Monday, December 18, 2017

Service That ISN'T Service Anymore

  We've all heard this line ... often over and over again for 5, 10, 15 even up to 45 minutes when you make the mistake of calling a company about a problem, even your doctor ... "Please hold. Your call is very important to us. However, we are experiencing a larger call volume than usual. Please hold. We will take your call in the order it was received. Thank you for your patience." Then after say, 10 - 15 minutes of waiting comes this line, "All our representatives are still busy helping other callers. Your call is important to us, please leave a number so that we can return your call shortly." And, they never, ever do. 
   Even worse is how they now try to shuffle you off to the Internet where 1: you can't even get on the internet; that's why you're calling Time Warner, or 2: what you need is on the 5th screen hidden deep down on an Internet page that is longer than anything that can be published in tiny type buried in another line and you simply can't find it. Been there too?
   This folks is design ... design to discourage. In the past I have finally given up and literally gone to the place I needed to contact in less time than the time I spent holding. They are startled at that and often fall all over themselves to get you, by now irate and angry, out the door.
Unlike Ernestine on LAUGH-IN, this operator put you through.
   Service has never been as poor as it is today (well it was pretty awful before the wall fell in eastern Europe too). I have been to service centers, Spectrum, even the doctor's office, heard the phone ring and one of two things happen; they stop helping you to get the call and then are on that call 5 minutes, or more often, ignore the call and do what they were doing. 
   When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in the 1950's, someone always answered the phone and you were transferred to the person you needed, if they were there. If not, a message was taken. In the 60's and 70's you checked out of the office and when you returned a sheaf of pink slips had messages of those who had called when you were out. They expected you to call back, too. And we did.
   Today robots answer phones and most of those messages are clearly ignored. A pink message slip makes you feel guilty, ignoring a blinking light or even not bothering to check your messages seems to be the standard of the day. I found, before I retired, that I had to do two jobs: my job and their's bugging them to do what I had wanted. To be fair, in the drive for profits and CEO salaries, companies do everything they can to save a penny so fewer employees do double or triple the work than was expected of them 50 years ago. If a real person answers the phone, I praise them and their company for caring enough to help me without having to wait. Time is my money too!
   In fact, the more companies talk about how important YOU are on TV, the radio, the Internet and printed advertising, the worse the problem has become. In fact, for many of them, including our government ... city, county, state, federal, service has gotten far, FAR worse.
   A case in point was today in my condo complex in Palm Springs. Last year after the old management company was kicked out for mismanagement the HOA board choose Desert Resort Management, a division of Associa, as their new management company. They found many, many problems inherited from the old management company but while I was still a renter, who had no vote or voice, there were many questions about the new company. At HOA meetings I could attend as an owner the DRM representative spent her time on her cell phone and rarely had the information asked for a month or two before. This year the problem became worse. The first one was replaced. Suddenly we had another representative, then another, and last month another. Late Friday afternoon board members, I am now one, were emailed a note that took more than a day for me to receive, that we were going to get yet another representative. 
   A search of the Internet on this company gives a very different picture from the one they paint. In fact they are huge, managing over 9,000 properties. They made front page news in the valley recently when one of their employees siphoned over $100,000 from a petty cash account at one of the properties they manage.
   In a continuing and startling allegation of McKesson Pharmaceuticals last night on "60 Minutes" who with the Washington Post, CBS and retired employees of the DEA discussed McKesson's fueling the opioid epidemic and the government's refusal to prosecute. Past episodes regarding malfeasance of big banks, utilities, auto companies and much more, the common answer to these problems and yes, criminal activities, including property management companies, is that they are "too big to fail." Really? Is anything so big that if it fails the world ends? I would say that with this attitude the "End of Days" is nearer than we think. In fact, I would recommend CEO's and a great many of our government employees read Gibbons THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. In fact I would posit that many, many companies are too big and should be broken up or allowed to fail. The demand of profits over people, over service, is rapidly reaching a breaking point.
In fact, we have reached the perfect storm; new board members, new and unknown representative and the holidays.
   Somewhere we as a nation have lost our way. Republicans wrap their selves in a flag spouting freedom and human rights as they give the rich more, then literally take food and medicine from the nations poor adding they are Christians. Democrats offer a vision of a world that doesn't exist anymore and when their "heroes" go amuck say they are "icons" and refuse to believe claims against them. Unfortunately I have a very different view of the gospels and they don't include either of these tenets.
   Differences of opinion have prevailed even before July 4, 1776. In fact they went on with mother England before the first sailing to the New World. Heavens, the Vice President of the United States had a dueling match with the Secretary of the Treasury and killed him. We fought a Civil War that was anything but civil, that killed 15% of the nation's population. To watch the news recently, it appears that the war there is still being fought.
   The citizens of the United States need to pause ... from the wealthiest to the poorest, as well as all government leaders, and take stock of who we as a people are. Do the words that grace the Statue of Liberty have any meaning or is that yet another casualty of freedom? What is freedom? I would note that the Constitution was written over 230 years ago while we live in a world the Founding Fathers could never, ever imagine. It doesn't hurt anyone to say thank you or to be kind. The wealthy don't need more. Health care is a right, not a priviledge. The stress of the modern world is of our owning making, yes, our own design. We need to inculcate service into our children and ourselves so that we will be willing and yes, eager, to serve others and not take more than we need. No, I am not preaching for a socialist Utopia, I am asking for common courtesy and decency.
   We designed this thing, maybe the time has come, finally, to design another.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RoboLights: Christmas Decor Like No Other!

Kenny Irwin's property on a normal day. Frank Sinatra's

first house in Palm Springs is just a block away. This is the
midst of the Movie Colony where every home is valued in
excess of $2 million. Neighbors are not pleased.

Palm Springs is known for many things ... desert weather, a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood or just about anyplace with either too much hustle or bustle and snow plows, movie stars hiding from prying eyes, innovative architects, a Gay lifestyle and so much more.
  After 16 years of trying, the denizens of the Movie Colony and city hall lost a court battle last year to shut down RoboLights, the creation of local sculpture Kenny Irwin, whose vision of Christmas, is even more bizarre than Tim Burton's NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, finally won his battle to open his property for his yearly Christmas show. 
   Not to be outdone the city now lists RoboLights as one of the city's attractions of things to do and see in Palm Springs.
   The neighbors have struck back by getting the city to forbid parking on the street the house is on and the street that takes you there. Luckily a park is a few blocks away with plenty of parking but, as the leader of our photography group said, bring a flashlight. There are no or at best few streetlights.
This is the entrance (one of several) view to RoboLights at dusk
   Open from 4 pm to 9:30 pm nightly its probably better to come around 5 pm or so like we did. There is still some light and you can find your way easily. While I had visited last year, we came late, had only 15 or so minutes to check the place out and since I didn't drive there made a dry run earlier in daylight to find where it was and where to park. Last year a friend from China walked around stunned, his mouth agape. We all did, truly there can't be anything like this any place in the world.
Once inside there are many paths and its easy to get lost.
   Some of it is fun, playful even, other scenes are macabre and definitely something that could give you nightmares for a week. I heard one adult wonder if maybe this wasn't for children below, maybe 16?
Save your junk! You too can become a
sculptor. One never knows.

  There are just not words to describe what awaits you here. He has put together bits and pieces of just about anything you can imagine ... pipes, circuit boards, TV's, a whole bunch of skulls, a tanker full of Pepto Bismo pink paint. Someone spotted people delivering even more junk to him behind the house. Its not as if there isn't a whole lot there already!
I don't think Disney would picture Freeze with this cast.

   I traipsed around this wonderland of, I guess the best description would be "land of the macabre, but as an artist you can't help but admire the total, unrelenting inventiveness, even lightheartedness of his collection and the work that went into it. After all, it covers 4 acres and he has over 1 million lights. In fact I spotted a worker there adding even more lights. Really? More lights?
Your chariot awaits

Where else could you see a
Gingerbread Mullah?

   Irwin has become a Muslim convert and can be spotted on his grounds dressed in traditional Mullah garb. Some areas of the display feature Arab scenes and music. I didn't see him last night but did see him last year. There are some interesting scenes though that combine a variety of holiday themes. 
Pulling Santa in a way Hugh Hefner would love.
  The Easter Bunny driving a team of reindeer, Santa on a tank with a banner that reads "Come and Get It," with a gaggle of female manikins pulling Santa in a stage coach.
   There are many beautifully lit tunnels that overlook the grounds, even the pool filled with bulls in rafts, a giant pirate ship, several snowmen and the afore mentioned Santa riding his tank.
I guess Santa is ready to shoot down Jack

Skeleton before he hi-jacks Christmas again!
    It is so, bizarre you will find your fingers are never far from you camera or cell phone. Scene after scene greets you, each one more, is the word "outrageous?" than the last. It never fails to amaze and you never stop looking.
Not your Grandmas's typical Village!!!
   And it was fun. Despite the warnings, I did sleep like a baby last night! So, you don't need to worry about that.
There just isn't anything like this anywhere.
   I think that for an artist, whether you like this kind of exhibit or not, it does show the many kinds of possibilities there are out there. Much of his creations are made from cast off things we probably get rid of each and every day. He might be on to something. I have noticed that dimensional art, art that does something is becoming more and more popular. At Spectrum last year, two of the more popular spaces included things that did something. One space had creations made from black wire that when the handle was turned came to life ... a bicycle wheels turned, a trapeze star walked across, things moved up and down. Another space had electrical creations that were fascinating to watch. No two were alike. Created by an electrical engineer, he may well have been on to something.
I can see those garages now! Where is it?

   I would say that if this kind of art, collages, things created from found pieces is what you want to do a visit to RoboLights is almost a command performance. He has definitely led the way into uncharted territory. You may not agree or even like what you see, but the possibilities it can open to the artistic person are immeasurable.
    If you are in Palm Springs during the Christmas season, this is a must see venue. Even during the rest of the year, some of the creations are quite visible from the street and they are lighted at night.
 Leaving, you definitely need your flashlight. There are no streetlights for blocks and the on blaze of lights is what you see from Robolights. While the neighbors might want to keep their lives and properties private, RoboLights, like Los Angeles, blazes a path to its front door! It is open daily from 4 pm to 9:30 pm. Admission is a donation and they are collecting toys for the children of Syria.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Christmas Giving Is Also A Time For Christmas Creating!

