The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

A Sense Of Place.

Something I only thought about recently is how, when curators or even dealers are designing art exhibits, they have to be conscious of how each work is positioned. It’s even kind of funny to me to think that, among all the college art courses I either took or just saw in the catalog “How To Design An Exhibit” was never one of them, and that definitely seems like something that could be made into an entire course. At the very least some training in it would be helpful for art history majors going out into the world hoping to grab a job at a museum or gallery. Some choices seem obvious but it still seems like being able to say, “Well, I know not to put a Seurat in a hallway” would give you some edge in a job interview.

I also think about artists like Denyse Thomasos, who’s getting a bit of a revival lately, and whose paintings often dealt with the themes of of slavery and the African diaspora, and who purposely made big paintings so details would be clearly visible, as well as giving a sense of the inescapable, since she was trying to convey the experiences of people who were trapped. Placing a big painting requires careful thought. Then again so does placing a small painting. How much wall space is there? How much space should be between paintings? How high on the wall should a painting be placed?

Add to all these considerations the fact that that most exhibit spaces are designed to guide you from point A to point B–the more walls the more display space there is, and some exhibits try to tell some kind of story. Even if they don’t a good curator has to be aware that what people see first is going to influence what they see next, and it’s important to keep them moving. You don’t want to put the best work first or people will either stop or feel let down by the time they get to the end, if they don’t just leave. And it should be really obvious that you want to provide a clear view without anything in the way.

 

Ticks Ticks Boom.

So far this year I’ve found three ticks on me, and it’s not even summer yet even though it’s already starting to feel like summer. And while one of those ticks was on my back, because they like to go for hard-to-reach places, I found the other two in my hair, probably because it was convenient. Ticks like to hang out on low-lying branches, and just getting there must be a pretty impressive feat for a creature that’s less than a quarter of an inch long, and they seem to do it pretty quickly too. Imagine climbing to the top of Mount Everest in a matter of hours. Now imagine climbing to the top of Mount Everest from the bottom of the Mariana Trench and then having to walk west to east across Iowa in just a few hours. This is nothing like what the tick has to do because they don’t need special breathing equipment or even a backpack because all they need is tightly packed into their compact bodies which explains why they make such a satisfying popping sound when you crush them. And once they’re in position they can sense a potential host by its carbon dioxide emissions, ammonia, other chemicals, and even sweat and body heat with a special body part called Haller’s organ, and I wish whoever Haller was would take it back.

Ticks can carry diseases and their bites can cause infections and if that weren’t enough reason to hate them a tick almost ruined my first camping trip when I was eleven. I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and I picked what seemed like a convenient tree and apparently the tick thought it was convenient too because when I woke up the next morning there it was fastened between my legs, so of course I did what seemed most logical at the time and ignored it for the next two days hoping it would drop off and not take anything other than some of my blood with it. It probably would have eventually but by Sunday afternoon I was getting impatient and more than a little worried so I took the bull by the horns, or rather the tick by the carapace, which is actually more impressive even if it doesn’t sound as cool, and yanked it out. And everything was fine until the area where it had been swelled up and turned a horrifying shade of cerise. My mother called the doctor who advised rest and applying a towel soaked in salt water to the area, which was probably a placebo, but I got to skip school that Monday so some good came out of it.

I also have a certain respect for ticks. Although they’re not nearly as impressive as their arachnid cousins, the spiders, they are pretty remarkable in their ability to survive and locate prey. It’s also unfortunate that they sometimes latch onto humans because we’re more likely to find and destroy a tick before it can complete its meal and move on to another host. Imagine you wanted a steak and accidentally got an entire cow. Now imagine that cow was the size of the Sears Tower and that it stepped on you. This is nothing like what a tick experiences and the popping sound you’d make wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.

It’s Enough To Give You A Headache.

Our migraine medication is safe and non-addictive.  It’s also so effective it can prevent or treat a migraine if taken up to an hour after your first symptoms, which is at least how long it will take you to open the package.

