Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Living GROUNDHOG DAY Today

   
    One of the funniest yet thoughtful movies of this or any time is the now classic GROUNDHOG DAY starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. This 1993 movie tells the tale of a narcissistic weatherman from Pittsburgh with aspirations of hitting the "big" time. Assigned to go to Punxsutawney, PA for the annual Groundhog Festival February 2 to see if the groundhog sees his shadow or not (seeing it means 6 more weeks of winter) he goes with his producer and cameraman.
    It is not a pleasant journey and he makes it clear this is beneath his "talents" to have to go. He alone stays in a bed and board, the hoi pollo stay at the local hotel.
    Our first day with Phil is a combination of trite events and disaster. After being obnoxious to the kindly proprietor of the B&B, he stumbles into an old classmate, an insurance salesman. After stepping into a foot high puddle he arrives at the ceremony in the town park late but in time for the unveiling of the poor groundhog who looks like he'd rather be in bed. Seeing his shadow all groan! Phil reports this condensingly live and they hustle into the station's van for their return to Pittsburgh. Only, in ignoring his own weather report they get caught in a snow storm and have to return to Punxsutawney. He leaves them to their own devices and finally in a snit goes to bed.
    The next morning the day seems to begin again. Sonny and Cher sing "I Got You Babe" on the clock radio, the world looks about the same outdoors and as he leaves he realizes that this is exactly what he did yesterday. Oddly, he remembers but no one else does. This day is a little different only in that he knows what is going to happen. Try as he might, he CAN'T change it.
    The story line by the writers was timeless. The studio wanted it to be two weeks but as the movie
Does he or doesn't he?
progresses you realize the timeline is much, MUCH  longer. That's the joy and frustration.
    Next he tries to die. One day he grabs the groundhog, steals a truck and drives over an embankment where he and the groundhog die when the truck explodes. The next morning promptly at 6:00 am the radio starts singing "I Got You Babe." More suicide scenes follow but gradually he begins to realize that there is something more he is to learn. Eventually he does.
    There has never been a better depiction of hell, even better than Dante. He made it a place of torment but GROUNDHOG DAY makes it ordinary but ordinary the same forever. While no one remembers Phil does and finally has the presence to begin to change internally. He learns French, plays the piano, becomes a friend to those in need, in short, a better and kinder person. It is that new and changed person that finally nets him the woman he wishes to partner with who finally sees in him a better man.
  Now you may wonder what that has to do with today. I woke up the other morning and looked 
at what I would do today. GROUNDHOG DAY popped into my mind and I realized that today would be pretty much like yesterday, and the day before that, another words, pretty much how my life has been since March 18, 2020 when the governor of California ordered the shelter-in-place (SIP) order for every Californian.
    To be fair, every day is not "exactly" like the day before but on the whole it is. I walk the dog early before most people are up, usually around 5:30 am, I come home, make coffee, chat with my friend in China, eat breakfast and find something to do. I paint and have put new items in my ETSY store, I worked on a photo book and got that done and printed. I scrubbed the yucky black grout on my tiles floors, read books, lots of magazine and watched Netflix and Prime shows. I got rid of cable so watch the evening news on my iPad and cook all my meals every day. The only times I leave, besides the 30 minute walk outside the gates in the morning is for:
  1.             Doctor appointments though many are now virtual
  2.             To go get medicines
  3.             Grocery Shopping
and often I bundle chores together so I don't have to drive every day. I have spent up to 10 days without driving. Friends go shopping every day just to get out of the house. There are times, trust me. If we could leave before there was, well, no there to go too. Everything was closed.
    That was about all that was open until early June. However, it appears opening up is cause again for alarm. Riverside County is second highest Corvid-19 count only after Los Angeles County. Some restaurants have had take out but after reading that a famous restaurant in downtown Palm Springs closed after reopening because an employee tested positive for the virus, further desires to eat out or even buy a burrito at the restaurant at the end of my driveway stopped. 
    A friend concerned about my well being sent me the risk factors for a variety of "opened" activities rated from 1 - 9. Eating out at an indoor restaurant is rated a Risk factor of 6, a drink in a bar is a 9! Who's to say someone working there isn't positive and shows no symptoms? Beijing is more or less quarantined after one case ballooned to over 200. One restaurant had seven workers who tested positive. People and fish tested positive in a fish market. Now they are all closed. Sure 21 million live there but, and it's a big BUT, no one knows who may have it or where it will pop up next. Our valley and our county are seeing 50% spikes over the past week.
    So, for me every day is about like the day before however, to be fair every week is like the week before. During one of my ZOOM meetings, one that worked, someone about my age wondered, "Is this the way I live the rest of my life?" She put in words what I was feeling. Peggy Lee's old song suddenly boomed in my head, "Is That All There Is?"
    Much has been written about this and I won't dwell on it except to ask, IS this all there is? Getting it and living after is not without effects. Hearts, kidneys, liver even blood and for sure lungs are affected during and probably long after. The could be, first attempts, as bad as the disease. Ask anyone in the LGBTQ community. The first drugs killed as many as they saved. These are all things to definitely ponder as we shelter-in-place in "our winter and now summer of our discontent." Dying to get out may just give you that chance!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 


Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!


