Three days ago, we had a park

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Three days ago, we walked around every day during our long lunch hour in a theme park* that was rich with landmarks and history. We gave each of the landmarks a name; some from works of literature and some that just fit.

cutters quarry Three days ago, we had a park
This is Cutter’s Quarry from the movie Breaking Away.

lakeavalon Three days ago, we had a park
This is Lake Avalon, from King Arthur (yeah, I know.. but close enough)

lonesomeroad Three days ago, we had a park
This is the Lonesome Road. We just called it that because Charlie usually trotted down here when the rest of us turned left into the small park to get to the truck going home. It was the way he stood in the road and looked back at us that gave the road its name.

mudflats Three days ago, we had a park
These are The Mudflats. No matter how little it rained, they would stay muddy long after the rest of the grounds were cracking.

burialmounds Three days ago, we had a park
The Burial Mounds. They just looked like Indian burial mounds. The dogs would race and chase each other over the tops and look like a roller coaster as they crested.

shakespearecliff Three days ago, we had a park
This is Shakespeare’s Cliff from King Lear. I know, not quite as white and chalky as the cliffs of Dover, but we pretended.

birnamwood Three days ago, we had a park
And Birnam Wood from Macbeth. the sticks never did move and I guess the big house in the sub division across the street could be Dunsinane

rushescreek Three days ago, we had a park
Rushes Creek. Just because of the sound it made as the dogs chased each other through the reeds.

Three days ago, a bulldozer, backhoe and plow showed up at our park. And here is what it looks like today.
plowedunder Three days ago, we had a park

For some reason, I felt I needed to take photos of these landmarks last week. It felt very urgent. I now know why. Each of the landmarks are lost in time, like tears in rain or foot steps on a sandy dune.

*Actually, an abandoned housing development in Clayton, Ohio. Again, thank you Saxon Henry for the inspiration, context and clarity.

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I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest – A #letsblogoff contribution

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Seriously, though most of the guilty pleasures I am about to disclose below I ended up liking because I couldn’t find the remote after waking up at 3:00am with the television still on. Ok, a couple I consciously decided to watch for good reasons.

Laguna Beach
GPlaguna I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest   A #letsblogoff contribution

As a parent of a then teenager, I made it a point to always be knowledgeable on the leading cultural shows of the time, no matter how stupid they were. LB was quite painful to watch at first, but after a few candid, off the cuff conversations with my daughter, I discovered teens really do talk this this. And really do give each other bad advice like they did on the show. It was hard not getting hooked on the story.

Clarissa Explains it All
GPclarissa I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest   A #letsblogoff contribution

Again, kids, but this show was actually really well-written. I like when characters are given a brain.

Gilmore Girls
GPgilmore I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest   A #letsblogoff contribution

What red-blooded American dog can resist a smart woman who can do repartee like Lauren Graham? Seriously. Need I really say more.

Glee
GPglee I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest   A #letsblogoff contribution

Shut up. Don’t judge.

Mad Men
GPmadmen I lost the remote and the television was stuck on this channel. Honest   A #letsblogoff contribution

Not really sure this qualifies as a “guilty pleasure” but I’m throwing it in anyway. Again, who can resist a smart woman (Peggy)?

Slap Chop Informercial; Rap Version

Almost forgot to add Vince. Got to watch it all the way through; the old woman at the end is hilarious. Well, kinda funny. Ok, goofy. They only ran this a few times on tv, but we’ve got Internet so it is the version I like better.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, Guilty pleasures: what’s your favorite show on television? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Why Sarah Palin also needs a lesson in basic photojournalism in addition to history

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I was going to let this one go, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I just needed to say something.

This is a photo of US Park rangers posing at the Washington Monument. It appeared on www.SarahPAC.com.

sarahpac Why Sarah Palin also needs a lesson in basic photojournalism in addition to history

Three women, one man (African American) standing in front of the largest phallic symbol this nation has to offer. This is either a really, really snarky, passive agressive (and somewhat racist) message OR it is just plain dumb, dumb, ignorance.

This reminds me of the video that was shot on a turkey farm. Oblivious to the background.

If anyone needs some extra explaining about what the message could be or what the possible racist jab is, please drop me a comment.

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Crazy like a Weiner dog!

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weiner Crazy like a Weiner dog!

