Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cleaning Out The Closet

Roll Call

Time to make your voices least by me. I am once again in the process of cleaning out my blog list, but this time, I will be doing it a bit differently. If you want to stay on the list, you need to let me hear from you and in so doing give yourself a little promotion.

I have been trying to figure out my new Android Smartphone for the past 3 weeks. One of the things it does (very well) is totally synch with my online Google Account (contacts, documents, reader, maps, email, you name it).

One of the new options on Google Documents is an on-line response form that dumps responses into a spreadsheet. After experimenting with it for a few minutes, I hit on the idea to survey all of you to get a better idea of the demographic of my readership.

So take the plunge and fill out the form. It is only seven questions and there is no math involved. After a set time frame (about 2 weeks for all you slow readers and Holiday travelers) I will dump the responses to an HTML file and post them on my blog for all to see, and to aid me in cleaning out the blogs I follow and comment on.

So promote yourself and make your voices heard! The survey can be found by clicking the blog title or by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Alone in the Sandbox

That Warm Feeling

This goes way back, to my earliest childhood memories. I assume that everyone has origins like this, and they must vary quite a bit. They are one of those core values / feelings / memories that follow us all through life and create the foundation of who we are. They are more like memories and feelings that keep resurfacing, they are a constant throughout our entire life.

For me, it was being lost in the fog. Not so much being lost, but alone. This isn't a scary feeling like some sort of phobia or nightmare. It is more of a dreamlike state. A waking dream where all your senses come into play and everything is a mystery to be discovered.

Every time I have come across these situations in real life, I am thrown back to that constant feeling from the first time I experienced it.

The first time was probably during a blizzard in North Dakota around 1962. It was nighttime and you couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of you. I was all bundled up and walking back to my house in the dark. But I was so disoriented, I had to walk up to each house to see if I recognized the door, and then stumble to the next one, and the next, before finally finding my home. I knew it was there somewhere, and when I found it, there would be warm blankets and coco waiting for me.

Fast forward four years and we had just moved to southern California. It was in the spring, and there was still a bite in the air. I saw ocean fog for the first time that spring, as it drifted through the groves of Eucalyptus trees behind our house. As I walked through the forest, the aroma of the trees mixed with the coolness of the fog. Eventually the morning mist was countered by the warm rays of sunlight struggling to pierce the canopy of the trees and chase the fog away. It was surreal.

A decade later in College, my friends and I rented a beach house on the Oregon Coast for a weekend. One morning after a heavy night of college partying, we awoke to a dense fog bank hanging over the coast. I walked down to the beach and headed toward the surf. I could hear the crashing waves all around me like a roaring freight train, but the sand was still dry and I couldn't see more than 10 feet in any direction. After walking almost a half mile toward the ocean, it sounded as though a wave would materialize out of the mist and swallow me. I slowly retraced my footsteps in the sand back to the beach house.

I left college in 1982 and moved to Arizona. On my road trip from college student to adulthood, I stopped in the Redwood Forest of northern California to sleep in my car before heading toward San Francisco the next morning. During the night there was no moon and low laying clouds moved in through the trees to block out what little starlight there was. I awoke in the middle of the night to experience total and complete darkness for the first time in my life. That lonely night in the middle of nowhere, the forest enveloped me. (A more detailed account of this night can be found in my blog entitled Deep Woods.)

It has been a while since then and these images have become fewer and farther between but their memory has not diminished in my mind. They are those periods of wonder and reflection when you have to question the world around you and also question who you are.

The last one was in September 2009. I was at Burning Man in northern Nevada. Burning Man takes place on a huge dry lake bed 70 miles from the nearest town. When the wind picks up (which is often) it creates huge dust storms that the participants have to weather. It sounds worse than it is. The dust is like a fine powder and is hypo-allergenic, there are no spores or pollen in it. So everyone always has a handkerchief and goggles at the ready to ride out the 5 to 30 minutes of zero visibility.

I was caught in one of these storms as I roamed the far reaches of the playa, thousands of feet from any structure. The dust engulfed me and I put my bandanna over my face and lowered my goggles to wait it out. As I knelt down on the ground, ghostly images of fellow Burners came and went on the fringes of my sight. Riding bicycles, walking, laughing, dressed in bizarre costumes. They drifted in and out of my world in another waking dream, and then the dust dissipated and the world was normal again.

I sometimes feel that this is what my life is really all about. In our day to day lives, we are just waiting for something to happen. But once in a while, we get a glimpse of what it is like to pass to the other side.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grains Of Sand On The Infinite Beach

Climbing to the Mountain Top

I don't do too many video links. I consider this more of a writing / image media, and not a substitute for television. But life is full of exceptions, so I wanted to share this one. It is on You-Tube and you can watch it at your leisure.

It seems that as I get older, the one thing I end up having to battle more and more is stress. Stress from work, money issues, politics, general incompetency from all sides. Life is not that simple anymore.

When I was going through my divorce in 1997, the stress level went way past the red zone. During that period of my life, I could actually contemplate what it was like to go postal and see the value in it.

Thankfully, I found a way to releive the stress. It was a mountain. It is still there and it was called Squaw Peak. They renamed it to Piestewa Peak recently and it sits in the middle of Phoenix, Arizona. It is a 1.2 mile hike to the top, and the view from the summit is pretty spectacular.

I hiked that mountain a lot during my divorce. I learned a long time ago, that when you get far away from your troubles and look back at them, they appear relatively small in comparrision to the big picture. The big picture being your life. On top of Squaw Peak, everything below me finally looked in perspective. Small and inconsequential with the only really important thing ontop of the mountain. That was me and my ability to figure out the world around me. I have hiked that mountain a lot since. I need to hike up it again.

For those that can't hike the mountain, watch this video. To say that we are insignificant in the overall scope of things would be an understatement, but the fact that we can understand our place in the vast expanse of the cosmos, is truely astounding.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Take A Pill

Shut The Fu@k Up!

A short comment here. I have been having some problems with people recently. Not a particular person, but a mass of people that are starting to really un-nerve me. There is the possibility that I have been subconsciously avoiding them in the last decade or maybe I have just been really lucky in not running into them. Then again, maybe it is the holiday season, the economy or global warming that is bringing them out of the woodwork. But there are sure a lot more of them recently.

These are the hyper-talkers. Folks that don't talk 'too' you, but talk 'at' you. They are not engaging in conversation, but instead are venting a lot of pent up emotion, anxiety or anger.

In the past month or so, I have had to deal with several of these people who have verbally assaulted me. I usually know within 10 seconds what their problem is, but can not get a word in edge wise for about 2 minutes while they drone on about their frustration.

SHUT UP! People. If you can't control yourself, and act in a calm, responsible, ADULT manner, you only make the problem WORSE!!!

Here are a few pointers:
1) -Ask a direct, short question, keep it to less than two sentences.

2) -Close your mouth and WAIT for a response.

3) -Ask a follow up question (if necessary) AFTER you have heard and processed the response.

4) -If you still don't get it, request a later meeting to go over the issues in-depth. Don't assume people have time for you when YOU want it. We are all busy!

It is called 'dialogue' and has to do with each member of the conversation contributing to the exchange in equal parts. No one wants to hear you babble on about emotional twaddle and side issues that have nothing to do with the task at hand.

If you want to spew forth all sorts of garbage, you need to find someone that is called a "Psychiatrist". They will listen to you babble on incoherently for hours (for a fee) and then probably prescribe some medication for you that will 'shut you the HELL up'.

For some reason, folks seem to think that I am the free psychiatrist that does pro bono work for the masses. NEWS FLASH.......that isn't the case!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Is This Societal Evolution?

It Takes Two To Play

I have been watching the whole Tiger Woods drama with a mixture of humor and apathy over the last two weeks. I really don't feel for the guy, nor do I think all of the media hype surrounding him is all that justified. It appears to be more of a feeding frenzy by the media and the public to get a bird's eye view of how the mighty have fallen.

One of the issues that has kept bugging me about this whole sordid affair is that most women who have made comments regarding the actions of Mr. Woods seem to state that he got what was coming to him, and that he deserves to be dragged through the mud. While I am not here to defend Tiger in any way shape or form (I blogged my views about him a week ago). There does seem to be a bit of a lop-sided media slant to this whole story.

As of this writing, there are 10 to 11 women that have come forward and laid claim to having bedded down Mr. Woods. Everyone from bar hostesses, to escorts, to reality TV stars to porn stars have raised their hand and screamed into a microphone, "I was one!".

Yet there appears to be no media attention directed toward 'their' indiscretions. These women knew he was married and also knew he had children and they also KNEW he had gobs and gobs of money. I don't think any of them have come forward with the lame story of, "I thought he was going to leave his wife and marry me!". They knew what they were doing, and they knew it was immoral. But they had no reservations about tempting him, seducing him and then bragging about it in the media.