Monday, April 13, 2020

A Custom Order Kick-Starts Juices Flowing During SHELTER-IN-PLACE

We will probably look back at this time, this "shelter-in-place" time as the lost days. I know they have been for me. Rather than having nothing to do, I found that I had so many possibilities that I was literally frozen in place with Indecision. I have unlimited hours to watch Netflix or Amazon Prime, enough books of my own, unread I might add, to start a library, lots of unseen DVD's, can cook and yes I could paint, birdhouses my forté, and own a daunting stack of blank canvases. Then, there's the yard. What did I do? I wrote a few letters, did a little baking and watched ALL six seasons of HOUSE OF CARDS, a grim gritty Washington D.C. drama that saw an amazing actor's downfall and a story line that could be out of Washington today. I have no doubt this is a far more accurate view than what we saw on the, in retrospect, fuzzy WEST WING.
Inspiration is only a few clicks away.
     At the beginning of our third week of shelter-in-place here in California, I noticed a message on my ETSY account asking if I would be interested in painting a birdhouse that had edelweiss flowers against an Alpine setting. I had been looking at the studio and carefully closing the door for weeks now and going in thought, well, why not? I asked if they wanted it round or square and they wanted four corners for their cabin in Colorado. They were really going to use it.
      We "all" know the song "Edelweiss" from THE SOUND OF MUSIC but I had no idea what they looked like so off to images in Google to find the flowers and some Alpine scenes.
     What I envisioned was a kind of two dimensional painting on a 3D subject, carrying the view around all sides, and the roof. However, I had never actually tried to do that and this was my chance. If they didn't like it there was always the store to sell it on.
Starting with pencil marks to show areas
I started from the bottom up
defining the lower levels first
     My idea was to layer the hills and mountains and use larger flowers in front with smaller ones in back to give the birdhouse depth. Snow was shown on the mountain peaks and a kind of ice river running down one of the sides. Since it already had a cord to hang it I didn't have to worry about adding feet.  For some reason I decided that I wanted to frame the meadow at the base first thinking that each layer moving up would be less intense and finally reach the mountain tops and be crowned by the sky. In fact, the sky was one of the first finished areas I did. The clouds and colors set the tone for the rest of the birdhouse.
You can see the layers of hills as
I moved up the mountain. The flowers
would come next.
Next the flowers were saddened
increasing the feeling of depth.
     On both the foreground and the mid-mountains I used a feathered brush that gave me many thin lines for grass and was used for the rocky stones in the mountains. It worked well. To capture the ruggedness of the snow I used a palette knife and was so pleased with the effect I also used it to suggest the craggy mountains going dark on dark. Finally, with the addition of the flowers you could see the white flowers set off against the darker Alpine setting. As they were filled in and the florets of yellow added and dots of golden yellow and magenta across the field near the base I achieved the look I wanted.
The solid green base helped but
something was missing.
Painting  the base like the birdhouse base
completed the look tying it together
 The last problem was the base itself. What to do? I finally painted it a solid deep green but was not happy. I got out the cut feathered brush and repeated the strokes used on the lower birdhouse. The effect was perfect for capturing the base of the birdhouse.  
      Now, what to do with the bottom? Since they were planning on hanging it I decided to paint the very bottom with a large edelweiss so that no matter how it was viewed all the sides were painted, something you rarely ever see in a painting. I think I achieved what I set out to achieve and the reaction from the soon-to-be owner was very positive.
No space is neglected. A large edelweiss
graces the bottom of ALPINE EDELWEISS BIRDHOUSE
   I used a variety of paints mostly DecoArt or Plaid. I like Plaid for its dense opaque colors, however, it tends the thicken faster than most other craft acrylic paints.
     I guess I proved to myself that you can have it both ways, a 3D scene that when viewed on an object looks like a painting glued to a 6 sided form. Never say never until you give it a try!
    I am so pleased with this I am trying a variation in the round. No matter how many you try, even with the same design they each have a wonderfully unique, distinct personality.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The TIGER KING Phenomenon