I probably started back in the day ... when education was "well rounded," you know when we had art and music and boys took shop and the girls took home economics, that I got started making things, rather than buying things for Christmas. That's not to say I and every other kid I know didn't roam the 5 & 10's buying "Evening In Paris" perfume for our mothers (or some of us did anyway) but we always had a Christmas craft in grade school. One of the best was a huge mobile we made with paper circles when I was in the 7th grade. I had my first male teacher and he seemed to enjoy art and had us create all kinds of things for each season. I can remember carrying it home, we walked in those days, praying that it wouldn't rain before I got it home in Portland, OR, where it always rains.
   My Dad died between my junior and senior high school years and to help my Mom, I volunteered to send all the Christmas cards that year. I made each and every one by hand, a tradition that I kept until a few years ago and resumed again this year. However, I went from hand to computer creating a summery of the things and places I had been to this year.
   When I started crafting in my 60's, I guess an outlet from my computer based graphic design ... using my hands, a brush and paint rather than a computer, software and a mouse, I also became aware of seasons of the year. After I had amassed quite a collection of finished goods for Christmas or Easter, especially Halloween, my daughter found and urged me to sell these things on So I opened a store and did sell a few things.
   Anyone who does crafts knows from the beginning you sell your items making pennies each and every hour. I think we do it out of love of creating. I learned that it often means more to the creator and purchaser than to the person just given it. Unless you have a hobby of any sort, one that requires hours of patience to complete, people don't appreciate what it takes to make anything. They just assume everything is made by the millions and sold at any old store. While there may be 1.5 million sellers on ETSY there are also about 4-5 billion people that can connect on the Internet.
Cut fancy or not the blank wooden
ornament is well, blank! You need
a lot of imagination to turn it into
something that creates a memory.
   This year after creating my cards and printing them out, I began to work on raw wood Christmas ornaments. Since I am visiting a friend who bought and decorated a Christmas tree for the first time in his life, I felt that it was appropriate to start making ornaments for him.
   Oddly, here in the Coachella Valley it is JoAnn's rather than Michael's that seems to have the more craft friendly items to work with. There was quite a selection of items to purchase and better yet they were all 60% off retail price.
   This ornament ended up 
   with three pieces thick
   glued together.
   So, after getting a client's project done, then the Christmas card designed, its tale of the year written, then printed, cut, envelopes addressed, stuffed, stamped and finally mailed, (as well as the re-creation of two lost birdhouses) I settled down for some serious craft painting and adornment.
   Many of the ornaments were more than one layer and one side. So, I had to decide whether to paint both sides to match, think Santa or snowman, or paint and decorate one side and leave the other side painted a single, dark color. What makes it worse, like graphic design, the possibilities are literally endless. You have to pick a path and stick to it though to be honest, things do change along the way. I liked the shape and cutting of "Noel" but even
   The small rounded ornament 
  on the "O"added just the right 
   amount of depth. So did the 
   illusion of snow on all edges.
painting the "o" with metallic paint didn't jazz it up enough. Adding a small ornament to it, gave it dimension, something this piece didn't have but, I felt, needed. On the back I put the recipient and my name with the year. 
Santa is a three layered wooden creation
that is completed with a red jewel on the
top of the small tree on the left.
   Decorating a tree is one of life's little pleasures. When I was first married we were poor as church mice. We bought cheap shiny balls and found some small wooden ornaments to decorate. The balls broke over time but the wooden ones survived and brought back many memories. As you collect them over the years, looking at each one can bring back so many memories ... memories of the giver and if they've passed, the memory of them and when you received it. So, yes, when you create either for yourself or to sell or given as gifts, date and sign them. 
  Of course no Christmas Tree would be complete without a Santa, or if you are like one relative whose entire tree was nothing a collection of Santa's from around the world that had to be arranged by size ... smallest at the top and getting bigger as you moved to the bottom. It was a rare day of decorating where she didn't come out, admire the work and then move a few "Santa's" around.
Snowmen are fun to paint and offer a
surprising variety of ways to decorate.
   Another great favorite for many collectors is "Frosty, the Snowman" and there are many available from around the world. I found another three layered one that I painted on both sides using the front as a guide to paint the back. How hard is it to paint white, right? However, for a bit of a flourish, he may have had a red hat but I gave him a tartan scarf.
Snowflakes don't always have
to be white you know.
   Finally, but not least was a simple snowflake caught in a ring that I played with before deciding on what to do. I added red jewels on the outer ring, used gold paint for the snowflake with glitter paint on the spokes and a bit of brushed snow for, well, what a snowflake is! Snow!
We are not limited necessarily by what tradition is. Time has allowed creators a wide latitude for decoration. Here, because it was a friends first tree, I wanted tradition. It will be much fun explaining them to him. As time goes along there will be plenty of time to be more creative, even getting him to try decorating himself! As any crafter and artist knows, while you are in the midst of a project, you are literally in another world of time and space. You are so focused that the real world is kept at bay for awhile. And you know? I think we all could use that now and then.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Kickstarting A Dorment Artist!