On May 24, 2011 Anthony Weiner rose to speak in the US House of Representatives on the issue of Medicare and was basically told to sit down and shut up by the GOP chair. You can watch the video here on C-SPAN Minute 5:13:40 (I love that site!)

It took me a few days to figure out what he is doing and he is either really dumb or just crazy; crazy like a weiner-dog.

I don’t believe Weiner sent a picture of his crotch on twitter nor do I believe he actually engineered this. But here is what I think occurred to him at some point.

“I can use this thing to suck the oxygen out of the news cycle for a few days. Shut me up, will you GOP? HA!”

So he goes out and says, “I didn’t do it,” “I’ve been hacked,” etc, etc. Then when asked directly if it was a photo of him or not, he drags the media through another cycle by specifically not denying it was him. He knows they will spend a day speculating on why he is being coy. Then, maybe he comes out and says, “Ok, ok, it is me. Sue me, I got a big wiener.” OR he denies it emphatically after the advice of his lawyer.

And the media will spin it up another day, speculating on why a Congressman would take a photo of his own crotch OR why he just didn’t come out and say it wasn’t him.

Clever. Three days minimum of clever.

Or I’m entirely wrong.

Either way, I still like how he fights back!

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The march upwards of health insurance costs

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I did a quick exercise on my health insurance costs and assumed that I would be keeping the same policy over the next fifteen years until I make it to Medicare age. I looked over the increases over the past several years and they average 20% (just a hair over, but for the sake of clean math, let’s say 20%) over the previous year.

If we start at annual premiums at $5,760 and calculate that out at 20% increase over the previous year, we end up in 2026 at $88,744. Please, double check my math. I think that is way too high.

My increases in costs year over year per year are:
2011-2012: $1,152
2012-2013: $1,382
2013-2014: $1,659
2014-2015: $1,991
2015-2016: $2,389
2016-2017: $2,867
2017-2018: $3,440
2018-2019: $4,128
2019-2020: $4,953
2020-2021: $5,944
2021-2022: $7,133
2022-2023: $8,559
2023-2024: $10,271
2024-2025: $12,326
2025-2026: $14,791

In reality, I’m not going to pay $88K in health insurance premiums. I am going to search for another provider, maybe get a lower introductory rate the first year, then increase the deductible next year and squeeze that out for about 3-4 years before switching to another provider. But as there are only a few providers worth a damn in Ohio, I will either have to move or buy something that may or may not cover me. But I will pay substantially more and get far, far less than I am today.

In 2011 alone, I have spent more than $6,000 out of pocket in medical costs that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Ohio did not cover. I don’t know why; they just didn’t. So the true cost of me having insurance is the cost of premiums PLUS the out of pocket, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to just premiums.

And I look at these increases which is real money I will pay to an insurance company for a guarantee that they may or may not authorize a medical procedure that they may or may not deem medically necessary. And after 2014, while they can’t kick me off the plan for a pre-existing condition I incurred last year, they can then increase my rates so that I can no longer afford the plan. In effect, they will kick me off the plan.

I think to myself: If my TAXES were to increase this much per year and I was guaranteed medical care coverage when I needed it, would this not be a better deal? We fight against a small tax increase to cover everyone in favor of paying a private insurance company obscene premiums for something that carries no promise of delivery.

Does anyone else do these calculations? Or do we just write the check, bury our heads and believe the common mythology of private insurance is better than a “Medicare for All” solution?

Somebody please, check my math. This is kinda nutty.

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Impressive dogs, but…

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Impressive, but can these dogs blog and tweet? Fleet Week 2011.

We’ve got a lot of sniffing to do on Times Square when we get to 140conf next month.

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The definitive difference between a real journalist and your sorry blogger butt

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nytimesjoplin The definitive difference between a real journalist and your sorry blogger butt

Maybe I’ve read one too many rants from know-it-all bloggers about how nobody really needs journalists and how journalism is a dead dying industry, but it really hit home today about the real difference between journalists and blogger know-it-alls.

Above is the front page of the New York Times.

How much fortitude did it take for Eric Thayer to look through his camera lens and snap that photo, straining to keep his emotions from shaking the shot out of focus? Did he fight back tears as he shot or did he just let them flow and do his job anyway?

