Monday, March 27, 2017

Email or Blogs vs. Handwritten Letters

Now here's a blast to the present ... an 1890's man 
sporting a 21st Century Beard ! It is true ... what is old 
is NEW again. Maybe letter writing will be next!!!
I know, handwriting a letter is so 20th Century. It's almost the mark of a true Luddite. For those who don't know, a Luddite is a person whose against just about all technology. If you're still riding around in a buckboard drawn by a horse ... you're a Luddite.
     Recently I received a handwritten letter, a rather long one in fact, from a colleague in my old college Journalism class. I think she was surprised to both hear from me and that I sent her a hand written letter.
     She had recently gone to China and gave me impressions of her trip. Since I have barely scratched that country yet but am eager to visit, I read with fascination. At the end, she expressed a kind of dismay that she had written so much and promised the next letter would be email. I fully intend to write back, yes on paper, and tell her I treasured her letter and have already read it several times.
     Why do I say that? Its because there are subtle clues in a letter. The paper, the color of ink, the handwriting, good or bad, give a deeper impression of a person. When I received her letter I was startled to see my name written in much the same style of my mother who passed on years ago. While its a three minute walk, longer if walking the dog, I couldn't wait to get back home to read her letter!
     After years of writing either long emails or using Word to write a letter and then print it for each person receiving it, I have gone back to writing letters. To me, and I would suspect to many of you, holding a letter in your hand is an intimacy that most of us have forgotten. Yes, you can print out an email but tell me, is it the same thing?
     What draws me is that there is an immediate writing of your thoughts. Once written ... ink to paper, there is no going back, unless you like a lot of mark throughs as you try to again clarify a thought. I realized that I would write an email and then work it to death ... sort of like this blog. There is never the spontaneity of thought here that I would give to a letter. I write what I am thinking or feeling at the moment and then in review after review, sometimes after a few days read it yet again, correct it yet again and finally publish.
     Now there is a lot to be said about editing. I believe I read somewhere that the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Wasteland" was started by Eliot's editor on page 128 of the handwritten poem. Can you imagine? 128 pages? You have to wonder what he said before the poem we all had to read in high school. However, what we write is not always clear. I would be the first to admit that. So, we write and hone what we have written.
Even if you use a computer you still have to keep paper and 
pencil handy. When a friend told me this with my first computer
I thought he was crazy. I learned quickly that he was right! Writing 
a letter in fact is much faster. Once written, its done.
     Never has it been so easy to do this honing, this editing. You even have help if you use Microsoft Word whose suggestions often annoy me. While it is true that I may violate tense at times, there are many expressions that probably are not proper English yet clearly understood and often used in speech. I remember an especially demanding English teacher in high school. He made us diagram each sentence, define what each word in that sentence was and on and on. However, the best thing he taught us after this was to say the sentence aloud. He told us that once we learned how a sentence worked, saying it would help you catch errors. 99% of the time he was right. If I'm not sure, I say it aloud and instantly realize what is wrong.
     As I discovered trying to buy stationary to write letters, it is almost non-existent, at least in the United States. You may find some in a Barnes & Noble but it is maybe one style and color. It seems that all that is available are cards ... 25 to a box that are cute, or seasonal or thank you's with THANK YOU printed on the front in case the receiver didn't know why you sent it. I had to hunt just about every tiny, way overloaded stationary store in Hong Kong to find stationery. At least they have some and usually plain in a variety of colors or with very subtle patterns. In fact, I bought a lot since you can not find it here. Oddly there weren't many matching envelopes but I didn't care. It was something nice to hold in your hand and hopefully something the receiver would cherish. I know I do.
    So, the next time you want to write someone a note ... yes, it takes longer, costs you 49¢ but your receiver will be so surprised and will email you back what a delightful letter you wrote.
     Anyway, its a thought.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spectrum: "Demonstrating" Among World Class Artists!

