Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Times They Are A Chang'in

Tinkering In The Background

I am going to be off line in the blog-o-sphere for a while. I will still be here reading, but I am going to be making some structural changes to my entire web-presence in the next week or so. You won't see a lot different in the layout of my blogs, but there will be some new / re-organized web content behind it all.

On another note, I have realized that I published my 300th blog recently. In looking back over some of the stuff I have written since 2004, I am particularly proud of some of the work that I have put out there. While a majority of it is medicore, some of it deserves a second look. Since many of you may never have gotten a chance to read some of the older posts, I am going to start recycling the better ones. I am calling this segment, 'First Friday Flashback'. On the first Friday of each month, I am going to dig up one of the golden oldies from my past blogs and repost it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview Me - Part II

The Laura Interview

Laura over at I Am The Diva wants to pick my here come my brain pickings


Okay, here's your interview!

In the movie of your life, who would play you and why?

Wow, hard to say. My first thought is Steve Buscemi, because he is off beat, no nonsense, can kick ass if needed and can get the job done...he is also fasinating to watch. My second thought would be Clint Eastwood, because when I grow old, I want to be just like him, real gritty and mean to folks (at least on screen).

If you could go back in time and have a conversation with your fifteen year old self, what kind of advice would you give?

This one made me laugh out loud, seriously. This might sound sexist, but I would primarly talk to my 15 year old self about women. It has taken me about 40 years to figure them out (their motivations, their desires, their fears, their loves, etc....) and it has been one hard road with a lot of bumps along the way. If I had known that at 15, my life would have been a lot eaiser with more happiness and fewer broken hearts.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you get close?

What I thought I wanted to be when I grew up isn't what I would want now. Age and experience have a way of tempering and forging a life that we could not understand as children. When I was a child, I wanted to be a railroad engineer or an archectect. Neither would have been good, although the railroad engineer still has some allure. As I have grown, I want to become an interperitor of things, through words, imagery and media. Someone that figures out how everything interconnects and interacts, not so much on a technical level, but on the human experience level. I suppose it would be something like a humane systems analyst. So how close did I come? Not even near the target.

There is a theory that you're either a Rolling Stones person or a Beatles person. Which are you and why?

Beatles, definately the Beatles. The Stones were good, but they were a bit too rebelious and angry. The Beatles were more about love and happiness and in the end, this is what I would rather listen to and emulate. At my age, 'Lady Madonna' and 'Eleanor Rigby' have much more meaning than 'Jump'in Jack Flash' or 'Sympathy for the Devil'.

If you could hang out with one person, real or fictional - alive or dead, for 24 hours, who would you pick and why?

I have often pondered this question. Einstein would be fun, and having tea and scones with Jesus Christ would be a hoot, but realistically, my father. I miss him and we would have a lot to talk about. Life is about living and what you have learned along the way. My dad lived a good life and I would want to compare notes to see how I have measured up and to tell him what I have learned since he left. The man taught me by example and never steered me wrong, I can't say that of anyone else in this life.


Ok, so to continue the meme follow these instructions:

Leave a note at the bottom of you post asking your readers if they want to be interviewed by yo u. You can do it like this -

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Man Of Letters

Whats In Your Wallet?

A previous blog (The Chasm Widens) got me thinking about our lives and how they are changing. As I was riding the free downtown shuttle (homeless bus) to my office this morning, it dawned on me that compared to the urban zombies seated next to me I had grabbed the brass ring. Instead of sleeping under a freeway overpass and shuffling off to the homeless shelter for a free breakfast, I was headed to my heated office with unlimited broadband access to the net.

In the old days, before the telephone and the transistor, you were known by the recommendations of others. When you traveled to a new town you went to the post office, or the bank and presented yourself based on the written recommendations of famous or well to do people that you knew. This was called 'being a man of letters'. The more impressive your collection of endorsements, the more reveered you were by your peers. Those days have been replaced with something entirely different, but at the core, they are the same.

Enclosed are pictures of my urban survival kit. My plastic Swiss Army Knife that opens doors for me in the urban jungle that many others can never enter. In the end, it appears that the sum of my life has been reduced to 3 1/4 by 2 inch plastic cards. Granted these cards are only of use in the urban setting that I dwell in (if you live on a farm, or a rural area they would be different) but they say a lot about how much I have attained and what I can do.