But these women are left unscathed, and the public is 'instructed' to scold Mr. Woods for his inability to control his libido.

It takes two people to have an affair and there should be blame on both for not knowing or caring about the situation of the other.

My wife and I have been engrossed in the AMC television series "Mad Men" for the past couple of months. The series is set in the early 1960s in New York City. One of the reasons I find the show fascinating is the spot-on set design and social behavior of the period that the producers of the show strive for. Having grown up in the 60s, I recall all of this.

In the early 1960s, men were EXPECTED to have affairs and it was considered the job of the women to be the first line of defense in shaming other 'loose' women from seducing the hapless men in the world.

John F. Kennedy had numerous affairs, but it was the women that he dallied with who were scorned, shunned and silenced (some say Marilyn Monroe was even killed), because they soiled the reputation of 'good' women by sleeping with JFK. In essence, to be a woman was to be pure and forthright, and loose women dragged society into the gutter. Those men...well, they just can't help themselves.

I don't seem to recall anyone tearing down Wilt Chamberlain in the 1970s when it became known that he had slept with over 10,000 women during his NBA career and fathered countless illegitimate children.

But now, the pendulem has swung the other way and the women are almost held up on pedestals as having been 'victims' of Mr. Woods, when in reality they are loose, immoral, gold-diggers looking for a big paycheck. What I would like to see, is each one of these media 'whores' go on camera and apologize to Elin Woods for having seduced and screwed her husband and shamed their children.....but I doubt that is going to happen.

If blame is to be shared equally here, Tiger only has 1/12 of it to bare. Am I the only one that sees it this way or do I just live on a different planet?

Educating The Emotional Pygmies

Lessons from the Road

Once upon a time when I was still feeling my way along my career path, I had a part time job to make ends meet. I wager that a lot of men have these jobs during their lifetime. It isn't a job you can build a career on, it is a job to pad your wallet with a few extra bucks. These are jobs that don't require a lot of brains or skill to perform. They are jobs that exist because science hasn't come up with a cost effective robot that can do it cheaper than a semi-intelligent human.

The last job that I had in this genre was at Budget Rent-A-Car of Arizona. It was back around 1995 and I was a 'driver' for Budget. When rich people rent cars, they don't always return them to the main distribution facility, or the company will move 'blocks' of cars to specific areas in a city to cover spikes in demand. In order to so this, they have employees that do nothing but drive their cars from one place to another.

This usually meant sitting around a picnic table in the early evening, until a supervisor came out and picked five of us from the group, and stated that drivers #1, #2, #3 and #4 need to drive four Nissan Sentras out to the Glendale facility. Driver #5 would be the 'van' driver. The van driver follows drivers 1 thru 4 to Glendale, and then gave them a ride back to the central staging area.

That is it. That is all you do, for 8 hours, between 6pm and 2am in the morning. Sit around, drive cars and ride in a van. In retrospect, it was probably the best job I ever had. You couldn't get any less stress, and all you had to do was drive around brand new cars, on someone else's dime, and listen to whatever radio station you wanted.

However, this isn't a story about the job, it is a story about a ride in the van back to the central staging area. Much like the sitcoms 'Taxi' or 'Mash', whenever you take four to six individuals and put them in a van over and over, strange conversations and fellowships develop. This is a story about one of those van rides.

Jobs such as this tend to attract some pretty eclectic individuals. Besides myself, there was an interesting cross section of drivers that I worked with at Budget Rent-A-Car. I don't recall any of their names, but I recall their personalities as though I have known them all my life.

There was the patriarch (we will call him Bill) who had been there longer than anyone else. He was in his 40s and had a dream of opening up his own junk-yard. He worked for the City Special Events Planning office by day and was an expert in Checker Taxis and Sedans (he owned several in various states of repair).

There was the young Afro-American going to college on a scholarship (we will call him Jerome). He was about 6' 5" tall, in his early 20s and spent most of his time in the back seat of the van sleeping.

There was the tall skinny guy in his mid-twenties looking for his first real job. He was high school educated with a pale complexion and long thinning curly hair. The rest of the crew nicknamed him 'Vampire', because he looked so frail and anemic. He had just started a day job as a studio sound engineer and wanted to get into the recording industry.

Then there was the guy who had the speech impediment. Something like a cleft pallet or a nervous stutter. He was likable and smart, but he had to overcome his handicap every time he opened his mouth. (Lets call him 'Stan' for Stuttering Stanley).

Finally, there was "Clutz". He was the youngest guy in the group, who had just turned 18 and we assumed his daddy in corporate had gotten him the job to start him off on the 'ground level'. We called him "Clutz" because of his inability to solve the most simple tasks, such as, "you have to put your foot on the break before you can move the shift lever", (duh, it is a safety feature on all cars!). Clutz was a good kid, but he was frustrating at times and had a lot to learn.

So one balmy summer night we are all assigned to drive cars to Sun City, which is a good two hour round trip to drop the cars off and make it back to the central facility. We all hopped in our trusty steads with the 'new car smell', tuned in our favorite radio station, cranked up the volume, and semi-raced each other to Sun City. Mind you, we never really raced, but it was sort of an insult to be the last one to arrive. It was more a matter of knowing the 'best' way to get there, than speeding to get there, since getting a ticket was a sure fire way to get canned.

The last of us trickled into Sun City around 7:30pm and we all piled into the van for the trip back. We all had dibs on our favorite positions in the van, Jerome was in the back seat laying down, Bill was driving, I was next to the driver in the passenger seat, Stan, Clutz and Vampire were somewhere in the middle.

As we headed back, we made small talk about various frustrations that all of us were experiencing in our 'day jobs'. These van rides were a sort of group therapy session, although we didn't realize it at the time. Eventually, the conversation turned to women as Vampire started to relate his prospects for a promising date that he had lined up the following weekend. I listened to the conversation from the co-pilot Captain's chair as my co-workers went back and forth about the issues they had with women and how they were so frustrating to figure out.

After a while it sounded as though the group was stuck in a sort of relationship vapor lock, so I thought I would chime in with my two cents.

"Guys, the trick to making women happy is to make them the center of attention.", I stated.

"...and how do you do that?", came Vampire's reply.

"Well, you can't pay attention to them 24/7, that would drive you nuts, so you have to find 'special ways' to make them feel important that linger for a long of time. In essence, you have to do things that they can brag to their girlfriends about. It will take them about two weeks to brag to all their girlfriends. After two weeks it will be time to come up with another 'special' surprise to placate them for another two weeks, etc., etc."

By the time I had finished this little explanation, I noticed that all the eyes in the van (even Bill's) were fixed on me.

"....and....", they collectively said.....

"...and what? Do special little things for them, and you can keep them happy, ergo, they will be less bitchy."

"Like what sort of special things?", Clutz asked.

"Yeah, g-g-g-give us some ex-x-x-xamples.", Stan added.

It sort of dawned on me that this van was populated with a bunch of emotional pygmies. They hadn't watched any romantic movies or put any real 'thought' into the motivations and desires of the female gender. So, I decided to give them some pointers from my experiences regarding intimate relations with the opposite sex.

"Well, first of all....FLOWERS. They cost you about a $5 at local grocery story and they translate to about 5 days of good will. As long as they are on the dining room table, and haven't wilted, they scream out to anyone in the room that your girlfriend is a special person."

"But they just die and end up being thrown away.", responded Clutz.

"Doesn't matter Clutz, it is the thought that counts, and not the physical value of the flowers. The flowers themselves have no meaning or value, it is the act of giving them that lingers in the woman's mind."

"W-w-w-what else.", Stan prodded me.

"I don't know, do something for them that shows a lot of thought went into it. If you do something for a woman that lasts 30 seconds, but she realizes that it took you three weeks to plan it out, it is good for three weeks and 30 seconds of good will as far as the woman is concerned."

"......l-l-l-like what?", he continued.

I thought for a second and recalled a special date I had planned for someone I used to work with. "OK, here is a good example:"

"I used to work with a girl that I really liked and I wanted to do something special for her birthday. So I took her on a date and made a treasure hunt out of it. I knew she really liked cheesecake, so I hand-made two of them, packed them in dry ice and hide them in the trunk of my car with a bunch of helium balloons tied to them. Then I went to Encanto Park in Central Phoenix, and hid an envelope under one of the foot bridges that span the canals there."

All the eyes in the van were transfixed on me and I could tell that they were all taking mental notes about everything I said.