Has Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) thrown up yet because of anything he’s seen while reporting in Joplin? I’m guessing he has, yet he continues reporting.

How many of us could go to a disaster site like Joplin and not be so overwhelmed by emotion that we could not find the courage to continue reporting or shooting photos so the rest of us could know about the devastation?

Anyone can report the news on good days. It takes men and women of incredible skill, determination and a cast-iron stomach to handle news as devastating as a tornado, earthquake, flood or war. The value of a good journalist should not be measured by how well s/he does the job on a slow news day, but how well s/he reports when all around them is falling apart.

The next time you hear someone at a conference or on a blog rant on about how journalism is dead, ask them if they’ve been to Joplin.. or Minamisanriku… or New Orleans… or Afghanistan… or Sri Lanka. Ask them how many children they’ve seen dead in the streets or how many faces of utter despair and hopelessness they have looked into.

Like their experience with real journalism, I would wager the answer would be zero or fewer.

Footnote (literally this time) I found this moments before hitting the publish button. It was so overwhelming, I had to share.

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Yellow boots and green Jell-O

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yellowboots Yellow boots and green Jell O

When my son was born until he was about five, we lived in an apartment building in St. Paul on Fairview off Grand Avenue. The landlords, Pat and Harold Hamm — the two kindest Angels of my early adulthood — had taken us in as their adopted family. We were invited to Sunday dinner, to sit with them on the curb in the evening, to share their air-conditioning on hot evenings. But mostly Pat, a large woman, made sure we were eating properly.

“You kids are too skinny,” Pat would say as she whisked my son away to get his special treat; green Jell-O.

She was the only one who could make him green Jell-O. If we made it for him, he wouldn’t touch it. Pat would give him a whole bowl and a big spoon, kick her husband out of his favorite Lazy-Boy and my son would sit in their air-conditioned living room, eating his green Jell-O in front of the tv. Even during Hamm family reunion dinners, she would make green Jell-O and nobody else was allowed to touch it.

When my son was about fifteen, he visited with Pat toward the end of her life when diabetes has claimed most of her limbs and several strokes had taken the rest of her. She could barely see or hear, but when he spoke and touched her arm, her face lit up with a smile ear to ear and she said, “green Jell-O” in the happiest voice I’d ever heard.

She died two days later.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she found a pair of bright yellow rubber boots on the clearance rack in some shoe store and decided they were the perfect shoe that went with everything from jeans to shorts to pajamas. She wore these boots to school almost every day throughout her entire kindergarten year. When we asked her if she wanted to wear something else, she always had an argument why those boots were the best.

More than a few times, her teacher called a bit concerned. She may have been more concerned we didn’t have money to buy her more shoes. “Is she learning and socializing well?” Yes, but…

Eventually, she outgrew the boots.

She is now 20 years old and her taste has grown beyond yellow rubber boots, but still leans toward the eclectic. Whenever she pairs something like denim shorts with a peasant top and black combat boots, accessorized with a rhinestone-studded Fossil watch and asks me if she looks ok, I see a floppy head of blonde curls, a gap in her smile where her brother knocked out a tooth and bright yellow rubber boots.

But most of all, I see a young woman who is not afraid to be who she is.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What’s your favorite color? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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My little dopamine spritz #twittermakesyoustupid

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keller My little dopamine spritz #twittermakesyoustupid

Last week, Bill Keller (@nytkeller) Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss.” And I wrote a blog post that was a half tongue-in-cheek job application and half… naw, it was a job application.

I suspected his tweet was done to get some material for a column he would eventually write and I tore through my Times every day looking for it. Sure enough, there is was (online, but in print this coming Sunday.) I’m sure he read my blog post because he called twitter a “helpful organizing tool for… dog-lover meet-ups…”

My phone will be ringing any day now!

Almost immediately, Mat Honan, Editor of Gizmodo wrote a blog post lambasting Mr. Keller for his views. It would have been easier to take seriously had he used appropriate AP style, not resorted to name-calling, did not employ obvious logical flaws and stayed away from using curse words. It is also obvious that Mr. Honan was in a state of heightened agitation when he wrote the post.

All of this, of course, just went to prove Mr. Keller’s points about “our ability to reflect” and twitter being the “enemy of contemplation.” Had Mr. Honan thought a bit more about what Mr. Keller was trying to say, he may not have been as incendiary and hyperbolic in his response.

The world has changed is crap
As I was writing a #letsblogoff post last month, I was also listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

When I was selling exercise bikes to paralyzed people, I worked with a biomedical engineer who was a great philosopher but didn’t really know it. “Biology works on a sine wave,” he was fond of saying. It was his job to make the binary bits (on/off) of technology works within that natural wave. For example, while he could make a muscle contract instantaneously, it would create intolerable pain and dangerous reactions for the patient. He therefore had to ramp up the contraction slowly, hold a contraction and then ramp it down.

Bear with me; I’m getting to the relevant parts. You aren’t fidgeting, are you?

Technology works on a binary framework. Things are either on or they are off. Biology works like a potentiometer, in degrees of on or off relative to each other. The two are almost always incompatible as the human brain struggles to stuff the digital parts into the sine wave of biology. Try as we might, no matter how much we talk about becoming cyborgs, the human brain will always be an analog, biological mass, tied to that sine wave. This makes learning hard and frustrating. You can’t just plug a thumb drive into your ear and transfer knowledge. Nor can you transfer wisdom or context. Technologist predict we will eventually, but I hope they are wrong.

So what we are is a mesh of technologies of varying degrees. Just because twitter exists, it doesn’t mean conversation ends. Just because we have Kindles, it doesn’t mean books are dead. Just because we have blogs, it doesn’t mean newspapers are dead. Media — like biology — exists on a sine wave.

Jeff Jarvis unwittingly proves Keller’s point
Predictably, Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) offered some tweets to refute Mr. Keller’s post. They were:

Just as Erasmus warned of the danger of the press, @nytkeller warns of the danger of Twitter. Oy. http://nyti.ms/iOAy6f

@nytkeller=Erasmus, who said: “To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books?” #1

#nytkeller=Erasmus: Books are “hurtful to scholarship, because it creates a glut and even in good things satiety is most harmful” #2

@nytkeller=Erasmus: The minds of men “flighty and curious of anything new” would be distracted from “the study of old authors.” #3

I think that just reaffirms Mr. Keller’s points about knowing stuff. Obviously, Mr. Jarvis knows who Erasmus is and was familiar with his quotes. While it is possible he Googled “obscure quotes from dead guys on the books,” I very much doubt it. Mr. Jarvis was well equipped to argue a point with Mr. Keller without looking up supporting evidence. Hmmmm…

Mat Honan did the same thing with Socrates in his blog post. Sorta.

It’s about adaptability
At the end, Mr. Keller may be slightly concerned that we are becoming a species that is dependent on the longest lasting battery and is not acquiring and sustaining the skills to be able to exist by “clock and fist.”

While our use of technology may have the net effect of our species advancing for now, it does not develop the individuals of the species. Cut the power, you create a bunch of people who have no clue how to survive. The most adaptable will not be the ones who know how to program their GPS units but the ones who can navigate by the stars, clock and fist.

I think ultimately, though, Mr. Keller is calling on us to stay adaptable. Our very survival depends on it.

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How I spent my Saturday morning

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#TwitterMakesYouStupid – a New York Times challenge

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nytimes #TwitterMakesYouStupid   a <em>New York Times</em> challenge

Last night, Bill Keller, Executive Editor, The New York Times tweeted out: “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. discuss”

And of course, this started up a firestorm among the twits, many of whom were not particularly skilled with using the grammar of the English language or the proper placement of an apostrophe, but that probably proves Mr. Keller’s bias a bit too much.

I digress.

I don’t care about how stupid twitter makes you or if stupid people use twitter or any of that. Not one bit. My motives for writing this blog post are just way more selfish than that.

I hopped on over to The New York Times library of blogs and noticed a gaping hole in your catalog: NO DOG BLOG!

That can not stand!

Everybody knows that Americans only want to read stories of cute puppies, dogs being rescued from flooded drainage ditches, loyal dogs saving their owners during earthquakes or rescue dogs doing extraordinary things during times of tragedy like 9/11 (shameless, I know, but watch where I’m going with this before you judge.)

So, Mr. Keller, I propose you hire me to write a blog specifically dedicated to dog residents of New York City. In a city of 8-9 million people, many who own dogs, there has to be at least a hundred stories a year worth reporting, right?