Joe Exotic and Tiger friend
     It seems that during every crisis there is something that catches our attention as a distraction from the thing we are really facing. 9/11, earthquakes here in California - we had one near Palm Springs last night, runs on the stock market, riots and wars somewhere in the world focus our attention on something grim. We often need a distraction to look away if only for a brief time. Days after 9/11 and the unrelenting covering of that tragedy, I remember we went to see the movie RAT RACE. Silly yes, but I got two hours away from reality and some good belly laughs to boot. This worldwide Pandemic is no exception. While I can't speak of what people in China or Italy, France or Spain are watching, reading or doing in their time of "shelter-in-place," I do know what America is watching. 
Viewing Netflix documentary JOE EXOTIC: Murder, Mayhem
& Madness
     People in the United States and even maybe around the Netflix world are watching TIGER KING: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. This seven part, mini-series, a form of docudrama made for Netflix is so wild and well, crazy, that no fiction writer could make this stuff up! 
     It relates the tale of Joe Exotic, a Gay renegade combination of Oklahoma cowboy, Gay queen, animal lover and snake oil salesman who created a larger than life persona. Truly, there has never been someone quite like this. 
     Born Joseph Schreibvogel (A German name that translates to "writing bird") Joe Exotic among other names, legally took the names of his last two husbands so legally he was Joe Maldonado-Passage.
     This docudrama chronicles his beyond reality lifestyle, one so bizarre that as detestable as he and many of his competitors are, you just can't turn away. Why? Because you simply can't believe what you are seeing not only just from him but from some of his competitors and the fact that there are more exotic tigers living in the United States than in the wild. Unacceptable!
Carole Baskin, Joe's nemesis of
BIG CAT RESCUE in Florida
     Joe manages to gather them in Wynnewood, OK, a bleak place in the middle of Oklahoma that apparently gave no oversight to his G.W. Zoo. Joe's nemesis is Carole Baskin, who runs BIG CAT RESCUE in Florida who in her own right is a suspicious and shady character. She tries to shut Joe down thinking he is profiting from the breeding and selling of his 200 Tigers, lions, cheetahs and a whole bunch of other wild creatures.
    Baskin is no saint. Her millionaire husband disappears after their marriage and she suddenly has a fortune to continue their rescue of big cats. The husband is never found (Joe speculates that the body was fed to the big cats in Baskin's care) and we learn that she makes a healthy profit pleading for volunteers to help run her own zoo (that are not paid) acting like a 60's flowerchild. She and Joe have a web presence and they capitalize on it. The images of her with a wreath of flowers in her hair, flowing blouses, with animal prints everywhere - house, clothes, vehicles, she tries to create an image of a loving, caring woman. She is not.
Joe with two of his five husbands
      Joe is no stranger to the matrimonial aisle. He meets his first husband in the 1980's, a bouncer at a Gay bar who dies in 2001 from HIV complications. In 2003 he meets another 19 year-old, John Findlay. Joe, Findlay and Travis Maldonado marry in 2014 (you see the wedding tape). Travis may be straight but is enticed to stay for pot and toys. He accidentally shots himself in the G.W. Zoo gift shop while talking with Joe's campaign manager. Finally Dillion is found on Grindr and in 2017 they marry. Gives new meaning to ménage a très, no? Some say Travis and Dillion were straight.
Joe ran for President and when that failed
for the governor of Oklahoma. He got 19% of the vote!
     The animosity builds and Joe gets distracted. He runs for President then Oklahoma governor getting 19% of the vote in a campaign you might only see in an X-rated movie house. He blatantly copies Big Cat Rescue's logo, makes threats online about killing Baskin. The final straw and the one that got him in jail was his attempt to have Baskin murdered. He gave $3,000 to one of his employees to make the hit, but the employee, no stranger to the legal system and prison, takes the money and had a good time before returning. Nevertheless Joe was tried, found guilty for that and Federal Game law violations and is currently serving 22 years.
    How much money can there be in holding big cats? I saw an article today that estimates that Joe, today, is still worth $10 million. That's a lot of cats!
     The draw though is that, well, it's utterly disgusting and mesmerizing. I have long been a non-fiction fan because you just can't make this stuff up! It seems that people and events stagger the mind that until they happen, make us unable to consider, even think about. It's a train wreck from beginning to end and, like a crash on the freeway, we just can't look away. I would even question that you could "design" this, but as you watch you clearly see it was. Every step was choreographed with, however, not a clear ending in sight.
   Except for the murder-for-hire attempt, is Exotic any different from Buffalo Bill Cody? Or the Ringling Brothers? They had wild beasts they exploited making money off the public paying terrible wages as they tintilated the public while fattening their wallets. While Joe may have paid his employees less than minimum wage he did give people, many felons, a second chance. Baskin, wealthy in her own right, uses "volunteers" for free and lived a pretty good lifestyle, wealthy herself. So who was living off the fatted hog?
Maybe he should have called himself Joe Cody
or Joe Ringling. Truthfully is / was there
any difference?
   We have a month more, at least here in California, to "shelter-in-place." Look at the murder and mayhem and take your mind off CORVID-19!!! It couldn't be a better distraction for a truly American story, maybe even the story of the American dream.
  This documentary also highlights the perils and danger of these "private" zoos, shelters ... whatever you want to call them. We need to remember that wild animals are, well, wild! One of the cats nearly bites off the arm off one of his employees, others are scratched and mauled. He was lucky. Here in California a "pet" wild chimp literally bit the face off its friend and handler. It had been there for years when suddenly ..... More than we should, we read about or see and hear stories of patrons getting killed or maimed in private zoos, far more often than an official zoo. As I said, these are WILD animals and you can never let your guard down. Why do we go? The thrill, the danger? Clearly the folks visiting any "shelter" or private zoo could be putting their own lives in danger. However, if someone puts on a show, there will be an audience. Making a buck is the American way.
The "Donald" as Joe. Rumors on Facebook said junior
compared himself to Joe. Someone took him up
on a potential look alike. But, it's all fake news, right?
Remember his ancestors were German and his
mother was Scottish and his wives Slvenian.
    Remember, a good many American heroes of the past on closer inspection today could be considered murderers, cheats, land grabbers, crooks, sexual predators. This modern era looks at things very differently TODAY as they did back THEN. It's only now that we are re-writing what is and is NOT acceptable. Consider ... Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, the glass ceiling, the good old boy network, equality for African Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, the faces of immigration, even religion! 
     As much as many in this country would love to believe this is a "white" country the reality was we never were. There were already people here, we forcibly brought people from Africa, and not a few either. Immigrants came from England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany at first then the flood came from everywhere. Each wave was never welcomed. The Chinese were brought to build our railroads and forced to return to China. Mexicans were good enough to pick our crops but not to live here, at least not permanently. It's happened to them all. We didn't want Catholic Irish or Italians, Jews were marginalized, Nordic folks were only good for the lumber industry. The list goes on and on.
     Here in California we are to shelter-in-place until the end of April after already doing it for two weeks. So I say, why not? It's better than the show in D.C.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!


Saturday, March 28, 2020

To Keurig Or NOT To Keurig, That IS The Question!

How we start our day!
     I have been a coffee drinker most of my life. I guess you could say I started in college because of the all nighters I would pull for my various Journalism classes and a memorable Philosophy 101 class where the dean finding out there were so many graduating seniors made us work like we were getting our masters! At least I didn't learn to smoke. I can remember editors at the student newspaper with a cigarette in their mouths and another in the nearby ashtray.
     And, at the good old age of 74 I watched the rise of Starbucks, Peet's and who knows who else. I never liked Starbucks, the regular coffee was too bitter, the lines went on forever and the cost was high and kept on increasing. I would marvel the few times I would go, usually at an airport, and be flabbergasted at the orders of the loyal patrons. I would ask myself, "How did they learn to order all that stuff? And all in one cup? Five bucks? Really?" Usually I would hunt down the McDonald's that actually had pretty good coffee that was faster to get and far cheaper. I don't want to buy the store!!!
I tried it again. It takes forever on an electric stove.
     Coffee though does evoke many emotions. People I've known over the years have all kinds of rituals in the storage and preparation of coffee. I can remember my grandmother always had a pot on the stove, drank it black and there was always pieces of eggshell in the grounds. Why? Who knows. That's the way they did it in South Dakota.
   For many years we had a Faberware percolator that could make 12 cups. It actually make good coffee, nothing fancy but strong enough to make you realize you were drinking a good, smooth, strong cup of coffee. I guess in around the 80's we got our first drip coffee maker. It was a bit faster and the coffee was ok. When I had my own business and often worked at home, I could easily drink half a pot and maybe more. It kept me going between taking the kids to school, calling on accounts, working on graphic design projects, picking up the kids and finally around 8 each night, running out of steam
Good old Mr. Coffee. You could even set it
to have the coffee ready when you woke up!
     I never needed an alarm. I just woke up at 4:00 am, made coffee, worked a bit, walked the dog, then got ready for the day. A cup would follow me in the truck as I took the kids to school and the ritual started all over again.
      I first became aware of the Keurig device from friends. It was a quantum design change in coffee delivery. There is always a childless couple in everyone's life and they were the first to have one. It was simple ... make sure there was water in the reservoir, put in one of the little white cups, select an ounce size for your cup and wait. It isn't fast. In fact I could make a 12 cup pot in about the same time this thing makes one cup.
     It sounds like a great deal until you look at the prices. They begin to approach Starbuck prices! I compared prices for Folgers that at a cost of (hopefully) $9.99 at Costco gives you about 260 cups of coffee per the pod price at the same store. Folgers runs you about 4¢ a cup depending on the current cost of coffee beans and can be more for fancier coffees including Starbucks in either ground or unground bags. The cheapest K-cup I have seen was 31¢ a cup with prices climbing to $1.61 each! If you don't believe me, go look at Costco. They have thoughtfully done the price comparisons for you.
Keurig B-2000
     Then there's the cost of the Keurig. It was originally developed for offices as a replacement for the dreaded pot of coffee that lingered all day on some burner that by 3:00 pm was strong enough to grow hair on the bald. However, it's one advantage, a good fresh cup of coffee also had a disadvantage, it took several minutes to brew a cup.
Early home use Keurig.
K-cups were part of the system.
       At some point people that used them at work began to agitate for coffeemakers they could use at home. The company was started in 1990 by Peter Dragone and John Sylvan. At one point they were a division of the Green Mountain Coffee bean company. It took until 2004 to create a machine that would be used at home. However, the K-cup was developed for offices in 1998 but became an integral part of the Keurig coffee system everywhere it was used.
     The patent for the K-cup expired in 2012 and the stampede was on. Unable to make the fat profits of before Green Mountain sold the company to an investor group that then sold it to Dr. Pepper for $18.7 billion. Keurig is such an important part of this company they changed the same to Keurig Dr.Pepper. In fact it was so lucrative Keurig tried in 2015 to introduce Keurig 2.0 that could only use licensed K-cups shutting out anyone that wouldn't pay royalties. There were so many complaints and threatened boycotts that it was soon withdrawn.
Take your choice. Everybody is making K-cups in every price range.
     But, I digress. I have used the Keurig at friends but being a coffeeholic I didn't want one. If I drank say 5 cups a day, my old totals, it would cost me $2.50 a day, each and every day, something I wasn't able to afford when I first moved to Palm Springs. However, after the move I realized that I was only drinking one or two cups a day, usually my first cup talking to a friend overseas. The need for and even the desire for more coffee seemed to have dissipated. I found that I was leaving more than half of the pot left each day. I would heat some up the next day in the microwave but as we all know it was well past it's prime.
     The other hindrance was the cost of the Keurig. Even the cheapest model with basically nothing to do but make one cup of coffee cost $100. You could buy a fancy Mr. Coffee for half and on Black Friday Sales a quarter of that. It was a little messier, yes, you had to dump the grounds each day but the cost was much, MUCH cheaper. And the grounds could be composted.
The Ambiano system:
K-cup holder, coffee filter
There is a lot of
coffee splatter 
     About a month ago, Aldi, the German grocery chain that has taken America by storm had a sale on a Keurig knockoff. For $30 you got the maker, the ability to use your own coffee or use a K-pod and a reservoir to hold enough water for several cups of coffee. You could chose 8 oz. and 16 oz. cup sizes. I bought one.
     It has actually been a fun adventure. You can get K-cups for every imaginable coffee, tea and even hot chocolate. But I also have noticed that it is a bit messy. As the water drips into the cup it splashes both in the cup and around the machine onto the counter. The cheapest K-cups I found after comparing prices at Costco, Aldi, Walmart and Amazon is about 20¢ a cup. And that coffee would be considered marginal by dedicated coffee drinkers. Each cup takes about 2 minutes set at 16 oz. and fills my cups at least to the brim. It's good I guess and other than wiping the counter each time, is simple.
9 billion a year end up in the dump.
     The downside to the K-cup however, is that it is estimated over 9 billion cups are sold each year. They consist of a plastic tub, coffee and a foil top that is punctured to release the coffee. It goes into the trash, then the landfill where it will live forever ... well, not maybe forever but for a long long time. It is so far not environmentally friendly by any stretch of the imagination. Sylvan, the inventor was quoted as saying that he wished now he had never invented the cup because it was terrible on the environment.
     So ... right now I have several drip coffee machines, an on the stove percolator that easily takes f  o  r  e  v  e  r, a French press in two sizes, an electric kettle for instant coffee and the Ambiaco K-cup coffee maker. I have only been using the Ambiaco for a few weeks now ... actually since the shelter in place order from the California governor. That though is another story! There really is no winner and I use one of these when the mood strikes me. Instant coffee is quite good these days (some) and the K-cup is a simple alternative as well. I do like that I can use any coffee I buy at a substantially cheaper cost though I admit it's not as simple as popping a cup in the holder, selecting the cup size and letting it rip ... actually drip.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

   

Saturday, March 21, 2020

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...."