If it was good once, is twice better?
   Maybe its the malaise after a too hot summer, maybe its trying to do other things, but whatever the reason, I have hardly picked up a paintbrush all year.
   First there was the moving, it was a two month ordeal to get my new home remodeled then moved. Then it was the heat ... all you do is try to keep cool and not give all your money to the electric company. I did do a few things, as usual far too complex, if sold, there would be no real monetary return for hours expended in sight. I read. I finished the huge THREE-BODY PROBLEM, trilogy. I went to Hong Kong to visit my friend and he flew from China for a visit and, as I recounted in an earlier blog, we took a fast trip to Las Vegas, and then, Amtrak to Chicago. Hours were spent creating an album of our trip. And it might be that wandering through the galleries of the Art Institute inspired me ... again. Its not hard to fall in love with art at the Art Institute with all the masterpieces they exhibit. But no, that wasn't it.
   Then, after I returned,  I got busy doing work for an old client. In some ways it was like learning to use Quark and Word and Excel all over again. If you're not in the business world anymore, at 72, you DO forget. No that wasn't it either.
   I think the impetus was my ETSY store. After months of no sales and barely any views even, I was startled last week to find an order, then two. No problem, I had the first item. I got it packaged and mailed off. The second, that was another story. While I found one, I could not find the other and I knew, or thought I knew it was here. It wasn't. Then, the next day came another. Oh oh. After tearing my condo and storage room apart I couldn't find it. It was ... gone! I hadn't sold it I know but it must be been buried from one of the two moves I made last year. I went through every drawer, every bin ... nada. It was paid for; the client expected delivery!
   So, like any good artist, I printed the photos from my ETSY store, no, I couldn't find the original photos either, then last Saturday headed first to Michael's who didn't have any left, then to JoAnn's that for some reason out here in the desert is better than any Michael's I have ever seen in California, who had them. There it was! Hallelujah!!! To be safe I bought two. I knew where one of them was, the other? Who knows. Several years ago, on a wild bent, I created three abstract birdhouses. Same sizes but with different feet and each one with a theme: squares, circles and combined. They were wild, very colorful and luckily too small for a bird to actually use. If it were bigger, they might have flown into the side and not the hole, which as you can see is heart shaped.
   How does this happen? While I had my own business and spent many hours working for it, I never liked the business side... you know the billing, invoicing and such. Then Sunday at a photo shoot with a group I joined out here in the desert, I couldn't find the group and another straggler in the group found me. It was fun to tour the vintage market looking at the same kinds of things we grew up with. She too faced my dilemma saying that every artist needs a business manager. I AGREE! I want to create not bill and count pennies. 
   That I had poor organizational skills, despite trying to do that very thing, reared it's ugly head when  a few days later two more orders appeared and, well, I had one but not the other. This time I opened every box in storage, I mean EVERY one, finding one I had never opened, but still no missing birdhouse. So yet again, it was back to the drawing board and for two days recreating what has got to be here, somewhere. So far I have not found it. I really, really need to do a deep, DEEP cleaning!
   Today, I looked at all the items for sale on my ETSY store to make sure I had them ... or at least knew where they were. I should know! Twice in a week I have torn this place apart. Enough with the late hours recreating something I had already done and can't find.
   When I started crafting and opened my store I used to do three at a time. Since I was using acrylic paints, but the time you were through with whatever step on number 3, number 1 was dry. I did that for a while and all 3 in fact have sold. Then I stopped ... what a mistake. 
   With all the frustration and demands of sold but missing items, it has jumpstarted my painting again. I starting doing Christmas ornaments for friends, and have regained the joy I had. Since there is no TV setup in the "studio" I prop up my iPad, watch a little news via an App or watch movies and such on either Netflix or Amazon. I really don't pay much attention, its just background noise ... something to break the silence.
   In fact the searching in all those tubs and boxes, I was made aware of how much I had that was not done. Birdhouses, trays, figures, boxes that were all begging to be painted. Humbly I started again with Christmas ornaments to take with me as gifts on my trip. I found a couple of unique, one-of-a-kind birdhouses I had forgotten I even had. So, finally, the push and desire is on. Maybe it is better to take a break. But I do not recommend the stress that I have been under the past week. There has to be a balance I realize, not too much work, nor too little. Anyway, it is good, REALLY good to be creating again!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there! AND, I guarantee the items shown are really, REALLY available.

Monday, November 27, 2017

SEX, LIES & NETWORK TAPES In The 21st Century Artistic World

The poster boy of "The Casting Couch" with revelations
of sexual harassment of over 60 women over decades.

The early 21st Century seems to be a time for brutal honesty, a form of housecleaning of things long known but never talked about, or at least in polite company. I was a very naive boy regarding anything sexual and remained that way until my early 20's, maybe even later. However, even I knew about the casting couch and we would all snicker at rumors and then question how a particularly pretty but terrible actress made it big. Of course the answer was, "The Casting Couch." 
   As kids we were particularly attuned to tone of voice (if you have young children, listen up), when the adults started to whisper, like vampire bats to blood, our ears became ultra sensitive and we heard things we shouldn't have. The saving grace was we didn't understand what they were talking about at the time. There are moments, even now, for me.
   The recent revelations of the antics of producer Harvey Weinstein seemed, to me at least, the confirmation of all those snickers us boys had as we found and ogled my Dad's collection of the first Playboy Magazines. As an artist the revelations of so many men and women behaving badly who are in the arts calls to question many of the artworks I've seen over the years and dismissed. Now, in light of all this, the "MeToo" movement suddenly explains artists anger, particularly works of women, bringing their anger into focus.
   Last year the Palm Springs Art Museum had an exhibition of women Expressionists from mostly the 50's though some were earlier or later. The group I toured the exhibit with were mostly women, many Lesbians and they admired the strength and boldness of the art. Staring at it I was struck not at the boldness, but the anger. Jackson Pollack's wife, Lee Krasner's paintings started the show but there were many others and none were motherly or Mary Cassatt styles of art. There was emotion, great emotion that I was not prepared to handle.
   Sex seems to be a great modifier. My whole life I've been told that men have two heads and one of them though smaller is greater in its actions.
   First there was the scandal of priests in the Catholic Church. Revelations started in the United States and then spread around the world. Parishioners are paying the bail out from that still.
America's Father abused his celebrity
   When the Bill Crosby scandal hit the news in what seems eons ago now, I think it was still considered an isolated incident of a powerful, even important actor who abused his celebrity. It appears he was saying one thing and practicing anther. While he still denies many of the accusations, where's smoke there is usually fire. You have to admire the courage of his wife. This cannot have been easy to endure.
Kevin Spacey caught diddling.
   The LGBT community became enraged and the fallout has yet to end over allegations that Kevin Spacey, one of our greatest actors, was or is at some point in his life a Gay pedophile. When the accusation hit the airwaves, he pleaded that he didn't remember that event and then, as an aside, a distraction, finally came out saying,  by the way, I'm Gay. I hate to tell Spacey this but this was hardly a well kept secret. I was told this years ago but I didn't care. He was an amazing actor. Several other actors, Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons, both wonderful actors were openly Gay and appeared with their husbands in public. What made Spacey so vile was that he paired his sexual impropriety with being Gay. Excuses from the Old Vic Theatre in London, where Spacey served as artistic director for many years sound hollow. Ignorance is not bliss. They knew yet said nothing for years. Can it be that an artist will do anything to achieve success? As Edmund Burke stated in 1795, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." In hindsight it appears that good men and women have done nothing not for days, or months or even years but for centuries.
   Daily the airwaves are replete with new revelations. Charlie Rose, a host of Fox Channel hosts, Billie Bush, Senator Al Franken, the paradigm of respect for women. When does it end? Roy Moore in Alabama, a state that would rather elect a Republican sexual harasser than elect a Democrat. Then there's John Conyers another Democrat that Nancy Pelosi holds up as an icon of the party! Really? We've already endured a president that couldn't keep his pants zipped in the Oval Office and another that brazenly says that women "want it."
Ugh, hello boss! Can I help you?
To be fair, any kind   of harassment comes in many forms. Men harass women in what appears to be a rather regular basis. 
   However, there was an amazing Mike Douglas movie where his female boss harassed him in a style all too common to women. It is said men are ashamed and won't talk about it. Thinking about it, the women had good teachers; they just turned the tables is all. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Women are not alone. Men can
face the same kind of harassment
 The same can be said for men on men sexual harassment. As Spacey and others have shown, no one is immune. Not all the "MeToo's" on Facebook were women. 
   The question remains, how do we deal with this? Is it the way children are raised? Have the abused been silent too long? I know from friends abused as children that the memory is always there. A woman raped carries the memory the rest of her life. It would be much easier if harassers were like Marley from THE CHRISTMAS CAROL, dragging their sins in chains as they walked the streets, a clear sign that they needed to be avoided. 
   All we can hope is that this, ALL this, serves as a notice to men and women that such behavior will not be tolerated. That artists ... actors, artists, writers, musicians, broadcasters do not and SHOULD not have to sleep their way to success. NO ONE SHOULD! We founded a country where every man and woman was given a certain amount of freedom to become the best person they could. A lesson that many in this country seem to have yet to learn is that your Constitutional Rights end when they step on mine. In the eyes of our laws we are all to be regarded as equal, no one, and I mean NO ONE, is special. We should not live as the final sign over the barn in ANIMAL FARM that states, "Some animals are more equal than others." To that I saw BS! Yet ... we see that this is also sadly true.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

100 Million Americans Have Hypertension AND I Know Why

Watching the news Monday night, first ABC News with David Muir and then CBS News with Anthony Mason, one of the headlines they both had and even featured was the latest medical report stating that over 100 million Americans suffer from hypertension. Now it should be noted that the definition of hypertension has been changed from 130 / 90 to 120 / 80 sweeping in a great many citizens who until Monday night thought they were safe.
   The "expert" doctors on both shows noted that before people start taking more medicines that lifestyle changes could also make a tremendous difference. Diet, exercise ... the same mantra that is used for just about every condition.
   However, after events that Monday, I think I know another factor that increases our blood pressure and does so each and every day in our modern world.
   I am taking a holiday trip later this year. While I ordered the tickets in early October I never received a confirmation that everything was confirmed. The sheet of paper I had even said this was not a confirmation, one would be sent shortly. It wasn't.
   Since I have had several pulmonary embolisms, one that could have been caused by a long plane flight, and have suffered other blood clots I have to prepare what I wear on the plane and "should" get up and walk about every hour. Since my flight will be about 15 hours I need an aisle seat. 
I'm not so sure about the "happiness." Efficiency is better.
   So a call to Hotwire finally got me to a human that I explained my predicament to. He looked up the itinerary number and sure enough there was my flight information. When I told him I never received the confirmation he said one was sent. I replied that I had nothing. He sent one and I received it while we were talking. (A month ago would have been better.)
   When I told him that I needed to pick my seats he said, "Oh, we don't do that. You will need to contact the carrier and pick your seats." Odd, you can do that on Expedia. I thanked him, hung up and went to the United Airlines web site.
    Dante wasn't kidding about the 7 circles of hell. United Airlines has that down to a science. After a bunch of questions that led me around and around their web site without getting anywhere, I finally found my flight information and the four flights there and back. Since I am flying from Palm Springs to San Francisco, a flight that is 90 minutes, I wasn't concerned where I sat on that flight. On the 15 hour flight I was. 
   After picking seats on the going flights the site went wonky and it throw me back to the home page. No amount of trying could get me back so finally, I found a number (trust me, a phone number is NOT stressed anymore. They don't want to talk to you.) The recordings say over and over you can do everything online, only, as you find out, you can't.
   I finally got a human after about 10  minutes of number punching and explained my plight. She was nice and offered to walk me through the process though I could tell she thought I was lame. We went through the same steps and picked seats on all my flights. Then, when she went to save my selections it wouldn't save. Her response was that they knew there was a problem and they were working on it. I should call back in an hour and it might work. Her inference was that I should stick around the house and call every now and then. I asked for the seat numbers noting them on each of my flights and then asked to speak to her supervisor. I wasn't going to sit around all day and hope that the site might work. I can say it didn't work the other three times either. Who was it? United? Delta whose flights stopped worldwide for a few days because of such computer nonsense?
   Finally her supervisor came on the line and sounded about 10. While the first person said she explained our plight, with the supervisor we started all over again. This time I knew which seats and finally he was able to pick them and confirm them while I was on the phone. Later, I did receive confirmation of this conversation. I think from the time I started and I hung up I had spent 2 hours on the phone. Just about 100 minutes too long. Do you think I was a bit stressed after this? You bet!
   Unless I am cursed and a black cloud follows me around, just about everything we do today is like this. I already recounted the experience with my iPhone X, which has taken a week and some tricks to put all the data from an older phone onto it. Hours and hours over a week to do what once took maybe an hour or two.
You don't need to go to hell. The Feds have created
the perfect preparation right here on earth!
   I have a friend that has been fighting the Feds over his Green card, already two years beyond its expiration. When we checked in September of this year, he was told that they were still only up to July for applications or renewals  from July of 2016. You can bet he is excited! He is stuck here and can't leave without a current Green card.
   When I was a kid and even a young adult you called a company, a human answered and you were transferred to the person you needed to talk to. Today a quick question turns into a 45 minute experience of punching numbers and numbing waiting all the while being told you call is sooo important to us and they will be with you shortly between bursts of staticky music. Heard that one? Or how about this one ... please hold, we are experiencing an unusually high caller volume. I called at 3 am one time and got the same message but was so pissed I held on for 45 minutes and when the guy finally answered admitted, when grilled, that they only had one person ... pretty much for the whole day. I have witnessed phone calls at desks where the employee let their answer phone pick up. And not just once either. For all we know, it could have been your call. The newest wrinkle is, "We can't come to the phone right now so please leave your name and number and we will call back as soon as possible." That's a lie too. They never call back.
   So yes, experiencing this kind of behavior all day, every day is certain to raise your blood pressure. When I worked at a manufacturer of furniture I felt that I had two jobs ... the one that paid me and the other constantly following up on orders hounding people who hadn't gotten around to it yet. The excuses I heard would fill a book. In fact, I often wondered if there was such a book of excuses because everyone seemed to know them but me.
   The other side of this same coin is, well, coins or dollars. Companies are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and human interaction is expensive. Just like big box stores, how many sales do they lose because they don't have enough employees to stock the shelves or help you?
   Our lives are also getting stressed because you never know when some nut with a gun will begin shooting at you or drive a car into you or, as we learned on 9 / 11 hijack a plane and crash it into skyscrapers. While you may not consciously think about it, be honest here ... when you're at the airport, stadium, crowded mall, concert, movie theater and now church, aren't you a bit nervous? I
Remember how carefully you packed? The TSA didn't.
remember how the underwear bomber during Christmas in 2009 changed airport check-in. Our flight to Egypt was relatively calm. However, coming home after the underwear bomber nearly brought a flight down over Detroit, a security guard at the Charles De Gaulle departure gate put his hands inside my pants and my underpants looking for a bomb. And to be honest, there were some pretty dicey looking characters on that flight. I took comfort that they too were "completely" checked.
   So yes, our lives ARE stressful and as any doctor will tell you unrelieved stress causes hypertension. We live in a world where quiet and calm are now an anomaly. The most sought after vacations are those that are those beyond the range of cell towers, Facebook and often people.
   The other option is to pursue art. Once you begin painting the world, and all it worries, fade away and you live in a world of imagination and hopefully quiet and beauty! It gives your body a break from the stress that surrounds us each and every day. Now, where IS that paintbrush ....

