Friday, July 30, 2010

Scratches (Daily Photo 7.30.10)

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Took a break at work today, an honest-to-God break -- as in I removed myself from the office environment and sat somewhere else not doing anything. I can probably count the number of times this has occurred on two hands and have plenty of fingers left over to scratch my balls. The weather was so dry and warm I had to check it out for myself. Amazing what 10 minutes away from the cubicle will do.

Monitor test (Daily Photo 7.29.10)

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You may need to jack up the brightness or try looking at a different angle.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2001 (Daily Photo 7.28.10)

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White smoke (Daily Photo 7.27.10)

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Had jury duty today. The process by which jurors are picked for trials is tedious, arcane, papal -- 66 of us locked in a guarded and sacred chamber, not counting the people in uniform, ordered not to discuss anything we say here among ourselves our family our friends our neighbors the press or strangers, with candidates being selected or rejected on clear political grounds or for the appearance of political grounds or for other reasons which are explained. I was seated on the jury for a while, in seat 11, and kept busy during the hours of waiting by noticing how much wood everything seemed to be made of, the floors benches tables podiums chairs rails and ornamental wainscoting, and how ornately carved and majestically stained it all was, and how there were CFLs in every socket of every candelabrum and a dark oil painting of Daniel Webster above the bench, fingers tapping, resting my feet on an old metal bar in the front of the jury box and wondering if the fidgeting and looking around somehow made me less or more desirable as a juror, and not sure whether being that was itself, to me, more or less desirable and so should I do less or more of it. Both lawyers shuffled papers and eyed the 14 of us in the box, strategizing, holding the questionnaires like cards in a gin rummy game, while a stenographer stood holding a contraption like a gas mask over her face and whispering into it. Eventually I was discarded. I don't know why and I'm not bothered about it.

Corner of the fence (Daily Photo 7.26.10)

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A nasty sheet of spiderweb in the corner of the fence. I despise insects and arachnids. Do you ever look out over a lush green patch of grass, the sun dappling the gently swaying blades, and wonder how many thousands of disgusting multi-legged specimens of repulsiveness live there? Is it just me then?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Canon TX (Daily Photo 7.25.10)

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Later that night, I was cleaning the attic and found one of our boxes of camera equipment. We have four manual cameras in our house, sitting in boxes: a Canon rangefinder that belonged to my parents years ago, my Nikon FM-10, an Olympus of Nik's, and this gorgeous Canon TX. I tried it a few times (unloaded, of course) and it makes the most satisfying, firm shutter clicks you've ever heard. It belonged to Nik's late dad, who I never met, and is built like a goddam tank. It weighs a ton, is made of sturdy metal the way great cameras were.  You could hammer nails with it all day and take pictures with it all night. Every time I stumble across our camera equipment, it strikes me again how much of a fucking shame it is that film has become such an expensive pain in the ass to develop, and I dream of at least digging my film developing tank out of the attic and buying some chemicals and developing my own negatives again. I could scan them in lieu of bothering with an enlarger and paper. But it's a hassle, expensive, limiting, and pointless. All that work, so I can post them here, where a handful of people glance at them and move on? Go to the trouble of buying film and taking 24 shots at a time again? It's a beautiful piece of equipment but sadly there's no reason to use it anymore.

Rainstorm (Daily Photo 7.24.10)

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The weather has been positively floridian lately: insufferable humidity, temperatures clinging to the mid-90s for weeks, and sudden, powerful rainstorms that drench the earth in minutes. We head out in the car in a minor drizzle, and a 5-minute trip to the store later it's monsoon season, only to retreat back to a drizzle a few minutes after that -- and half an hour later, bright sunshine.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bugs (Daily Photo 7.23.10)

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They're everywhere lately.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them by some website

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I write like
William Shakespeare
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I may include a copy of this with my next literary magazine submission. Shit, I may put it on business cards. Take that, rejection letters!

Analyze your own writing using some cryptic and often stunningly incorrect algorithm here, on I Write Like.

Disco 7 (Daily Photo 7.22.10)

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Hot stuff.

Stanley Robeson (Daily Photo 7.21.10)

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It would make a pretty good character name.