 
   The opening words of THE TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens have ricocheted through my thoughts since about the beginning of the the COVID-19 crisis.
French Revolution
     Describing "the terror" of the French Revolution in 1789, a sad and far more violent revolution than the American version that spawned, it nevertheless offers words to address our current 21st Century.
     The 21st Century has not been kind to humankind. Starting with the great computer blackout in 2000 because no one thought to consider a new century of date counting with millions of Microsoft Window Computers, the soon to follow Internet crash of 2001-2002, a kind of new age Ponzi scheme, to the effects of 9/11 that changed the way we viewed travel and ourselves forever. The iPhone in 2007, a device David Pogue said would change everything and we, at Macworld in January of 2007 thought Steve Jobs and crew had smoked too much something in Silicon Valley. (Pogue was right, the iPhone and Android DID change everything in ways we still don't understand now). From China we had SARS, and MERS and H1N1, and now of course, COVID-19. Global warming became a reality from the scientists abstract as vast changes in weather and climate stalked the earth. Huge swathes of industry quit camp at home and went to China and other places in search of cheaper labor and more profits. Because of the ensuing pandemic world trade is coming to a standstill. Stock market exchanges around the world have crashed and so far 1/3 of all wealth has vanished overnight.
Hurricane Katrina: New Orleans under water
     We had terrible hurricanes and blizzards, historic floods, the population of the world seemed to be on the move, never-ending wars, democratic governments increasingly seem to fall before strongmen, some letting go and others holding on at a terrible human price, one economic rupture that nearly brought the world down in 2008-2009 and is now being brought down again by a pandemic. And to think, all this in only 20 years.
     Christians will find many words in their Bible about change. And let there be NO doubt, we are witnessing one of the biggest changes in humankind's history. One portion of the Bible that comes to mind to me is Ecclestiastes 3:1-8: For everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (NIV).
See No Evil!




     Wise words but hardly comforting. Of soberer thought are Lincoln's words during the Civil War: "Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good."
 Many wise men and women have predicted these times. Eric Toffler predicted in the 1990's that the 21st Century would have the biggest migration of people than ever before in the history of the world. The great philosopher Santana wisely said, "Those who forget history are condemned to relive it. Even Gladstone in 1795 said, "The only thing necessary for evil to persist is for good men to do nothing."
Border issues are far greater than the US and Mexico.
Here immigrants try to get into Hungary!
     As I sit writing, sheltered in place, it is hard to accept the changes that are daily changing my life. Blame and counter blame is thrown around the world. Can we call it a Chinese pandemic? Is that racist? A Chinese friend, no less, noted when this started by asking, "why do all these terrible illnesses come from China and not, well, India?" Why? In this century four have erupted there and started to spread. This recent outbreak has been fast and devastating.
 XI: Pooh Bear No More
Even if the Chinese government doesn't accept blame for poor sanitary conditions is its many outdoor markets, I find it interesting that today, finally, the government gave a formal apology to both the family and co-workers of Dr. Li, the young eye doctor who blew the whistle about a new virus and paid for it with his life. Police who were involved in the attempted coverup are being punished but as the saying goes, too little too late! When I asked another Chinese friend about how this can happen he noted that there are many laws, even more than here but rather then enforcing them it's more of a Mafia style shakedown.
Is this our future of staying in place?
Wuhan interchange in a city of 11 million.
     WIRED magazine had a fascinating article years ago telling how a pandemic would spread. They said it would reach the entire world in 48 hours because, well, too many people travel around the world at any one time. While not exactly following the predicted path it has reached the entire world. And in places where it shouldn't.
China is already bailing out banks
     The blame, if there is really any to be had, is that we have all become interdependent, just as the breakdown in supply chains has clearly shown. While the west has cheerfully moved all it's production to China to let them deal with the smog and political fallout there, they have given up the right to call the shots in search of the cheapest price. Only it's not so cheap anymore if you can't get it. 
    The rise of far more aggressive governments, the rising cost of labor and transportation already had some looking for a new nest to roost in, places like Viet Nam, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, even countries in the Middle East. After this, it will most likely go from a trickle to a stampede. Companies simply cannot let themselves be caught again without an alternative source.
     And it isn't only the United States that has been living beyond it's means. China has a banking and real estate problem so deep that should it fail, as it clearly could in this crisis, Wall Street will have seen nothing yet. We might be glad of "only" losing a third of our wealth. Consider this, it took the stock of General Motors (GM) until 1953 to regain the value it had when Wall Street crashed in 1929. That's right, 24 years. 
Christmas? No, hoarding.
   What is even more inexcusable is the hoarding of important things the very doctors and medical people need are being hoarded just like the toilet paper we clearly do not need. Despite assurances that there is food, more than ample supplies, try to find milk, eggs, flour, spaghetti, and many canned goods. I went to four stores to get eggs, milk and flour. I got eggs in one, milk in another and never found flour of any normal kind.
     We are scared and we have a right to be. However, we also need to keep level heads and follow the guidelines given to us by the CDC. Sadly our present administration, like the Chinese decided to ignore it, then say it was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats before the numbers of infected and death tolls started to rise and could not be ignored any longer.
     Could it have been avoided? Many health officials say yes. China should have jumped on it at the first reports. President Xi it turns out knew about it two weeks before publicly acknowledging it. As America watched passengers get picked off one by one in the marooned cruise ship in Japan, with many Americans aboard, where one case ballooned to over 700, our government also did nothing. A friend in the shipping business said get them off! Ships have some of the worst filtration systems in the world. If one passenger had it, their virus got sucked into the ducts and was redistributed through the entire ship. It was, in effect a petri dish for the virus. As I write this cruise ships all over the world are being denied docks, even if there are no cases onboard for fear of it coming there.
San Francisco with all sheltering in place
       I do know one thing though, the blame game is not going to heal the sick or create a vaccine or treatments to save either the dying or prevent us from getting it. However this turns out, with the entire world working for this one virus it may open the pathway to cure all viruses in ways individually we have been unable to do in the past. United we stand, divided we fall.
     And yes,  we have "designed" the dilemma that we are in today. Supply chains, shipping, trade and manufacturing are all manmade events. They have thoughtfully been designed for the greatest profit. However, events have shown that not all contingencies have been thought out. I suspect that this will change. One thing is for sure though, the world will never be the same again.
     Shelter in place and wash those hands. We must all do what we can to stop a pandemic that cares not for race, or religion, sexual orientation, rich or poor. It is an equal opportunity killer at worst and has the potential to stop the world.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