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Friday, November 10, 2017

LOVING VINCENT - A Must See Movie For "Every" Artist

Last night I went to the opening of Palm Springs 1st Animation Festival because it was featuring the movie LOVING VINCENT, a film I had read about months ago that featured one of the first films ever made where all the frames were painted ... not like the Disney cells but painted with oil on canvas in the style of Van Gogh.
   Every painter knows about Van Gogh and either they admire him or not but at the end of the film, that was warmly received, it was noted that most art historians consider him the father of what we consider Modern Art. And personally I have thought that too and considered his suicide? as his being unable to continue after such stunning and nearly abstract works as "Wheat Fields With Crows." I thought he possibly didn't know what his next step would be. His final works were but a step away from the increasing abstraction famously pioneered by Cezanne and even more by Duchamp, the German Expressionists and then Picasso.
   My love affair with Van Gogh began in the 5th grade. My father worked in a Schick Electric Shaver Shop in downtown Portland, OR and being artistic himself discovered the Portland Museum of Art had classes for kids. So, for several years before opening his store, he would drop me off at the museum for classes.
Starting in the evening STARRY NIGHT begins "Loving Vincent." This
is the world's second most famous painting behind the Mona Lisa
   Portland for some reason got the traveling Van Gogh Exhibit from Amsterdam as they were building their first Van Gogh Museum to exhibit their collection. For weeks (it seemed) I would walk past these shimmering paintings for classes and gaze at them as I waited for Dad to pick me up when he closed the shop at noon. There is no way to describe the fascination these paintings held for me over the years. When finally, we landed again in Amsterdam I made it a point to see the Van Gogh Museum literally across the park from the Rijksmuseum which had only reopened a few months before after being closed for years to be restored.
   We stupidly lined up with hordes of tourists in the rain to enter but as I expected it was like going to some secret inner sanctum. Even though I had read and owned many books about him, saw every exhibit that come to Los Angeles, I learned much about him ... things I noticed that were shown in the movie, to my surprise. More than 180 paintings are shown each more vibrant than the last including one that was finally authenticated after years hidden in a Norwegian attic.
  I had read about this movie but never really gave it much thought. In the hinterlands of Palm Springs I never thought I would see it but, as I have discovered since moving here, the world seems to beat a path to our valley. During the Gay Pride weekend I met the organizer of the upcoming animation festival and we struck up a conversation where I admitted I loved Van Gogh. He encouraged me to come and with the card in hand came home, looked up the site but it didn't work well so I called and ordered a ticket. I am SO glad I did.
   LOVING VINCENT in its creation is quite a feat. Ten years in the making and at a cost of $5 million, cheap in an era of $200 million blockbusters, it took 10 years to complete. A joint project between Polish, Dorotea Kobula, and English, Hugh Welshman, directors, it used 125 artists painting upwards of 100,000 original, hand painted canvases. Each second, of the 91 minute movie used 1200 canvases! 
The faces of "Loving Vincent" each one taken from his actual paintings
and woven into a story about his death.
   However, it is the art ... seeing paintings we all know move and talk to us that is in itself a stunning achievement. The story begins a year after Van Gogh's death as the friend of Vincent, the Postman Joseph asks his drunken and feisty son Armand to deliver Vincent's last letter to his brother Theo. 
   We follow Armand and enter a mystery about what happened to Van Gogh, yet to be truly answered.
  Over the years there have been many theories about his death and they are explored here too. The most recent book felt that he was shot by some youngsters by accident and rather than blaming them shielded them at the cost of his life. A boy that tormented Vincent as he painted in Auvers-sur-Oise said near his death that he loaned Vincent a gun but never said whether he had accidentally shot Vincent or not. The boy was known to carry it and wave it around. 
Madeline and Armand discussing Vincent as she takes her daily flowers to Vincent's grave. Was there a romance?
Ryan Chapman at work on a canvas
   While I knew many of the theories it was the details that drew me in. In Amsterdam I saw a frame he created with strings to help him with perspective. In a moment of seeing him using it as he painted I instantly knew how he had used it. It was such details that made you realize the amount of time researching him was painstaking.        
  The paintings though are luscious ... Vincent's paint strokes come to life over and over again as the story is told and processes from the present in color to the black and white past. To see Armand and Madeline talking in the wheat fields as the crows fly around is to enter a movie like one of Woody Allen's where the actor steps out of the screen into our reality. It is simply that stunning! And remember, each motion as shown above required a painting so many were made as they discussed Vincent shown in one of his last paintings.   
   Each canvas such as this had to be painted up to 76 times. Can you image doing the same painting
A finished canvas. Note the change in head position from above!
over and over again? And to make it worse it had to be extremely close to the others so the movement was left to changing positions in each canvas to show motion. So as you sit and watch the paintings move and shimmer, the bold strokes of paint are shown clearly in wonderful detail.
   The irony, as it is discussed, is that while he thought that he was a failure in life, and in truth he had failed in just about everything else in his short life, his paintings show a vision that was simply unlike anything ever painted before. As his doctor, Dr. Gachet, notes, he was a genius and was pushing paintings into realms never seen before. A failed painter himself Gachet spent many hours secretly copying Vincent's work. Later historians had to sort out his copies from the actual works he removed from Vincent's room after his death. To be fair, at his death he donated his Van Gogh paintings to the Louvre where by then the genius of Van Gogh was recognized, at long last.
   The creators studied his paintings for four years then spent 2 years creating each frame. They referred to his over 800 letters to Theo and had help from the Van Gogh Museum for accuracy and telling his story. 
   It is one of his final letters to Theo that sums up Vincent's story, written shortly before his death:
  "We cannot speak other than by our paintings."

   For an artist there can be no other way! If you get the chance please go see this film. I think that story aside, though I enjoyed the artistry of it,  the life of these paintings will move you in ways you may not expect. He may have felt his life had little meaning but his art has certainly enriched ours!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Monday, November 6, 2017

I Just Got My iPhone X and I Hate It (Amended Third times)