"I picked my girlfriend up for our date and told her that she would have to 'fugure out' what her birthday present was. Her first 'clue' was in the glove-box of the car. She opened the glove box and pulled out an envelop. Inside it said that her first clue could be found where the 'Trolls Lived In Encanto Park". We drove to the park, rented a canoe and paddled around the lakes until she finally found the envelope under the bridge. Inside the envelop was a "challenge". She had to go to a knick-knack gift store in Phoenix called "Juttenhoops" and spend as close to $20 as possible without going over (inside the envelope was a $20 bill). The closer she got to the limit of $20 without going over, the better her birthday present would be."

At this point, I noticed that even Jerome had sat up in the back of the van and was paying attention to everything I said.

"Juttenhoops, was a huge store with literally thousands of little do-dads and knick-knacks to play with. We arrived there and my girlfriend had 20 minutes to buy as many things as she could with $20. She tore through the place like a kid in a candy store and in the end, spent $19.92 cents. We went back to the car and under the passenger seat, there was another envelope. Inside it was her winnings. If she spent under $18.00, she got dinner at McDonald's. If she spend between $18.00 and $19.50, she got to eat dinner at Applebees. If she spend over $19.50 she got to have dinner at The Phoenician, which is a 5 star resort here in Phoenix. There was little doubt what prize she would win."

"So we went to the Phoenician and had a wonderful dinner and drinks. After dinner, I took her home and as we got out of the car, I told her I had one more thing for her. I opened up the trunk and all the balloons came floating out still attached to the cheesecakes that were still frozen from the dry ice."

"Two months later we took a weekend trip to Vegas, where I scored big time....and I don't mean at the slot machines."

At this point, not only were all of my van buddies staring at me, but their mouths were all open in stunned silence.

"Freak'in Brilliant"....I heard Bill say.

"Ow, man, this is like hitting a gold-mine.", said Vampire, "...what else, give us some more examples."

"Geez, haven't you guys ever done anything thoughtful for a woman?", was my reply.

My co-workers starred back at me in silence.

"OK, here is another one. My wife had a real penchant for expensive things that I can't afford, which is one of the reasons I am riding around in this van. She really likes 'smelly stuff'.....which is to say, perfumes and toiletries. Instead of going into debt to buy her gallons of Chanel No. 5, I figured out an alternative. I went to a mall store called 'Lotions and Potions' and bought a bunch of pure scented oils in bulk. Then I went to an import store and got three hand blown perfume bottles from Egypt, pretty cheap at about $5 a piece. Then I bought a very elaborate Christmas Chest with to latches and packed it with straw."

"I took the oils and filled the perfume bottles with them. I place the bottles inside the chest and secured them so they would not leak. Then I closed the chest and locked it with two very small key locks I got at Ace Hardware. I took each key and placed it in a separate envelope with my wife's name on them. I wrapped the chest in a very elaborate velvet rope so that it looked like a sunken Christmas Chest and placed it under the Christmas tree a week before Christmas. The chest had no name on it, so no one knew who it was for. This drove my wife nuts, since she assumed it was for her, but didn't know what it was. Then on Christmas eve, I slipped the two envelopes with the keys into the branches of the tree."

"On Christmas day, we went through all the presents until we got to the chest. No one knew who it was for and I stated that someone must have gotten the keys in one of their presents and they just needed to look for them. Needless to say, it took my wife about 2 minutes to find the envelopes, open the chest and find her 'smelly stuff'. Total cost was under $100, total value in score points with the wife...about $3,000."

At this point, Jerome was actually writing all this down on a piece of paper in the back of the van.

"What else, what else, give us some more.", Jermone demanded.

Just then, Bill pulled the van back into the Budget Rent-A-Car central lot and stopped at the drivers table outside the supervisors office.

"That is all I have for now guys. You just need to be creative. Remember, it isn't things you buy, it is the things you do that makes the difference."

I don't know if my little life lessons made any difference in any of their lives. I like to think they did. In more ways than one, these sorts of jobs were the best jobs I ever had. When you got more from work than just a paycheck.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Wonderful Dream

Maybe, Someday...

I had a dream last night. It was a strange sort of dream. Not like the surreal sort of dreams I usually have where I am in the third person, watching myself solve a puzzle or a problem for no apparent reason.

This dream had me parked in front of a television set watching the nightly news. The news Anchor (I think it was Tom Brokaw) was fidgeting and kept looking off camera like he was expecting something, only it never came. He squinted into the teleprompter and then shuffled some more papers in front of him...then he cleared his throat.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a day like no other in broadcast history. For it is on this day, that I have to report to you the following:

there are no cheating sports figures

there are no dead celebrities

there are no kidnapped children

there are no new mystery illnesses

there are no plane crashes

there are no war dead

there are no natural disasters

there are no spikes in prices

there are no new government statistics on the economy

there are no reports from North Korea or Iran

there are no bank / corporate failures

there are no train wrecks

there are no pirates!

there are no bailouts.....

in essence my friends, there is no news to report to you on this day. So stay tuned for 20 minutes of advertisements from our sponsors for medications to combat illnesses that you have never heard of and automobiles that you can no longer afford to own. Good Night."

I changed the channel to look for new episodes of 'Cops' or 'Hoarders', but couldn't find any. So I went outside to play fetch with our dog.

It was a really cool dream.

Friday, December 4, 2009

First Friday Flashbacks

Scences From A Marriage, Part-2

Dispite making all the right decsions and doing your best, life sometimes has some very scary moments in store for us. Here is a case in point. Many may have already read this, but it bares another reading. This isn't fiction, it actually happened. First Publisched February 27, 2006

The Awful Truth

"Let's have a glass of wine and go outside." she said.

It sounded good to me. I never passed up a glass of merlot and it was a nice evening outside. The sun was just setting and our acacia tree was blooming. The tree had those little puffy yellow balls on it and they made the back yard smell wonderful.

We had been married a little over a year and things seemed to be going pretty well. It was the first marriage for both of us and there had been bumps in the road, but I expected that and thought it was kind of normal. I knew that the invitation to head outside with a glass of wine was the prelude to something, but I didn't have a clue what it would be about.

Standing in the fading glow of an Arizona sunset, she asked the question, "When we have a baby, do you want a boy or a girl?"

We had agreed to hold off having kids for the first year or so, until we got settled and were sure things were going to work in the marriage. Obviously, she felt that things were working well enough to start considering the next big step. So I pondered the question and gave an honest answer.

"Having a boy would be fun. I could play catch with him and try and teach him about all the mistakes that I made when I was growing up. But having a girl would be a wonderful learning experience, since I never had a sister and that would show me a whole side of parenting and life that I have never known before. So I don't really think I would have a preference for a boy or a girl. Each one would be a wonderful learning experience in their own way."

She looked at me for a moment and then sipped her wine, "I want a boy." she replied.

"Well, that's fine; hopefully we will have a boy. We have a 50/50 chance, and my side of the family is known for having a lot of sons." was my reply.

"I really want a boy." was her reply again.

"Well, we don't have much say in it; we sort of have to take what nature gives us."

"If we have a girl, I want have another baby until we have a boy." was her response.

This sort of threw me back a bit and I am sure that the expression on my face was one that showed a bit of alarm. The reasons for the wine and the sunset were starting to become clear. Something had been working in the mind of my wife and it was now making itself known to me.

"And just how many 'girls' are you willing to have before you give up on the idea of procreating a son?" I asked.

She pondered a moment and replied, "Five".

This whole conversation started to settle into my mind and I started picking it apart like I logically do. This woman was dead set on having a son and she was willing to give birth to five 'throw away' children in order to get the one she wanted. The fact that she was willing to give birth to four baby girls before finally hitting the jackpot and having a baby boy really hit me.

"What is your fixation on having a boy?" I asked.

"Women don't have any real chance of success in this world." was her reply. "Woman can't attain any real power or influence and they can't earn as much money as a man. I want someone who is going to take care of me in my old age."

It all came crashing down on me like a ton of bricks. She wanted an insurance policy. She didn't want to mother a child, she wanted a dividend for her old age, and a boy would have a higher yield than a girl. It hadn't escaped me that she had also said 'take care of me' in her old age. Not take care of 'us'.

She was perfectly willing to sacrifice any caring or love of the girls that she bore in order to grab the gold ring and bare a son. It was the ultimate statement of anxiety, self-centeredness and self doubt. She was worried about herself and her security and everyone around her including her parents, her husband; even her children were just a means of making sure that she was taken care of. Love and maternity had nothing to do with it.

That evening as she slept I laid staring at the darkened ceiling and wondered who this person was laying next me. I realized I didn't have clue.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I can't stop laughing...

"Hole In One!"

