Category Archives: Random Stuff

Perception v. Reality: Guns & States Rights

As you might have already heard, several states’ legislatures have passed – or are in the process of passing – laws that (re)assert states rights for guns that are manufactured, sold, and used within their respective states. Conventional wisdom is that these laws are going through in order to provide test cases that will come before the Supreme Court in order to decide a fundamental question: does the Federal Government have the  right to pass and enforce laws, flying in the face of the 10th Amendment.

I fervently hope that these cases get to the Supremes, and that the States Rights side prevails. We could be looking at the undoing of roughly 80 years worth of progressive laws that have upset the delicate balance between the Federal government and the “Several States.”

All that notwithstanding, the states that are passing/have passed these laws made me stop and ponder for a different reason. For instance, the first state to pass such a law was…Montana. Not to take away anything from Big Sky country, but Montana isn’t exactly (forgive me) number one with a bullet on my list of states where gun manufacturers ply their trade. Matter of fact, I was under the impression that most gun manufacturers were located in Illinois. Turns out, I was wrong. Continue reading Perception v. Reality: Guns & States Rights

We’re From the Government, and We’re Here to Help.

Heard about the suds smuggling going on up in Washington State? The eco-Nazis got together and got a law passed that banned all phosphates in detergents. But like most of what passes for “science” from the green crowd, somebody failed to do their homework. Turns out while phosphates may be bad whilst going down the drain from a dishwasher, they serve a useful purpose – they make the soap clean the dishes better, especially where locals suffer with hard water. No phosphates – no clean dishes, which means that the natives have to wash their dishes several times over to get ’em clean. Now I ask you – what’s more harmful to the environment…phosphates and a normal number of gallons of water used per dishwasher load, or no phosphates but three to five times the gallons of water used. You don’t have to be Kevin Costner to figure out that the world ain’t made of potable water. Take it from me here atop a caprock in the Texas Panhandle, water is a precious commodity. Using less water is better than trying to keep what goes down the drain from being a little impure. (Hint: That’s what we have water treatment plants for.) Continue reading We’re From the Government, and We’re Here to Help.

Be Careful What You Wish For.

First of all, let me go on record by stating that I was NOT wishing for a blizzard. Evidently, I was out-voted. As I write this (at around 6:35 PM CDT), we are being hit with some snow that I would characterize as “relentless.” As to the “blizzard” classification, let’s go to the authorities at Answers.com:

bliz·zard (blĭzərd) n.

    1. A violent snowstorm with winds blowing at a minimum speed of 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour and visibility of less than one-quarter mile (400 meters) for three hours.
    2. A very heavy snowstorm with high winds.
  1. A torrent; a superabundance: a blizzard of phone calls. Continue reading Be Careful What You Wish For.

Snow Job.

Let it snow. But not much.
Let it snow. But not much.

As I write this, it is about 68 degrees and overcast, here in Amarillo, Centrally Located Between Two Oceans!™ It’s been in the 70s and even up into the 80s over the past couple of weeks. Lows have been in the high 30s and 40s. I mention this because I’ve just learned that the brain trust at the Amarillo Independent School District have unilaterally decreed that school will be canceled for all of Amarillo tomorrow. This is due to the prediction by the National Weather Service of a blizzard (!) where they forecast between one and two feet of snow for us tomorrow.

Pause with me for a nanosecond, whilst I rage against the unfairness of weather here in the Panhandle. Continue reading Snow Job.

Bosses from Hell.

My 11-year-old daughter asked me today to tell her a story. No big. But she wanted to know about stupid people that I’ve known and worked for. I’ve actually been pretty lucky…although I’ve worked WITH a lot of stupid people, most of the people I’ve worked for have not been stupid. Mind you, I’ve worked for people that have DONE a lot of stupid things. (And when I say “a lot” I mean, take the biggest number you can think of, double it, and then raise it by the next order of magnitude, and you’ll have an idea of how many stupid things.)

