Latest Posts

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.

Down The Path.

Last weekend I went to Radnor Lake again and, because it was crowded, I took a stroll down the Historic Valve House Trail, which, despite being historic, is both the newest trail and one of the least used and I could tell it hadn’t gotten a lot of use because there was a thorny blackberry vine growing right across the trail.

Here’s a quick history of Radnor Lake: it’s a manmade lake that was dug by railroad workers in the 1910s to provide water for cattle and steam engines at the rail yards four miles away. A few years ago I was part of the volunteer crew that helped move this piece of the original pipe to its current location along the trail:

While the lake provided water to the railroads it and the surrounding forest were also a recreation area for a few wealthy railroad magnates and their families who used it for hunting and fishing. Then, in 1973, the state and citizens raised the money to purchase the area and it became a state park. Now it’s open to everyone.

That and the bramble I had to duck under reminded me this poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, in which he goes from freedom to humiliation but, subtly, still gets the last laugh:

Blackberries

They left my hands like a printer’s
Or thief’s before a police blotter
& pulled me into early morning’s
Terrestrial sweetness, so thick
The damp ground was consecrated
Where they fell among a garland of thorns.

Although I could smell old lime-covered
History, at ten I’d still hold out my hands
& berries fell into them. Eating from one
& filling a half gallon with the other,
I ate the mythology & dreamt
Of pies & cobbler, almost

Needful as forgiveness. My bird dog Spot
Eyed blue jays & thrashers. The mud frogs
In rich blackness, hid from daylight.
An hour later, beside City Limits Road
I balanced a gleaming can in each hand,
Limboed between worlds, repeating one dollar.

The big blue car made me sweat.
Wintertime crawled out of the windows.
When I leaned closer I saw the boy
& girl my age, in the wide back seat
Smirking, & it was then I remembered my fingers
Burning with thorns among berries too ripe to touch.

Broken Fast.

Source: Tropicanacrunch.com

Once when I was a kid I dumped some orange juice into a bowl of Sugar Smacks, which I ate for breakfast before they became Honey Smacks. If you’re wondering what I was thinking I can only say I wasn’t. I was, I think, four at the time and while I could say that even at that age I liked experimenting with food, trying different flavors, or that I was trying a novel way to save time by combining breakfast foods the simple fact is I don’t know why I did it. At least I was conscientious enough to eat it, and while most of the other details are fuzzy I distinctly remember that it was, well, not as bad as you might think—it was just a little orange juice so it formed sort of a tingly background note—but it wasn’t good either. It wasn’t an experiment I ever repeated, partly because I knew I’d never get the proportions exactly right ever again but mainly it just wasn’t that good. I’m also pretty sure I knew when I did it that it wouldn’t be good. Still I can retroactively apply the lesson that food is an art form and experimenting is part of every art and with experiments there are hits and there are misses.

And then there’s Tropicana Crunch. The breakfast cereal “made” to have orange juice poured over it.

Source: Wikipedia

Admittedly it’s not the weirdest thing in the history of breakfast cereal. The weirdest thing is still that Harvey Kellogg invented corn flakes because he believed a bland, vegetarian diet would prevent masturbation. Tropicana Crunch just comes in a very close second. I can only imagine that the advertising team was sitting around trying to think of something new and someone said, “You know what goes well with orange juice?” Someone else said, “Vodka,” and after several rounds of screwdrivers a third person found a bag of expired granola in the break room, put it in a bowl and poured orange juice over it, and sent the idea to the research and development team as a joke. If you’re old enough to remember when Honey Smacks were still Sugar Smacks you also remember Mikey, the Life cereal kid. And even if you’re younger you’ve probably still heard of him and, no, Pop Rocks didn’t kill him; he’s still alive and works in advertising. Mikey became famous for being the kid who hated everything. Less famous but just as noteworthy is his twin Charlie, the kid who would eat anything. Charlie was probably responsible for those Pop Rocks rumors just because of the number of times he had to have his stomach pumped after the neighborhood kids convinced him to eat actual rocks, a Coke with a rusty nail dissolved in it, acorns, fiberglass, a grasshopper, part of an old tire, a weird mushroom they found in the woods, dried latex paint, and, worst of all, Kevin’s mom’s spinach quiche. Charlie is the only human being known to have a natural immunity to salmonella because he once ate a dozen deviled eggs that had been sitting out all day. In August. In Miami. Charlie’s still alive and works in research and development. And he will still eat anything. So when he got the call to make cereal with orange juice he just shrugged and went with it.

Every party has to end sometime and when the advertising team sobered up and realized, to their horror, what Charlie had made, they did what every good advertiser does and covered up the mistake by selling it.

It’s not surprising but the website for Tropicana Crunch now says it’s no longer available. It was an experiment and like so many experiments it was not a hit and it will not be missed.

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.

Car Wash.

This weekend I washed the car. It seemed like a good time since my wife said, “You really need to wash the car this weekend” three weeks ago and of course if I were a superhero I’d be The Procrastinator, but that’s another story. And technically I’ve been putting it off since, well, if I remember correctly the last time I washed the car was last July, but it hasn’t really needed it, at least until now with everything blooming and pollen everywhere which has given the car a chartreuse tinge which clashes with the dark blue finish. And for some reason this doesn’t come off with a simple spray of the hose or even a good rain. Soap and a sponge are required. There’s also the problem that I’m short and have trouble reaching the roof of the car, even with a ladder. Also there’s the fact that once I’ve finished washing the car and put away everything and the car dries that’s when the spots that I missed become glaringly obvious. At least the roof is enough above eye level that it’s not so noticeable.