Tennis (Daily Photo 7.20.10)

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Nik and I attempted to pin down exactly when we played our last game of tennis and as near as we could figure came up with a timeframe of between 5 and 9 years. Instead of running, which has gotten tiresome in the summer heat, I wanted to start the week with a game instead. We bought a fresh can of balls and dug our old racquets out of the attic -- hers dating back to high school and mine to college, but both still sturdily strung, although the same can't be said for the grips. The bright blue tape on my racquet grip, having endured damp heat cold damp heat cold damp heat cold and so on for between 5 and 9 years, is more or less fried, crumbling and dry yet tacky. It smurfed up my hands smurfily.

The last time we played I had zero experience with exercise of any kind. I had no decent sneakers or workout clothes. I would play in my jeans or if I wanted to be extra limber in cargo shorts and Chuck Taylors, and I recall once running along the baseline against Nik in shoes, actual brown shoes, probably Doc Martens. After 15 minutes I'd have more exercise than I'd likely seen for months beforehand. Now I run three or four times a week. I've got proper sneakers and workout clothes and I figured out how to breathe correctly when exercising -- for years I never got anywhere with exercise because I'd hold my breath and remain locked-muscled. An hour of tennis and I was sweaty and hot, but I could've kept going for another. A measure of improvement.

We don't play for points -- she took some lessons as a girl but I only know what I picked up from TV. Nik and I try to see how many times we can volley it successfully without one of us catapulting the ball into the next court over with a klutzily curved backhand and having to retrieve it. The record is 12.

Mackerel sky over 24 North (Daily Photo 7.19.10)

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Mackerel sky spotted on the way to work, draped like a pilled bedsheet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ponkapoag Pond (Daily Photo 7.18.10)

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The day before, Stanley and Myrna didn't do so well on their walk by the Cape Cod Canal. It was too hot, and the canal path is paved with tar that absorbed and spewed back out waves of shimmering heat. Nik and I decided we'd take the pups somewhere new today that promised to be cooler: Ponkapoag Pond near the Blue Hills in Canton and Milton. There's a 4-mile dirt and gravel path looping around the pond that's an easy to moderate hike, and most of it is shaded except this stretch where the path hugs the actual pond most closely.

There's a geocache there somewhere, but I never got the exact GPS coordinates -- so instead I went poking around random rocks where I thought I'd seen something.

Part of the pond is boggy and covered in hundreds, maybe thousands of lilypads.

Sagamore Bridge (Daily Photo 7.17.10)

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Nik and I felt like taking the dogs somewhere for a walk, and one of your more fun spots is a 7-mile path by the Cape Cod Canal. The canal divides the cape from mainland Massachusetts. The green, treeish area you see there is the Cape.

We'd been stuck in Cape traffic for about an hour before we got there. It's not visible here but on the top of that bridge there are cars metal-to-metal full of hot annoyed people trying to find a beach and backed up for dozens of miles.

Monday, July 19, 2010

iPad and i, Part 1

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The iPad came to me in an irregularly-shaped purple cloth drawstring bag scented slightly of perfume. "My raincoat came in this—I didn't have a case," my boss said. I immediately took it out of the bag and began swiping my fingers along the screen. "Use it for a week, put some apps on it, try it out, see how it works. See what we would need in an app."

I tried to suppress a geekgasm and was not successful. I love Apple products—I don't particularly care what you use, but they work for me and I enjoy them. My MacBook Pro is the best computer I've had. I'm thinking of stitching my iPod Shuffle into my skin so I don't lose it. But there was an iPad-shaped hole in my life that could only be filled by hanging out at the nearest Apple Store and licking the display models. Someday Apple will recognize Spit Law and realize that I have claimed those and now own them.

To be honest, I don't need an iPad. I'd have to invent reasons to use it. I just want to play with one. Now I was finally getting my chance: an iPad of my very own for a week for research purposes.

I started to put it back in the cloth bag. I looked at both sides of the device, on the edges, on the glass. It looked like one smooth pane of glass and metal. I made a nondescriptive gesture. "How do I ... you know ... turn it off?"

She pressed a tiny button I hadn't noticed and the screen went dark. "Intuitive, right?"


The iPad is a 32GB 3G+WiFi model. So naturally one of the first things I did with the iPad was use it in a parking lot where there was no WiFi—not so much to test the 3G signal as just to get my jollies out of being on the Internet wirelessly over a phone network. I don't have a smartphone so these little things amuse me, as if I'm someone transported into the future from a time when being on the Internet without a wire or a modem is magic. I checked my mail and saw that, apart from a new bushel of spam, there was nothing. All this technology, the byproduct of some of the most brilliant minds the world has ever seen, delivered to me 151 unsolicited and potentially harmful packets of information advertising fake watches fake penis medication fake software and fake hardware. I was astounded.

I don't really know how to test the 3G speed because I have nothing to compare it to. Seemed fast enough for me. It's bringing you the Internet over a wireless phone network in a world where everyone is always on the Internet or on the phone—what do you want, miracles? Be happy with it, you jerks!


The iPad is a beautiful device—sleek, clean, made of soft but straight angles, unobtrusive buttons, aluminum that's almost skin-like, a certain satisfying heft, and a front pane of smooth, buttery glass, lending the whole package a quality of extreme delicacy. I can't put it down just anywhere. I have to prepare a surface for it, one that won't scratch or dent or leave any marks, not in direct sunlight or in a spot that's too hot or cold, nowhere the dogs can get at it and drool on it or chew it, someplace the cats won't sit on it, not in view of an open window, no liquids in mugs or glasses anywhere in spilling range, pens and forks and watchbands far away, nowhere I could potentially forget myself and put something else heavy on top of it, and then I have to lay it down gently and place a kiss on its forehead. When I use it, I have to lay it flat on a table or my lap and therefore watch a slightly distorted picture on the glossy screen underneath a much clearer reflection of whatever's being reflected on the glossy screen. Or I could hold it up. Or if I need both hands lean it precariously between heavier and taller objects like fruit bowls and ceramic coasters.

It's elegant and fragile looking and looks like it wants to be coddled. So why in God's name doesn't it come with a fucking case? Apple makes a case that protects the iPad's glass front and doubles as a kickstand so you can put it on a table and watch it. That case should come standard, the way legs come standard on chairs. Hell, just chuck the case in the box and add $30 to the price. The iPad seems far too delicate to carry in a purse or laptop bag without protection from all the pens and lipsticks and snack bars and keys jostling around in there, and watching things on it without a kickstand got tiresome for me after about 5 minutes.

Call me old-fashioned but when I watch TV I don't like to physically hold onto the television set the whole time. Maybe that's just me—I find it difficult to relax and watch a program whilst both hands are clutching consumer appliances in a kung fu grip. My hands are too busy cradling a beer, eating popcorn, petting a dog, massaging my wife's scalp, scratching my testicles—what have you.

As of this writing I haven't yet gotten a case for it. That's way up on my list of priorities with this thing.


The keyboard on the iPad is imaginary—it appears onscreen when you need it and disappears just as smoothly. But because it's on a touchscreen, the first time I tried typing it looked like this:


There are two kinds of typists: touchers and peckers. I'm a toucher. I rest my fingers on the home keys when I'm waiting for a thought to arrive. Oftentimes this can take several hours. Then I type by feel and finger-muscle memory without looking at the keyboard. The iPad is not kind to touchers—even though the iPad's F and J keys are marked with parodies of the little ridges you find on physical keyboards to orient a touch-typist's forefingers. To use the iPad keyboard you must be a pecker, one of those people whose fingers hover and poke like a hummingbird.

Touchers don't look down at the keyboard while they're typing—at least, touchers who are decent at it.  They look up at the words onscreen, because their fingers already know where to go. Peckers generally look down at the keyboard. Otherwise they'd be touch-typing. But on the iPad, touch-typing is so difficult to do because the keyboard is small and has no tactile response.  So I ended up mashing the screen with my clumsy flipper-sausages and hoping the iPad's auto-correcting feature saved me. How well did it work? I tried touch-typing that complete-alphabet sentence familiar to all touch-typing students:

Tje wuicm brine fo jumped over the lash slurping dog.

One more time:

The wuicm brown food mumps obet e laze slurping dog.

"Lash slurping"? "Mumps obet e laze"? And what in fuck's sake is a "wuicm"?

Many people today are peckers, so they won't care. Schools don't teach touch-typing anymore, do they? Or did that go out with Betamax and "cowabunga"? I never took typing lessons but I taught myself (on a manual typewriter, too, you young whippersnapper). That's why I'm a pretty fast typist on a regular keyboard. On the iPad, I have to slow way down. There goes productivity for you.


Also, there are no arrow keys on the iPad keyboard. Let me repeat to emphasize the horror: there are no arrow keys on the iPad keyboard. It's impossible to describe with words how frustrating I've found this so far. I would need to describe it with a shrill screaming noise that goes on and on for 13 minutes, gurgling a bit in the middle and ending with convulsive retching.

You may think having no arrow keys is not a big deal. Shit, the people at Apple don't think it's a big deal—that's why there are no goddam arrow keys. But when you're working on a device that has very small print and you're typing in frames where scrolling doesn't always work properly and the only way to indicate what you want is by poking a burly finger at the general area, you'd beg for arrow keys.

The only way to move the cursor character by character is to point and hold for a second or two until you get a nickel-sized magnifying glass window of about 2x or 3x strength that will show you, a little more closely, where the cursor is. Trust me: arrow keys would be easier.

How important are arrow keys, really? I found it a problem almost every time I tried to type anything. Maybe I use the arrow keys more than most normal people. Or dig this: I started typing this blog post exclusively on the iPad and wanted to do the whole thing from start to finish. I had to abandon that idea and go back to my MacBook Pro. After I'd saved an early draft in Blogger on the iPad, I went away, did something else, and came back. But when I returned I noticed I'd written more type than fit in the typing window. Because the iPad's version of Safari is limited, it didn't include a scroll bar along the side of the post. What is it with the iPad and not including things you need? "Here's your car, sir. What, you wanted doors that open? This model just has solid panels welded shut. Open doors would compromise the integrity of the design. There's a hatch underneath you can crawl into."

I tried swiping the screen with my finger, as if to scroll down, and just dragged the whole browser around. For fun, apparently. If I'd had arrow keys, I could tap the cursor wherever I please and press down until I reach the bottom of the document. But no. I tried highlighting multiple words and trying to highlight my way down to the bottom, a tedious and clumsy bit of business that made my eyes water with the sting of crushed dreams. Even if it did sort of eventually work, since when should reaching the bottom of a document be a feature available as a workaround?

It sounds like I hate the iPad so far, but to be fair I've only used it for a few things so far and haven't really scratched the surface yet. Which is one of the problems: I'm afraid to scratch the surface. I'll get a case for it.

To be continued, with apps and more.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Geese, stepping (Daily Photo 7.16.10)

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The family of geese who live in the parking lot of my office tend to move from the pond to the strip of grass in front of the building, or vice versa, at the same time every day -- just as I'm leaving. The goslings have grown up to the point it's hard to tell which ones are the parents and which are the teenagers. Except for the runty ones. Further confusing the situation: I think they've now merged with a second family of geese that I often see in another office parking lot across the way. Or perhaps the two families are vacationing together. Either way it wouldn't suit me. Also I don't like water. But then again no one asked me to join them.

Wall pimples and sunset (Daily Photo 7.15.10)

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We're blaming the humidity, or maybe that we painted the second coat too soon after the first. Even a few days after putting on the second coat of paint, the walls in the bedroom are still a bit tacky. The paint doesn't come off -- it just feels sticky when you touch it. And then random spots along the wall began to break out in hives. These are tiny air bubbles. We're hoping more paint will cover it up.

If not, I'll have to nuke the whole wall from orbit. Like this:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Launch (Daily Photo 7.14.10)

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Don't let your instincts fool you. There is still a great need in the world for newspapers. For instance, it is the ideal way to dry out your shoes after a run. There are other reasons, I'm sure, but that's a fantastic one.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mercer blue (Daily Photo 7.13.10)

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We've gone with mercer blue in the bedroom, whatever a mercer is. A Mercer was a physics teacher at my high school -- that's all I know.

This is a more proper color swatch, in case you're interested.

Stop me from tearing off the crown molding (Daily Photo 7.12.10)

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I've written before about the fuckwits who owned our house before us. The stupid shit they did to the house before we owned it continues to frustrate me. For instance, this is part of the crown molding along the ceiling of the bedroom. None of it is as it should be: one whole, unbroken piece of wood stretching from corner to corner. Instead, they installed crown molding in pieces, apparently using whatever scraps of it they found -- lying in gutters near the lumberyard or pulled from the fiery wrecks of other, classier homes, I presume.

This, pictured, especially has obsessed me Poe-narrator-like for all the years we've been living here: it's a 1-inch piece in the middle of a wall. One inch. It draws my attention and won't let go. Sometimes at night when I'm trying to fall asleep I look up and stare at it and wonder, "What in fuck's name were they thinking?" What were they thinking, these families who owned my house before me? Did they try to use two pieces for that wall, but mis-measured and came up 1 inch short? Did they not use a tape measure but thought, "Aaah, it's about yay long." But why would they install crown molding in two pieces in a room that's only 12-by-13 anyway? This isn't fucking Versailles -- the rooms aren't huge.

You don't know, can't know, the struggle within me to keep from tearing the crown molding off with my bare fingers and redoing it. The only reasons why I don't: (a) I don't want to spend the money right this second to buy more crown molding; (b) once I take the old stuff off, I'm sure I'll discover there's some horrible reason why it's like that, like those pieces are holding the whole wall together; (c) I've never cut or installed crown molding myself and I would screw it up, maybe not as badly as this but probably pretty badly, and I would become more frustrated and full of self-loathing because I can't ever do a DIY project without it reaching the brink of disaster first.

But fucking hell -- one day I will do it. I will tear that shit off, goddammit, and put fresh new crown molding on there in whole pieces from corner to corner. And I'll be one of exactly two people who's relieved by this.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Run through Tiverton (Daily Photo 7.11.10)

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Nik and I decided to be spontaneous. I can often be spontaneous given adequate time to think about it and several weeks to plan exactly how the spontaneity will come off. Today, instead, we went for it without the customary preparation. After a couple of false starts due to restaurants that weren't there and others featuring only nut-laden food items that would cause Nik physical bodily harm, we ended up at a nice place in Tiverton and loaded up. Then we headed out on foot down a road neither of us had ever been down, and found this. Click to see the full panorama.

Nik's a much better runner than I am -- despite a sore leg and right bunion, she soldiered on up some challenging hills and through humid, sun-blasted weather (sun not pictured here, but I swear it was there).

Dust (Daily Photo 7.10.10)

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The bedroom remodeling is coming along nicely. Today's part of the project involved patching cracks and holes in the walls with joint compound, then sanding the patches smooth. It's a dusty process. You leave the room with a fine powdered-sugar coating. Except it tastes vile.

More pate than you can shake a bumper at (Daily Photo 7.9.10)

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They're also good with sage and onion stuffing. And so plentiful.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The one air-conditioned room (Daily Photo 7.8.10)

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While we're fixing our bedroom (see yesterday) we've moved to a spare room in the house. The bed is on the floor, right in front of an air conditioner, so the dogs have been loving it. I have been less so, because while I'm out at work the dogs tend to lie all day on my side of the bed opposite-wise farting on my pillows.

White room (Daily Photo 7.7.10)

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We're in the process of fixing our bedroom, tearing off wallpaper, refinishing walls, and repainting.  I spent the afternoon with a bucket of joint compound fixing cracks in the plaster, and worked on it until sunset.

Two green tornadoes slow-dancing (Daily Photo 7.6.10)

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Or something.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Somerset Creamery (Daily Photo 7.5.10)

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You know what's nice? Coconut ice cream hot fudge sundae, no nuts, cherry on top, behind the Somerset Creamery overlooking Lee River. Coconut's not really my bag, which is why Nik got it. Mine was an Oreo peanut butter cup ice cream hot fudge sundae, no nuts, cherry on top (not pictured).

Fourth (Daily Photo 7.4.10)

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It was a weekend of road races for Nik and I. Yesterday was the Mattapoisett 5-miler, and today was the Harvard Pilgrim 10K, a road race through the suburban desolation that is the rest of Foxboro to finish triumphantly on the 50-yard line of Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. The field is set up for the other kind of football -- soccer -- which is why it's a bit strange to run through an inflatable Patriots helmet to get to the finish. Click here to see the panorama at full size.

I struggled in the heat -- the weather was in the 90s, very humid, and heat radiated off the course's hot tar and from the 3,000 other runners elbowing me aside. Nik did not struggle. This is her at the finish. She barely sweated.

The Fourth is also Stanley's birthday.  Or whatever.  Who the hell knows, because he's a rescue dog found wandering the streets of Topeka, Kansas, eating garbage, but the Fourth is as good a guess as any as to when he was born and it's easy to remember.  We took him for a walking adventure to Plymouth.