I will be in New York City for the annual 140Conf June 15-16. Please call my people to set up an appointment in your offices.. or Gregory’s Coffee on 7th is fine. I’ll buy.

Unless you think I’m just too stupid to write for your little newspaper.

All you, Mr. Keller.

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A thousand words in a million keystrokes

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typewriter A thousand words in a million keystrokes

This morning, I pulled the dust cover off the old manual typewriter, rolled a sheet of paper into the carriage and typed something. I wanted to see what it felt like again to be a “real writer.”

In truth, it felt like getting on an old bike after having not ridden for years; slow going at first… a lot of fits and starts but eventually that rhythm… aw, who am I kidding. It was painful as heck. It felt more like learning how to walk and talk again after someone hit you upside the noggin with a hammer and broke both your legs with a Louisville slugger.

Kids really have it easy today. Analog is so unforgiving. It forces you to see your mistakes, to think through what you wish to write and how you wish to write it before you start typing. There is no whole line delete. There is no copy-paste and move that paragraph up here and that one down there.

I should have done the math before I started writing this blog post, but somehow I thought that if I would just start writing, the calculations would come to me. I was wrong, so the word counts that follow are entirely made up. (If someone from the New York Times, The New Yorker and Random House want to verify and/or correct, that would be WONDERFUL!)

Each New Yorker has about 80 pages of 1,000 word a page. My New York Times has probably just as many, depending on the day of the week. An average book has 250 words on a page, about 300 pages. I read about 1/2 a book a day. This blog post to this point is 270 words and will probably stretch to 500 720 words. Over the course of a week, I will have consumed a bit over 1,000,000 words not counting emails and other blog posts I read. My reader list has 31 blogs on it right now, scaled back from well over a hundred a few months ago (if you have to ask, your blog probably isn’t on my list.. but if you tell me why it should be in a comment, I’ll put it on.)

I tend to produce a minimum of 10,000 words a week just from normal activity. When I’m in “writer mode,” I’ll easily pass the 50,000 words mark. Most of these will end up on the cutting room floor. From the dreck I read on a lot of blogs, I suspect that most don’t edit themselves as aggressively. That is not a value judgement, just an observation.

It used to take a lot of effort — both physically and mentally — to produce 1,000,000 words a week but with the explosion of electronic publishing platforms, it is easy. It is also very, very easy to waste 1,000,000 words a week. I skip major sections of a New Yorker because I run out of time. Sometimes I’ll skip the sports section entirely and when I get bored with a book, I’ll skip to the end and read the last chapter to see if it gets better or I should bail early. (I’m at 50-90% done about 100 books at this point.*)

I spent twenty minutes typing up a half page of material on the typewriter. I will throw it away as the words I put down weren’t worth much. But the exercise of physically typing up a thought that ran for 100 words was invaluable. It put the value of well-thought out writing in perspective.

Being able to publish anytime, anywhere for writers has been hawked around the social media town like it is the best thing to happen to publishing since Gutenberg. I’m inclined to disagree. I think it makes it easier for the more prolific and the noisy to get noticed, but it buries quality in a sea of quantity much like a chow line at a Golden Corral buries food. It also gives the reader an excuse to ignore millions of words with abandon. How much am I really missing? There will be more words to read.

A thousand words in a million keystrokes is probably a good ratio for a writer. Beyond that, I think he is flinging poo out onto the “press” to see what sticks.

*A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (@donmilleris) is not one such book for those whom the title sounded familiar.

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Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff

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250px Karl Marx 001 Fact v truth   a #letsblogoff

I once heard someone say that “The truth belongs to he who tells the story first and best.” I think there is some truth to that.

As I was writing this, I was listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

The truth is they admit that the world has changed because they can no longer reconcile the facts with their truth.

I grew up Catholic and for most of my life, I have heard the truth that things are “God’s Will.” God wants us to suffer to prepare for the afterlife. It is God’s will that he took Uncle Conrad home to him so young. It is God’s will that your dog Rusty got hit by that car.

The truth is God does not will anything. God — if he exists — does not care. People are the Universe. We make our own “luck” by the relationships we form, forge and maintain with others. We create our own “truths” by what we are willing to admit as fact to ourselves.