Evidently, obtaining a lot of money and/or power makes you really, really, stupid. It appears that there is a correlation that states; the more wealth and influence you obtain the less common sense you have, not to mention control over your libido. If this is what happens to you when you reach the pinnacles of power, I am contented to remain squarely in the middle class.

"I did not have relations with that woman!"

Take this into account and then add the fact that there are a LOT of Paris Hilton wanna-bes out there that are more than eager to hop in the sack with you and record every tryst you have, either in their diary, cell phone, computer, or twitter account, and you have an entertainment media frenzy.

“I don't care about motivation. I care about credibility.”

It seems that here in America, we aren't known for our majestic triumphs anymore, but instead for our dismal failures. I suppose there needs to be a college class, or self help guru that wildly successful people need to consult when they pass the 5 million dollar mark. Lets see if we can't fill in the syllabus:

Rule #1, lots of money builds glass houses, so everyone can see you idiot!

Rule #2, (anyone?)

Rule #3, (anyone?)

Rule #4, (anyone?)

Friday, November 27, 2009


Fellini's Masterwork

I could have made this an Essential Cinema review but if I had it would have been pretty biased. I have often considered this one of my favorite films of all time. I don't want to talk about the film per sae, but what it taught me, and in so doing, why it is such a great film. I started recalling this film recently because there are advertisements circulating for the upcoming release of "9", which is the movie version of the Broadway play "9" which is a musical based on the original film "8 1/2' (Otto e Mezzo)

For those that have never seen or heard of this film, it is generally considered a classic of Italian Cinema and often times makes it onto the lists of most cinema snobs. It is the creation of the Italian Director Federico Fellini and is an autobiographical story about the director and his creative process. In essense, it is a film about making a film.

(For those that don't know the original significance of the title, Fellini considered this to be his 8 1/2 film. He had made 7 films previously and collaborated on one other.)

I first saw this film as a very young man. I was 18 years old and a freshmen at Oregon State University. College is a huge melting pot of ideas and experience. One of the perks of college life was the odd films the student union or some other college club would put on for students in the large auditoriums at night. One day I saw a flyer for this film and was curious to see it. I had heard that it was supposed to be such a good film, so I figured I owed it to myself to go check it out. I walked through the campus twilight to the auditorium and settled into a desk to be impressed by good, cultured cinema.

What I saw, in black and white, on the screen for the next 2 hours made absolutely no sense. As far as I could tell, the film had no plot and was just a bunch of strange random scenes thrown together. I left the auditorium that night feeling as though I had wasted an evening. This was good cinema? I thought not.

Flash forward four years.

I had lived a lot in those four years. Frustration, happiness, lots of college parties, lettered in sports, taken some great vacations, and my time in academia was coming to a close. I was a 'seasoned' student and I knew the ropes of college life.

One evening I was hanging out with some of my college buddies on a Friday night, when we decided to check out a local video store and rent some movies. Video tapes were pretty new things back in the early 1980s and it was like going to your first video arcade or driving in your first convertible. WE could chose what was going to be on TV. Since there were three of us, we decided that we could each rent one film. We browsed the isles looking for what we wanted to watch. My friends chose some action adventure films that I can't recall. But me, I came across a copy of 'Otto e Mezzo' on VHS and paused. I wanted to give it one more shot. I must have missed something the first time around. My companions were not impressed. They looked at my selection and in no uncertain terms indicated that we would be watching my movie 'last'.

We went back to our large, turn of the century, college house and parked ourselves in front of a small black & white television and vegged out on video for the next 4 hours. By the time the first two films were over, it was 11:30pm and my two compatriots headed off to bed. So I was left alone in a dark house with the glow of the small television and my black and white foreign film with English subtitles. I went to the kitchen, got out a gallon bottle of Gallo 'Red' wine and a block of cheese. I returned to the television room and slipped the video tape into the machine.

As I sat there in the dark, I sipped my wine and watched Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinal and Anok Aimee go through their paces once more. But this time it was different. Gradually, as I watched, the film made sense. Not only did it make sense, it made perfect sense. The directors surreal visions in dealing with his cast, his producer, his writers, his critics and his women were all perfect. I was able to understand exactly what he was feeling and in so doing I was able to learn that others saw the world and felt the same way that I did. It was a revelation. By 2am in the morning, half a gallon of wine was gone and I didn't want the film to end.

I walked back to my apartment in the pre-dawn twilight with visions of the film still running through my mind. The interplay of emotions, visions and memories are in all of us. Fellini found a way to put them all on film so that we can all know that we think and fell the same things. It was genius.

I have watched the film several times since. Most folks I have met that have seen it still don't understand it or don't care for this film. The difference from the first time I saw it and the second time was that I wasn't the same person anymore. When I first saw it, I was still thinking in the rigid terms that I had grown up with as a child. I had been raised to think 'inside' the box. I hadn't experienced that much yet. By the time I watched it again, four years later, my view of the world had changed and my experiences had changed me as well.

A young child can't really appreciate the works of Vincent Van Gogh. They seem like rudimentary finger paintings at first. It is only after you understand the torment of Van Gogh's life and what he went through, that their true meaning comes through. This film is the same way. It takes all the frustrations and experiences in our lives and paints them on a canvas that is both whimsical, beautiful and profound. And in so doing, makes everyone that watches it realize that their lives can be just as beautiful and profound. It is all in our perception.

It is cinema like this that makes me seek out other films that show me the same thing. The most recent example that I can think of are 'American Beauty', 'The Shawshank Redemption' and 'Snow Falling on Cedars'. Works that show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cinema can be much more than just moving pictures on a screen.

(P.S. Bonus points for anyone that has seen the film or is interested enough to give it a shot. What do the words "Asa Nisi Masa" mean, and after watching the film.....what do they mean to you?)

I will be astounded if anyone actually answeres this question.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Find My Fantasy

Painting ONLY the Rosey Picture

I was watching the semi-finals of Dancing with the Stars last night. I don't really care much for the show anymore, but my wife still loves it. Since I love her, we watched it. Besides there isn't much better on television anyway. One of the perks of watching the 'big' finale shows, is that the network will sneak in previews of their next big show (oww whoo...the next Bachelor is an Airline Pilot!) or they will follow the finale up with some new show that they want the audience to latch on to. Such was the case last night, when the premiere episode of "Find My Family" came on after 'Dancing With The Stars'.

Now from the get-go, I had grave doubts about this whole concept. Given my generalized contempt for the media, I watched the show just to see if my suspicions were correct. Needless to say, I walked out of the room after the first 15 minutes.

If you haven't caught a glimpse of this show, here is the premise. They find a parent that has lost a child due to adoption, or vice versa, an adopted child that is searching for their birth parent. They do the obligatory background stories on each, then reunite them under a big 'tree' in the middle of nowhere (Family ..... Tree .... get it?). There are hugs and kisses all around and the emotion just oozes out of their glands as the multiple cameras, some mounted high up IN the tree and some being held by the teams of steady-cam operators capture every good tear soaked second.

My first thought was, who is the idiot network CEO that green-lighted this concept? The target audience is going to be limited. Namely adopted children or original birth parents. Granted, there appears to be a huge segment of the American population that will watch ANYTHING that ends in crying and group hugs, but is this really the demographic you want to push Chevys and Viagra too?

Then there is the 3000lb gorilla in the room. My job entails working with a lot of children in foster care. A majority of these children will be severed from their birth parents and put up for adoption by the state. Why? Well, mostly because the birth mothers are crack whores and they would rather turn tricks to buy more meth than buy baby food for the bouncing bundle of joy that was an 'accident'. Trust me little adopted boy or girl, you DON'T want to find your birth parents. There is a good chance they are incarcerated or they died in a drug house knife fight. But for some reason, I don't think these story lines will make it onto "Find My Family". This is a hugs and tears show, not a "we found your mother's grave, she died from a heroin overdose 3 years after giving birth to you" show.

This is another in a long line of network television reality shows designed to 'manufacture' drama and emotion and play to a basic emotional need in the under-educated populace that only knows how to operate a remote control and not much else. My general faith in the intelligence level of the American public will raise or fall depending on how long this show lasts on the air. I am guessing it won't last the entire season. If it gets renewed for a second season.......I am moving to Canada.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Tree House

The Dome Project and Recollections of Youth

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know about my adventures at the Burning Man Festival. Recollections of past burns can be found here and here and here. Attending Burning man is a hardship. You have to really want to go there to attend and you have to use your wits and persevere to reach the final goal of really 'burning'.

I realized this in 2009 when I attended for the second time. It wasn't a matter of just showing up and going, wow...geee-whiz, what a cool place. After my first journey there in 2007, I knew I had to DO something if I went back a second time. I had to push myself.

The Dome Factory In My Garage

The project I gave myself was pretty straight forward and logical. My first stay at Burning Man was in a tent, which proved to be a bit inadequate against the 40mph winds and dust storms. So the second time around I resolved to build myself a geodesic dome. This has been a dream of mine that I have had on the back burner for a number of years. I have hopes of building one someday to live in, and this was the first logical baby step. Build a small one and take it to Burning Man.

I researched the project and found plans on the Internet. It would be made out of cardboard and wood, constructed in my backyard, dissembled, hauled to Burning Man, erected, and when it was all over, we would tear it down and burn it. It took a lot more planning than I thought and was complex in ways unforeseen and easier in ways that I had not imagined.

Half Dome - The Dream Takes Shape

The hardest part was finding the sheets of cardboard. Cardboard boxes are easy to find, sheets of unfolded cardboard are not so easy. After doing a lot of research and collecting all the needed material, I started to work on the project a month before the Burn. A bit late per my schedule, but I was determined to make a go of it. After about 2 weeks, I had assembled the various panels that would make up the structure. Making them was easy and I figured out an assembly-line process to do it. Erecting the dome was another project entirely. Domes are extremely rigid when complete, but putting them together isn't that easy.

By the time my wife had helped me assemble the structure in our back yard, a few things became pretty clear. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I mean, you can live in this thing rather comfortably. You could easily stand up in the center of it. It was 12 feet in diamter and 6 feet tall at the middle. I also realized that cardboard and wood, when assembled correctly, make a pretty darn solid structure. Properly secured to the ground you could ride out a Class 2 hurricane in this little building.

Full Dome - The Neighbors Were Starting To Wonder

After the initial erection, to make sure it would fit together, I disassembled it and started on some of the other detail work, like making a door for it, cutting up some discarded carpeting to create a soft floor for it and purchasing a portable generator. The generator took me way over budget, but was worth it. The generator was used to power the portable air conditioning unit for the dome and run some electric lights inside of it. It also was used to power up various devices like cameras, cell phones and iPods.

So when the big day finally came, we packed up everything and hauled it 2,000 miles to Burning Man where we managed to erect it without a hitch. By the end of the first day, I had a rigid structure that was carpeted and air conditioned, in the frickin middle of nowhere. I was the envy of most Burners within a mile radius. The dome had no windows, because I wanted to use it as a dark room to load film and sleep in.

"The Bio-Hazard Wine Dome Erected At Burning Man 2009

The first night I stayed in the dome a feeling came over me. A feeling that I had not had in years. Not since I was a small child, before all the cynicism and realty of adulthood sank in. This was my little house. I built it. This was the extension of the cave I made under the bed sheets on a cold winters night, the tree house I had when I was in grade school, the secret cave down by the river that only me and my friends knew about. It was my little space. I had made it. Outside in the night, the winds whirled around the dome but inside there was silence and solitude. It was a warm feeling. A feeling of success and security. It was something good. Something I had lost somewhere between paying taxes and the endless commutes to a cubicle in a glass tower. I was a child again, at the age of 52.

The 52 Year Old Child

Many of my friends can't understand why I would want to make the trek to Burning Man and endure all the hardships to get there. I suppose this is the answer. We have to push ourselves sometime, to rediscover the wonderment we have lost.

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Friday Flashbacks

Fading To Black.....

We often times forget about the experiences that really define our lives, until the universe tapes us on the shoulder and forces us to remember

First Published on December 1, 2005

[A special note, the images are tombstones from the Arizona Memorial Cemetary here in Phoenix Arizona. I used to go there a lot for inspiration and reflection.]

Arizona Memorial

I got sick last week during the Thanksgiving holidays. Don't remember much of it. Actually, Sue got sick first and then after 36 hours the bug made the leap to a new host. The price I pay for loving her, but hey, it is worth it.

This was a good bug. Not that it was a mild illness, it was anything but that. This germ really kicked my ass. Haven't had my mind, body and soul worked over like this since I got a 104 degree fever in high school. When I have no arguments about going to Urgent Care and waiting for 2 hours to fill out paperwork just to get some antibiotics, you know I have thrown in the towel.

Arizona Memorial

While there was not a lot of pain involved with this illness, there was a lot of coughing, running nose and some extreme muscle weakness which made just getting out of bed to make it to the TV almost a triathlon event. So the predominant thing that that I did for 72 hours was sleep for about 60 of them. And brother, let me tell you, that is all I wanted to do.

With this sort of extreme exhaustion and fever, the things that go through your mind are not really under your control. I recall trying to lie down and think about things, but my thoughts eventually ended up on some really weird subjects as I lapsed in and out of consciousness for 10 hours at a stretch.

My overly analytical brain had enough power left to speculate that this is what the start of the 'final journey' must be like. That slow descent into the afterlife as the present life slowly drains from your body. There isn't a lot of fear or pain here. It is pretty much the most relaxing thing you can do. I recall struggling to crawl between the sheets just so I would not have to tax my brain to keep my balance anymore and the relief I felt after getting all cozy and just letting gravity do all the work once I was laying there.

Arizona Memorial

All the thoughts that kept running through my mind were some sort of bizarre "life passes before your eyes" movie with no particular order or reason and with a Fellini-like twist of surrealism. Inside the womb of the bed, I was relaxed, tired, and had this strange catalog of video memories that seemed to be stuck in the 'random view' mode. These were not visions of material wealth or great accomplishment, they were recollections of emotions and what had caused them. It was that whole sort of life's lesson movie that Frank Capra tried to teach us in 'It's A Wonderful Life'. All that stuff about virtue and value and the things you leave behind that can't fit in your coffin / urn because they are intangible.

In a way it was almost enjoyable (except for the hacking and the sweating, not to mention the inability to eat anything). These scenes from marriage, childhood and work would float through my mind and then I would cock an eye open and look at the alarm clock by the bed. It read 2:37pm, and I thought I should get up and get something to drink. After 'thinking' about getting up for about 12 minutes, I dozed back into the movie theater of life for another 25 minute screening. I was finding it enjoyable to be able to be totally exhausted and totally content in that bed and let my deeply stored subconscious just play away.

Arizona Memorial

I was thankful that this was a holiday week since I was not missing much work and could just let this virus run its course.

It has been over a week since that fun filled and fever induced experience, and I am still not quite over this thing. The concrete that formed in my sinus is still being chipped away at with medication and deep breaths still make me cough, but I am getting back to normal slowly. I guess sometimes, Mother Nature has more than one way of forcing you to slow down and re-examine things.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paying For My Sins

Burdened with Guilt?

This seems to be the season for the intellectual post. After seeing fellow blogger The Verdant Dude pick apart the artist and his art via Roman Polanski, I thought I would dust off a blog that I have had in waiting for a few weeks.

Last week I was standing at the bus stop in the early evening twilight when I spied the sign pictured above. It is for Arizona's version of the United Way campaign where they ask state employees to contribute part of their paychecks to help the needy by pooling all their money together to help the less fortunate.

As I stood waiting for the bus in order to save money on gas, which is a luxury I can't afford these days, it sort of dawned on me that "I" was one of the less fortunate! Where was my slice of the pie?

First of all, I am not against charity. Just like I am not against religion. However, whenever middle men start to step in to take their 'cut' of the good deeds of others, I start to get a tad bit annoyed. Organized charity, just like organized religion tends to lead to the dark side. Remember, there is money to be made in other peoples suffering. Something that plaintiff attorneys in this country are well acquainted with.

So I stand there waiting for the bus, thinking that I have been asked to donate to this cause, when I am in danger of losing my job to budget cuts because this state is 4 billion dollars in the red due to miss-management. Something just does not seem right here.

Add to this, the fact that in the past I have actually been on committees that helped distribute some of this charity. When we went to see one of the 'less fortunate’s' home, we found a color TV, an X-Box video game, a Chevy in the driveway, Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch in the kitchen and a single mother with 6 children, all from different fathers. Less fortunate suddenly seemed to be more like bad decision making. How did this less fortunate person qualify for this charity? She applied for it, just like a job interview.

As I continued to stare at the sign in the gathering darkness of the bus stop, it sort of dawned on me that this was all about guilt and not wanting to get our hands dirty. Many folks 'feel' for the less fortunate, but they don't want to actually get their hands dirty and 'do' something about it.

They could make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless in the park on Sunday. They could offer rides to a limping transient trying to get to the homeless shelter. They could offer to pay for an all day bus pass for a homeless person. But they don't. Instead they will donate $50 to some bureaucratic charity to do it for them.

Isn't this like paying someone else to sit in traffic court for you if you get a speeding ticket. Isn't this like 19th Century England, were the aristocracy could 'pay' for someone else to sit in prison for them when they were convicted of a crime. It just defers social responsibility with money.

