, hand binding. The works. A nice, dirty hands, sixteenth century job. I always was slower than the other children.

What happened? I got scared, like we all do. I would have had to find one of the handful of men in the country, in the world, who actually make their living doing it. I would have had to commit four, five, ten years to learning the craft. And, even then, who knew whether I would ever be able to earn my living that way.

I chickened out. I went to design school, got a job in an advertising agency, became a freelance designer, worked for various publishing companies, and now force you to read diatribeslike this. Was that a better course? Maybe. I ate pretty regularly, the last fifteen years. I did some interesting work, even one or two things I'm rather proud of. But was it really better?

The point of all this is to rattle your assumptions a little bit. I know too many people who are doing things they think they have to do, rather than what they want to do. Typesetters who should be painters, circulation chiefs who should be sailing the Caribbean, designers who should be trapping beaver in the 1800s, and illustrators who should be living in a Zen monastery.

What aren't you doing?

Amusements

Two recently reads combined to tickle my funnybone and elevate my spirits with facts and observations that are a little out of the ordinary.

From The Book Of Useless Information (an official publication of The Useless Information Society) by Noel Botham:

* No President has been an only child
* Lee Harvey Oswald's body tag was auctioned off for $6,600
* On a trip to the South Sea Islands, French painter Paul Gauguin stopped of briefly in Central America, where he worked as a laborer on the Panama Canal.
* Tom Cruise's real name is Thomas Mapother.
* During his entire lifetime, Herman Melville's classic of the sea, Moby Dick, only sold 50 copies.
* Dr. Seuss coined the word, "nerd", in his 1950 book, If I Ran The Zoo.
* Spat-out food is called chanking.
* The word "samba" means to rub navels together.
* "Karaoke" means "empty orchestra" in Japanese.
* In 1946, the first TV toy commercial aired. It was for Mr. Potato Head.
* In Idaho, a citizen is forbidden by law to give another citizen a box of candy that weighs more than fifty pounds.
* If you yelled for eight years, seven months, and six days, you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.

Moving on, the following observations are taken from Amy Hempel's short story, In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried:

"They say the smart dog obeys, but the smarter dog knows when to disobey."

"I enrolled in a 'Fear of Flying' class. 'What is your worst fear?' the instructor asked, and I answered, 'That I will finish this course and still be afraid.'"

"I sleep with a glass of water on the nightstand so I can see by its level if the coastal earth is trembling or if the shaking is still me."

"I think of the chimp, the one with the talking hands. In the course of the experiment, that chimp had a baby. Imagine how her trainers must have been thrilled when the mother, without prompting, began to sign to her newborn. Baby, drink milk. Baby, play ball. And when the baby died, the mother stood over the body, her wrinkled hands moving with animal grace, forming again and again the words: Baby, come hug. Baby, come hug, fluent now in the language of grief."

You Really Got Me

Some of my recent blogs have been sort of depressing since that's how I tend to feel whenever I watch or listen to national news lately. In order to counteract the blues, I wanted to include some lighter stuff.

When NPR aired a bit about Ray Davies of the Kinks, there was apparently a lot of complaints about how the host mispronounced his name. Fact is, they didn't. I've always thought that Davies was pronounced "DAY-VEES" but here's the final word from an earlier interview broadcast on NPR:

MELISSA BLOCK: Can you say your name for me? Pronounce your name for me.

Mr. RAY DAVIES (Musician): Ray.

BLOCK: And how about the last name?

Mr. DAVIES: Oh, well, that. That's Davis. I think over here the tendency is to say Davies. Davis is not quite right. So, think of it with a zed at the end, Z.

BLOCK: Daviz.

Mr. DAVIES: Daviz, yeah. But keep it kind of muted.

BLOCK: Ah, okay. Daviz.

Mr. DAVIES: And two, three, four...

BLOCK: Daviz.

Mr. DAVIES: I'd say you got it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Well, there you have it from the horse's mouth: Daviz it is.


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We learn something new every day - sometimes big, sometimes small and what we always thought we knew for a fact . . . isn't, always.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Too Small To Survive

Today's world presents a surreal mixture of the way things are on the ground - in our neighborhoods and cities - and the way the world seems to our legislators. I'll admit I've always had an overdeveloped sensitivity to fairness and this isn't even remotely fair by anybody's definition.

While Congress frets and worries about saving huge multi-national corporations that are perceived as, "too big to fail," nobody gives any serious attention to the rank and file American who is, "too small to survive," let alone too insignificant to bother with.

The perception that continually propping up and kissing up to big business and Wall Street - the piranhas who have played fast and loose over the past 20 years - will somehow insure more jobs and better prices for Joe and Jane American is fatally flawed. Even if it were possible, making these kinds of concessions (hiring American workers or lowering prices) is not in line with the primary goals of big business: to make as much money as possible, pay as little taxes as possible, make their stockholders happy and charge as much as the market will bear. And, enabled by the government, businesses naturally choose to offshore production where it is cheaper and target the most upscale and wealthy customer when it comes to housing, entertainment and personal services.

There's never much accountability. Nobody asks these people to sign a meaningful contract before taking money, building, speculating, bilking. Nobody says, "Hold on a minute, if we give you this money or these concessions, then you must guarantee that you will hire yeah many people at living wages and keep your business within the continental United States or pay a penalty." So, of course, they don't. And they laugh all the way to the bank as they pay big bonuses, award golden parachutes and drizzle money down upon the stockholders.

This must be why we see programs like Cash for Clunkers in which auto manufacturers are the chief beneficiaries. And the "no public option" health care plan where the health care industry makes no changes other than grudgingly agreeing to cover some surgeries that they had denied in the past (at prices, no doubt, that many would still not be able to afford). And why our own City of Portland lavished incentives and offset property taxes for sports stadiums and more and more luxury condominiums that continue to stand empty while paying nothing more than lip service to sustaining or bolstering affordable or low income housing. In the few instances when buildings offering "affordable" or "low income" housing are heralded, the prices are not even remotely affordable or within the reach of the low income, illustrating that those involved in promoting these programs do not have the faintest idea of what it is like to try to live on one or two minimum-wage-to-$10/hr jobs.

It explains why Congress dithered a year on health care reform without even bothering to address, in any meaningful way, Americans' chief concern which is about price, first, and accessibility, second. Congress did not even suggest that a system be considered that would offer a fair deal to consumers and a reasonable profit to pharma and the medical industry . . . one that would at least allow consumers who lose their jobs to continue to maintain insurance coverage into which they had paid thousands, and at a reasonable rate, rather than lose every bit of their investment.

The people I know in tough economic straits (including myself) are not looking for a free ride. We'd just like the playing field to be a little leveler and for those who are making policy decisions to see our struggle for what it is and to understand that propping up the comfortable, wealthy and corporate and giving them more power and rights doesn't help us. They don't care about us, except to the extent that they can coax money from our pockets. And a healthy country needs a healthy citizenship.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some See Haitian Disaster As An Opportunity

Haiti needs help. There's no question about it. However Haiti has needed help for years and the US, among others, has been sending money and empty promises - effectively pouring money into a pot with a big hole in its bottom.

Now, among the hoopla of how we are "rescuing" Haitians, comes the looting of a country of its children. The following blog expresses my feelings on the matter in a way that requires no further comment. I'm not saying that these people don't have good intentions, but it's obvious that "their" pain is more important than that of citizens of Haiti and their own considerable losses:

Click here

Unexplicable: the media's focus on well-to-do white couples hysterically snapping up Haitian orphans in a veritable baby fever as though they are entitled to them, waxing weepy and indignant that "their" children are being withheld because of the difficulties presented by dealing with a national disaster. Ugh.