For your convenience each pill is in its own blister pack. The term “blister pack”, by the way, doesn’t refer to the way each pill is enclosed in a miniature package. It was conceived by our testing department after they decided calling it a “slip under your fingernails and cause excruciating pain pack” or “slice your arm open when the knife that’s the only thing sharp enough to pierce it slips pack” would be too long for the standard design manual.

Because we know one of the symptoms of migraines is sensitivity to light we’ve purposely coated the entire raised side of the blister pack with a highly reflective metal foil. This will make the package easy to find at three a.m when you realize that half glass of red wine you had at dinner was a mistake. You were sure would be okay, of course, because it’s been six months and you had a really rough week, but you’ve now got the warning signs of increasing pressure behind your eyeballs and zigzags across your field of vision which look sort of like reflected light.

This will also allow you to see each individual pill pocket without, of course, being able to see the pills themselves which, we’ve only just realized, makes it hard to know exactly where the pills are. To determine the location of the pills just shake the packet.

Since another symptom of migraines is vision problems which can mean hallucinations, difficulty focusing, or partial or even total blindness we really should have stopped to think before we printed the instructions for removing the pills in tiny print on each individual packet on the opposite side which is made of white cardboard reinforced with plastic. For convenience we’ll reprint the instructions here: Apply gentle pressure to force the pill out of the packaging.

We realize that “gentle pressure” is a relative term and that between the foil that can only be cut with heavy-duty shears and the reinforced cardboard is so tough your efforts to get the pill out of the packaging will probably grind it to a powder. We do not recommend trying to take the medication in powder form. For one thing you probably won’t be able to get enough of it into your mouth to make an effective dose. For another this medication is extremely bitter which will trigger or worsen the nausea which, we’ve just remembered, is another symptom of migraines.

Sometimes the pill will pop out of the packaging with the application of pressure but will snap in half. If this happens don’t worry, unless the half that pops out skitters across the floor and is picked up by your pet or toddler. Should they ingest even a partial pill we recommend you call your local poison control center immediately and also induce them to vomit. This shouldn’t be difficult since you’ll already be vomiting yourself because you’ve got a migraine. But feel free to take the other half of the pill once you’ve managed to peel away enough of the foil/cardboard.

You may be wondering why we chose to package the migraine medication in this way and it’s because we’re all about safety. Also someone in the design department was up late one night and stumbled on the Wikipedia page for the Chicago Tylenol murders and got kind of freaked out.

It might also be that the average migraine sufferer only experiences an average of two to four attacks per month. Any more than that and you’d want to take something stronger, like one of our high level pain medications which, we admit, have been shown to be highly addictive and have even led to overdoses, but which, because we care, are conveniently packaged in the traditional amber plastic bottle with a newly redesigned easy-to-open screw-top lid.

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to it or if you are unable to open the package.

Rejected by McSweeney’s.

Perennially Annual.

Facts About Dandelions:

  1. The common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is native to Europe and was introduced to North America some time in the late 18th century.
  2. Although technically an invasive species dandelions in North America don’t pose a threat to native plants and animals and are an important source of nectar to bees and other insects.
  3. Dandelions are edible in their entirety and given the ease with which they can be grown could be an important food source.
  4. A form of latex has been produced from cultivated dandelions that’s of the same quality of that produced by South American rubber trees but without the same environmental concerns.
  5. Dandelion seeds have been an inspiration to engineers who have produced small windborne sensors that can travel long distances.
  6. Dandelions are a sign of a diverse, healthy lawn.
  7. If you blow all the seeds off a dandelion head and make a wish it will come true if your wish if for more dandelions.
  8. Dandelion seeds are an important food source for many birds.
  9. My neighbor Kevin hates it when people blow dandelion seeds on or near his lawn and, really, do you need another reason?
  10. Dandelion wine, made famous by Ray Bradbury’s novel, is easy to make and will make you really popular at parties.
  11. Dandelions have never lured small children into the sewer and devoured them. You’re thinking of azaleas.
  12. Dandelion roots, when dried and powdered, can be used as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.
  13. Dandelions are actually more closely related to housecats.
  14. The taproot of dandelions brings up nutrients for other shallow-rooting plants, making it an ideal companion plant.
  15. Dandelions were arrested on suspicion of selling knockoff foundation garments in 1923 but were ultimately cleared of all charges.
  16. In Belgium dandelions are known as dandepangolins.
  17. Dandelions are an uncredited scriptwriter for the 1936 film adaptation of the musical Show Boat, directed by James Whale.
  18. No one’s sure what dandelions do at night or why the shoes you left by the back door had moved three feet to the left in the morning.
  19. Dandelions swept the 1987 World Croquet Championships in Paramaribo.
  20. Dandelions are excellent swimmers. How do you think they got from Europe to North America?
  21. Dandelions pay back loans in a timely manner and with interest.
  22. Dandelions know what you did. Don’t worry–they’re not going to tell.
  23. Dandelions will always let you sit in the window seat on the airplane so you can see the Grand Canyon.
  24. If dandelions invite you out you should go. Seriously, you may not remember it but that crumpled up receipts you find in your jeans the next morning for two bottles of quality scotch, four hundred Twinkies, and a hot air balloon ride make you think it was a great night.
  25. Dandelions did not take down Benny “The Nose” Lewis in the infamous St. Dymphna’s Day Massacre. Again you’re thinking of azaleas.
  26. They’re lions and they’re dandy, hey, what’s not to like?
  27. Dandelions are high in vitamins. Probably. I don’t know which ones but you could look it up.

Source: Imgur

The Deadline Is My Watermark.

Source: www.fromoldbooks.org

One of the advantages professional writers have is the deadline. I think that’s true, anyway. I’ve never been a professional writer, at least in the sense that I’ve never gotten a steady paycheck for writing. I have written a few pieces for magazines that needed me to turn in my work by a specific time, but they didn’t pay me, but most of my writing has been done without a specific publication or even necessarily a specific market in mind, which explains why, among my collection of rejection letters, is a really nice one that said, “Thank you for your astronomy-themed poems. We enjoyed them a lot and wish you the best of luck but we don’t feel they’d be right for our publication. Sincerely, the editors of Trout Fishing Monthly.”

I realize deadlines can cause a lot of anxiety, especially for anyone experiencing writer’s block, even if it’s self-imposed. But the advantage of a deadline is that facing the empty page can be really scary, even for those of us who want to write. The impulse to write stems from an inner voice that says, “I have something to say!” Which is fine as long as it’s drowning out that other inner voice that’s saying, “Who cares?” and “Why do you think you’re special?” and, occasionally, “What is reality?” In fact I believe it’s the desire to turn up the volume on the former and try and drown out the latter that motivates all writers, or at least all who want to write for an audience other than themselves—even those who pursue careers as ghostwriters or doing low level journalism like obituaries, although in their case the voice they’re trying to amplify seems to be saying, “I have something to say! I just have no idea what it is and I don’t care if I get credit for it!” but that’s another story.

And the other advantage of a deadline, one that’s externally imposed by an editor or publisher, is you have someone outside of you saying, “Okay, you have something to say, so let’s hear it!” And occasionally adding, “By Monday at the latest or we’re going to ask you to pay back that advance we sent you and that you’ve already blown on coffee, rent, and a really expensive nose hair trimmer which you bought even though it didn’t seem like a good idea even at two a.m. when you were hopped up on allergy medication.”