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, they air about 500 Accident/Injury Lawyer advertisements a day on television. All these commercials assure the viewer that the attorney is working to protect their legal rights in the event of an accident. Bullshit, they are offering to be professional insurance claim collectors and want 33% of your pain and suffering. If they really cared that much, they might be doing pro-bono criminal law to put the drunk driver that hit you behind bars. Yeah, that is going to happen!

So the bus finally arrived and took me home, where I made my nightly martini and sat on the front porch, just happy I have a nice home, wife and job. But the notion lingered that we are just not a responsible society anymore. We pay others to do thing that we should be doing ourselves. Somewhere back down the line, we placed way too much emphasis on the use of money to solve all our problems.

Is it just me? Or am I being way to cynical here?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Burning The Temple - Part 4

A Fictional Recollection in Four Parts

The Man burned brightly, and he burned for almost an hour. A huge bonfire that light up the desert and the thousands of followers that had come to witness it. Scout watched from the front rows, the heat from the Man was so intense that he had to shield his eyes from the flames. The same heat bathed Bliss' face as she stood among the thousands.

The partying went on well into the wee hours of the morning as some revelers went all out on their last night in paradise. Others slowly started to disassemble their camps to leave for what they called the 'default world' the next morning. Scout wandered the Playa well into the evening hours, thinking and contemplating. He had so little time to do any of this in the world he had come from.

Sunday dawned with many of the adjacent camp sites empty as a long line of Burners made their way out of Black Rock City. Wandering the Playa the previous night, Scout had decided to stay until Sunday night. He wanted to take it all in and see what the last gasp of the event would be like. He had nothing to run back to. He was in no hurry and there was still one last thing he had to find out.

The Temple was the last structure to be burned. All throughout the day, there were raging bonfires along the avenues as Burners set fire to the remains of their camps. Columns of smoke rose into the air throughout the day as wood and fabric were consumed in the giant steel cauldrons that were placed around the Playa. As dusk approached, Scout walked to the Temple, in order to arrive before it was finally closed to prepare it for consumption. As he approached the entrance, he saw a woman adorned in furry knee high boots, bright orange bikini bottoms, a low cut t-shirt and multi-colored dreadlocks that flowed down her back. Across the top of her bare chest was written the word 'Bliss' in bright orange finger paint.

"Miss Bliss, I presume?", Scout inquired.

"Boy Scout.", replied Bliss with a smile, " made it."

The two walked up the incline into the interior of the Temple. They spoke at ease about their experiences of the past week, and their impressions of the art and the burning of the Man. They maneuvered their way through the crowds that were looking at the inscriptions on the Temple walls one last time.

Bliss turned to Boy Scout and asked, "So, do you think you know who you are now?"

"I am not sure", replied Scout, "...but I am starting to figure it out."

"Yeah, Burning Man will do that to you."

Bliss leaned against the railing and looked out at the 6 o'clock Avenue toward the site of where the Man had stood. Scout leaned forward next to her and surveyed the world that they had known together for the past seven days.

"Glad you could make it.", she said with a smile.

Bliss glanced over at Scout and saw him scribbling something on the railing. He stuffed the pen back into his pocket and smiled at Bliss.

"I'll be back.", he replied..

Bliss and Boy Scout left the Temple at 6pm and walked together back toward where the Man had stood. Half way there, they turned to see flames rising up from the Temple, as all of the thoughts, prayers and hopes that were inscribed within it were consumed.

Burning The Temple - Part 1
Burning The Temple - Part 2
Burning The Temple - Part 3
Burning The Temple - Part 4


Writers Note: The imagery and some of the events represented in this work of fiction were taken from my recent trip to the Burning Man Festival in 2009. To see more of my photographs from the event check out my Flickr Collection. To view my video documenting our trip to Burning Man, check out my You Tube channel. You can also check out the Burning Man Video Guide on my You Tube Channel as well. If you want to learn more, visit the Burning Man Website.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Burning The Temple - Part 3

A Fictional Recollection In Four Parts

Before Bliss and Bright ever reached Costco Soulmate Camp, Scout was filling out the questionnaire. In a place like Burning man anything could happen, so he thought I would give fate a little push. "How old do you feel?", the questionnaire asked. "Old enough to know better", he responded. "How many secrets do you have?" was the next question. "I don't really know who I am.", was his response.

Sometime on the afternoon of the 3rd day, the questionnaires were fed into a reader and the results were processed. A few minute later, an old dot matrix printer started churning out a long list of names. Next to Miss Bliss was the name Boy Scout.

Bright returned to Steel Forge camp that afternoon and searched for Miss Bliss. "Bliss, Bliss, I got our matches, they were posted at Costco Soulmate. Mine is named Gorgeous George at 4:30 and Extinction, yours is some guy named Boy Scout at 8:00 and DNA. Lets go find them!"

Gorgeous George wasn't hard too find. He was at Muscle Camp and first and foremost was in love with himself. It appeared that he had enough love to share and since Bright wasn't the deepest of souls, they hit it off pretty well. After about 45 minutes and a few mixed drinks, it was evident to Bliss that Bright was in no hurry to move on from her new boy-toy. Bliss excused herself and continued around the radial avenues of Black Rock City in the descending twilight. 8:00 and DNA was only about a half mile away. She could swing by on the way back to camp and still arrive in time for the rave party that evening. She was curious to see what sort of Boy Scout the universe had conjured up for her.

Bliss found the neat and precise dome structure at 8:00 and DNA but there appeared to be no one home when she rapped on what she thought was the door. Looking around the camp she found a box lid and a magic marker and left a message. "Boy Scout - Are you my soulmate? Meet me at the Temple entrance, 7pm Sunday - Miss Bliss"

Boy Scout saw ghostly figures as they materialized out of the storm, walked past him and were once again consumed by the earth. The dust storm had overtaken him from behind and engulfed him without warning as he walked the Playa. As the first timers guide had instructed him, he knelt down, put a handkerchief over his nose and mouth (ala Jesse James robbing a train), put his goggles over his eyes and waited for it to pass. The visibility was down to less than 15 feet as he knelt in the desert. As he waited, his compatriots moved about him in a strange silence, seemingly unaffected by the blowing dust, as though they had lived within it all their lives.

By the time the dust storm had subsided, the sun had started to set and Scout began to make his way back to his dome. It was time to crack open a new box of wine and some tuna fish. His pace had slowed and he was in no hurry. Time sort of stood still here and was dictated more by nature and those around him than by any clock. Arriving back at his dome, he found Bliss' note. "Miss Bliss?", he thought...."How appropriate", he said to himself with a smile.

The next several days were filled with wandering and discovery. The loud thumping techno music that permeated every aspect of Burning Man eventually became a background noise that no longer interrupted Scout's sleep. He found that he could easily exist on a diet of boxed wine, potato chips and macaroni and cheese without any problem. Scout often found himself wandering the far reaches of the playa were various bars and lounges were set up in the middle of nowhere. The drinks were free and the attitudes were beyond care-free. Here in this surreal place, where no one and no drink should be, were lounge chairs and like minded souls and nothing else. Slowly, he thought to himself, he was starting to figure out who he was.

Saturday evening arrived and as the sun set on the second to last day of Burning Man, all the camps slowly emptied as the residents of Black Rock City gathered at the center of the Playa. As they formed a huge circle around the statute of the Man, the last rays of daylight dwindled and a thousand stars slowly appeared over their heads. Soon the fire dancers appeared and encircled the man with burning hoops and batons. The spectacle of 10 acres of moving and undulating fire was impressive and continued for over a half an hour. Then, just as quickly as they had appeared, they dispersed into the crowd and everyone fell silent as their gaze turned to the giant figure that had been the center of their lives for the past week.

