Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
I’m not sure whether I’m squinting because it’s late, or whether my allergies are kicking up or because I’m squinting with skepticism at the idea of writing in this dusty old journal. Probably it’s all of the above.
My sister visited over the weekend, and it was great to see her. When last we saw her, she had graduated law school and had the sword of passing the bar over her head. Well, she has earned that ‘Mission accomplished’ banner, and now, as she visits, I’m aware that she’s simply a lawyer, without disclaimers or asterisks. She’s for real. We celebrate that.
And somewhere in there America commemorated a holiday that is easily the most…well, maybe this is what it felt like to commemorate Pearl Harbor just a handful of years after the event. We did a lot of our commemorating by averting our eyes from the pre-edited pre-digested media presentation of the anniversary. It happened. It’s a while ago now. We go on.
And now, the day after my sister’s visit, I got up early with Sammy and dove deeply into work, crafting layers of (as it turns out) rendered PNGs and animate sequences and making type sizes hit nice even round numbers and, well, it’s the work of a designer. And it felt good to get a lot done.
But now, I’m pretty sure that it’s just late. So I think I’ll go rest my eyes.
Friday, May 27th, 2011
Sammy and I enjoyed talking to you at Segesta the other day. Remarkable that you remembered having seen us before at Selinunte, specifically, you remembered Sammy from her somewhat distinctive hat.
We were once again struck by the language skills of so many we encounter in Europe. We have trouble crafting a sentence in English sometimes and you’re able to communicate in our language and apparently several others. And we were delighted to hear that you had visited the United States in the past and had wandered from Niagara Falls out to Arizona. I had to tell you that I had only briefly visited one tiny part of Switzerland. The places you mentioned sounded quite beautiful and I hope we get there sometime.
And when you told us that it would be much harder to choose to visit the US nowadays because our government treats people entering our country like criminals, well, I realized immediately what you were saying and, out of embarrassment for the choices our leaders have made and out of embarrassment for the choices the American people have made in choosing leaders, I apologized profusely.
No amount of terrorist threat, real or imagined, justifies a government that treats its visitors—and its citizens—as suspects first and human beings second. I kept wanting to somehow explain that once you get past the Orwellian paranoia of government, the American people are a fairly decent lot, but of course if you can’t get into the country without being searched, scanned, queried, and probed it’s hard to experience that hospitality.
So, again, sorry. And maybe we’ll be able to dig ourselves out from the pile of scanners and security cameras and secret laws and offer a warm welcome to the rest of the world that matches our beliefs and best traditions.
Sunday, May 8th, 2011
Sammy tells me that we are looking out from this lovely balcony at the Tyrrhenian Sea. I can tell you it is a calm vastness of water, a blue that would be at home painted on the walls of our Virginia Highland home, and it extends to a soft, defocused horizon.
Our home here for two days, perched on a steep hillside, is a collection of terra-cotta tile colors, stonework old and new, and soft canvas awnings that, taken together says style and comfort and hey, sip some coffee and be contemplative.
So, OK, sure.
Unlike the busy seaways over by the Amalfi coast and between the Punto de Campanella and the island of Capri, these waters seem to be punctuated by just a tiny white fishing boat or two, maybe that’s a sailboat with masts down off in the distance. Still, somehow, you get the sense that the sea is a workplace, a superhighway, a playground.
If I mention that three italian donkeys—Asini in Italian—(Equus asinus domesticus)—are watching me type this, do their shades of cocoa brown and hay-brown add color to the scene, or muddy the picture?
The problem with writing about any of this is as soon as you drop in place names like those, you end up with what sounds like Mythical Typical Travel Writing, an attempt to string phrases as lyrical as the placenames they connect. And if you find yourself hearing your words in your head narrated by Robin Leach, stop, you’ve definitely done something horribly wrong.
So maybe I should practice a bit.
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
I’m going to sleep after watching dawn rise over Cairo through live internet feeds from Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, and CNN. (As it turns midnight on the U.S. east coast.) Tanks. Tear gas. Molotov cocktails. Protest. Fear. Rumor. Machinations behind the scenes. Incredulity.
Very nervous about what today will bring to the good people of Egypt. Kinda fearful that if we won’t—or can’t—watch, very bad things will happen.
I look at this faraway square in Cairo.
I think back to another distant square, 22 years ago.
And I think back much further to an Ohio campus square, 41 years ago.
We can look on, listen in, and twitter amongst ourselves and the world community about this pivotal event in the history of a country and its people better than at any time in history. Does it make a difference to their fate, in the face of a gun barrel?
Monday, January 24th, 2011
At my sister’s behest, I’ve been scanning a large collection of old images from our family. And at this rate, I should have them done sometime in 2017, so, hey, that’s progress. Came across a badly crinkled old black and white contact sheet from my stay in the fall of 1974 in New York’s East Village (I returned some filmmaking equipment for some friends—on the Greyhound—and spent a while living by myself at their Crosby Street loft, which was then a new term to me.)
