Saturday, July 04, 2009

Declare your own independence

"Men talk of freedom! How many are free to think! Free from fear, from perturbation, from prejudice? Nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand are perfect slaves."
1858, Henry David Thoreau

Have you declared your own independence?

Do you use the freedoms we as Americans have?

If not, are you truly free?

Are we?

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Hey TriMet! Should Max cars be billboards?

Webtrends, the on-line survey outfit, has caused quite a stir in Pedaltown by posting provocative signs on Max trains reading “Should Cyclists Pay a Road Tax?”

Wrong question.

How about: “Should tax-subsidized MAX trains be used as billboards?”?

If you want to play Webtrends' little game, which is to show the effectiveness of asking in-your-face questions, you can go to the Webtrends site and tell them what you think. The questionnaire asks for comments. I can think of a few. . . .

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Calling all graphic artists!

Portland has nearly as many graphic artists as it has bicyclists. It might even be the exact same number. Could it be. . . ?

Anyway, here’s the deal. I could use some help.

I am, by default, the acting chair of the new Hillsdale Community Foundation. The name pretty much says it all, but if you need to know more, suffice to say we are out to raise money and to make sure it improves our little community here in Southwest Portland.

I had some free time this afternoon, so I started fiddling around on Quark and came up with a couple of logo designs. Not terribly bold, (boring even) but their formality provides instant credibility, which, as a new organization, we happen to need.

So, graphic designers, have at it.

Your ideas? Constructive criticism?

Oh, I know that I’ve used the dread and derided Helvetica, and, yes, I have also seen the documentary.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Outdoor-to-Indoor Cat Conversion

I am in the process of converting our cat, Izzy, from being an indoor/outdoor cat to being an exclusively indoor cat.

Teaching old dogs new tricks has nothing on this.

I won’t go into the details of why this is necessary except to offer some “key” phrases: abscess on the butt for cat fight, nasty excretions for said abscess, a three-figured vet bill, and lurking neighborhood coyotes.

Got it?

It’s time for Iz to discover the greatness of the Great Indoors.

I’m finding that the conversion requires three tools. Two brightly colored squirt guns and a laser pointer. I will return to these in a paragraph or so. First a word about catnip.

After some considerable on-line research, I added a catnip-laden fabric mouse to the conversion kit. I soon abandoned it. Well, not really. Izzy abandoned it — after about three frenzied kick-boxing bouts with the mauled mouse-like sack.

I think that Izzy has a catnip resistant gene that kicks in just when he has scored the equivalent of a TKO on a fake mouse. Iz stops, stares at the inert mouse and comes to the realization that this is no mouse at all but a useless sack full of catnip.

At that he wanders over to the front door and pointedly yearns for all that is beyond it. REAL stuff, like trees, bugs, dirt, predators.

Time for the laser pointer.

I usually start by whisking the bright red laser dot in front of Iz’s paws. He locks on to it and swipes at its nothingness. Then I run the light in a large circle just ahead of the scuttling cat. Iz is good for about a 20-second pursuit. Sometimes running the dot up the wall is good for a pounce or two. But soon he stops and decides the ‘dot situation” calls for feline analysis. What exactly is this red, flickering light? And why do I give a damn?

Sometimes I aim the dot at the cloth mouse to see whether I can reawaken Izzy’s killer instinct. Impossible. I’ve discovered — academic journals take note — that the common domestic cat is more interested in laser lights than catnip-stuffed mice. I’m certain the Department of Defense can put this information to good use fighting terrorism and the infamous “suicide cats” of Kandahar.

The tactics discussed so far come under the heading of “distractions.”

Now we come to “behavior modification.” This is where the rubber hits the road and we reach for those two colorful squirt guns — one outside the front door (It happens to be a bright green), the other outside the backdoor (It happens to be yellow and, for no particular reason, larger than the green gun).

For the past five years, Izzy routinely bolted outdoors in the morning when I brought in the newspapers. No longer. After three mornings of being squirted, the mere appearance of the brightly colored guns, without a squirt being squeezed off, sends Iz into full retreat.

Classic behavior modification. Not unlike waterboarding but kinder and gentler.

Sure, Iz still has his occasional spells of yowling to go out, but some deft moves with the laser usually put an end to it. Follow that with an extended interval of chin scratching and praise and suddenly the Great Outdoors is a distant memory.

Behavior modified, it’s time for Iz to curl up for an eight-hour nap on the couch.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

If Michael Jackson had lived to 90

It’s a good thing that Michael Jackson didn’t live to be 90.

The year is 2049.

Michael’s fan base, those who have survived, are in their 80s and 90s and 100s.

Yes, the hundreds are the new 70s.

Whole retirement colonies are on the Moon — moon dancing. Indeed, until recently, Michael himself had been moon dancing on the Moon. At Craterland, his moon mansion, he had devised some clever, if slow, moves with his walker.

In 2049, the people who run the Super-Ultra-New Media have zero recall of one Michael Jackson or the Jackson Five or, for that matter, Farrah Fawcett, a forgotten “poster queen” who died 4o years ago.

On the day of Michael’s death, a Super-Ultra-New Media baroness (or baron, knight, matron or whatever) receives a Neural Glitter, Zap or Jolt from a lunar senior complex. The cerebral surge translates into “Hey, check out this guy Jackson who just died up here.”

Checking out Jackson means locking into the baroness’s little used “music memory cortex.” “Hmmmm,” thinks the baroness, “this Jackson might be worth downloading to micro senior demographic consciousness modules.”

Music, per se, no longer exists for the baroness or anyone else under 50. What old-timers call “music” is at best quaint, at worst, passé.

“Noise,” something like loud tinnitus, is "in" and, like tinnitus, can't be turned off.

For the baroness, “experiencing” the archived quick-stepping Jackson is best compared to listening to madrigals or Gregorian chants in, say, 2009.

No, Michael Jackson’s departure happened during its last economically viable window of opportunity — mus/biz wise.

As we’ve seen, endlessly, he still had caché,

Had his death come much later, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this bizarre “Michael Jackson is dead; Long live Michael Jackson!” moment.

As they say, timing is everything.

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