As you might expect, I’m not at a loss to regail my kid with stories about stupid things I’ve seen at work. The story that sprung to mind today is a true story. (I swear!) I’m changing the names to protect the guilty, the innocent bystanders, the quick, and the dead. So…

What seems like a lifetime ago, I worked for a guy who had a pointed stomach. Seriously. He’d herniated the muscle wall of his midriff, and his stomach (already a large part of his physical presence) became somewhat conical in shape. Think of one of Madonna’s B-52 nosecone bras, deduct one cup, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what his stomach looked like. (At one time, in a civil disobedient mood, I decided to write a book as a rip-off homage to the then hot, new book – A Hundred and One Uses for a Dead Cat, that I planned to call A Hundred and One Uses for a Pointed Stomach. Use #1: Breakdancing.)

Anyway, this guy, aside from having the world’s only pointed stomache, had a history…and what a history it was. Early in his life, he’d gotten involved in the music biz, and all the associated evils therein, specifically drugs and alcohol. One day, he awoke, and decided to get clean and sober. Unfortunately, he also had a learning disability that required him to have to repeat things at least three times, before he could remember them.

I worked for him as the Creative Director, and did a bunch of copywriting, feature story writing, and editing as well. As such, it was my lot to review his writing, and edit it. Remember that learning disability thing? When he’d write something, he’d make liberal use of quotes. And use the same quote three or four times, within the same page. I’d edit out the duplications. He’d put them back in (and yell a lot).

After a number of failed projects, he decided to turn his attention to writing a book. And not just any book. No, this was going to be his magnum opus on Christianity. You see, he believed that the only thing wrong with Christianity was organized religion. And he was determined to write a book that explained the Bible to the unwashed masses – sort of a “cut out the middleman,” where churches represent the middleman.

Keep in mind, not many theologians take up the gauntlet on this one. Few people feel that they are sufficiently learned to tackle a project this large – the Christian equivalent of writing the Unified Field Theory. For someone who hadn’t even so much as one semester of divinity school.

I tried to gently point out that there were a number of worthwhile volumes on the market, filled with insightful analysis on the meaning of the Bible. He was not to be deterred. He genuinely believed that not just some, but ALL the theology books on the market had missed the point, and he was the Only One Qualified To Explain the Bible.

I pointed out to him that the Bible (other than the King James Version) is a copyrighted work, and you just can’t quote willy-nilly from it without paying a royalty. His workaround? Paraphrase, essentially coming up with his ‘own’ translation.

I tried to edit out his liberal use (and reuse) of the same quotes, several times on each page. He refused.

Did I mention how his learning disability affected conversations? He once came to me with another of his patented “brilliant ideas.” The exchange went something like this…

BOSS
“…now I want you to stop…I want you to stop what you’re doing…

ME
“Okay. What can I do for you?”

BOSS
“Okay, I want you to stop…and stop what you’re doing. And I want you to print…now pay attention now, I want you to stop everything, and print everything you’re doing on pink paper.”

ME
“Um…pink paper?”

BOSS
“Now I want you to stop…and are you listening? I want you to print everything on pink paper…cause pink is a…now I want you to stop and listen to this, cause it’s important…cause pink is a response color.

Well…maybe it is in San Francisco, but even after explaining the difficulties of trying to print four-color process on pink paper, he was still keen on the idea. But that was not enough. Just when I’d seemingly exhausted ways to make it better – or mock the project in such a way so that everyone would get the joke but him…my prayers were answered. He shared with me the title of the book.

Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down? Are you resting comfortably? Okay. Here goes:

The Thoughts of Jesus Christ

by __________(INSERT NAME OF BOSS)

Pause with me for a nanosecond, whilst we explore the colossal enormity of this title. Most theologians would demur, rather than presume to be able to read the mind of the Son of God. Even more outrageous, to put one’s name on such a work could be considered sacrilegious at best, insane at worst. Of course, it could have been worse, word-wise. I suppose, “Jesus Christ…What was He thinking?” would have been over the top.