What I really should have done was take it down the street to the automatic car wash place. As a kid getting to ride through a car wash was almost an adventure. I loved watching the brushes go along the windows and the giant rolling drum rumble over the front and top of the car while hot water, soap, and wax rained down. The only problem with it was that it was always over too soon. That’s a complaint I can never make about washing the car by hand.

And of course after I washed the car it rained overnight, and, while it doesn’t look bad, I know that means it needs to be washed again even though it seems completely counterintuitive that rain, which is mostly water, is a bad thing. This time I will take it down the street to the automatic car wash place. At least I will when I get around to it, which will probably be some time in July.

The Secret.

I’ve always been intrigued by closed doors and unseen places. Once when I was, I think six or seven, I was at the dentist’s office. It wasn’t time for my appointment yet so I was sitting in the waiting room and, bored out of my skull, I decided to go exploring. There was an unmarked door at the end of a hallway so I opened it. Inside was a dental assistant developing a batch of X-rays. In those days X-rays, like other photographs, had to be developed in a darkroom. Do you know what happens when you open the door of a darkroom while the X-rays are in the process of being developed? Your mom has to pay for them and you don’t get ice cream on the way home.

I’ve learned to be a bit more cautious since then so I wouldn’t have opened the door of the Secret Room even if I could figure out how to open it, no matter how much I’d really, really, really like to know what secrets it holds.

Actually that door is at the back of the Darkhorse Theater. I’ve been in the theater but the Secret Room is in the very back where I haven’t been. It’s probably just the loading area where they bring in large pieces of scenery and other props—nothing exciting, but, to me, the backstage areas of theaters are the most intriguing places of all.

It occurs to me, too, that I have a friend who’s performed in several plays there. Maybe he could let me in on the secret.

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

I’m Not Complaining.

Dublin Airport. Source: Tripsavvy

A few weeks ago I had to call a company that provides resources to the library where I work and, well, the customer service people I spoke to were less than helpful. In their defense they did the best they could but they were limited, and after two hours of just trying to get through I was happy to talk to a person. This was after I’d had to go through multiple web pages just to find a contact number which then offered me thirteen different automated options—and eleven of those directed me back to the website, mostly its FAQ, but I guess my Q wasn’t FA enough to make the list—and one which just automatically disconnected the call.

If there was a bright side it was that after going through all that and still not getting the issue resolved the company emailed me a survey that asked, “How was our service today?” And, while trying not to get the customer service people in trouble, I let the company have it between the eyes. I may have even used the phrase “unnecessarily byzantine” twice. I say that was a bright side because I got a chance to register my complaints, for all the good it’ll do, when I’m not usually the sort of person who does that. Mostly because I know how much good it does.

In fact there was an excellent example of how much good complaints do in the news recently: an unidentified person made 12,272 noise complaints against Dublin Airport just in 2021. The same individual made 6,227 complaints in 2020, but maybe at the time there weren’t as many planes taking off and landing. For 2021 that’s an average of thirty-four complaints per day and a quick check shows that there are more than one-hundred landings and departures daily at Dublin airport so, hey, if only about a third of them are annoying this person that’s pretty good.

And honestly there was a time when I would register complaints. Back when I rode the bus most days of the week there were times when the bus would be inexplicably delayed and I’d call customer service, not so much to complain but to try and figure out if there was something going on. While I wouldn’t call the MTA customer service line unnecessarily byzantine it did usually take some time to get through to an actual person, and most of the time I didn’t need to speak to someone because, funny enough, the best way to make the bus arrive was to call customer service.

In spite of that it’s not something I did frequently. No more than a third of the time, anyway.

De-composing.

After I wrote about video rental stores last week I ended up feeling like I addressed the subject too quickly, or maybe too late, because something came up that reminded me of another brick-and-mortar establishment that’s also headed the way of the dodo: the office supply store.

It started when my wife needed a stapler for a project she was working on and let’s go ahead and get all the Office Space references and jokes out of the way. We have a stapler somewhere but couldn’t find it so I went to the office supply store and, while I bought a cheaper black stapler they did have a red Swingline stapler and I was seriously tempted by it even though my wife doesn’t look, sound, or act anything like Milton or even Stephen Root. And neither one of us is ever likely to set our office building on fire, although this has been me on many occasions:

Source: Tenor

And maybe that’s why, in spite of the fact that this is on a blog, I’m very much still an analog guy in a digital world. Most of my writing starts as handwritten notes in paper composition books that I also decorate with stickers and pictures I cut out of catalogs, magazines, and junk mail. I always have this idea that, if I’m ever stuck for something to write about, I can use the pictures as a prompt, and yet what I write never ends up having anything to do with the pictures. I fill the right-hand page and use the left for shorter notes like, “I know what a kit is but what’s a caboodle?” and jokes I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere, like:

“I’m thinking of writing about the pursuit of a great white whale,” said Melville.
“That’s a novel idea,” his publisher replied.

And the office supply store is my main source for these composition books. Or was. It’s going out of business now, which I guess means I won’t be able to stock up in the fall when they have their back-to-school sales.

Sure, I can order them online like so much other stuff but I’ll miss the immediacy of being able to pick them up. And, because the office supply store was having a going-out-of-business sale, I picked up a bunch. The woman checking me out asked, “Is this all you’re getting?” and I remembered that I had to go back and get a stapler.

I should have gotten the red Swingline model.

Source: Tenor

%d bloggers like this: