March 31, 2004

37 today, and I find my collection is strangely devoid of baby pictures. So I commemorate today with this peek at my childhood. This would be the first day of school, circa 1973, I suppose. Already, I have absorbed two things: the importance of accessorizing (a snazzy lunch box) and the importance of lunch.

Posted at 09:14 AM
March 24, 2004
Plain English

I wish I'd seen this first: E. points me to this Guardian rewrite of a Churchill oration, using the language's most annoying phrases (according to these people):

I hear what you're saying but, even though we are between a rock and a hard place, and large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail or move the goalposts. The glass is half full.

Now that's outside the box!

Posted at 07:13 PM
March 22, 2004
Media Monday

A wealth of Poynter-derived links:

Looks like a design site worth reading. (via Design Desk)

Kind of funny article about the one-time lead singer of Social Distortion, who's now an anchorman in Kansas City. (via Romenesko)

In 1988, Corvin went to see Social Distortion play in Tampa, Florida. When he went backstage after the show, the first question Ness asked him was, "So, you still going to college?" Corvin, having been out of school for seven years, says he just laughed and said, "No, that was a long time ago."

And finally: Most corrections are no fun to write. But this one probably was (except for the responsible party):

The first letter in the "Dear Abby" column Monday in Tempo was the result of a hoax. The provider of the column, Universal Press Syndicate, sent out a substitution March 4, after it learned the material was lifted from an old episode of "The Simpsons" TV show. Tribune editors overlooked the substitution.

Posted at 06:48 PM
March 17, 2004
Rescue Me

My search for the perfect shelter magazine continues. Has anyone seen a copy of this? It does not seem to be available on my newsstand, but otherwise it sounds promising:

As home dwellers, we have a song that plays over and over in our heads, "What More Can I Get?" We make a little more money, we buy a bigger house, or get more expensive appliances. We seem hard-pressed to be content, to love where we are right now. This issue of RESCUE wants to change that by extracting this emotion out of household topics that are relevant. To separate the important stuff from the style pie in the sky.

Only concern: in the online feature, the author seems to have interviewed the magazine's own editor as an "expert," which seems puzzling, as if they couldn't find anyone else to talk to. But perhaps it's just a quirk. I'll keep my eyes open for a copy.

Posted at 08:03 PM
March 16, 2004

Word of the day is vexillology, or the study of flags.

I know this because over at Gaper's Block Alice writes about the Chicago city flag. (Does this make her 'Alice from The Block'?)

Her article triggered a long-ago and, so I thought, reliable memory. Curiously, one of the few memories I have of third grade is how my class got the idea--what I thought was "spontaneously," although who knows--to design a flag for our own city. All of us schoolchildren got to work up a design and then "someone"--not sure who--chose the official flag.

This project made quite an impression on me. I thought getting a bunch of kids to design a city flag was an entirely new and revolutionary concept. (I was 9 years old and staying up till 1 a.m. was also a new and revolutionary concept, but anyway.)

I worked painstakingly on my design. It was, to my mind, not just a flag but more of a tapestry, with characters, and maybe a boat. Not to mention it was in royal blue and pink. (Hmm, I can't imagine why that didn't make the cut!) Needless to say, some other design won--a strikingly simple one in blue and white. This loss was a letdown for me, but grade school was filled with that kind of disappointment. Anyway, life went on, and I don't remember ever seeing the flag again.

Apparently, according to this guy, neither can anyone else. For some reason, he did a goose chase of city flags throughout Ohio, only to come up with conflicting stories:

A city hall employee took me to a storeroom where among some miscellaneous items was preserved an old city flag, once a blue-white-blue horizontal tricolor with the city's name on the white stripe. Time had faded the fabric from blue to a kind of lavender, making for a most unusual flag. Some years later I visited the city hall in Columbus, of which B. is a suburb. The incumbent mayor at that time had acquired a number of city flags in Franklin County (where Columbus is situated), and had them on display in a meeting room. Of course I looked at them closely, and was surprised to learn from the mayor that a white flag with a stylized B in the center was the flag sent to him from B. When I drove up to B. to find out about that flag, nobody knew what I was talking about. Maybe B's mayor knew, but he was unavailable that day!

The flag pictured here is presumably not the one I'm thinking of, as it's dated 1908.