At any rate, here’s one of the images:
And it didn’t take more than 20 seconds of messing with Google Maps and Google Street View to line it up with the near-present:
This is (and I didn’t know this back in 1974, because my online search capabilities were a bit more limited then) a view toward the The Puck Building, which Wiki-p tells me is “an example of Romanesque Revival architecture”, and during the 1980s was the home of Spy magazine, which I faithfully read, even though their use of tiny type surely led me to my squinty early adoption of reading glasses.
Back in 74, this rust-colored historic place housed a printing ink manufacturer, and in fact I remember the rich smells of toxic ink formulations that wafted down Houston from that fine Romanesque whatever-you-said-it-was architecture. And the smells mixed with the Gulf (hm, now BP) gas station to provide a wonderful urban bouquet in Abe Beame’s New York City.
I’m hoping I can find the negatives from these long-ago pix in all of this mess, but these crinkly scans might have to do.
Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Yeah, I thought this was a great example of using design as a political statement:
As reported in Salon, this cover, designed apparently by Dan Savage and Aaron Huffman, reminds us of the power of symbols and the impact of the gun on politics—and personal freedom—on American history.
I’m aghast at the machinations of the Palin/Beck block to try and spin this into something of an attack on right-wing political speech; they attempt to conjure a world where people on the left use the same violent, final terminology as they do. Doesn’t happen. When the very malevolent Roger Ailes has to say “tone it down, guys,” and “make your arguments intellectually,” something has really gone off the rails. They may be so far down the track from the intellectual components of their political arguments that they’ve forgotten how to do that, Roger.
Monday, January 10th, 2011
This, I think, means ‘go ahead and read your iPhone in the shower.’ (From The Noun Project.)
Hello there from our frozen city, which is suffering through what in most places would count as a minor snow event, but here, we’re attempting to attach apocalyptic terms, but for some reason, they’re just not uh…sticking. I might post a few pictures later, but for now, enjoy this one from last night, as we returned from Buckhead and the snow was really coming down at an impressive rate, for a while.
Saturday, January 8th, 2011
A quiet saturday afternoon in the new year, and I’m sitting here savoring the back-room sunlight watching the winds pick up as we contemplate the threat of another city-paralyzing snow + freezing rain + ice event here in a part of the country that seems highly unprepared for even the mildest of winter weather calamities.
Our plans are to travel the very few miles up to my dad’s house tomorrow evening with a carefully-crafted portable Sammy dinner, but I guess we’ll have to see if that will involve firing up the four-wheel-drive vehicle and creeping back here as the aforementioned storm gets underway (it’s supposed to get bad after dark Sunday night.) Ah, adventures of the winter kind.
Otherwise, it’s been a mercifully quiet week or so after the start of 2011, and we’ve been fairly diligent about taking care of loose ends, small chores, financial recordkeeping, and so on, mixed in with the usual array of tech support questions I find myself fielding from family and friends.
I’m conscious during these arbitrary calendar boundary crossings that it’s a good time to make sure that our various digital assets are being backed up, preserved somehow the way one might expect.
So earlier this week I went out for a run to the twin mega tech merchants of Gwinnett County—MicroCenter and Fry’s—with my brother, mostly to offer moral support for his purchases, but damned if I didn’t end up buying one more 2 TB drive to, well, pile stuff onto. I mean, what future visionary could have possibly imagined that a mere $89 would give me yet another another gigantic data landfill, a virtual blimp hanger of unused space to pile stuff into/onto?
Yeah, if I do have a weakness for impulse purchases, it tends to be in this category. It’s probably much worse that I’ve lived through the entire progression of computer storage from the early days where a megabyte or two cost more than a house—so just forget it—through the early 1980s where I was willing to pay thousands of dollars for a 20 megabyte hard drive (thousands. of. dollars.) to the present where bits live throughout our cluttered home in little silver boxes, just waiting to disappoint me with a random data failure in the future, when I call upon the device to work its archival magic.
It really doesn’t help that the size of my average television project—the raw materials used in making a station package, let alone all the bits and pieces needed for a 3D NFL football game, way, way exceed the capacity of a standard DVD-R (4.7 GB)….and really, they take up more room than a BluRay disk, which is a tech that, nah, I’m not going to invest in.
So it’s big hard drives, which are dirt cheap. That is, unless I am concerned about the drives moving parts over the long run, and instead want to pick up a bunch of flash memory (hey, no moving parts!), which at the moment is, at best, $25 for 16 GB of storage.
And of course, there’s always “the cloud,” which, in theory, is infinite, but in the real world has its own very real costs and risks as well as the costs in time it takes to push all this stuff to and from wherever “there” is.
Which brings me full circle to the mental exercise that really underlies all of this: how much of this exercise is just plain hoarding behavior in high tech clothing? Am I really going to need that background for that station in Birmingham from years ago that has probably moved on to some other perishable design?
Bit of a ponderable, if you’ll pardon the pun.