My Drivers License

I rarely use this anymore for it's 'intended' purpose, which is driving. It serves now as the state issued ID card so I can actually prove who I am since it has my picture and address on it. When ever I watch an episode of "Cops"....the first thing they always ask a driver for is his or her license, if they don't have one...RED FLAG. Cops seem to have a sixth sense about who has a license and who doesn't.

My Debit Card

Stop trying to read the numbers, I blurred them out. This is my primary form of currency in the modern world. It officially replaced money in my wallet about 14 months ago. I load up my savings and loan checking account each month and use this to drain it. No more funds, card no work.....that is my concept of a budget.

My YMCA Membership Card

Some might find this a bit of an odd choice, but this little card is a gold mine. In exchange for the monthly dues, I get perks that you cannot believe. A cheap place to stay in any major US city, unlimited hot water and towels, a swimming pool, a steam room, not to mention the exercise facilities. If I were to hitchhike or motorcycle across America, this is pretty much the only card I would need.

My Metro Card

This is actually one of those fancy cards with a little computer chip embedded inside of it. Since I work for a major employer in Arizona, I get one of these and it has pretty much replaced my need for a car. It gives me unlimited use of the Phoenix Bus and Light Rail system. I am charged HALF FARE (that is 50% off folks) and it is automatically deducted from my paycheck each month. So between this card and the YMCA card, I can go anywhere in town and always have a place to stay......sweet.

My Library Card

This may seem to be a pretty insignificant thing to have in this 'modern' age, however, you may not have been to a modern library recently. Besides being a WiFi hot spot where you can browse the web uninterupted by ringing phones and needy children, it is also a place where you can find limitless information (in hard copy), every Magazine ever printed, as well as DVDs and CD for any taste. Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster want to keep you out of this place at all cost. What they want you to do is buy this stuff from them for $24.99, but at the library you can get it for free.

My Benefit Options Card

The big Kahuana. The card that everyone should have but sadly, many folks don't. This is my health insurance card issued by my employer. It one of the primary reasons that I keep my job and put up with the never ending BS at work. Cheap health care. Something that becomes very important the older we get. You may not be able to see it on this image, but the co-pays on this plan are incredibly low. Something I have not used a lot in the past, but something my wife just loves. More than anything else, this card provides freedom from worry. Which is something that everyone in this country should have.

There are other cards that I own such as credit cards, passports and my Safeway Club card for food discounts, but they are either seldom used or luxuries that I can do without. The cards shown here are the 'letters' that indicate how far I have come and what I can do. When I hold them in my hand it all seems so strange that my life can be summed up in plastic. I am sure that eventually, they will all be replaced by something that fits on our fingernail.

So whats in your wallet/purse that defines your life?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Recommend Divorce

Compressed Disaster

I was reading a blog over at Mrs. Hall about the nightmares that we sometimes run into when we have to enter into other peoples homes in the course of our work. Often times in our search for a career we land in jobs that we never really intended to pursue. These jobs sometimes lead us into places that we did not know existed and wish we had never found out about.

In a previous career, I was an insurance claims adjuster. This job quickly teaches you one thing. No one likes insurance or claims adjusters. I often found myself making up stories at parties when folks I did not know asked me what I did for a living. If I ever told them I worked in insurance, I was bombarded with a list of questions about how their agent had screwed them and if it was legal. Sort of like being an oncologist. Everyone has a question about cancer.

As a claims adjuster, you only meet people who are in crisis. No claimants showed up at my office to give me a cake, or free movie tickets or say 'great job'. They usually showed up to spit in my face or serve me with a subpoena.

In the course of doing this line of work, I collected more horror stories than I can ever recount. The horror had more to do with the way people lived and perceived what was normal as opposed to the actual claims they expected payment for.

One such claim was a burned out shed in the back yard of a home in Yuma, Arizona. The shed held paint and tools and had caught fire. Simple enough claim, go out and measure the shed, verify what its contents were, apply some depreciation, subtract the deductable....ta-da....claim settled. Life is never that simple though.

I showed up at the home and was greeted by an elderly gentlemen who had a hard time getting around. He led me around the side of the house to the back yard and there was the shed, or what was left of it. So far, so good. I photographed the remains and measured it and then asked if we could go inside to add up the numbers. I followed him through the back door of the home and that is when things started to get a bit strange.

All through he house, there were these little clear plastic tubes running along the floor. They almost looked like clear spaghetti. I stepped over them on the way to the kitchen. The old man sat at the kitchen table and proceeded to put a set of the tubes in his nose. It was evident that he had emphysema and was on oxygen most of the time. As I followed the tubes to their terminus, there stood two 6 foot high oxygen cylinders in the corner of the kitchen. I never realized you could buy oxygen canisters that large.

As I started taking out the paperwork, what I assumed to be the old man's wife came shuffling into the kitchen to join us. That is when I noticed the second part of the equation. She was puffing on a cigarette as she sat down at the table. It was then that I looked more closely at the centerpiece on the kitchen table. It was huge and in fact was nothing more than an ash tray....with about 200 cigarette butts in it.

I looked at the man wheezing across the table, seated next to his smoking wife...and between the lite cigarette and the oxygen tubes in his nose was about 18 inches.

It quickly dawned on me, that the house could go up at any minute. Never mind the fact that this man could barely breath and his wife was blowing smoke in his face. The idea of that much open flame near that much compressed / explosive gas sort of made my heart skip a beat. If the shed fire had spread to the house, half the neighborhood would have been blown away.

I added up the figures as soon as I could and got the hell out of there.

The lesson learned here is that these folks were not out of the norm or freaks. I ran across these types all the time in the course of adjusting insurance claims. These are the types of lessons you can't learn about in school or from a book. This is where bad choices will lead you. Into an old oxygen tent with a smoking spouse to wait for the grime reaper.

We all need to have jobs like this at some point in our lives, to give us perspective and teach us some lessons. What I worry about more than anything else, is not the old folks living with the oxygen canisters, but the thousands of folks that I have encountered since, that don't know they are there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Interview Me

The Meghan Interview

In my never ending quest for fame and fortune, I dared a fellow blogger to interiew me and much to my surprise she took me up on the challenge. So without further delay here is Meghan's interview of yours truely. Geeez, I am a fascinating person......

1.) Why three different blogs, why not just one?

I am glad you asked. Actually, there are only two blogs. "Hypocrisy" and the "Alternate View". The 3rd blog was a joint venture that was put together by a friend of mine that spent the summer in Italy, which I had little to do with. The original blog was "Hypocrisy" that was started back in 2004. It's initial purpose was a place to vent about stuff that was pissing me off. (still is to a certain extent). It wallowed in obscurity for several years before I finally figured out what to do with it. I have been writing on it pretty consistently since about 2006. What it has morphed into over the years is basically a 'life's lessons' sort of blog. Something akin to a never ending tombstone, where people can come when I am long gone from this earth and have some sort of idea of what shaped my views and the lessons that I had learned. I try not to write about stuff from a first person point of view but rather to observe things and then try and find a way that they relate to all of us, or affect all of us in some way. It has been an interesting journey so far.

The second blog, "Alternate View" is relatively new and is an ongoing experiment to see the world in an artistic if not alternate way. I was experimenting with my cell phone one day and the concept of using it to upload images to my blog. Since it was evident that the little bugger has a lot of media capability (photo, video, audio) I thought I would use it as a 'brush' to paint some art on a blog. It has it's limits but it also makes me try and see the world in a different light.

Where "Hypocrisy" tends to be about writing and the written word, the "Alternate View" was meant to be mostly visual, brief and simple.

2.) You changed your blog hand awhile back from Lotus to Bruce, explain?

Hmmm, really not sure. Bruce is my real name, and Lotus07 has always been my e-mail / blogger ID / License plate. I suppose it was the fact that when I read the comments in most other blogs, it was much more personal a comment if the person's name actually appeared next to the comment and not something like 'Super Hunky Space Monkey'.

3.) Do you find taking photographs with a cell phone allows you to see more of your day to day life as possible images than you look for, or is it just more convenient than carrying an SLR around :P ?

The cell phone is always there, so it is handy, but like I stated, it has limits on what it can do. It does make me try and look for the things around me in a different way, sort of like 'stopping to smell the roses' sort of thing. I have a bunch of film cameras from SLRs to view cameras that are very bulky but offer much more creative control. The cellphone is like a sketch pad as opposed to a real canvas. You can be more spontaneous and creative with it, and since it is digital, any mistakes cost you nothing. Unlike a film camera, where you spend money every time you click the shutter. For those pictures, I have the "My POV" series in "Hypocrisy" where I post the actual film that I have shot. There are a lot of pictures I take with the cellphone that get deleted and never make it to the blog.

4.) You seem to have pretty eclectic taste in music, what would be on your perfect road trip cd?

Wow....hard question to answer. Depends where I am going and what I a will be doing and what I am driving. I have an expensive sports car that I take out on the open road on rare occasions, but when I do, I don't listen to anything, instead opting to listen to the engine to try and hear if anything is about to break. On a long road trip in a nice car, I would usually take an iPod with about 5 or 6 days worth of music on it (as in over 140 hours of music) and listen to it by 'genre' such as Cinema Soundtracks, or Rock or Classical. If I am heading to "Burning Man", it would usually be industrial strength techno, if I am heading to L.A. in the Lotus it would be probably be James Bond, if I were heading to Disneyland, probably the soundtrack to Mary Poppins.... you get the idea.

5.) Any New Years resolutions you would care to share?

I sort of gave up on those. It is always the same one as the years before. Get my act together. I know what I have to do to move forward in my life. The only two issues that stand in my way are the road blocks that others put in my way, and the road blocks that I put in my own way. Just concentrating more on the things that are important to me and my wife and focusing less on the bullshit that other folks throw in our way in the form of work / family and governmental problems. It is a never ending struggle and I don't think there will ever be a resolution to any of them anytime soon, so why make a resolution about them?

If anyone else wants to join in on the fun, make a comment on this blog and indicate that you want me to interview you, along with your e-mail address and I will put on my best Baba Wawa impersonation and send you some interesting questions to answer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Essential Cinema - 42

The Beatles Anthology

Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr
John Lennon
Neil Aspinal
George Martin
Derek Taylor

Bob Smeaton, Geoff Wonfor

None (Interviews)

None (Archival Footage)

The history of the "The Beatles" from their boyhood home in Liverpool to the end of the group in 1969.

A walk down memory lane for all the baby boomers, set to music. A look at how the lads from Liverpool shaped pop culture, and in turn were shaped by the world that they documented in song.

Since I was under the weather for most of the 2009 New Year's Eve Holiday, I decided to plop this LaserDisc Documentary into the Laserdisc player and watch all 12 sides of it. It is approximately 9 hours long and covers pretty much everything you would want to know about the Beatles. The Beatles were a big influence in my life. I have owned every one of their albums and even recall having an original copy of "Love Me Do" on 45rpm record back in the mid 60s. This documentary covers almost every facet of the group from it's beginning to it's demise and everything that happened in between.

I refer to them as 'it' because the focus of the documentary is on the group and not so much on the individuals within it. The personal stories of the members are focused on how they affected the group and the direction of their music. The personal lives of the band, with the exception of John and Yoko are never mentioned. The wives, lovers and children of the other band members and how they affected the direction and artistry of the band are absent.

The documentary is long on musical interludes showcasing the bands talent as it grew and changed over the years. This could be a bit tedious if not for the fact that most of the songs are not the versions released to the public. Many of the songs are studio tracks done in rehearsal that sound very much like the versions we are used to, but with slight differences. What becomes evident in this film is the huge amount of archival material that is available about the Beatles, much of which has never been seen.

I found myself reminiscing a lot while watching this and was entertained by the details of their time line that I did not know before (which events affected which albums and songs, etc). This film makes it easy to identify with each member and understand what they were going through during much of the creative process. At the end of the documentary there is a new Beatles song called "Free As A Bird", made from a vocal track that the late John Lennon had laid down years ago. While not a great song, it is haunting. The video that accompanies it has a visual reference to almost every Beatles song written and is like watching a "Where's Waldo" of the Beatles music library.

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

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