Alan demonstrating his "craft" at the 
Indian Wells renaissance Spectrum Art Show

     Painting, drawing, multi-media has always seemed to be a part of me. I had wonderful art teachers in grade school, something long gone by the time my children hit school. Considered "woolgathering" by those who knew better, art, music even the kinds of shops we had as kids are long gone. Despite the confirmation in study after study, how the arts actually help critical thinking and learning, school boards as well as our Department of Education in our capital have stressed that the goal of all children must be college, whether they wanted it or not. Little thought is given to the fact barely 20% of all citizens have any kind of degree past high school. Nor is much thought given to teach professions those of us as the college elite need on a daily basis. Who can "we" possibly need? When was the last time you tried to change plumbing, fix a leaking faucet. Or, changed the oil in your car. Living here in Palm Springs I wonder if anyone washes their car anymore or does yard work. The gardeners I see here are far more sophisticated with far more tools than anything I ever saw in the San Gabriel Valley.  The first time I washed my SUV here at the condo recently, I got some strange looks. I can proudly say, it was just as clean.

     Getting involved with art groups is easier in the Coachella Valley than in most places. In fact I think there is some kind of exhibit, art fair, festival of some kind of art showing art each and every weekend during the "season." And of course there is the Thursday Village Fest every Thursday evening in Palm Springs that shuts down the main drag for hours.
Galleries at the Indian Wells, CA Spectrum Art Show
     When one of the groups I'm involved with was invited to show our art at Spectrum, in Indian Wells at the Renaissance during the BNP Paribus Tennis Tournament, we couldn't believe our good fortune. While space allocation rose and fell and then rose again, they asked and several of us agreed to demonstrate our art. True, I couldn't believe my hand went up but I was given a spot and then made sure there was something I could do. So along with Bruce, Juan-Miguel and Miguel we literally set up shop! Not wanting to drag a huge easel, canvas and the requisite paint box I chose a craft.
     What surprised me was how many people would come by, watch and then ask questions. While I didn't have a painting, as everyone else for that matter had,  I chose to paint a birdhouse in my signature "crazy quilt" pattern. There was interest in materials, technique and what "look" I was aiming for. It was refreshing to talk about my art. One on one seemed easier than getting before a group and trying to articulate why I painted ... anything!
     However, at the show I met a variety of professionals with skills far beyond mine who were kind and willing to share their talents, their ideas. As any artist knows, hanging around with other artistic types, especially in your field (or I am beginning to believe radically different fields) of interest is not only a challenge but an inspiration. Hearing them explain what they do, you can also envision yourself creating many of the same things, however, with a twist. The twist is of course your skill and more importantly what you see, what your experience brings to that new idea.
     What I was drawn to at Spectrum and the La Quinta Arts Festival a week before wasn't the paintings as much as those who were fusing painting and crafts. Speaking to an English lady who had large paintings reminiscent of Turner we both heard a soft popping, buzzing sound, not in a regular repeating mode but now and then. She looked up and wondered if the light poles were going to fall on us. I didn't see any movement or see any
Vandegraaff Gearheardt and his wonderful
amazing electrical mixed media devices
arcing and we both decided all was well. However, as I continued on and studied the booths on the back side of her's I found an absolutely amazing booth where the artist had fused all kinds of things, starting with old clock cases into Rube Goldberg devices that I really hungered to own.
     I found a man and his wife as wildly dressed as the amazing contraptions standing and hanging on the walls of his space all blinking beeping and keeping everyone entertained. Sending a friend a photo of him and his devices he wondered if he was for sale too!
     I feel that art is taking off in new directions. The days of a simple static painting hanging on a wall increasingly seem to be something from the past.  As we ask all the devices we use daily to do more, i.e. thermostats that remember, refrigerators that keep a tally of what we buy and use, cars that drive themselves and both Alexa and Siri guiding us through our days, the fusion of art is inevitable.
James Paterson's moving wall art!
 In fact many of the items for sale at the show did more than just sit and hang. Another inventive and fun creation were the wire creations created by James Paterson from somewhere north of Toronto who had plenty of winter time on hand creating whimsical items that besides creating a scene with black wires and a splash of color all had small handles that made the creation come to life when turned. Not only were the wires whimsical the shadows cast gave it an amazing dimension and depth a simple Miro painting could not.
Artist at large!
   So, now with two art shows under my belt and hours of conversation I can say I feel ready to at least try something more with a painting I have been struggling with for a year. I am going to combine a variety of things to see if I can express in a multi-media canvas what I had for my original inspiration but for some reason can not finish. Art is a process and requires probably many tries before a style is achieved. So much of what an artist is known for often is serendipitous. I think of the abstract Jackson Pollack struggling before he hit upon the dripping paintings he is known for today. They sound silly in description but are mesmerizing in reality. They seem to vibrate with energy when you behold them. Once seen, never forgotten.