Yup, about two weeks early, I was surprised to receive today the world's creme de la creme phone, the now scarce and yes, IMPOSSIBLE to use, iPhone X.
   Now granted, I am 72 years old, however, I walked into MacWorld in January of 2007 just as Steve Jobs was finishing his keynote speech announcing the new iPhone. I can remember all of us standing around slack jawed and frankly thinking everyone at Apple had smoked something a little too much. While I hated my Motorola Razr it just didn't seem possible you could get a phone to do all that besides call and talk to someone. I mean, carrying around a computer in your pocket? A trip to Europe a month later proved that it could.
   I was number 222 at the Glendale Galleria June 29, 2007 and got my first, the first iPhone with 8 GB of memory. So, I am not a neophyte here. I have been enamored of the iPhone's since they first came out. I spent the next day hitting every button and finding out what it could and could not do. A friend and I attended an iPhone class the following Sunday so I, the old fart of 61, could learn to use it. I knew about as much as the Apple guy as he only had his phone about the same time as me. In fact I knew a few things he didn't! It was wickedly easy to use. I loved it. I did note, however,  that each new phone and iOS got harder to use but today .... I am now defeated. I can't call on either my iPhone 7+ or my iPhone X. Nothing is syncing and the things that were on my older phone can't seem to transfer, via  my iMac to the new phone. 
   So ... today, right now I can't do anything because when I connected the "X" it disconnected me from AT&T. So I guess that means a trip to the Apple Store with both phones and see what I can do. 
   And to make it worse, the backup that has been spinning for over an hour is useless. None of the information backed up from the 7+ has made it ... no music, no photos, no movies and not one single one of the Apps I have accumulated over the past 10 years. All the mailboxes are gone and to make it worse there seems to be no way to get them back either without hours of research and work. Frankly, what was Apple thinking of? I have read that some of the new features take awhile to get used to but I hadn't read anyone saying it was impossible to back-up and restore your information on the new phone. Simply put the only phone is what Apple gives you, a brand new virgin phone. What you had before is lost and it seems gone forever. 
   This is my last iPhone ... I am sure they will get it to work, maybe not at the level of my iPhone 7+ that I loved and used on trips to take stunning photos. It was a very simple process to go from an iPhone 6 to the 7+. Evidently Apple has chosen the Microsoft way of doing business. You need to be a geek to get it right. The rest of us either stand 10 deep at the Genius bar or wait. The trip to the Apple store is 40 minutes there ... God knows the hours of waiting and 40 minutes home. But, if this is the way Apple is going to make the migration of information work from one phone to another, I am done. I hope the build quality is good because it is going to have to last a looooooong time meaning it will be a loooooong time before I get another.
This is Apple's version of the Blue Screen of death. It spins and spins and spins!
   Its been hours now and I don't know what to do. My inclination is to take the new phone back and just live with what I have. It worked. My iMac is totally frozen, I can't go or do anything and I am terrified of forcing it to shut down. I am hoping that they can get the 7+ to work again and unless they can convince me, have their new toy back.

Later Monday Evening...

   After one last attempt to back up my iPhone 7+, I packed up both phones and made the trek to the Palm Desert Apple Store to return the "X" and have them help me establish an AT&T connection to my old phone so that I would have a phone, a cell phone being the only phone I use now. (Sorry Millennials, I beat you to that concept years ago). The guy that met me at the door said that he would get someone to help me but I had to wait abit. So ....
   They had me wait at one of the tables and soon Eric came over to help. I told him about my experience and that I had had an iPhone from the day they came out but today, well, I was defeated and had given up. He looked at them both and said that he would first like to try a few things before I surrendered the new phone. He tried several things and had to admit the normal ways didn't work as he tried to backup the old phone to a laptop and then restore the data to the new phone. Finally, he suggested we try to buy some more space on iCloud, 50 GB for $1 and sure enough the phone started to work. However, what if one, like I'm sure most seniors, don't have iCloud nor even know what it is, how would you ever know? I resent that you need to add yet another layer to make a phone work. It took us over an hour and once we were sure everything was coming back he said that I could finish up at home without a problem. Shut the phone off, turn on and follow the prompts to keep restoring the phone. They were closing and I had a phone that partially worked anyway. Everything did resume once I got home.
   In the limited time I have used it, I find that the facial recognition works even in the dark outside walking my dog. Without a protective case it is the perfect size. Smaller than the 7+ but bigger than my old iPhone 6, the whole front is glass and you soon adapt to not pushing or even looking for the home button. It just opens. Other than shutting down, I can't seem to close Apps but it is fast.
   Settings and passwords are not there so you will enter a lot of passwords. Before I could open any of my emails I had to enter the passwords for each mailbox. So, if you haven't, start writing those down. Pairing Bluetooth items is easy though I haven't tried my Mazda yet. The sound is much improved and videos are amazing. I haven't used the camera much yet so will give a rundown on that in another blog. I was more than happy with my 7+ and used it often as my only camera. I have two printed books that show how amazing the camera is. Is this better? Only time will tell.
   If you, like me, have a difficult time going from one phone to another, do exactly what Eric at the store told me, "If you fail the first time or two head over to the Apple Store (if you can) and let them help you." Trust me ... I lost an entire afternoon and a good part of an evening. If you make an investment such as this, seniors  may need to get some help. Life is too short for such frustrations!

Monday November 13, 2017, One Week Later ... 

   My phone does most things now, and quite well. However, the back-up of data from your phone or data (read images, music videos, books) is very iffy. It took three tries and hours to put data from my iMac into my iPhone X. It "still" isn't all there. Only abut half of the music that still resides on my iPhone 7+ and on my computer has made the transfer. Clearly there is SOMETHING wrong. All I can ask and wonder is what happened to the elegance and simplicity of the original iPhone? The expression, "You can't go home again," takes on new meaning with this 10th anniversary phone. An yes, to find out how things work that you knew from before, expect a lot of Googling. I have already searched online about three times for actions I used to know.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Finally, after nearly a month I was able to get the last of music and photos on my new phone. While the phone is elegant and I don't have many problems with photo recognition, despite new eyeglasses, there are still things in the iOS that need work.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the 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 re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!