While BIG Box Stores Suffer, Catalogs Sure Haven't

     
     Mail order catalogs seem to have been an American invention. The first general mail catalog is the Montgomery Ward catalog that was produced on August 18, 1872. And while many businesses were already publishing mail order catalogs, it was Aaron Montgomery Ward that is credited for producing the first mail order catalog meant for the national general public. It wasn't long though before Sears & Roebuck produced their own, a venerable institution until it's demise.

     Sears & Roebuck originally started in 1886 as a watch mail order company in 1886. Their first mail catalog was in 1888, a good 12 years after Wards. However, when rural delivery became free in 1896, Sears, Wards and other vendor's catalog mailing exploded. I can remember as a kid in the 1950's waiting for the Sears Christmas catalog. If you're a Boomer or earlier you know exactly what I mean. Kids today really do miss out.
     As a marketing and advertising major in Journalism School our director said that the only books we needed were ... the Bible, The Works of Shakespeare AND the Sears catalog. All three, he said, told complete stories in as few words as necessary. If you ever read a Sears catalog, despite 1,000's of items, after looking at the photo and reading the description you had NO doubt what the item was, how it looked and what it could do usually in 100 words or less. I can think of many web sites that could learn or lesson or two from this! While the Sears catalog ceased publication in 1993 (you can just about see the beginning of it's demise about that time. The biggest retailer started to fail as Walmart became the biggest retailer), its lessons seem to have been remembered. 
Christmas catalogs received
in ONE week last November!

     While big box stores, Kmart, Sear, Macy's, Penney's, Forever 21 and many more are closing stores or declaring bankruptcies, never to be seen again, if anything, I am getting more catalogs than ever before. Internet sales may be booming, but so are catalogs! What's even more interesting is that while you often see things you would never find in a store, often they are also available at such sites as Amazon who sells that item cheaper and if a Prime member, with free shipping! Yet, they keep coming!!!

     You have to wonder, what and why? If you were to design a "comfort" food or item, nothing beats a casual stroll through pages ... printed or digital, in the comfort of your home. You also find things that while available online, you might never have been aware of until you saw it in a catalog. It can be trying to find things on Amazon. Here in your lap is the thing you were looking for, looking back at you on the printed page!
Catalogs received this week!
  Shopping today is such a miserable hassle. Depending on where you live, if you are single, married or married with children you have to get everyone dressed in something, then go to the car, load everyone in after making sure all windows, doors, lights and appliances are turned off, doors locked, then driving to the mall which once took 10 minutes but today can be an hours long trip. You arrive mad at the stupid drivers, the kids bickering in the back seat, a disagreement with the spouse of where you will go once there ... the "purpose" of the trip, then finding a place to park and depending on the weather slogging to the entrance. As if to add insult to injury, you also take a quick glance around to see where to hide if some crazed gunman wants to add a sense of adventure to your shopping chores.  And worse, if you live in California you have to bring your own bag or be charged for everyone you get from the seller. So the back of my SUV has a bundle of bags that I somehow manage to forget every time I go to the store or mall! Need a bag?
     WHY do that? Stay home, leaf through your catalogs, fill out the order form, put a stamp on it, put it in the mailbox and take a nap.
     Rather than adding stress to our lives, we can relax and depending, wait to receive our package. I am sure that's why such sites as Wayfair, Overstocck.com and just about every catalog out there also send you emails to order online. They are covering their bases and audience. At 74 I find that I like holding the catalog and reading the pages rather than looking at a screen that makes it difficult to flip back and forth between items. I have yet to find any digital store's pages that equals the same experience as a printed catalog. Maybe digital takes a certain age to use. Yet, those catalogs keep coming so someone, somewhere is still ordering from them!
    
