The Blob

Friday, August 30, 2002

Say cheese

I just got my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot S200 Digital Elph. As an ex-professional advertising photographer, I'm blown away. This tiny pocket size camera is simply astounding for its ability to produce beautiful results in low- or harsh light situations. After years of lugging around a Nikon F-series and a ton of glass, or even worse, a studio view camera, anvil cases full of strobe equipment, props and backgrounds, I'm getting lazy. I don't want to be a hunchback under the groaning weight of all that equipment; a small pocket camera will do. I take mine everywhere.

I'm still learning its limitations, resolution being one of them. But for sheer photographic fun, this little Canon is hard to beat. In the many years that I was an advertising photographer, shooting gradually stopped being a joy and started being work. Where I used to revel in the joy of discovery, advertising photography turned into a problem-solving exercise. All the layouts and designs were pre-planned. The spontaneity was missing. The hours were long. And while I had some great days, the hard work took the fun out of shooting.

That's why my little Canon digital camera is making photography fun again. It's like the first time I discovered Kodachrome. Maybe I wanted to stop being professional and re-learn how to be an amateur. To make mistakes and not be slammed for them. To take a photograph just because I want to, without needing approvals, without having to submit to vicious critiques.

Maybe that's what's been so wrong with much of my professional life. I've worked as a creative for a good many years, in a profession with very high standards. That's both the blessing and the problem: the standards. Sometimes, the bar was raised so high that you could never please anyone. The professional business of creativity, something that should be spontaneous and fun, started becoming anything but.

My little digital Elph is helping me remember why I chose this path in my life to begin with.

Here's to making mistakes all over again. And loving it. Here's to Kodachrome redux. Say cheese. I'm back.

Someday, those banner ads will go away

Honest. I paid my extortion money to eliminate that annoying banner ad at the top of this page. I even wrote the Blogger people to ask them to make good on this. The charge has already hit my checking account. But it's still there.

Grrrrr. Folks, I'm trying. Trust me on this one. Someday, it will go away.

But there's an upside: it doesn't blink. Yet.

A treatise on kittens and substance abuse

I'll cut to the chase: things have gotten ugly in our household. Java, our beloved kitten, has discovered catnip.

This is bad.

For years, Java could have cared less for catnip. Then, one fateful day, something changed. She snapped. Now, she's hopelessly addicted to kitty crack. All she wants to do is play, play, play. Of course, it doesn't help that we enable her worsening addiction. Last night, we stopped at Petsmart on the way home and got her some new toys (typically mice probably made by children in some slave labor factory in China, Myanmar, Smegma or some other country like that - what a comforting thought). We no more than got this mouse-on-a-springy-cord out of the bag than Java was all over it, jumping, flipping, screaming and tearing at it. She had the toy shredded in seconds. Chasing furiously around the house after the toy as we dragged it, you could see her primal hunting instincts brought to the fore. And when she leaped, Java got some serious air time.

Okay, so she loves it. And yes, it's great exercise. Plus, we love hearing her make these Scottish sounds as she yelps in joy and anticipation. The scary part is, she never wants to stop. She'll keep us up all night, begging for more.

Our little Java has become an incurable playaholic. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

By the way: do any of you know of a good 12-step group for addicted kittens?

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I have toy robots. And I might use them.

You can learn a lot about a person by looking at what's on their fridge or on their desk. If you look at our fridge, you'll see we're hopelessly gushy about wittle kittens and innocent lion cubs. (The movie studio photo of Elvis on a surfboard riding fake waves is something else again.) When you look on my desk though, you know I mean business.

I'm armed to the teeth with toy robots.

Maybe it's because they're so retro. So wonderfully kitchy. So handmade looking, with their ill-fitting joints, their faux-menacing look, or the fact that they do some pretty goofy stuff when you wind them up. Maybe it's because I never grew up. Or that toy robots let me be a kid again. Whatever. I just know that I feel safe protected behind my private army. They're so wonderfully menacing. With names like Atomic Robot Man, Neutron Robot Man, and Sonic Robot, you know they mean business. The packages, originally created in the early 1950s, are covered with ridiculous artwork depicting an apocalyptic world that might only exist in the mind of George Bush or Don Rumsfeld, reflecting their vision of what Iraq might soon look like. Just wind 'em up and watch 'em kick butt. Oh, what my imagination can do sometimes.

If not for the world of imagination, I would be stuck in the world of reality. And that would be sad. So, when the sh*t hits the fan, I just reach over, wind up about two or three of my mecha warriors and order them to attack. I just know that it makes me feel so very, well, manly.

Ironically, my favorite desk toy isn't even made of tin. He's made of (gasp!) injected plastic. I'm taking about Rex, the ever-friendly green dinosaur from Toy Story. Maybe it was the goofy voice. His eternally enthusiastic personna. The slightly crossed eyes and humble demeanor. It's a certain je ne sais quois. But I know I just identify with him.

It is said that what defines men are their toys. Some men trapped in a midlife crisis meet their needs through expensive sports cars to make up for their diminishing supply of testosterone. But give me cheap, tacky, tin robots any day. Either I've never grown up, or it's all part of my plot to take over the world.

You decide.

Important Reminder to Myself

First underwear, then trousers. Get it right this time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Rant-O-Matic: Don't get me started

Perhaps you caught the latest missive from the RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America. In a new missive, RIAA claims that recording industry sales dropped by 7 percent this year primarily due to piracy. This is all part of the nonstop drumbeat from the RIAA and MPAA (the Jack Valenti/film industry mouthpiece) to restrict our freedom through the use of heavy-handed legislation, including the mandate to have controller chips embedded on all computers, stereos, VCRs and DVDs. In effect, what the RIAA and MPAA is shouting from every rooftop is that you are a criminal.