So anyway the Manuscript Writing Café just opened in Tokyo, Japan, and I want to go there even though I already had plenty of reasons for wanting to visit Tokyo, because I’m fan of cafes, coffee shops, or other places that offer a space to write or work on other creative projects with the added benefit of having food and beverages that I don’t have to worry about preparing myself. If you recognized the reference to Henry Miller’s essay “The Angel Is My Watermark”, in which, overcome by a vague but insistent inspiration, he went out to a café determined to just sit and drink quietly and ended up writing all over the tablecloth, give yourself five bonus points. If you didn’t give yourself ten bonus points because, well, who would recognize that?

The Manuscript Writing Café offers writers and other artists an extra bonus: you have to book time there, you have to come in with a specific goal, and you can request “verbal pressure” from the staff—they even have different levels, and you can’t leave until you’ve finished your writing goal. Or until the place closes which does take some of the pressure off no matter how much you’ve asked the staff to come out and yell at you.

It’s a funny idea but I also like that it was very likely started by, I’d even say inspired by, someone who felt the pressure but was still struggling to write and who said, “There’s a need for a place like this!” and they were heard.

Signs Of Spring.

Spring is a time of awakening.

The first and most obvious sign is the days getting longer. Sunset is later each day, sunrise is earlier each morning. The sun seems brighter too, moving in a higher arc across the sky. The birds that have been quiet for months start greeting the day, and singing throughout.

The days are warmer, temperatures rising steadily.

With the warmer weather the grass has started to grow rapidly, forming high clumps in some spots and a lush, level green carpet in others, dotted with the purples of violets, larkspur, and henbit, and the bright yellow of dandelions.

Looks like the poison ivy is back too.

The dandelions form cottony heads then send their seeds sailing out into the world.

Leaves start to bud out from trees, oaks forming tassels that dangle and blow in the breeze.

Cars, driveways, and streets are covered with a yellow-green powder as the budding trees spread their pollen.

You could get allergies just from looking at it.

Spring storms are especially intense. Powerful thunderheads sweep across the country propelled forward by high winds.

A light sprinkle turns into a heavy downpour. The sky darkens and then, suddenly, a crack of lighting illuminates everything brilliant white.

It’s hail all right.

Creeks and other waterways overflow, yards are sodden.

The next day the sun comes out as though none of it happened, but there are puddles where robins, bluejays, and cardinals splash and play.

Why is there a bumblebee in the basement? It probably won’t sting if I duck around it and it seems fixated on the bulb in the ceiling, but, still, why?

I should do something about that spare tire. The one in the backyard that collects rainwater, but also the one that hangs over my belt.

Then a new morning dawns and with it a new sensation. Just below the ribs. Itching.

Oh, great, of course, this early in the season and I’ve already got mosquito bites.

All this awakening makes me want to go back to bed.

Marching On.

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but sometimes…

March comes in like a lamb and then starts tearing up the place like a lion and who knows when it’s getting out of here?

March comes in mad as a hare and goes out like a sleeping dormouse.

March comes in like a mushroom and goes out like a marshmallow.

March comes in like your boss with a really bad hangover and goes out like someone from Human Resources.

March comes running in to tell everyone the circus is coming and slinks out when it admits the circus won’t be here until June.

March comes in like the New York Marathon with everybody excited to get started and ends like the New York Marathon with only about a quarter of the people who started and they’re all exhausted and just glad it’s over.

March comes in like it forgot its keys and goes out like it really wants to know when the locksmith is going to get here.

March comes in like a crocodile and goes out like one of those frilled lizards that run around on their hind legs.

March comes in like the Superbowl and goes out like your kid’s soccer game.

March comes in like lava—something the movies you saw on TV when you were a kid made you think was going to be a much bigger concern when you were an adult—and goes out like quicksand—something else the movies you saw on TV when you were a kid made you think was going to be a much bigger concern when you were an adult.

March yells at you to get off its lawn, but why? You’re walking on the other side of the street.

March comes in and sets the curtains on fire but also does the dishes.

March comes in and everyone pretends to be really busy until it leaves.