With a title like that, I was all but at a loss as to how to design the dust cover. I mean, I could have spent billions of dollars in conventional weapons, but this demanded something that was sarcastic in the extreme…something that scaled the heights of Olympus in satire. Something that would at once scream “Theatre of the Absurd” while keeping the author completely in the dark.

Now I’m not a joker, a smoker, nor a a midnight toker, for that matter. Never have been, never will be. But I have seen a package of Zig-Zag cigarette papers in my time. (See illustration above.) It struck me that a product that is most closely associated with stoner culture has a mascot that would look remarkably like the popular conceptions of what Christ might have looked like. Sans the joint in his mouth, of course. And what better way to say “this book is one big joke” than to slap a slightly-modified version of the Zig-Zag logo on the dust jacket. So I did. The boss, of course, didn’t have a clue (a leitmotif that ran through most of his input during my employment there.)

The book, of course, never saw the light of day. Which is just as well. But it does make a great story, about the pointy-stomached boss and his goal of better theology through repetition.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo.

My daughter turned 11 today. That’s 11-going-on-22, for those of you keeping count. She is my primary source of constant amazement. I am perpetually blown away by how grown-up she is, how articulate, how smart, how funny, and how sweet she is. Every now and then, she’ll do something that reminds me that she’s actually still a kid, and not an adult. But more often than not, she makes me think that there’s an adult inside there, wearing a kid suit.

We’re doing the birthday party thing today – schoolmates, cake, movie, popcorn, et cetera. Not much time to write. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t brag on her a bit, and wish her the Best Birthday Ever.

You go, girl.

Cats & Dogs & Men & Women.

For the record, I never thought I was a “cat person.” I’ve always been partial to dogs. Part of that was because you can train a dog to do what you want. You can’t tell a cat anything. (Well, you can, but not so’s he’ll listen.) When I was a kid, if we had a pet, it was a dog. (Okay. To be accurate, I once had a hamster, and a rabbit that hung himself – named “Lucky,” natch.)

Growing up in Louisiana, you have to take French lessons in school – it’s the law. I hated it, particularly the idea that nouns had gender. How in the Hell can you keep that straight? And why were all dogs “feminine” (la chien) and cats “masculine” (le chat)? I mean, there are male and female dogs, and male and female cats, right? What’s the idea of assigning an entire species a gender? Continue reading Cats & Dogs & Men & Women.

TyperActive.

I love typography. Always have. From a very early age, I’ve been fascinated with letterforms. When I was in elementary school, I used to rubber-band two pencils together to create a crude way to draw Blackletter (a.k.a. “Old English”) lettering on posters. While other kids decorated their textbook’s book covers with drawings of muscle cars, military tanks or alien spacecraft, I decorated mine with words in a variety of typefaces. Blackletter, calligraphy, Cooper Black, Bodoni, Futura – you name it, and I experimented with it. As I grew into a career as a freelance artist, I discovered that typefaces could provide a subtext (no pun intended) to ad copy and headlines. The face I chose to design something had the power to communicate meaning, context, and even tell people how to think about the words on the printed page, before they’d even read them.

Waaaaay cool. Continue reading TyperActive.

A Challenge. A Real Challenge.

Sorry I’ve been a bit distant of late…I’ve been working (feverishly) on wrapping up the crafting of a business plan for the Amarillo EnterPrize Challenge. It’s a yearly contest to find – and fund – a number of worthy entrepreneurs’ ideas. I have one (www.guitarfurniture.com) that’s in the running. The winners will be announced in late March.

This is a big honkin’ deal, people…the winners will receive a check for $75,000. (!) If my idea is selected, it means that I could, in one fell swoop (or one swell foop) get enough funding to launch our products, and not have to go out and get a loan or shill for angel funding. That’s HUGE. So I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve been a little lax in posting to the ol’ blogs.

The contest deadline is Monday at 5PM, so bear with me, please.