A few of the artists giddy after the show closed!
     Spectrum was very good to our group and I personally want to thank them for their help, assistance and support. It certainly gave me an opportunity to see and meet and especially talk to artists that are considered to be in the cutting edge of world art today.
     If there was anything that I could pass on as a takeaway it would be their advice ... create, create, create. I know we all know that mantra but how often does life get in the way or, we let life get in the way?
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Friday, March 10, 2017

The 2017 La Quinta Arts Festival

     When I moved to Palm Springs in 2016 I knew both Palm Springs and many of the cities in the Coachella Valley had various events during the year. What I didn't know was just how world class many of them were. I had come to visit a friend several times and saw Halloween, Gay Pride, The Light Parade, even a local high school football game but never really realized there was that and MUCH, much more.
La Quinta Festival of the
Arts Tickets were $17
     A quick rundown: January is The Palm Springs Film Festival, February is Modernism Week something I returned home from a trip in time for but  avoided as I grew up in that time and believe me, today is not the 50's, March is Professional Tennis, La Quinta Arts Festival (more on that next), April two weeks of the Coachella Music Festival then a week of Stagecoach in Indio ... trust me, the list goes on and on. Every month there is something. For many years world class events like this avoided summers but each year one by one more events creep into "summer" or probably a more apt description, hell, where days are routinely 110+ each and every day, weeks on end. However, last August in a bid to have something to do the promoters of Comic-Con decided to use the Contention center in a late bid for a weekend in Palm Springs. Even though there was only three weeks notice, well over 12,000 people attended the three day event, an event so successful they will have another this year probably with a far better promotional notice.
     Many of the events are world class and The La Quinta Arts Festival is one of the premier art shows in the world and voted the best in the nation three years straight. What's not to like? Set in a city park, with fountains, food, and artists from around the world, art fans have four whole days to see and meet the artists and purchase, what I discovered, is world class art.
Yes, there are that many artists from the US and the world!
     There was plenty of parking but I realized a short two block walk was fast and free. The crowd wasn't bad and the process painless. There is a wonderful brochure that gives you a map of what appears to be a wandering meander through the civic center park. There was food with places to eat, a fountain in a pond and lots and lots of art. It appears daunting but the entire area is filled not just with tents but a variety of artwork that is both whimsical and yet skillful just inviting you to come over and look at it. Many of the vendors seem to have few problems with you taking photos and since most of the time now I only take my iPhone to take pictures (unless scanned, every photo here is from my iPhone) so I concentrated on things I had never seen before or were done in new and unique ways. There many many, MANY paintings but it was the craft items that won my heart that day.
A view across the pond of some of the art pavilions.
     One of the first booths to catch my eye was the jewelry, primarily rings of Harry Roa of Florida. I had never seen such designs and while they looked odd and clunky trying them on I found them very
Harry Roa Ring. It fit like a
glove and was stunning on.
Who could resist this "blowing" in the wind?
comfortable and made a definite statement on your hand. Sadly I didn't have that kind of cash but I kept a card if my ship comes in. Starting from the entrance I came in at, I seemed to find a path going up and down the aisles. There were many people there already (I arrived about 11 am) and I saw more than a few people carrying treasures. Many of the original paintings were also available in giclee for less.
A clay birdhouse caught my heart!
     Its hard to know where to begin. You'll just have to come next

Lathed driftwood! Stunning!!

Pottery Nash Metropolitan. I learned
to drive a stick in one of these!

year. I saw so many unique and yet beautiful things, items I would put in my home if I had the room. Or maybe the yard?
       I think what was so wonderful was how things you would know ... driftwood, skeletons, toys, pottery, glass, metal all done with unique twists and turns. I snapped away and then studied each of these items very carefully.
      You have to wonder and admire the originality so many of these artists had. Here are a few of the pieces that simply blew me away.
     As I prepare to be involved with another show soon in Indian Wells, you have to wonder, am I prepared to talk about my art? Does it measure up to the things I saw here? I understand the promoter is famous and that since it is being held during a tennis tournament drawing hundreds of thousands of people, they will be gazing at not only famous artists works but mine as well. How does an artist, especially one that is starting out so late in life, fare in this day and age. I have always insisted that no matter how bad, how
Since I collect cobalt glass this 
artist already connected with me
Kathy Ross's skeletons
mediocre a persons art is, think of Van Gogh, there is a kernel of truth about that artist, what they are trying to say, express. Many artists are very private and can only speak through their art, no matter what it is. We may think something is beautiful or disgusting or have no feelings at all but the person right next to you could be moved, sometimes to tears as they grasp from their own life experiences the pain or puzzlement or joy expressed in that artists work. We never know.
       One of the artists that I particularly liked, talked with for awhile and who shared some of her secrets with me was Kathy Ross with her mixed medias sculptures that were unlike anything I had seen before. Like several other artists, her items must take hours, even hundreds of hours to complete. She had a wide variety of things but several stand out. One was a decorated skeleton perfect for "Day of the Dead" and a VW model that was unlike anything you have ever seen before. It is this
Jeweled bunny
kind of inventiveness that inspires me and I now have several projects I want to try just from seeing some of the possibilities I saw at the Festival.
A knitted faucet!
     There was so much to see and show here that it is kind of overwhelming. Even some of the more mundane crafts were shown one, the huge knitted water spigot was very similar to huge knitted Chinese New Year displays at the IFC 2 in Hong Kong. There was time for whimsy even!
     What was the prettiest item? or items? I don't think there was really a single winner though I did see ribbons proudly displayed for a variety of categories in some of the booths. While I know what I like and over time have come to appreciate certain artists and a variety of artistic creations, I am not fond of critics. Too often, especially in the case of music and art, what a critic thinks is wonderful, does not resonate with the viewing public. The French Salon rejected the Impressionists though the public loved them when they arranged their own show.
No manner of art was neglected. Is this art? Here 
we are ready for Mardi Gras anyplace in the world. I vote
that it IS art!!!
     Art is very subjective. What I like you may not. During his lifetime artists like Van Gogh, Gauguin and later Duchamp, Cezanne and others when starting the movement to modern, even abstract art were vilified, especially by the critics. Behind the "Mona Lisa" the second most liked, popular, admired painting in the world is Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and as beautiful as it is, could be by some thought to have been painted by a child. Having seen it, the power of those swirling brushstrokes is mesmerizing, something no photograph can capture.
Who are we? What is inside us?


     La Quinta has art that we recognize but will also challenges all our personal conceptions, what we think is real and not real. Yet, the power of art is that it does attempt to make the intangible tangible. It tries to explain our deepest fear, our greatest loves and all of the feelings in-between.
     I especially admired work by this artist ( above right. I didn't get a card, sadly) who reminded me of an episode of "Star Trek, The Next Generation" where Picard had a head on his desk found on a planet  long extinct, The head on his desk that opens. Inside are many many little heads. They were finally able to read the writing and it was explained that this sculpture showed with its many heads the aspects of a person ... that of child, boy, son, father, uncle, grandfather, worker, lover, husband. I thought these are thoughts we think. Here the artist was able to show that. It stuck in my mind the first time I saw it because I realized the great truth of that artist.
     Art is something that man has created since before recorded history. It is something that is in our genes, something that we create in an attempt to explain and understand our place in the universe. I urge you to visit an art show, visit a museum and "fall" into each piece of art. In each one is a story, and often it is the same story that we live each and every day today.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Working With 91% Rubbing Alcohol & Acrylic Paints

Here is the raw, unfinished wood. Before doing anything
I would recommend you sand edges, and all surfaces.
In my blog about the design and creation of my CRYSTAL BIRDHOUSE, I talked about a new technique, to me at least, of using 91% alcohol on a glaze after a base coat has been applied to, in this case, a birdhouse. Depending on the colors, you get a mottled, variegated color combination as the thinner glaze highlights the base color. I guess you can repeat this process after each layer dries but here I will only show you one.
     Because it is a glaze, the alcohol thins the part it lands on showing both the base color, the glaze color and a combination of the two. Its an unusual but interesting effect.
     While I am just learning this technique, done right it turns the glaze into a look not unlike some satin fabric. That makes for a rather dramatic effect especially as it is on something that is not fabric!
After sanding, get your paint and brush ready.
Base coat. I used DecoArt's Traditions 
paint because I find it gives a rich opaque 
base to work from.
     The first step is to put on the base coat. You will need to do some planning and usually you use dark with a light glaze or light with a dark glaze. What adds to the effect are the colors used. Even a strong color with an even stronger colored glaze tends to lighten and leave a more muted version of itself. Here I used a strong DecoArt's Traditions Naphtha Red and used Cobalt blue as the glaze. Wherever the alcohol landed, it muted the blue without dimming the red in any way. In fact, the blue seems to make the red more intense. Paint the entire surface either smooth or for additional effect with coarse brushstrokes for even more extremes to the glaze.
Base painted, dry and ready for glaze.
There is no right or wrong way. Just paint the glaze on
making sure you cover the entire area you wish to
use this effect on.
     Once the base coat is on and dry, it is time to make a glaze. I have discovered there are several ways to make your glaze and I am not sure which one I like or which one gives you a more interesting finish. Here I added Traditions Extender and Blending medium. Not sure it would have been much different than on the birdhouse where I just used water. I urge you to experiment and see which effect you like best. And, they may change depending on colors and surface. Some paints are notorious in their transparency and might look good on one color but be too light for others. You be the judge. Just remember, each project can have very different results. The best part is that once it is dry, you can paint over it and try again. No need to throw the surface away. Just repaint and make another attempt!
Covered in glaze.
 I paint the glaze on so that it is runny, gooey even. Make sure you have your alcohol in whatever container you want to put on the glaze. I used a plastic, squeeze type container from Harbor Freight but I wish I had something a bit finer. I would like to try a syringe as it gives you far more control and smaller to larger drops for effect.
First alcohol drops on glaze.
     Now the fun part ... adding the glaze. The one thing you can
count on is that you can't count on anything. If you had 10 of these surfaces, each one would have a different pattern, the effects are that different. Don't be afraid though. If you really don't like it, immediately wipe the glaze off, repaint and put drops of alcohol back on the refurbished surface. Remember, in most cases you will be putting something on top of this surface like I did ... paint, glitter, jewels. Usually even the most disappointing effects just add a different, NOT plain backdrop. Again, let me repeat. IF you hate it, let it dry and repaint. The is no reason to discard your surface.
Another coat of glaze and more drops.
Acrylic paints are quite forgiving.
The dried glazed base ready to be used.
     It is fun to experiment. I think the best part, at least for me, is that you don't have total control and that leads to interesting base effects, often far more exciting that a plain surface with just one color. It is interesting and far removed from regular old antiquing that also has a somewhat less predictable finish; nothing like this.
      Dried and ready to use this base could be used for any manner of things. One thing you will have to admit, there is nothing out there that will give you such an interesting effect! While granted, it is not for every project, it does give you another option when you want to create something that starts off looking quite different than just a simple, solid base coat.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Creating A Jeweled, A "Crystal" Birdhouse!

