Sunday, June 28, 2009

“Billy Mays (was) Here…”

O.K. this is truly sad: Billy Mays is dead at 50. Yeah, I know there’s been a string of icon deaths during the past couple of weeks, but this is a true sad one. The others’ passing can be accepted and rationalized due to old age (“right-you-are-Johnny” Ed McMahon), debilitating illness (voluminous hair Farah Fawcett), and lifestyle complications (moonwalking Michael Jackson). But Billy?! I have lit a candle and placed it in front of my tub of OxiClean as a tribute to one of the last boisterous hawking pitchmen. A true cultural icon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Truly Well Read?

It’s been publishing since June 2000, After Hours: A Journal of Chicago Writing and Art. That’s a long, long time in small press and little magazine lives. Most die off. Thanks to the pit-bull tenacity of its publisher/editor Al DeGenova, After Hours has survived. Each issue is filled with strong, gritty and solid writing – no wimpy posey allowed. Aesthetically, the magazine is a delight to behold. Stunning photography and paintings provide just the right amount of visual relief and dwell time between the written words. The magazine is printed on quality, heavy-grade paper, giving the magazine a rightful art or photography journal impression. If you call yourself literate and educated and feel guilty about not subscribing to any poetry magazines, here is the one to read with enjoyment. Your subscription also directly supports American literature. Do it!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shifting Gears

Go ahead and chuckle, sneer, and guffaw while pointing at the diminutive and ridiculously low-priced Nano automobile being made in India. We can sit up high and superior in our massive SUVs knowing it would be easy as pie to crush a Nano – just like rolling over a Bud can. But the facts remain:

• Entrepreneurs in India, not America, designed a car that bested 700 entries to win the Wall Street Journal Technology
Innovation Award in the 'Transportation' category.
• The $2,500 window sticker is roughly equivalent to the price of a DVD player option in a luxury Western car.
• Some people just want and need transportation. They just wish to get from Point A to B, thus there is demand.
• The Nano will not help its owner compensate for inadequacies or express stereotypic manliness.

The Nano means more than low-cost wheels. It reflects a shift in thinking that the big three in Detroit can’t see. The Nano’s innovative modular design means it can be shipped and assembled anywhere. Through “open distribution,” Tata Motors envisions a bunch of entrepreneurs could establish an assembly operation and Tata would train their people and oversee their quality assurance. Essentially, they become satellite assembly operations. Plus, customizing cars to individual needs becomes possible and easy. The consumer becomes part of the design process. Sad news for those who enjoy getting stuck with and paying for a package that may include power sideview mirrors, burl-oak dashboards, and a moon roof you’ll never use.

Nano reflects a spirit of innovation – a willingness to do more with less, increased modularity (both in products and processes), and paying attention to the needs of the consumer.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Art of Industrial Design

Industrial design, as an applied art category, generally conjures up images of mass-produced items like kitchen blenders, Vespa motor scooters, or even the Apple iPhone. Yet, there are other items that convey a sense of practical, simple engineered elegance. Lamy pens, for instance, convey a design engineer aesthetic and appear to be constructed of refined materials found in a machine shop or foundry floor. They have a well-functioning, well-oiled mechanical look, which is to say they look industrial cool. Black matte, nickel palladium, gunmetal, and platinum plated. Based in Germany, Lamy engineers and manufactures ballpoint pens, rollerballs, mechanical pencils and fountain pens. The industrial art look is also found in handmade, custom titanium rings from Zoe & Doyle. Even though titanium isn’t a typical, traditional jewelry metal, it just sounds cool to say out loud. “Yeah, we originally wanted kryptonite wedding bands, but then we saw these titanium beauties and knew they were us.” I especially like the titanium rings that are lined with rosewood or polished anodized royal blue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fashion Query

Things don’t add up. The fashion world has long favored the zombie look. You know what I mean: that blank stare with a mix of menace and only-in-your-dreams. With the interest in vampires as evidenced by the Stephanie Meyer’s The Twilight Saga book series and the movie it spawned, and the HBO series True Blood, one has to wonder why a “fang banger” look hasn’t emerged in fashion spreads. The duo teethmarks on the neck with alluring trickle of blood. The Do-It-With-Bats retro clothing line to tie in with Dracula. There are count-less opportunities.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Aluminum Recycling Business Opps

Make note of the date of this posting since it’s the basis for my patent claim. I’ve just started up a company, based on this new invention of mine. It’s a green business, so I’m planning to obtain stimulus funding. This new product will revolutionize the market I’m entering and may even spawn franchising opportunities. I’m entering the fast-paced aluminum recycling market. Most independent businesspeople in this market rely on stolen grocery carts, old strollers, or basket-laden bicycles to cover their collection routes. My revolutionary invention is a territory-expanding, solar-powered, motorized cart that will have an integrated can crusher and gumball dispenser. For obvious reasons, there will also be a Purell hand-sanitizer dispenser handily mounted in the operator compartment. (Note to any Purell executive reading this: contact me soon for investment opportunities leading to proprietary product-placement rights). The can crusher component will maximize the number of aluminum cans that can be collected and reduces the required size of the holding reservoir before off-loading is required at the designated, local recycling center. The gumball dispenser, you ask? Ahhhhh, since this is a laborious business, operators tend to get tired and often find park benches to snooze. While enjoying a well-deserved respite, the mobile collection cart can be parked in a visible, high traffic corner nearby. That way children can be rewarded for collecting cans. A small gumball will be dispensed for each can inserted in the solar-powered can crusher. Detailed drawings of this remarkable product are available to interested investors after receipt of the signed standard 28-page confidentiality agreement.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Aliens Among Us?