Within minutes, hundreds of fireworks shot into the night sky, signaling the impending death of the Man. As the red, green and blue glare of the rockets bathed the Man in mulit-colored light, he slowly raised his mechanical arms over his head. As his arms reached their full height, the crowd let out a thunderous cheer as the final rockets launced with a thunderous salvo. When it did, the base of the Man erupted in a ball of flame which consumed the structure and the Man that stood atop it. As the wood slowly caught fire and the Man began to burn, the heat given off from the inferno was intense, even for those standing 100 yards away. be continued

Burning The Temple - Part 1
Burning The Temple - Part 2
Burning The Temple - Part 3
Burning The Temple - Part 4


Writers Note: The imagery and some of the events represented in this work of fiction were taken from my recent trip to the Burning Man Festival in 2009. To see more of my photographs from the event check out my Flickr Collection. To view my video documenting our trip to Burning Man, check out my You Tube channel. You can also check out the Burning Man Video Guide on my You Tube Channel as well. If you want to learn more, visit the Burning Man Website.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Burning The Temple - Part 2

A Fictional Recollection In Four Parts

The next morning Miss Bliss sipped on her coffee from the communal kitchen as she chatted with her camp-mates before dawning her goggles and handkerchief and wandering out onto the Playa. She wore her furry knee high platform boots, some bikini bottoms and a chain mail vest that was mostly see-thru. This was all standard Burning Man attire and she hardly stood out in the early morning crowd. She walked down the 6 o'clock Avenue and came to the Man. The huge stick figure towered over the center of the playa and was surrounded by an elaborate structure that symbolized the theme of this year’s event; Evolution. She continued outward toward the far reaches of the playa taking in all of the art that had been installed on the vast dust covered plain. A half mile from the Man she came to the Temple, recently finished and opened to the masses. This year’s Temple design was a giant lotus flower. She mounted the spiral staircase and went inside.

Even though it was early in the day, the Temple walls were already being covered in writing. All burners eventually visited the Temple to pay homage and remember the special moments that had affected them over the past 12 months. Eulogies for those departed, lost friends remembered, devotionals for those still living. They were written on walls, ceilings and stair wells. There were mementos shoved into the cracks and seams. Photographs, lockets, concert ticket stubs, guitars; would eventually adorn every inch of the structure. Bliss took her time and read them for hours. Sharing in their grief and wondering how they all coped. Eventually, she took a stray felt tipped pen and scribbled on the upper railing, “Nob, Now that you are gone, I don’t really know who you were – Bliss”.

Scout looked down a long corridor of arched wire rods. They were 12 foot high at their apex and snaked for a hundred yards across the desert, making a sort of open air hallway. This was all like some sort of dream. He had been wandering the playa for hours, taking in all the installations and people. The scope and size of the event were not something that his mind was prepared for. He realized he was getting pretty tired and thirsty. He looked for a place to rest and made his way to the Temple to sit in the shade of the giant flower-like structure. Like Bliss, his eyes also started to wander over the thousands of scribbles that were being written even as he sipped on his canteen.

While wandering the upper level of the temple, Scout came across Bliss' note and paused. He wondered who he really was sometimes. All the things that he had pursued throughout his life seemed hollow. The house in the 'burbs' and the shinny new car along with the 2.5 kids and the dog seemed like cruel jokes to him. They were all false images set up by capitalists and corporate leaders to push Proctor and Gamble, GMC and Maytag. He was questioning everything and those questions had lead him here instead of the beaches of Acapulco. Who was he and what did he really want? He wasn't sure anymore. He wanted something like this. Something like Burning Man, but he knew that this couldn't last. This was just a waking dream that would end eventually.

Bright pleaded with Bliss. "Come on Bliss, this will be fun, life is all about taking chances." Bright was short for Star Bright. She was Bliss' partner in crime in most things Burning Man. Bliss could not recall how many times they had passed out on the playa together or gotten each other out of tight spots on the past. Bright was trying to convince Bliss to accompany her to the Costco Soulmate Camp. It involved filling out a questionnaire and submitting it for data analysis to see which other Burner would be your soulmate. Bliss reluctantly agreed. Life moves on and so must she. She needed to focus on the future and not dwell on her past. be continued

Burning The Temple - Part 1
Burning The Temple - Part 2
Burning The Temple - Part 3
Burning The Temple - Part 4


Writers Note: The imagery and some of the events represented in this work of fiction were taken from my recent trip to the Burning Man Festival in 2009. To see more of my photographs from the event check out my Flickr Collection. To view my video documenting our trip to Burning Man, check out my You Tube channel. You can also check out the Burning Man Video Guide on my You Tube Channel as well. If you want to learn more, visit the Burning Man Website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Burning The Temple - Part 1

A Fictional Recollection In Four Parts

The dry lake bed glowed and swirled under the dust from hundreds of vehicles, countless feet and bicycle tires. Boy Scout had been waiting for about an hour as the long line of cars slowly crept toward the main gate to Burning Man. It was hot and the sun was starting to set. As the light faded, the glow from propane powered Playa art installations started to illuminate the fog bank of dust. Scout starred off into the distance at the surreal nature of it all. He had never been to Burning Man before, and despite his research into the festival, nothing could really prepare him for the size and the magnitude of the legion that he now found himself a part of.

The tap from the horn of the converted school bus behind him, prompted Scout to move forward in line. He still didn’t know what to expect once he got in, but in a way, that is what he wanted. He sensed a need to find the unknown and the unexpected. His life up to this point had been a series of disappointments. Bad jobs, failed relationships and a growing frustration about where his life was headed had led him here. He needed a vacation far away, not only in distance, but in mindset. He needed a new perspective.

Miss Bliss slumped on the dust covered sofa that had been set up around the propane fire pit at her camp. She had been working since the first day of the burn to erect some of her camp's art on the Playa. She had done all this before and she always came back. Neither the heat, or the dust, or hard labor could keep her away from the community that she loved so dearly. She popped the top on a beer and leaned back to look at the 40 foot high steel sculpture of the nude woman that adorned the front of ‘The Steel Forge’ camp.

She hadn't helped in the forging of the statue, but she was one of many that had a hand in its creation. Her day job was in the warehouse, moving large strips of steel and iron with an overhead crane and doing inventory. She was not an artisan like some of the welders, but she was learning. The metal figure loomed over their camp and was stunning in its beauty.

As she sipped the beer and allowed herself to relax, her mind wandered back to ‘Nob’. Nob couldn’t make it to Burning Man this year. Nob was dead, killed in a car accident 3 months earlier. He had been her lover at three previous burns, or so she had thought. He had been witty, good looking, hard working and full of energy. She also learned after his death, that he had a 5 year old son and a girlfriend in Sausalito. She wondered how many other secrets the world had hidden from her. As the wind started to rise and the dust started to swirl, she took one more gulp of beer and then covered her nose and mouth with her bandanna. Hard work kept her mind focused, so she returned to the semi-trailer to continue unloading the camp stores and setting up the kitchen.

It all seemed like total chaos, but there was electricity in the air. Scout continued to unload his SUV in a camp site on one of the outer rings of Black Rock City. Activity swirled all around him as old friends in neighboring camps greeted one another. New vehicles inched down the avenues that encircled the Playa to set up their camps. He struggled to erect the small geodesic dome that he had created in his garage back home. The on-line guides had warned him about flimsy tents and sand storms, so he hoped this solution would work. A dome had long been his dream of alternate housing to break the norm of the ticki-tack dwellings he had come to despise. As he worked in the growing darkness, the sounds from the center of the Playa grew louder and he could sense the fever pitch of the party atmosphere out on the expansive dry lake bed. He yearned to finish his structure and go exploring. be continued

Burning The Temple - Part 1
Burning The Temple - Part 2
Burning The Temple - Part 3
Burning The Temple - Part 4


Writers Note: The imagery and some of the events represented in this work of fiction were taken from my recent trip to the Burning Man Festival in 2009. To see more of my photographs from the event check out my Flickr Collection. To view my video documenting our trip to Burning Man, check out my You Tube channel. You can also check out the Burning Man Video Guide on my You Tube Channel as well. If you want to learn more, visit the Burning Man Website.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I've Changed

Plumage Display In The Burbs

We went to a going away party last weekend. Some friends of my wife have a son that is going into the Navy, so we all gathered to wish him good luck at the start of his journey into manhood. It was a nice little get together but it showed me something that I had totally forgotten about.

This barbecue was on the west side of town. We refer this these sections of the Phoenix metro area as the 'Sea of Sameness', because it is all track housing put up in large sub-divisions. The houses all look the same and are a bit run down. Most of them were built in the 1970s and they are showing their age. The neighborhood was pretty solid middle class, but like the rest of the nation, it has seen better days.

I used to live in this area. Before I met my wife and moved downtown into an historic neighborhood I was just another Sponge Bob in the Sea of Sameness. Living here entails long commutes to work, and shopping at a strip mall that either had a Safeway or an Albertsons. There isn't a lot of variation in the sea of sameness. Most residents buy what they are told they want, and own more vehicles than they need. They all have pools that they don't keep up, and the father's tend to have more toys then there children.

Going to the barbecue was a trip back down memory lane, and made me realize just how much I wasn't like these people anymore. First of all, they all smoked. I mean they smoked a lot. Where I live and work these days, smoking is a big no-no. You are pretty shunned if you do it. That was not the case at this little gathering. I counted no less than 10 packs of cigarette laying around and I saw at least $45 of the little cough'in nails go up in smoke. I can point my finger at these folks, because I used to smoke, and I quite. I pretty much lived on Marlboro Lights and Pitchers of Miller Beer while I was in college, but I have moved past that now. Most of these folks obviously hadn't.