Partly because (a) we hadn't been to Plymouth in a while; (b) there's good stuff going on there for the Fourth of July seeing as how it's the birthplace of America (not really); and (c) Stanley loves the river running through Brewster Park. He dives in and tries to catch the ducks, as demonstrated here 5 seconds before he pulled Nik nearly off the bank and into the water.  We don't know if that's technically OK for dogs to go wading in the river, but no snooty Plymouthians have bitched us out yet.

At night, we were beat from the weekend and the traveling.  We were sacked out on the couch when my parents called and said they were out watching the city's fireworks display and asked if we wanted to join them. I said no, because I was genuinely wiped out -- but after a while Nik felt like taking a walk with the dogs to see the fireworks anyway.  So we ventured out into the dark, headed down to the waterfront, and found a spot in the grass. The dark shape at right is the city's replica statue of the Iwo Jima memorial. Which took place in February, but what the hell.

Ned's Point (Daily Photo 7.3.10)

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Spent my Saturday morning running a 5-mile road race in Mattapoisett, the third time I've participated in it. Read more about how I did here. The turnaround point for the race is at Ned's Point, where a lighthouse overlooks Mattapoisett Harbor and Buzzards Bay.

96 (Daily Photo 7.2.10)

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This year, Gramma turns 96. The folks from her elder care service brought her lunch and sang "Happy Birthday" to her, a gesture that knocked her out. We came bringing food as well: a lobster roll from Evelyn's, her favorite, and sat and had lunch for a while. We'd caught up with her as she was watching an infomercial for the series of Dean Martin roast DVDs, which she said were the style of humor back then but now are just corny. All that conspired to make her birthday pretty sweet, so she was in good spirits.

Gramma's secret to her longevity: "Don't get old."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Golden (Daily Photo 7.1.10)

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Another cemetery run.

Parking lot carnival (Daily Photo 6.30.10)

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Went for a run with Nik and the dogs, and came across a carnival being set up in the lot at Heritage State Park. So far we've got a slide, Ferris wheel, a tilt-a-whirl, and an ice cream booth with what look like French flags for some reason.

Flowered wallpaper (Daily Photo 6.29.10)

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We're in the process of stripping the old-lady wallpaper off our bedroom wall. It's the one room where the previous owners did a halfway decent job of pasting wallpaper, and they expended that effort on this.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Consume, destroy, record, repeat

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The objects are different but the cycle is always the same.
  1. Company releases an expensive new gadget that people like.
  2. Someone buys the expensive new gadget and immediately breaks it on purpose while recording it for YouTube.  
  3. Technology blogs link to the videos of people breaking the expensive new gadget.  "Hey, look at this crazy video of a guy attacking his [expensive new gadget] with a Garden Weasel!"  
  4. Other people with even less imagination and good sense copy the idea and break their expensive new gadgets on YouTube, too.  
  5. After a few days, the cycle winds down until the next expensive new gadget, newer and more expensive than the last, is released. Then back to Step 1.
Go to YouTube, throw a stick in any direction, and you'll hit a video of people breaking expensive gadgets for some reason or another. People take delight in destroying their expensive gadgets, shredding them -- they puree them to fine, gray, deadly metal-and-glass powder in blenders and crack them open with crowbars, scratch their shiny surfaces with keys and metal files and bowie knives, assassinate them with high-powered guns, burn them with blowtorches, drown them in tubs. All of this destruction, videotaped not for some scientific purpose like a teardown video, but for your and their entertainment. It happened with every recent iteration of the iPod. It happened with the iPhone, and again with the iPhone 3G and again with the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4. It happened with the iPad.

I don't mean to imply by the above examples that the cycle of senseless videotaped violence against consumer electronics is an Apple-only phenomenon. Apple Inc. just happens to be the most prominent developer of expensive, want-able gadgetry lately. Want a video of someone putting a Motorola Droid in a blender? Just for parity's sake? Why you'd want that I have no idea, but here you go:

You watch these videos and you can feel -- actually feel -- generous portions of your intellect shriveling up and dying, your brain being starved of precious life-giving positive stimulation with each agonizing second.  You're left with questions and no answers. Why did that stupid asshole in the video above put his goddam phone in a blender?  What was he expecting to happen?  What is he -- stupid?  Why, if he was going to do such a sub-mental thing, did he not even hold down the lid on the blender so the pieces wouldn't go flying out?  Does he actually have mental problems?  Like, should I be pitying him? Wondering why someone with his challenges is allowed to operate kitchen appliances with sharp spinning blades?

These next guys go to some expense shooting an iPhone 4 with a .50-caliber sniper rifle. Favorite quote: "That thing is destroyed!"

No shit. They shot it with a goddam sniper rifle.  What were they expecting?  Do they not have imaginations capable of figuring out what happens when you fire a large-caliber weapon at an object?  Make a video where you fire a sniper rifle at an iPhone and it doesn't end up with a hole through it, and you've got my attention. Otherwise, go get fucked.

In many cases -- actually, in all cases, and this speaks to my larger point that I'm getting to in a moment -- the purpose of these videos is not just to revel in mere wanton destruction of an object.  The purpose seems to be to revel in the wanton destruction of an object that's expensive and rare and coveted by many.  You want one of these things, they say.  I've got one. I spent money on it. And look how badly I'm mistreating it.  Look how little I care about this expensive thing you want.  That's another reason why Apple's products seem to be such targets of destruction.  I couldn't find any videos of anybody smashing a Microsoft Kin phone, because nobody wants one of those Fisher Price-looking gizmos.  But millions of people do want Apple products.  They're popular and fashionable and expensive.  And so we have utter shitbags putting a brand new iPhone 4 in a microwave and turning it on:

Unsurprisingly (again, no imagination) it catches fire.  That's what happens to metal objects in microwave ovens, as anyone with a functioning mind knows.  But notice how much of the video's introduction is devoted to unboxing the iPhone. The cameraman takes it fresh out of the package, showing off its newness. The ridiculous narrator notes how he even set up the phone for use before he destroyed it, going through the hassle of activating it knowing full well he was going to destroy it anyway.  The extravagance and wastefulness of it is the video's clear intent. It serves to shock and dismay some viewers (like myself and, I hope, you) and thrill others by letting them vicariously experience what it's like to waste money.

Or check out the drooling morons below. They emerge from an Apple Store with a fresh new $499 iPad on launch day and take turns smashing it with a baseball bat.

Note how the first kid makes sure they draw a crowd before they do it. He looks to his left to make sure people are watching him. Bread and circuses. Fucking bread and circuses. I think one could infer from that gesture and be comfortable with the inference that the video is not about hating the iPad. It's not necessarily the object. They hate people who want the object and the hype surrounding it.  It's conceptual hate and unmotivated wastefulness.  They want to show people watching the idiotic spectacle: "You know that thing you like? I hate it even though I haven't used it. Watch me smash it."  If it costs $499 to make that extremely immature point (and to invalidate their own point in the process by supporting iPad sales), so be it.  In despising the attention given in the public sphere to the object, their video only serves to contribute to that attention. In the meantime, they've paid $499 for 2 minutes of clobberin' time and 265,000 YouTube hits. Was it worth it?  Let's see: they're $499 poorer. They look like a bunch of fucking douchebags to web users across the world.  And the entire video, there's a link plugging the video-maker's Twitter account, begging people to follow him.  He remains at 91 followers. Fuck me. There are toothpaste brands with more than that.

This isn't about the gadgets.  I care fuck-all for the iPhone.  I don't have one and don't want or need one. Too expensive and I'd never use it.  The iPad is a beautiful device but I don't have one of those either.  The Droid seems to be a very nice phone. I don't want one. I don't use a phone if I can help it, and a smartphone would be wasted on me.

This is about why I'm disturbed by these videos -- the destructive and callous impulses that go into them makes me physically and emotionally sick.  The toxic cocktail that fuels these videos is made up of hate, boredom, lack of attention, egotism, starfuckery, envy, greed, gluttony, and a complete lack of perspective regarding the value of objects and money.  These videos could only be made by people who have no fucking clue how to be anything except brainless consumers.  It's vile.

To a great degree, consumer culture and information-driven culture is the petri dish for the toxic cocktail.  We want to consume not just the coveted objects but all information about them -- we want to know everything about them, inside and out, consume all information about the consumables from their conception to their birth and their death, even if at the hands of pornographic snuff film directors. The kids who bought the iPad on the first day of release only to smash it in front of people who wanted one did so, why? Because the ultimate way they could think of to criticize the iPad and the hype it was creating among other people driven to consume one was to consume one themselves?  And to create more consumable information themselves?  Because they've become so infantilized that the only joy they can derive from an object is to destroy it, like babies repeatedly throwing toys out of their cribs or setting up stacks of blocks so they can knock them down?  Because they have no goddam clue what to do with themselves other than buy shit they don't need? 