So what happened to the so-called official flag that we designed circa 1976? Was it just a cruel joke played on a bunch of third graders? Was someone in the administration so asleep at the switch that they just forgot about us? I thought we were making history with our boxes of crayons. But already it's been rewritten.

It's vexing.

More notes on flags:
Unrelatedly, a film about the gentrification of one neighborhood in Columbus is "Flag Wars."

My town, as we were told repeatedly in school, has the same name as a town in southeast England. If they have a flag, I'm not aware of it.

Posted at 06:46 PM
March 12, 2004
Things Get Strange(r)

Sing along with the common people,
Sing along and it might just get you through,
laugh along with the common people,
laugh along even though they're laughing at you,
and the stupid things that you do.

Things on the Internet have seemed faintly twisted all week. Found in the e-mail a few days ago: reports that:
Finally, Joe spent a few days in Nashville working with Ben Folds and William Shatner. Yes: William Shatner. Ben Folds is coordinating and producing an album of collaborations between Mr Shatner and various musical artists. Joe contributed vocals and piano to three tracks, including a version of Pulp's 'Common People' which deserves to be a mega-hit.

And in blissful juxtaposition, these subversive Bush campaign posters make it all better, somehow (e.g., "Best. Invasion. Ever."). (More examples over at Wonkette.)

Posted at 10:17 PM
March 08, 2004
Pig, Poultry, Peel

Hey, free pig photos here! Aww, how cute. And yet their sheer numbers evoke the corporate chill of AgroPigIndustrial Worldwide Inc. All those pink snouts and ears, brought to you by Schering-Plough et al.

There's also a sister site for the humble chicken. But frankly, poultry is not as cute. No one calls their lovable spouse a poultry-related nickname. (See, by contrast, John Peel.) There is, however, a nice omelette related recipe here.

More on Pig and Peel.

Posted at 07:25 PM
March 07, 2004

During our recent trip to Florida, we went manatee-spotting by way of a river cruise.

I've always been fascinated with these creatures, but it looks like this is as close as I'll ever get to one.

It's not as easy to photograph manatees as I had hoped (they don't usually come up to say hello), so these are the best I could do.

For better shots, one needs to take underwater photos, like the ones seen here.

As remote as the possibility of a face-to-face meeting is, here are some guidelines should one encounter a manatee. Do not touch, ride, or poke a manatee--except for these.

Posted at 10:24 AM
March 03, 2004
Out on My Skateboard, The Night Is Just Hummin'

A long time ago, I started a brief listserv flurry with what was known as the indiepop haiku. (The list archives don't seem to exist anymore, but this was named a "best thread" in the poplist poll of 1995, apparently.) I started it with this unlikely verse:

My cat on the stairs
Listens to Pavement and yawns.
"Range Life" is her fave.

I was reminded of this when I read the "Jewel Case Chanson" at Hit Those Keys:

And that's when I decided to brainstorm a found-poem using the artist names and CD titles I could read from where I sat. A poem that employed at least a dozen of these, used this found language in nearly every line, and was at least 16 lines long. And I couldn't change the grammatical contruction or break up any of the found bits (enjambments were permitted). Oh, and it needed to say something. That made sense, at least to the recipient.

Shall I try this at home? Given the size of our music collection, mine would be bound to be an epic poem. It sure sounds fun, though.

Posted at 06:54 PM
March 02, 2004
New Hope

Driving north on Rt. 37 on a cold bright Saturday morning, I glimpse, from the corner of my eye, periodic flashes of light. It's the sun rising across the silent silver frozen fields, slashing through the gaps between the trees.

I used to see the light the same way riding the 8:30 a.m. Greyhound in college. I'd change in Indianapolis and head to Ohio at the start of every vacation. So every flash of light brings back a second of memory: the smell of Grayhound terminals, the expectation of coming home, the sadness of being the last person to leave for vacation when everyone else has already headed to the airport. Has it really been that long ago? Maybe not; in some ways I am still the last person to leave and am still always coming home.

The sun and the land don't change. But I am in a car now, not on the bus, and we are going faster now, leaving town behind again. The sun's shining, the ice has melted, it's Saturday, and the sign I'm passing says NEW HOPE.

Posted at 07:45 PM