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!

     

Sunday, January 5, 2020

BIG BROTHER Is Here and We Barely Notice It!

Growing up in the 50's there were all kinds of threats and fears about the Commies. There was a show I watched as a kid where the "good" guys caught a "Commie" each and every week. No kid could escape the fear of a Soviet atomic bomb with the regular drills to drop and cover under our desks during an atomic bomb attack. Yeah, we would have all fried in place under our desks. Even at 9 and 10 I could understand the fear of Eugene McCarty's list of Communists in government and the blacklisting of many in the movie industry.
   As a late bloomer in reading I soon caught up and was reading any book I wanted after my mother sent a note to the local librarian with that very message the 7th grade. I remember seeing the movie first and then reading George Orwell's chilling 1984. Shot in grainy black and white, it depicted a society (what we thought it was like living in the Soviet Union) where every citizen was watched and for any deviation of correct thinking was removed for "education" much like several societies I can think of today. It was, for a young, red-blooded American an almost unbelievable concept. We lived in a free society and could do and say just about anything we wanted. Or so we thought.
     Over the years much as been made of the idea of "1984's Big Brother" both coming toward and after. The 1984 Super Bowl ad of Apple introducing the Apple Macintosh is one of the more memorable concepts. Yet while the Mac definitely revolutionised computing becoming the first salvo into the technological world we live in today, it was not quite what Orwell had in mind. OR, was it?
     I just finished Christopher Wylie's book MINDF*CK and if he gives us any warning it is that not only is Big Brother here, so is big sister, Uncle Sam, just about every government, politician and every advertiser in the world. We are definitely not alone.
Christopher Wylie
     So we have a 30 year old telling how from about the age of 16 he became a kind of technological wiz in understanding and harvesting "big data." For those of you that don't know, big data is all the information various agencies have on file about us, about you! Whether we have a card for credits at the grocery store, our census records, doctor records, credit cards and payment histories, what we do online through Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat, WhatsApp, Twitter and a whole bunch more of online looking and shopping; data is collected about you.
     From a rather small beginning in the UK, the firm SCL whose purpose was to collect not only data but big data that could be used to influence people. Money came from the British government, our DARPA, the Russians and was used to test the idea they could sway people to do things. They used this data in Caribbean islands and African elections. But they needed more money and far more data. So Wylie helped in the creation of a company called Cambridge Analytica (CA) that managed to get data that FACEBOOK was collecting on it's social network to drum up more advertising. Yes, every click, and share and photo post gives them more and more information about you.
   About this time, around 2014-2015 Steve Bannon, a close friend of Donald Trump and owner of the very rightwing BREITBART was brought in to see and hopefully invest in this big data. Bannon instantly understood what could be achieved and the rest is history. However, not only did the Trump Campaign understand this but so did the Russians. With a population of less than half of the United States and far fewer resources and under heavy sanctions they figured out that the best way to demoralize America was to turn it against itself via propaganda.
    There was an immensely popular movie in the early 60's called THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, starring Frank Sinatra I might add, that tells the story of Korean prisoners of war that were brainwashed during captivity and at a certain signal would complete the program they were hypnotized to finish, in this case, an assassination. The original was a nail biter and for many, it was something that couldn't be done though some thought it could. However, CA proved that using your data it could be done based on your likes and dislikes. They discovered that what people said and what they privately thought were often different. This could be and many fear it has been exploited.
     Soon after Facebook was forced to allow users to download and print out the data they had on them, a reporter on ABC was stunned to find there was over 1,000 pages on her and finally she stopped the printer. There, on her desk, were hundreds of sheets of paper all detailing the data Facebook had on her.
     What Wylie is saying that in that 85 million user breach on Facebook that CA harvested, the actual number was far greater. Every person who was a friend, friends of friends and so on were included. Not millions but hundreds of millions of profiles and data on each and every one was harvested. 
     While he left before the politicians were using it in the United States he could see the results from Canada and felt that he had no choice but to blow the whistle on the monster that he had created.
     Design, design, design. You may be sick of my mantra but everything we do is designed for us or against us ... we even do the same thing to ourselves and others. You cannot hide your head in the sand anymore. It may be too late and now, at the age of 74 I could see why Issac Asimov created a world in his FOUNDATION TRILOGY that outlawed robots. However, they did use psycho-history to predict future events, quite similar to predicting a world not unlike ours today. Will we allow it to be true or, finally, put the brakes on what we share, finally learning what privacy really means? I urge you to read this book. If you are reading this blog you are on the Internet and they are watching.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where my emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! 

Be sure to check my ETSY store ... KrugsStudio.etsy.com. I am adding many new and exciting, collectible birdhouses and craft items. Many of the items talked about here will be for sale there!