Friday, July 30, 2010

These Games Don't Work

For years I've tried to create the next Rubik's Cube, Master Mind, and Scrabble game. I've failed but keep trying. Here are some old rejects.

Exhibit #1: Strained Glass. Arrange the colored circles into shapes that are both pleasing to the eye and useful for calculating simple math functions. Dismal failure.

Exhibit # 2: Scramble Face. Players splay the discs from the grommet and then carefully rearrange them to make a face. Since the discs are connected the level of difficulty is brain-numbingly easy. Grade? F-!
Exhibit #3: Spin Field! Games are supposed to entertain and challenge; this game bores to tears. Even with dice, movable score board, and running batters, it's a cross between Strat-O-Matic and a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.  

Exhibit #4: Holzendatz. A solitaire game wherein one turns the many discs in an attempt to align 7 datz of the same color in a row. The trick is--some datz must be aligned with holz strategically hidden throughout, thus leading the unwary player down fruitless dead ends. It's so complicated I failed to jot down the solution key, couldn't align the datz, and gave up.
Exhibit #5: Dice Line. Players scramble the rings then take turns rotating one ring at a time attempting to align five dice in a row, in order.  Part Stadium Checkers, part Yahtzee, part sleeping pill.
Exhibit #6: Dot Face. If you squint and tilt your head to the side you'll see behind the holes a caricature face. On the actual game one can rotate the acetate on which is printed the black background and see the face clearly through the holes. This game is for the easily amused.  Would make a nice coaster, actually.
There are many more to display but a wave of sleepiness is coming over me. Hey, maybe I should market these as sleep inducing devices!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Pearl Harbor Denier

You can try to convince me the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, but you won’t succeed. It never happened.

• Pictures of Japanese Zero fighters? Photoshop.
• Films of sinking ships? Computer generated images.
• Eye witnesses? Conspirators.
• US involvement in WW II? A Tom Hanks invention with help from Steven Spielberg.
• Treaty documents? Forgeries.
• Underwater memorials? Think Magic Mountain.
• FDR’s Day of Infamy speech? Voice overs.
• Purpose of this fabrication? Stimulate the US economy after the Great Depression.

Hey, wait a minute. I’m not sure the Great Depression was real.

• Pictures of bread lines? Photoshop.
• Films of Hooverville? CGI.
• Eye witnesses? Conspirators.
• FDR’s New Deal? An invention by the current administration to justify bailouts, stimulus package, and a 14 trillion dollar debt.

Hey, wait a minute. I’m not sure the current administration is real……

Sheesh. I’ve got to quit listening to Jesse Ventura.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Motor Psycho Madness

Almost 30 years ago we moved to rural Whatcom County from Seattle. One of the first differences we noticed between city life and rural life was locals’ attitudes toward noise. After years of urban chaos—blaring sirens, honking horns, buses with air brakes, disturbed pedestrians shouting to themselves, and the ubiquitous jackhammer—we found the silence in Ferndale pleasantly deafening.

Not long after arriving, I visited a man who lived in the very heart of Whatcom County farmland. I found the guy riding his lawn mower in the middle of the biggest field I’d ever visited. During our brief conversation, he lamented, “Hear that noise? I hate it that civilization is encroaching on our privacy!” I strained my ears to hear what he heard. Bees buzzed. Crickets chirped. Clouds silently glided by. The sun beat down on us. Then, in the far off distance, I heard a faint train engine whistle, a mere whisper. And this guy was appalled at the noise!

Thirty years later and now I’m appalled at civilization encroaching on our privacy. While leisurely watering plants in our front yard last week three motorcycles raced past our house clearly NOT following the 25 MPH speed limit. What really got me, though, was the noise. The combined decibel levels of an amped up Jethro Tull concert, the deafening racket of diesel ferryboat engines, and misguided firecrackers going off next to my ear, couldn’t match the jarring pandemonium of these motorcycles. My ligaments disconnected from my bones, my blood pressure spiked, and my bladder beheld the garden hose with longing. Death by motorcycle noise? It’s possible.

Transforming sources of irritation is one of the skills I teach clients so here is my attempt at cognitive self-therapy. What possible reasons could these bikers have besides an evil attempt at murder by two-stroke engine for polluting airwaves with such disquietude?

1. They attended so many rock concerts in their youth that they, like Pete Townsend, have hearing loss. What I experienced as cacophonous bedlam they experience as purring kittens.

2. They’ve lived lives of powerlessness and this is their attempt at regaining a voice. As children, adults squelched their tantrums and this is an attention-getting payback.

3. Broken mufflers; perhaps they couldn’t help the noise and they were rushing to mechanic friends for beers and emergency repairs.

4. They are bumbling undercover agents infiltrating the Banditos and totally blowing it because even Banditos’ bikes aren’t that loud.

5. They're from PR trying to overcome the biker stereotype of being “dirty, leather clad men with shaggy beards covered in road dust riding around the country wreaking havoc and getting into barroom brawls” (taken from a website, Top 10 Notorious American Biker Gangs). If their campaign is successful, we’ll consider them nothing more than a bunch of noisy but happy-go-lucky guys out for a summer ride.

6. They are daring philosophers, ethicists, and politicians to weigh their individual rights against society’s collective rights. Do indeed others' rights end where our eardrums begin? It’s debatable, but who’s nervy enough to launch the debate?

7. This is an effort to promote fuel-efficient transportation. Their message? “We will woo you into giving up your gas guzzlers by destroying your hearing.”

8. They are existential nihilists bent on terrorizing peace-loving citizens who pay their taxes and water their lawns. Oh wait, that option doesn’t calm me down one tiny bit.

9. They are earplug manufacturers exercising First Amendment rights to free speech and are simply drumming up business.

10. They are noise junkies who've made huge strides in recovery. They used to fly fighter jets with the windows open, groove on 727s taking off, and use airraid sirens for an alarm clock. They’re working their way down to electric cars, mopeds, then the soothing sound of mountain bike derailleurs.

11. It’s a reenactment of family of origin issues. Like the Woody Allen character raised under a roller coaster, the noisier the better.

I’m still trying to get over it but I do feel better. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Bug's Life

I inherited from my dad a powerful reading lens. I used it today to draw small stuff; I attacked the world of bugs with my markers.  Just think what one could do with a powerful microscope. I could draw bee's knees.

Ode d' Sandal

If a pleasant experience is like a perfectly fitting shoe,
 what is a perfectly fitting shoe like?

This is my tenth and last summer
wearing a perfectly fitting pair of sandals.
They are falling apart.
One could say they are under their last legs.

Any sure footedness I've experienced
this decade of summer walking
is due in large part to these
hard working and uncomplaining sandals.

Goodbye friends. You will be missed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Free Book

I've always wanted to write a book wherein I quote Sartre, Solomon, and Simon Cowell. Well, here it is: Stealth Drawings: The Existential Quandary of Being Stared At.  29 pages of miscellaneous quotes from philosophers, psychologists, and theologians illustrated with over 100 clips from 30 years of sketching. Follow this link and type "stealth" in the search menu. During check out make up your own password. Let me know if you hit glitches.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fountain Pen as Mediator

I lost my favorite pen last week, looked for it feverishly without success despite this great web site: how to find lost things. For seven long days I had a sour attitude while taking client notes, writing in my journal, and making lists using inferior and off putting writing implements. I couldn't take it anymore and in a panic finally ordered two more similar pens off the web. Yesterday I pulled a shirt from my closet and in the pocket was the missing pen! Birds chirped, the sun came out, and my funk was lifted. I even spotted rainbows and unicorns in the back yard.

Why the obsession with this favorite pen? For 50+ years I've been an obsessive doodler, scribbler, and note taker and have tried hundreds, maybe thousands of different tools for writing—from crayons to key boards, from easy to smear crow quill and Speedball dip pens to Design Markers loaded with toxic xylene for quick drying, from maddening Rapidographs that clog to exotic grades of graphite sticks and felt tip markers. Nothing beats the fountain pen I discovered two years ago (Lamy details to come). Here’s why I’m a dedicated fan.

It’s comforting to hold a pen. Like a security blanket I find holding a pen oddly soothing. I type like the wind but the keys clatter, my sentences bump into each other, and important rough drafts disappear thanks to the too-easy-to-use delete button. A fountain pen makes me slow down and think.

A fountain pen is a low tech device, operable in dim light. Computer screens emit serotonin-boosting light and journaling at night by hand in dusky lumens has a calming effect. Plus, when I change the ink cartridge there’s a gradual appearance of the new color—turquoise, red, purple, blue or green (see photo). One takes one’s entertainments where one finds them.

Most importantly, fountain pens glide over paper surfaces effortlessly. Years ago I was a sign painter who dreaded jobs where I had to apply lettering to rough surfaces—splintered wood, untreated boards, and gritty cement walls. It’s like these surfaces resisted my artistic efforts. I know we shouldn't personify paper surfaces; they hate it when we do that. But I still get the feeling that writing surfaces are fussy; I believe that paper resents intrusive pencils, bossy ball point pens, and demanding gel pens.

But the fountain pen! Ahhh. A smooth flow of rich, opaque ink is one of life’s finer pleasures. You know those electronic devices we see on TV with several needles wobbling back and forth—seismographs, lie detectors, EKGs? I believe the rolls of paper on which those wavy lines appear welcome ink with pleasure because the data is applied with grace, delicacy, and finesse. Fountain pen ink is applied the same way. It is not imposed or forced upon reluctant paper; it flows, it glides, it is laid down with grace. And the paper cooperates! It’s the difference between plowing furrows in hard clay and gently planting seeds in prepared soil.

Writing instruments bring together two disparate entities that need help connecting: synapses and stationery. The fountain pen is the perfect media—from which we get the word mediator—accurately mediating between what brains think and what paper receives. By presenting with clarity and gentleness a writer’s thoughts, and representing to the brain how the writing surface is responding, a symbiosis takes place. Whether the surface is a note card, onion skin, or cheap note pad, a fountain pen does the job with artfulness, class, and elegance. It’s a marriage made in heaven.

Lamy details. One need not—but could—spend $10,000 for a collectible fountain pen. After years of experimenting my favorite fountain pens are made by Lamy, $26 - $235 each (ink is extra). I buy the $30 models and love them.