O.K. let’s say you’re an extraterrestrial with super advanced intelligence and technology. What on Earth (or any other planet for that matter) interest would you have visiting or living among us humans? Does anyone really think that ETs, aliens, non-earthlings have any interest in living among us? Are they likely to be hanging out at the Old Country Buffet restaurants watching overweight, greasy-hair families gorging on fried chicken, mashed potatoes drowning in gravy, and peach cobbler with three scoops of ice milk and taking detailed notes filled with awe, respect, and fear? I don't think so. If anything, they know us and avoid us, much like we step around a fire-ant hill. Yeah, I suppose it’s worth trying to reach out to non-Earth intelligence, but we need to be prepared to be disappointed. If they’re less intelligent than the average human, they’ll be irritating to be around, asking lots of really obvious dumb questions. If they’re smarter than us, do you think they’re going to be caught dead with us hanging around them asking really dumb questions – “So, how does this hyperspace stuff work again and are you sure you’ve never met any Klingons?”

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Swoosh is a good word. It’s solid and unpretentious. Used as a verb, it reinforces what its meaning is. A fitting and righteous example of onomatopoeia. To me, it’s one of those words that has greatest impact when the person using it has directly experienced the swoosh first hand…when their breath has been yanked out of their face or their hair has been ruffled by whatever swooshed. It also benefits from the buddy system, pairing up with either the word “past” or “by” – just like good 10-year-olds at summer camp, they tend to hang out together and appear to have a nominal interest in each other’s welfare. Swoosh past and swish by seems to go together like peanut butter and jelly. It’s nice that swoosh defines a more casual use of language. You probably don’t hear it being used much in stockholder meetings, legal briefs, or papal encyclicals. It’s just too informal I suspect. I do need to mention that Nike has co-opted and taken swoosh by force to refer to its logo, which looks and functions more like a checkmark. Every time I see the Nike checkmark logo I can’t help but think that Nike executives sit in their corporate global lair and chuckle in that evil way that exploitive control freaks do and say in a self-congratulatory way, “Yes, yes check off another doofus who is helping to spread our message of world domination.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June Fourth Incident

Today is the 20th anniversary of the several-day assault by hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops on the people of Beijing. The assault began on June 3, 1989 with troops invading the city from all directions and culminated in the defiance of one man who held up a line of Chinese Type-59 tanks on the morning of June 5th. To this day, he is simply known as The Tank Man. His name is not known. At the moment, he represented the cumulative anger, frustration, and hopelessness of the remaining protesters and the families and friends of thousands that had been slaughtered or seriously injured. It was a courageous act of a lone person that has reverberated throughout the world. The Tiananmen Square massacre (referred to in Chinese as the June 4 Incident) is a carefully guarded secret in China, which is difficult to explain away as merely an accidental stumble down the steps or walking into a door.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Randolph Hotel

Buried under multiple layers of paper billboard signs promoting cigarettes, beer and burgers. A painted advertisement for a long-demolished hotel. Painted on a cement base. Painted to be permanent. Now, a historic curiosity. A laughable reminder of how little a U.S. dollar is worth. From a period when a couple of quarters, a dime and a nickel jingling in a trouser pocket indicated enough wealth to buy a couple of beers and a sandwich. A time when stopping to pick up a penny off the sidewalk meant it was your lucky day. Ahhhh…. Randolph Hotel, do you exist in anyone’s memory today? Were you a comfort to a weary traveler? Are there any alive today, who were conceived in a room luxurious enough to have its own private bath?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Collage as Mirror of the World

Collage is perhaps the most representative form of art for contemporary 21st century living. The amalgamation of the disparate, the related, and the idiosyncratic in a two-dimensional piece of art functions as the snapshot of the daily-life chaos. Global Collage is a great collection of contemporary collage art from artists located all over the planet. The haiku and haibun poet Stanley Pelter from Lincolnshire, England, has a series of exquisite haibun books with incredible collage covers created by illustrator Izzy Sharpe. Yet, what we think, observe, and internalize is dynamic. Our dreams are probably closer to a real-time sensory collage of awake living. The site, WebCollage: Exterminate All Rational Thought, developed by Jamie Zawinski, is a dynamic collage site. WebCollage creates collages out of random images found on the worldwide web—with the collage being refreshed every couple of minutes. It is a mirror held up to the world.