The other thing I noticed were the wives. They were fat. I mean muffin top, hanging over their too-tight jeans fat. With hair died different colors and nose piercings, they weren't the sort of woman that I would find the least bit attractive. Fashion was not on their minds nor was spending any time in a hair salon trying to tame the muskrats on their heads. The lovely little model displaying her white thong on the blog graphic was the high point of fashion at this little gathering.

The final thing I noticed was the absolute addiction to technology that these people had. Every single one of them texted at least once while we were there during a 4 hour period of time. Many texted CONTINUOUSLY. Often times texting someone that was only 10 feet away, as though they were whispering in someones ear while they were conversing with someone else. Now, I have a Twitter account and a Facebook page along with a pretty sizable presence on the web, but this was a bit over the top. I might send 20 texts a month. These people were sending 20 a day, minimum. Technology has its benefits and its detractions. Put down the phone people and take a walk. Geezzz.

So in the end, I have changed. I was on track to become a member of this pack of lemmings, but something altered my course about 8 years ago and now I am in a totally different place. I am not sure what it was. Probably a growing frustration with the lifestyle that I found in the Sea of Sameness. Possibly a desire to find something more than the closed minds that my neighbors perpetuated. Definitely the fact that I found a good woman that knows how to dress without showing her underwear to the neighbors. I think I have changed for the better.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Essential Cinema - 48

On The Beach

Gregory Peck
Ava Gardner
Fred Astaire
Anthony Perkins

Stanley Kramer

Nevil Shute (novel)
John Paxton

The survivors of a nuclear holocaust gather in Australia to contemplate the end of their world.

Facing the inevitable and coming to terms with all the things we have done and have left to do.

I saw this film years ago and was impressed with it. I wanted to watch it again, since I am in the process of screening another film based on Shute's work called "A Town Like Alice". The second time around, I found the impact of this film far more intense than I initially remembered.

Released in 1959, the film starts with the premise that the Soviet Union and United States have obliterated each other with nuclear weapons, but that the Earth's southern hemisphere has been left physically unscathed. However, the radiation released from the war is slowing drifting down under and it is only a matter of time before the inhabitants of Australia are also extinct, along with the rest of the human race.

Into this mix comes the American Nuclear Submarine 'Sawfish'. The story follows the interactions between her captain, and the local officials as they try and determine what to do with the limited time they have left. This film touches on some profound issues regarding human perceptions of regret, duty and the lack of hope due to our past failures. In essence, all these characters are walking zombies, waiting for death to arrive. How each of them deals with that reality and the regrets of their past is what makes the film so engrossing.

Gregory Peck as the submarine captain and Fred Astaire as the nuclear scientist are racked with guilt over what their science and military have done to the human race. Ava Gardner's Moira must deal with her thoughts of abandonment, love unfulfilled and the impending loss of her last chance at happiness. Throw into this mix, the mystery of learning exactly what happened to their families back in the United State and strange radio signals coming from the radioactive wasteland of southern California and you have a two hour film that is hard to stop watching.

I am a big fan of this type of drama so I can't find a lot of cons with this film. There really isn't an ending to the film. After all, you already know the ending in the beginning....everyone is going to die. The film is all about what they learn and realize before the end comes. This film is somewhat simplistic in its view of the nuclear holocaust aftermath. Even when they make it back to America, there is little damage or sign of 'nuclear winter' as predicted in the 1970s. After watching this film, you will pause, take a walk in the woods and realize that there are things in all our lives that we need to address before it is too late.

This film is a part of my LaserDisc Collection which is located on the LaserDisc Database.

Clicking on the "Essential Cinema" title will take you to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) entry for this film. The listing of all the LaserDiscs that I have reviewed on IMDB can be found here.

Clicking here will take you to a listing of all the "Essential Cinema" reviews in my Blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over Thinking and Profiteering

Life Writes This Blog For Me

There was once a tribe of small African Bushmen. We used to call them Pygmies, but that has fallen out of fashion as being politically incorrect. So now they are vertically challenged indigenous peoples (VCIPs). The VCIP had a problem. They needed to cross a flowing river and since they are not tall enough to wade across it, and to unskilled in the art of swimming to swim across it, they sought assistance from outside sources.

So they sent out scouts to try and find others that could solve their problem for them. After several days, the scouts brought back an Over-Educated Profit Seeking Capitalist (OEPSC) from the land of concrete and steel, far, far away. The OEPSC looked over the VCIP's problem and came up with the perfect solution.

"What you boys need is the Saturn V Rocket Ship. It will lift you and your entire tribe high above the raging dangerous waters and parachute you safely to the other side. It will only take about 3 years to build and the cost to you can be spread out in installments over the next several generations.

This sounded wondrous and awe-inspiring to the under-educated VCIPs so they gladly signed over the mineral rights to their land and mortgaged the future of their children to construct the 50 story gleaming white tower that would lift then into the heavens and deposit them safely in the land across the river. After all, the land across the river looked much better than the land they had lived on for centuries.

Weeks, turned into months, and months into years. The rocket ship was delayed and restarted and changed over and over again. The dream of crossing the river became lost and the tribe foundered in debt and gave way to the commercialism, traffic, taxes and dissatisfaction that came with the industrialization around the launch site. The OEPSCs became rich from the VCIP labor and resources and had no motivation to finish the project anytime soon. The longer it took the more secure were their profits and success.

Several decades later, a young VCIP was chopping a tree next to the river bank with a sharp tool that has been discarded from the Saturn V project. He misjudged the cutting of the tall tree and much to his horror, it fell into the river. Well, actually, it fell across the river with the top on the other side. Stunned at what he had done, the young VCIP climbed on the tree, walked across the river and hoped down onto the other side. He ran down the bank to where they were building the Saturn V and yelled to his tribe across the river.

The rest of the VCIPs were stunned. They had never seen one of their kind on the opposite side of the river, and the Saturn V had not taken off yet. How could this be?

The young boy yelled...push it over, push it over....and pointed to the rocket ship. In a frenzy the tribe surged toward the Saturn V, much to the horror of the OEPSCs that were overseeing the project. As the rocket toppled over and spanned the river, the tribe went wild and ran over the stream into the fabled land of milk and honey.


This may all seem a bit of a farce, but this story came to me today while I was sitting in an hour long meeting at my office. The debate back and forth concerned what would be the best way to pigeon hole the collection of new data into our antiquated database system that was supposed to be scrapped five years ago. The easiest way would be to do the simplest thing to collect the data. But instead, they chose to build the rocket-ship.

It would appear that our ability as a society to see past all the technology that swirls around us has been lost and we now only search for more and more complex ways to do the simplest tasks. Once again, our technology has leaped-froged over the heads of most peoples' ability to comprehend it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am working in it.....just hold your horses...

Render Test

It has been almost three weeks since I posted much of anything. The reason? Well, I have been getting other stuff out of the way that has been lingering for quite a while.

I have recently finished developing most of the film images that I took at Burning Man 2009. The better ones are on my Flickr Account, if you want to check them out.

Besides the film, I have been trying to get my garage back in order after being turned into a Dome Manufacturing center for the Burning Man Dome Project.

Then where was the over seeding of the Rye grass in the front yard. Here in Arizona, if you want grass all year round you have to plant two different types of grass, one type in the spring and one in the fall. This year, my wife deceided that she wanted to really 'prepare' the lawn for the event, so we got a power rake and a power 'airator' for the yard from Home Depot. Seeing my wife work a power airator is something that I really should have caught on was hillarious.

Then on Saturday we took the grandson to the Arizona State Fair while his parents were helping someone move. This excursion re-enforced the fact that my wife and I are really old since the rides pretty much-darn near killed us. And that a young six year old full of cotton candy has the energy to power a small city until the sugar buzz wears off.

So hopefully, now that I am somewhat caught up, I can get back to writing some stuff. I have been working on several blog projects but they are somewhat lengthy, so their gestation time will be considerable.

So I will leave you with the sample rendering displayed above. Since there is no such thing a useless computer, just a slower computer, this is a test rendering done by my old iMac G3 that I have in the garage. This is a small animation that was created by an application called Bryce 4 which I set to render on Sunday afternoon. It took the machine about 2 hours to create it. A newer modern machine could have probably created it in 10 minutes. But since I just have to set it and walk away, I don't really care how long the iMac takes to generate it. This is something I might be doing more of in the future. This was just a test run and is nothing fancy. I just wanted to see how long the computer would take to genterate a complex image. More of my past computer animations can be seen on my YouTube Channel account.