     I must admit that there is a different persona of art out here in the desert. I can remember the first time I saw a home that had one wall of all mirrors. Now we think, how 80's, and believe me they are too! In looking at a ruined condo in my complex I was told that those black dots on the walls were where 4' x 8' mirrors had once stood! The complex was built in 1983. Another friend here, who bought his condo fully furnished, built around the same time has a living room on the third floor that has a wall of mirrors from top to bottom. The first time I saw them, I saw myself letting little out a little shriek in surprise to find someone else there as well. That someone, of course, was me!
     While designers are always looking for ways to make a small room, home, condo look bigger, they once used mirrors. They also used popcorn ceilings but we won't get into that.
     There has always been a fascination with light in the desert. I can remember when my Mom moved to Albuquerque, NM from Portland, Oregon, I couldn't get over the light ... blinding in the summer sun yet still luminous in the shade. Gloom is the predominant color in Portland and it was startling to say the least.
     As a painter, I was again startled when one of the guys of my art group made, to me, relatively large paintings of interesting colors and shapes with jewels, some from Michael's and some with Swarovski crystal beads. They glittered in a way I had never seen before. He also sold them for prices I would never ask as well! I wanted to try it too!
The original birdhouse from Michael's
     I took a relatively plain, boring, wooden birdhouse and when painting it, gave it a solid base of color. Next he would make a watery glaze, paint the entire surface and then put drops of 90% alcohol at random, or in a pattern from a plastic bottle with a small tip he found at Harbor Freight. That's where I found mine too after having no luck at Big Lots or the Dollar Store. In fact they were sold in lots of three and you all know, there is always a use of these items in crafting!
First color and first coat
This shows the new mottled finish with
those drops of alcohol, the painted silver
ice and the placement of the crystals.
     I painted most of the birdhouse a light turquoise and created a glaze of purple to see what would happen. You had to do one side at a time but the alcohol would dry pretty quickly (he was using a flat surface canvas where I was using a three dimensional birdhouse) and I quickly found that each side had it's own persona. Luckily here in the desert it would dry pretty quickly so while doing my duty watching the gallery during one of our shows, this kept me busy. I didn't worry about neatness as the base would be painted and feet would be added later.
     Next I painted the roof and base a deep navy that seemed to work with the new base and glaze colors. I started putting the "crystals" I purchased from Michael's (those 40% off coupons come in very handy) using another find at Harbor Freight. They sell a pack of 4 tweezers all with different tips. I really like the pair that had an angled tip that grabbed those pesky jewels no matter how small or large. I laid a few of them on the roof but decided that it was better to use fine lines of silver paint (purple on the silver doorway) to make it look like strips of ice. When put on after the crystals were in place I ended up putting paint on them. Once that paint dried on both the roof and every side, I resumed with the crystals.
The huge white snowflake on both sides, one front the
other back seems to add a wonderful wintry look. 
     Since I am never happy with the bases of most birdhouses I buy, I decided that large round wooden beads painted silver added just the right touch. As you can see just that one addition gives character to the birdhouse. And since it is already rather distressed, the feet were made to look distressed as well.
     I wanted a wintry look ... fitting here since the days of 115º were finally over when I started it. In fact lovely balmy days in the 70's seemed downright cold! While it would be a perfect accent at Christmas I was aiming for a look that said winter and would complement Christmas but could be used as a decoration before and after.
     Then the real world got in the way. I purchased a condo, had to do major renovation to it, painted each and every room in it myself and while I got the studio set up this project just sat there about half done as I moved again trying to create order out of pure chaos.
Crystal birdhouse. You can see the mottling
of the glaze dropped with alcohol, the new
feet, the glitter and jewels added for effect.
   Putting those jewels on takes time, I mean LOTS of time. I never hit on a method faster than putting a few drops of super glue and then one by one, trusty tweezers in hand, lay those puppies on glue each dot. Then you wonder, how many is enough? I didn't want it covered in crystals, alá Liberace but I wanted it to sparkle in the light, any light conveying what I thought a birdhouse should look like in the wintry north covered with snow & ice.
     Come on folks, there is a reason so many snowbirds come to Palm Springs for the winter. Even on our worst days there isn't 4 feet of snow, blizzard conditions and sub zero temperatures! Hum, maybe I need to do one in yellows and golds with crystals that make you sweat just looking at it! Make those cold winter days up north all winter seem bearable!
     The final touch was again putting lines of super glue down and then putting glitter on top of it. I used a big bowl sprinkling each side after one of the others had dried. It adds more and yet a different sparkle that is appealing.
     Never be afraid of trying something new. I spoke to an artist at the La Quinta Art Festival (more in another blog) that did amazing things with a whole world of gathered and purchased materials ... beads, swap meet jewelry, vendors selling a wide variety of things. She used them in ways I had never seen before. So, when I came back, I decided to finish this after a round of slight antiquing and count it as my first completed project in 2017!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Visiting Dante's Inferno: The Time-Warner / Spectrum Service Center

They just opened their cable bill!
Last Friday, March 3rd, was a rather miserable day. There were the blood tests missed the day before that required 11 vials of blood (I asked the nurse if I had any left), the rescheduled court date and the due date of my cable bill from Time-Warner / Spectrum.
     Having been to the TWC center about once a month since last December, I knew that it would be a wait but I figured that by late morning the long lines there before they opened at 9 am would be gone. Silly boy! When I walked in around 11 am they were serving #39 and I had #54 from their number machine standing prominently in the lobby. There was only one free chair and I took it though a few naively standing thought they would be there a few minutes and leave. They didn't.
     There are 5 or 6 windows possible to serve customers but, as usual, only 2 were open, par for the course. I have no idea what the two already there were doing but they didn't leave for 15 minutes. Even though I had come prepared with James Lee Burke's latest book, like Pavlov's
dog, I kept focusing on the number up on the wall hoping to get out of there quickly. This went on for 70 minutes. At one point an employee came out, asked if anyone was replacing their remotes, got no response then made a circle of the room and realizing we needed something more than a remote disappeared never to be seen again. Kind of like the post office where someone asks you why you're there, notes it on a piece of paper you are told to give to the clerk who, once you get to him, also an hour later, asks exactly the same questions. Why don't they get behind the counter and help their customers? Novel idea I know.
     I wondered what Teddy Roosevelt would think of the way the world has changed. He is the president, a Progressive Republican, in 1904, that proposed and implemented many of the agencies that govern our lives today. He was the man who summoned the richest man in the world to the White House, dressed him down and told him to dismantle his monopolistic Northern Trust or he would personally see to it that he would become bankrupt. Morgan blinked and did as he was told.
The 7 Circles of Hell. Dante had it right
and they didn't even have cable then!
    What a sad state of affairs we see today. Just as TWC was actually getting better, they merged with Charter, maybe the worst cable company in America, though watching Frontier Communications losing all 911 telephone service for every emergency venue in the Coachella Valley, you have to wonder.
     The various agencies who were set up to protect us are now protecting the very people and companies they are supposed to monitor. President Trump replaced the FCC Chairman who was striving for net neutrality and forcing the cable companies to create Apps for smart TV's so we wouldn't need to rent cable boxes chose a man, a Mr. Pais, who was a lawyer for Verizon, surely one of the most predatory entities out there today. These agencies could care less about us, they are now ensuring companies keep and even make more profits. A word to the wise ... your bills are definitely going to go up.
     There was an interesting article in the LOS ANGELES TIMES today regarding the toxic workplace. I would add, they should also cover toxic customer service. One of the factors in this article was how consumers were reacting to companies like Über who have been proven to have a toxic workplace culture for women. I would add there is little difference in our shopping experience either. Hundreds of thousands of Über customers deleted their App when this became known as other companies are also now learning that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated. After all, a bit more than half of the United States is female. "People and analysts, in particular, are starting to say how a company treats its employees needs to be factored into valuations of the company," says Brian Kropp a consulting leader at CEB. I would add that the way consumers are being treated by these same companies will definitely reflect in their bottom line. For every action there is a definite, and equal reaction.