March comes in like a Jackson Pollock painting and goes out like a clown painted on velvet.

March comes in like that guy in that movie that you recognize from that other thing but you just can’t remember his name and goes out like someone doing an ad for reverse mortgages.

March comes in like Chinese takeout and goes out like a pizza delivery.

March makes like a tree and leaves you with excruciating allergies.

March comes to your dinner party with a cheap bottle of wine and leaves with an expensive one.

March knew it came in here for a good reason but can’t remember what it was.

March comes in like a raccoon in your garbage can and goes out like a possum under your porch.

March comes in like a string of expletives and goes out exegetically.

March punches you in the back of the neck then buys you a drink because it thought you were someone else.

March comes in like a Bruce Springsteen concert and goes out like an 8-track of Tom Jones’s greatest hits that someone just threw at you.

March comes in like a colonoscopy and goes out like getting your taxes done.

March comes in like Tyrannosaurus rex—really cool, but terrifying, and goes out like Pachycephalosaurus—really cool because it’s a dinosaur but, I don’t know, should we be scared of this one?

March is just a month.

It’s Enough To Keep You Up At Night.

Source: From Old Books

Congratulations on buying a Scanton Super Snooz Mattress! The Super Snooz Mattress is specially designed to provide full body support and temperature control while you sleep. It’s guaranteed to provide comfort and rest, ensuring you will be fully rested when you wake ready to face each new day.

You ever wonder if dogs get songs stuck in their heads?

The Super Snooz Mattress is made with a proprietary foam developed by scientists for use by astronauts and soldiers. As we’ve demonstrated in our commercials you can balance a full wine glass on one side of the bed and drop bowling balls on the other and the wine glass will remain perfectly upright. However we don’t recommend dropping bowling balls on the mattress while someone is sleeping on it.

Hey, whatever happened to Vic Tayback?

The proprietary foam the Super Snooz Mattress is made with is a special compound that is made to be fire-resistant. However it can and will burn if exposed to an open flame or other heat source.

So apparently “segmented sleep”, where some people go to sleep at, like, ten o’clock at night, then wake up at around 1 in the morning, do some stuff when it’s quiet and no one else is up, then go back to bed is a thing. About thirty percent of the population does it. Who knew? Well, about a third of the population apparently.

The Super Snooz Mattress has been clinically tested to give you the most complete night’s sleep possible, providing uninterrupted rest.

Supposedly you get weird dreams if you eat Stilton cheese before going to bed. Didn’t work for me. I mean I tried it a couple of times and all I dreamed was that I was at work and then I was annoyed when the alarm went off and I had to get up and actually go to work.

The Super Snooz Mattress is hypo-allergenic and made with sustainable fair-trade materials, and manufactured entirely in the United States of America.

Once at an entire jar of expired olives before bed and dreamed my stomach came up out of my body and we went to my old high school and watched my class put on a production of “Oh! Calcutta!”

Sleep and dreams remain mysterious even to scientists but we at Scanton, makers of the Super Snooz Mattress, continue to look for new ways to give you the best night’s rest possible.

Hey, you ever wonder who invented the pillow? Someone should look into that.

The Super Snooz Mattress is only available at specially authorized retailers or you can take advantage of our special installment plan and and have a Super Snooz Mattress specially delivered to your house and installed by our friendly professionals. However you purchase your Super Snooz Mattress it will be covered under our three-year unlimited warranty. If you’re unsatisfied with your Super Snooz Mattress for any reason you can return it for a full refund.

So I was on this website reading stuff about sleep and there was a link to an article called “Ever Tried Giving Yourself Nightmares?” And I thought, well, okay, maybe I could give it a try. I clicked the link and got “Page not found” and I don’t know if it was removed or if somebody was jerking me around.

Oh yeah, and you know that tag on the mattress that says “Do not remove under penalty of law”? You can remove it from your Super Snooz Mattress. Seriously. We won’t tell.

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