I haven't even said anything of the money wasted.  Again, these kinds of videos could only be made in a country where people have no idea how poor the vast majority of human beings are, and how lucky they are that they have the luxury to spend $200, $300, $500 on a device they'll simply set on fire and watch burn to kill some time.  The average human being worldwide earns a measly $7,000 a year, a paltry figure that makes the U.S. poverty line look like the upper crust.  The average person is starving, sick, and has almost nothing.  How many months of meals does a new iPhone buy?  How many of those people would benefit from having a powerful computer of their own, being able to obtain information worldwide, having access to a nearly unlimited education in their pockets?  Yet these video-making twats waste hundreds of dollars on an object they'll destroy with a sniper rifle for shits and giggles -- and they can't even manage to hit the fucking thing dead-center, for Chrissake.

One could almost (almost) draw a parallel between the gadget-destruction videos so popular online and an infamous scene from Austrian art filmmaker Michael Haneke's "The Seventh Continent," a shot of people flushing large amounts of money down a toilet.

Haneke's an artist, and the scene is meant to be shocking, part of a film where a dreary middle-class bourgeois family suddenly goes bonkers and starts destroying their own possessions.  It has something to say (a bit obvious, if you ask me, but that's a matter of aesthetics).  I don't think any of the YouTube crushinator videos have anything to say, and they operate without irony -- or rather, they operate with "irony," in quotes, a kind of meta-state that's too naive and intellectually dead to be true irony: it just smells like it. The "Will It Blend" series of videos are like that.  I've watched dozens of them now, the folksy, stilted host cheerfully using a blender to grind up cameras, golf clubs, hockey pucks, shoes, cigarette lighters. They made me laugh, but frankly I'm embarrassed about that -- after a while,  steeped in their sameness (because despite the objects being ground up, they are disturbingly all alike), it became clear how limited they are in imagination. They seem to be an ironic statement on consumer culture and infomercial claims and pointless entertainment, but that's just the self-conscious '60s-style game show music and host talking.  In the end, they're just about watching shit get pulverized and that's it. One week, it's this shit.  The next week, it's that shit.  It's still all shit.

Occasionally you'll find a gadget-destruction video that does attempt an overt message. Like this one, which tries to shoehorn a political statement about environmental friendly practices at Apple's suppliers into a video of an iPad being melted by several blowtorches.

Hypocritical and pointless attention-grabbing at its best: criticize a company for the environmental faults of one of its suppliers, while contributing yourself to the rampant consumerism that drives sales of the company's products. Then burn one of the company's products, release toxic shit into the air and contribute more fucking garbage to the planet.

Real change in the private sector is effected by voting with your money and exerting political will over companies if market pressure doesn't work -- not by creating freak shows where you conspicuously consume objects and render them worthless for amusement because you live in a world surrounded by repulsive amounts of luxury. Real environmentalism starts by not consuming objects you don't need.

I don't know how to break the cycle or if it can ever be.  Stuff like this leaves me pretty hopeless and depressed, to be honest, sunk into a dark place where human beings are mentally too fragile and unredeemable and capable of some stupid-ass and cruel shit, just great apes with slightly bigger brains who'd rather beat a perfectly new and valuable object to pieces rather than use it or give the money to charity.  I don't know.  Maybe I should give some advice to the people who make these kind of videos.  They won't read this, but you never know:

1: Your gadget is not your cock.Your phone, your computer, your blender, your .50-caliber rifle (you wish), your blowtorch, your hammer, your microwave. These things are all not your cock.

2. If other people like a gadget and you don't, relax and think about something else.  Pay attention to your own life. That's how it works. People who get into fisticuffs over Mac/PC/Linux or iPhone/Droid or Xbox/PS/Wii are geeks arguing over which end of the amoeba is the ass and which is the face. This isn't like arguing over art aesthetics.  This is arguing over what kind of toy you want to play with.  People like different toys. Sometimes those toys are toys you don't like. Deal with it.

3. Whenever you get an urge to buy something and destroy it on camera, to aggrandize yourself or to vent frustration or to act like an infant, or for whatever reason, use that money instead to further your own education -- or, if you still can't be trusted, give the money away to charity. Help somebody or try to make the world a better place instead of being a useless tit.
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