Facts are that rain and snow fell, that waters rose, that wind patterns blew, that the Earth buckled under strain. Fact is that people are attracted to the coast, the ocean, the river banks and choose to build there. Fact is that these elements destroy things we build. Fact is nature is more powerful than our puny stuff. The fact is that most people who are affected by bad luck failed to or were unable to plan for the rain.

I used to think there was one Universal Truth, that the Aristotelian A is A was something that we could achieve if we all pulled in the same direction and thought hard enough about the facts. If we could use the right words to define something so narrowly that there would be no ambiguity, we could get to “the truth” about a thing. I remember taking a Marxism class in college and the only things that stuck with me were* a) the professor was very strange and had a bad habit of snorting inappropriately and b) the cornerstone of Marx’s philosophy of physics was A is in the process of becoming A. As I get older, I’m thinking that maybe Marx had it right all along.**

The only problem with Marx’s truth is he admits uncertainty as fact. That loss of control makes lots of people uncomfortable. The truth is this post was going to go an entirely different direction, but I found the words I had originally taken out and arranged to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. If it seems like this post wanders around and has no point, then my work here is done. It is a blog post in the process of becoming a blog post.

I believe that all events are neutral, that the Universe is impartial and indifferent. Events are given meaning by people within their understanding of the Universe. The truth is many people don’t strive to understand the Universe because it is depressing and fatalistic. In the end, the only fact is that truth hardly really matters.

*b was probably the more important point, but that snorting is now an indelible part of the story. I’m telling it here, ok?
**I think this theory was disproved or fell out of favor or some other thing, but so what, don’t care.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What is the difference between fact and truth? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

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Make it work; why newspaper artists make the best designers

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lulugrimmtimgunn Make it work; why newspaper artists make the best designers

“Just set your resolution high on your monitor, scale it up, take a screenshot and slap it in there,” I said to the panicked marketing artist who was stressing over the jpg of a 1X3 benevolent ad she was given without the high-res artwork or fonts. The client was not returning her phone calls and her submission deadline was twenty minutes out.

“Trust me.”

She took the screenshot, resampled it, leveled the grays and sent it off to press, fully expecting that her last days at the newspaper were just about here. This wasn’t the way you were supposed to do pre-press on an ad. Who runs a 72dpi ad in a newspaper? From a screenshot? She was very nervous.

The next day, the newspaper came out and she ripped through the tear sheets, expecting to see a pixelated mess or worse, a blank space with an X through it. But there it was, a perfect ad.

And she started to giggle with relief. She had just gotten away with something that didn’t play by the rules at all. In fact, this went against everything she ever learned in art school or anything they taught her at her last agency job.

That was the very first day she became a real graphic artist.

My favorite fashion designer of all time is Tim Gunn, not because of his sense of style, eye or any design skill but because he understands how to throw the problem back at a designer to “make it work.” That is him posing in the photo above with another rule breaker, Lisa Grimm, a marketing genius at the Mall of America in Minneapolis (ok, Bloomington) Minnesota. Tim understands that a great designer will solve the problem best when faced with the stress and frustration of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Designers who are simply good will fail.

I read this blog post from FootnoteTV today. It’s got a short video that is a must-see for every creative person who has only been given eight broken crayons and the back of a shovel to “make it work.” It made me think of my screenshot story. I had a good laugh and then decided to write about it, lest I forget at some point in my older age.

My editor said it best when he commented, “The worst artists in the world are those who have access to unlimited resources.” The best artists are those who have worked in newspaper. They know how to hold a dot pattern destined to be printed on paper as absorbent as toilet tissue, how far to push a gradient screen before it bands and how to mess with the key color to make a blurry, muddy mess sing. They understand the math of their craft, when and where to apply the duct tape and when a screenshot will look every bit as good as a coffee table book.

Real artists know how to craft a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and sew straight seams. They know how the machinery works and are not scared to get in and tear it apart to make it work. While they may not know exactly how they will get there, they are confident in the construction of their craft.

Do you “make it work” or do you make excuses?

*Lisa let me use her photo for this blog post. Thank you! She is on a quest to pose with every famous person ever, lured to the Mall of America through her wicked awesome spell.

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The killing of Osama bin Laden

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200px Osama bin Laden portrait1 The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Osama_bin_Laden_portrait.jpg

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Posted in 9-11, American Culture, Dayton Ohio, Just thinking out loud, Political thoughts, Pop Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments