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Time To Leave.

The Vanderbilt University campus is a national arboretum. When my mother was a student at what was then Peabody College—it’s since been incorporated into Vanderbilt—she took a botany class and had to collect the leaves of one hundred different trees. The professor directed the class to Vanderbilt and said, “Trust me. You won’t have any trouble.” And just a few years ago a friend of mine was visiting Nashville and I gave him a tour of the campus, which I really enjoy doing. He kept looking at all the trees and green spaces and saying, “This is what a college campus should look like!” He works for another university that shall remain nameless, but that’s another story.

Among Vanderbilt’s many trees are several gingko trees, including at least one that’s over a hundred years old, so here’s my final entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, which I call, Gingko? Why Don’t You Go?

Thanks to Tom Being Tom for nominating me and now it’s time to go out on a song.


The other day the power went out in my office. Everything went dark and I yelled “Yay!” which made several people laugh. Then someone said, “I’ll call the building manager,” someone else said, “I’ll get a flashlight”, and I said, “Nick! Heath! Jared! There’s a fire in the barn!” and several people laughed again and my boss yelled “Quit encouraging him!” but that’s another story. Everything came back on a few minutes later—well, almost everything. The elevators were shut down for about an hour. By a very lucky coincidence no one was in any of the elevators at the time. Whenever there’s a power outage or even just a problem with the elevators it reminds me that in movies or TV shows whenever people are trapped in an elevator they always climb out through the escape hatch in the roof and yet I’ve never been in an elevator that had an escape hatch I could see, and even if I could I’m too short to reach the ceiling, let alone climb out through it. So if I’m ever trapped in an elevator I’ll probably just sit around jabbing buttons which inspired my penultimate entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, one I like to call Getting Pushy.

And if you’re taking part in the Black & White Photo Challenge feel free to plug your own blog below.

Source: gfycat


Advertising Is The Pits.

The Wakino Ad Company drew attention Tuesday for renting ad space to clients on the armpits of female models. The company is owned by Liberta, a cosmetic line that sells products for the underarm in Japan.

The ads are only visible once the model raises her arm.

International Business Times

Scene: The conference room of Acme Advertising. KEVIN, company CEO, sits at the head of the table. Other characters will be named as they speak.
Kevin: Good morning. I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here.
David: This is our regular Monday pitch meeting.
Kevin: Lately I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. I just haven’t come up with any new ideas. You may have noticed.
Lucy: Yes, we’ve gotten a lot of work done.
Kevin: Then I remembered something my father said to me when he left me this company. He took me aside and said, ‘Dolores, never lose touch with the common man.’ I thought he meant the stablehands, but he added, ‘If you’re ever at a loss for ideas go down to the streets. Ride the buses and the subway. See how normal people live.’ So I got on my chartered jet and went to London, the closest city I could think of with a subway.
David: We’re in New York.
Kevin: The weather’s been unusually warm there lately and one afternoon while I was riding a particularly packed train I stood next to a woman in a sundress who was holding onto the overhead rail and I became mesmerized, transfixed, and very interested in her armpit.
Michael: Why–?
Lucy: You don’t want to know.
Kevin: It was broad and flat and I thought, there’s something about that space. Where do you normally see armpits?
Sheila: Deodorant commercials.
Kevin: Exactly! Public transportation! You know, we’ve put a lot of advertising in subway stations, in subways themselves, on buses. Where else can we put them?
Denise: Well, you had that idea to put ads on the seats last year.
Kevin: Exactly! Armpits! Now we need to move quickly on this because this is strictly a summer campaign. I can’t think of anyone crazy enough to go around in a tank top in the winter.
Lucy: I can.
David: Well, you know the old saying: opinions are like armpits. Everybody’s got a couple ad some of them stink.
Kevin: Let’s look at our clients: deodorants, body washes, razors, soaps, yogurt…
Michael: Why–?
Lucy: Just let him go with it.
Kevin: Lucy, you seem especially on board with this.
Lucy: Like it’s the Titanic.
Kevin: That’s the spirit! You’ve all got some hard work ahead but if this goes as well as I think it will there’ll be some big bonuses in everyone’s future. And if it doesn’t go that well there’ll be some big bonuses in everyone’s future.
Lucy: That’s why we stick with you, Kevin.

Source: Giphy

There’s A Way Out.

My Scout troop once went spelunking in a wild cave. I’d been to Mammoth Cave and Cumberland Caverns and thought caves were really cool–although after seeing the movie The Descent I may not ever go in a cave ever again, but that’s another story—but those hadn’t prepared me for the darkness and strangeness of a cave that could only be entered through a narrow crevice that swallowed the beams of our flashlights. We had a guide leading us, by the way—the cave was wild but had been thoroughly explored by professionals. Amateur spelunking is a bad idea which we were reminded of when we came into a large room. At its center was a stalagmite that had been built to about four feet high by the slow drip of mineral-rich water from the ceiling. Then, at some point, the water’s composition changed and began to wear away the stone so the top of the stalagmite was now a shallow basin.

“We call this Injun Joe’s Altar,” the guide told us. I had just read The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer so this was very eerie.

Anyway here’s today’s entry in the Black & White Photo Challenge, a little number I call Overarching Concerns.


There’s a Plaza Art Store in downtown Nashville, near Third Man Records. I like to browse there and look at all the unusual art supplies and think about what I might create if I had any talent. They have spray paint in a dizzying array of colors and used to have a sign up that said they’d need the ID of anyone who bought spray paint and would keep the information on file. It’s gone now—I guess they don’t need to anymore, but I wonder why it was ever a policy. Yes, I know, spray paint is the tagger’s medium of choice, but would the store really be liable? I get that vandalism is a crime but no one ever died from graffiti, and really the original Vandals weren’t all that bad, but that’s another story.

That sign also made me think about the legendary explosion of graffiti in New York in the ’80’s and how many of the artists, including Lee Quiñones and Keith Haring, earned respect and became well-known and collected artists, something that might not have happened if they hadn’t risked being arrested for graffiti.

The graffiti above is near that art store in Nashville and I like it because it’s really well done and also because the way its colors and lines overlap makes me think about how, in my own head, questions about the value of graffiti and public versus private space and the impulse to create art overlap and change.

Under The Sea.

Source: Wikipedia

When I tell people I’m a fan of Aquaman they laugh and say, “Nobody’s a fan of Aquaman.” Who’s been buying his comic books all these years then? I want to ask but then I remember in the ‘80’s there was a comic book buying bubble when every comic would double or triple in price within a week of hitting the rack and some people were buying everything. Anyway I have an older friend who started collecting comics when he was a kid in the ‘50’s and I said to him that I’d like to see an Aquaman movie. “Aquaman’s just not a strong enough character,” he said, and that’s when it hit me that I’ve always been a fan of the idea of Aquaman even though I’ve never read an Aquaman comic. I don’t know what villains he fights, although plastic, oil tankers, and whaling ships are probably high on the list. I didn’t read comics at all when I was a kid, really. My parents didn’t object to comics—as far as I know they weren’t fans of Estes Kefauver—but I didn’t know where to find comic books. I grew up in the suburbs and if there was a corner drugstore with a comic book rack then it was not only far out of even my wide-ranging explorations but it was a drugstore we never went to. Even my neighborhood friends who had comic book collections had inherited them from older relatives. My main exposure to comic book heroes was through cartoons, and even there Aquaman was mostly absent. He was part of the Super Friends but it seemed like he showed up so rarely he was more of a Super Acquaintance or even a Super Remind Me Where We Know That Guy From.
When my friends were old enough to drive we’d travel across town to one of the comic book shops, which were a new discovery for me, but the comics I collected were mostly new indie titles and I didn’t think to pick up Aquaman comics because I didn’t want to dive into an established comic. It wasn’t because, as my friend said, he’s not a strong enough character—even with those green tights and bright orange pullover. I didn’t know anything about his character and it’s not as though any superhero’s identity has to be fixed. And it’s not because of the running joke that Aquaman’s powers are that he can breathe underwater and talk to fish. Those are actually some pretty impressive powers and anyone who doesn’t think so is missing that the Earth’s surface is mostly water.
The oceans are where life originated and even after the first multicellular life appeared, some time between 1.2 billion and 900 million years ago, it was only 500 million years ago that the first organisms came out of the water. The oceans are the source of all life on Earth and life on Earth still depends on it. And yet for most of human history we’ve literally been skimming the surface of the oceans. What we knew of deep sea life came from what fishermen brought up or the occasional specimen that floated up because it was dead or dying. There was a common belief in the Middle Ages that there was a whole undersea society of fish people, that everyone on land had an aquatic counterpart, which was easy to believe because there was no evidence to the contrary and it was also fun to point at a knight eating a large piece of swordfish and yell “Cannibal!” but that’s another story.
The first real submersibles date from the late 1700’s, but when Jules Verne first published 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in 1870 the idea of a submarine like the Nautilus was still science fiction. In 1930 the first bathysphere was designed and built by the engineer Otis Barton, assisted by the naturalist William Beebe. It was a hollow metal ball on a string–not exactly high tech, although it was specially built for going deep. Before taking a ride themselves they sent it down on an unmanned trial run and got a grim reminder of how dangerous ocean pressure is: the craft sprung a small leak and when they opened the hatch a strong jet of water shot out over the deck. After patching everything they made their first nervous descent to 803 feet. They may not have been the first people to descend to that depth but they were the first to make it back alive. Beebe described creatures of the deep, never before seen in their natural habitat, that were so weird other naturalists thought he was making them up and they were disappointed there were no fish people even though it meant they could eat salmon with a clear conscience.
Aquaman’s first appearance in comics was in November 1941, almost a year before Jacques Cousteau would secretly test the first open-circuit scuba gear which opened up a little more ocean exploration and promised more but even now, even with specialized equipment, human divers are limited to a few hundred feet. It wasn’t until 1960 that the bathyscaphe Trieste, piloted by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, made the first dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, so far down that if you cut off Mount Everest at its base and dropped it down there its peak would be a mile under water. It’s so deep, so far from sunlight, that it was assumed nothing could live there, and yet there is life–even seasonal life affected by what drifts down from above. Decades later we’ve explored more of the ocean but it’s still difficult to get down there. More people have walked on the surface of the Moon than have been to the Challenger Deep, and the only way that depth record can be broken is if somebody goes down there and digs a hole.
Aquaman can go anywhere, to any depth, at great speed, and come back up without having to stop and decompress. And he can talk to fish while he’s down there because he doesn’t need any bulky equipment blocking up his face. Still think he’s too lame to be a superhero?
Yeah, I think Aquaman is cool because I love the ocean and love to swim and wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid, but there’s something else. We’ve finally started to get greater cultural and gender diversity in superheroes but Aquaman adds ecological diversity in a way that’s subtler and smarter than that unbelievably stupid Captain Planet cartoon of the early 1990’s that is currently resting where it belongs, in a hole at the bottom of the Challenger Deep. And Marvel Comics has its equivalent of Aquaman–his fish person–in Namor Of Atlantis, who’s an interesting character, a brooding anti-hero who wreaks havoc on landlubbers because of our mistreatment of the oceans, but then Namor isn’t human. He’s immortal and laughing in the face of death loses its punch if you’re not in any danger of dying. Aquaman, at least originally, was the child of a scientist and his mastery of the oceans is a throwback to the water that first gave us life, and that we still depend on. Aquaman reminds us that what happens in the sea affects the land and vice versa. When we harm the oceans we are the villains of our own story.
And, by the way, there’s an Aquaman movie coming.

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