Did it ever occur to the RIAA that record sales are down because our economy is down? And did it ever occur to the powers that be in the recording industry that the pop pablum and corporate rock that they're shilling is pure junk? Perhaps people are voting with their pocketbooks, not their Web browsers and peer-to-peer software, as RIAA would have you believe.

Yes, there are too many screenagers ripping off music. But the actions of the RIAA is only encouraging this. The more the recording industry tries to restrict the use of downloading, the more people will resist the intimidation. As for me, I'm dumb enough not to bother using Morpheus or LimeWire. I actually buy music. But in the eyes of the RIAA, I'm a criminal. I have an iPod. I rip legally purchased music into MP3s and transfer that to another device. For that, I should be punished and restricted.

Gee, that will make me want to run out and buy more CDs. Right.

If the recording industry had any common sense, they would listen to their customers. If we want to use and download music from the Internet, perhaps it might occur to the RIAA and its membership that we might even buy music that we could download. But that would be logical. And the industry has no need to behave like that.

Memo to the RIAA, MPAA and the powers that be: Listen. Watch. Treat your customers with respect. The customer is always right. And our actions should be telling you something. Instead of punishing us, encourage us to behave legally. Encourage us to be better customers. If you impose restrictions or try to choke our freedoms through heavy-handed legislation, rest assured that we'll find ways around it. We're smarter than you think.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Loved Ones

Here's my recommendation for simply beautiful music: Loved Ones, the work of Ellis Marsalis and his son, Branford. You might know of Wynton (the other son) and Branford, but for my money, their dad simply blows them away. On Loved Ones, they keep it simple: just piano and horn. Nothing more. But when you're dealing with genius, less is more.

For beautiful, simple and first-class jazz, I strongly recommend this absolute classic CD. It's a joy to listen to two masters at the top of their game.

Powered by Starbucks

Where would I be without these folks? They are my saviors. My source of life as I know it. The dealers of my only vice. Next to my wife, they are the first smiles I see each morning.

What's scary is how much of my money goes to the company that is secretly owned by Dr. Evil. And even more insideous, they have made it so easy to part with my money. Now they have the Starbucks Card, which is too darned convenient for its own good. It's gotten so bad that when I run low on the balance on my Starbucks Card, I simply fork over my ATM card to recharge it. Imagine, totally frictionless, cashless transactions. When you think of it, this is both wonderful and downright terrifying all at the same time.

Memo to Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks): Howard, baby! Here's my big idea: since you are already into me for an obscene portion of my total income (which, in my addiction I willingly give away to you), why not set it up so that you can set up a direct deposit from my paycheck into my Starbucks account? Hey, while you're at it, why not buy Washington Mutual Bank, so that this could be a lot easier? That way, you not only get direct deposits, but you can get all my money. And since every square inch of my favorite coffee emporium is a merchandising opportunity, and your wonderful employees are too darned pleasant for their own good, why not take them beyond being mere barristas? Imagine: you could make them into my personal financial advisor. That way, when I order a Grande No Whip Mocha to go with that blueberry lowfat muffin, they could also sell me on a 2 year CD, or do a quick refi on my house while I'm waiting for my coffee.

Consider it. Tell you what: have your people call my people and we can meet. Over coffee.

In my next life

I want to come back as a sound effects man for the Three Stooges.

I want a Bat Belt

Frankly, I have too many gadgets. Mind you, I could not live without them. My iPod, my Handspring Visor, my cell phone and most recently, my Canon Digital Elph camera are my constant companions. My pockets are stuffed with electronic toys that I find indispensible. But I look like a chipmunk whose mouth is stuffed with acorns.

Solution: Somebody make a Bat Belt. Please.

Oh, and while you're at it, the bane of my existence is what to do with the earphone cord for my iPod. If only somebody sold a spool that I could wrap it up neatly with, instead of the tangled mess that it always becomes. Please tell me that I'm not asking too much.

Monday, August 26, 2002

One less thing to worry about

One door closes, another door opens.

A former co-worker of mine was recently laid off when the company I work for merged into a bigger company a week ago. (Sound familiar?) She was devasted as you might expect. With a new baby, a new home (and mortgage) and a new car, losing her job meant incredible pressures and worries.

Until Saturday night, that is.

It turned out that her father had bought a lottery ticket, and yes, you guessed: he won. Her family will now have to figure out what to do with their $30 million once taxes are whacked out. We'd all love to have this kind of problem. But I hope they manage their newfound success well. Somehow, I doubt she'll miss the job she lost.

I'm such a geek

The highlight of our weekend was going to the launch of Mac OS-X 10.2 (Jaguar) at our local Apple Store in Newport Beach, California. In an event that was repeated at Apple stores across the country, we camped out with the better part of a thousand people to get our mitts on Jaguar. It was worth the wait. If you use a Mac, you'll quickly find out why.

It also tells you that I'm a dweeb. That a software release is the highlight of my weekend is enough to make me want to get outside more. Still, there's something fun about belonging to a cult of Macheads.

By the way, if you want to save a real Jaguar, click here to go to the Website of the Feline Conservation Center. It's a wonderful organization dedicated to saving and preserving extremely endangered big (and small) wild cats. The photos alone are worth the visit.

What's on my iPod

From time to time, I'll give an update to what I'm listening to today. Here's what's got me rockin' right now:

Jimi Hendrix: Are you experienced?
Itzak Perlman: Vivaldi - Four Violin Concertos
Don Henley: Actual Miles / Inside Job