      Finally, my number came up and I went to the window of a young man who had obviously not missed many meals and moved as little as possible. I explained that I had moved from one side of my complex to the other in December, had their technicians move my equipment as I didn't want to try to figure out new passwords, etc., all over again. I had changed from two DVR's to one and had the "package," telephone, wif-fi and cable. I handed him the flyer I got in the mail and he immediately dismissed that as a "promotion" for new customers. I asked, "So, if had cancelled and then renewed at my new residence I would have gotten this promotion?" Looking at me he finally nodded yes.
     Next I asked what I was paying for. I had a $168.00 bill last month, more than I was paying for two boxes and had made changes that would reduce my bill. Now it was back to the mid $150's and I hadn't done a thing. Well, that's the cost now. No explanation, it just was to him. I said, let's see what we can do to reduce this. Basically I watch ABC, mostly CBS and rarely NBC because your signal is so bad. We went round and round over this. The upshot after 30 minutes? I would save $5.00.
     When I had made the change in December I asked about the phone. I have a cell phone and use it for everything but since I was paying for a phone asked the technician how to connect it. If I had had a phone, he would have connected it for me but since I didn't he told me I needed to talk to the office. Today my "Customer Service" employees advice? Its on YouTube. "Well, what about using my cell phone to watch TWC anywhere that has wi-fi, " I asked. You'll have to watch it on the Internet he replied again. Pulling out my iPhone, I explained that I was told that I needed to talk to someone, him today, to be shown how to use the App on my phone. He refused. Reaching a dead end, I left, wrote a check to pay my bill and dropped it in their outside drop box and walked home.
    Telling my neighbor about this experience he told me that they were planning on getting rid of DirecTV for the exact same reason. Prices were going up, then they cut all service for CBS over a pay dispute that stopped every American who had Direct from watching The Super Bowl that was broadcast on CBS because they had blocked all CBS signals. When I asked them what they were going to do he said, "A friend was going to hook up a digital TV antennae so they could watch the local channels (about 26 he thought) and use their wi-fi to watch Amazon Prime, Netflix or any of the other Internet providers. Local TV would be free and the others cost in a year what one month of cable costs. When we went to dinner that night, I spoke to the computer consultant friend and said, after you do my neighbors set up and I understand it, I want you to come over and set me up too. He laughed and said he would.
Can cutting the cord be worse than this?
Hell? We may soon find out.
      I know the millennials are all doing this. My daughter years ago watched everything she wanted to watch on her laptop ... had never paid a cable bill. At 71 it isn't so easy for me anymore. When I first got my 50" LED TV between the TV remote, the cable and wi-fi plus the Bluetooth speaker system I purchased, this same neighbor was coming over almost nightly for a month before I finally figured it out. I remember laughing when I was younger over a cartoon that showed the "man's" VCR covered with switches and buttons and the "woman's" VCR that had two switches, ON and OFF. Its not so funny today. Just to watch something I have 4 remotes that control the TV, the cable box, the DVD player and the Soundbar. Trust me, at times I just pick up my iPad and watch the shows I want there.
      Again, my oft repeated litany is the wisdom of William Gladstone who said in 1795 no less, "For evil to persist, good men need do nothing."
     While we still need wi-fi to get on the Internet, city after city across this country is cutting the cord to irksome providers, who are NOT happy about this development, but the citizens of the cities that have this service are. Just like everything else in this world, change or die. Ask Polaroid, Kodak, Enron, Bear Sterns and all the failed banks and thrifts, steel, electronic companies ... ask our car companies! Provide newer and better service and features or be left in the dust. Another philosopher, George Santana summed it up best, "Those that forget history, are condemned to relive it!" As the Chinese curse says, "May you live in interesting times!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... KrugsStudio!