Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Miscellanea

A few photos from recent weeks.

Parallel to the current penchant for peek-a-boo book covers, there also seems to be a lot of interest in strings or trails coming off of letters.

An odd juxtaposition at the doctor's office.

Check out the token in the center of the pennies: it says Minneapolis St. Paul and features a light rail train. Our light rail trains have never used tokens, and that's not a street car, I think, which did use tokens. So a bit of a mystery.

I've been meaning to take a photo of this South Minneapolis business for years because I find the name funny. I'm sure they're tired of hearing it, but Parents Auto Care?

This magazine is produced by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as an advertising vehicle (pun intended) for higher income readers. It's usually full of crassness, but this cover really topped it. The featured house has a showroom for the owners' car collection, adjacent to the patio and pool area. The spot where the red and blue cars are parked used to be an indoor pool, replaced with this use in a remodeling project.

This is a screen snapshot from the recent double episode of Full Front with Samantha Bee that covered the Puerto Rico situation in more depth than anything else I've seen. I feel as though I can approve of this shirt because I, too, am American, so it's partly self-criticism.

I recently went on a tour of the greenhouses and labs at the University of Minnesota's department of horticulture and I want to do a return visit, if only to take photos of all the hand-made and personal-computer-generated signs. They were a hilarious glimpse of the way people try to communicate with unknown others in often passive-aggressive ways. This was one I did manage to capture. (I must point out that there is no receptacle under the COMPOST sign.)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Stranger Chalk Art

This is my chance to say: If you haven't watched Stranger Things, I recommend it. I was afraid it would be too scary for me and feed my nightmares, but it didn't.

I was reminded of it by this chalkboard art:

Seen at Pizza Luce on Franklin Avenue. That's the character called Eleven in the bottom right corner, with the waffle.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Alien Life

It may seem as though I spend all my time reading advice columns (since I can't help commenting on the oddities I find therein). But so what: they're just so strange sometimes.

Take this recent letter to Miss Manners, for instance, quoted in its entirety:

I am the paternal grandmother, and I hosted a meet-and-greet for our grandson. I hired a photographer and planned a day of making memories, mostly for the paternal great-grandparents.

Maternal grandparents want pictures. I say no. Our grandson lives three hours away, and we see him maybe once a month. They see him via FaceTime every day, every weekend, and never share with us. Am I wrong?
That's all there was: no setup, just launching into "I am the paternal grandmother." An introduction may have been edited out, but as is, it makes for a strange start, and then it gets stranger. What is this grandmother, a PR flak? She arranged for a "meet-and-greet"? She sets about overtly trying to "make memories," complete with a hired photographer?

I'm very glad not to be part of this family, whether in-laws or outlaws.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Wreath for Emmett Till

My friend who died recently, and whose memorial service I attended during Saturday's snow storm, was a children's book expert and former editor. At her service, she asked that some of her books be available for people to take home and share. Many of them were picture books.

One that I picked up was new to me, A Wreath for Emmett Till by poet Marilyn Nelson (Houghton Mifflin, 2005).

Nelson describes in the introduction how hard the book was to do, and I can only begin to imagine: the challenge of writing about Till's horrific murder, and especially to write about it for children. It's inexplicable in the same way that racism is inexplicable, except it isn't.

She wrote the book in the form of a heroic crown of sonnets, which means a series of 15 interlinked poems where the last line of each becomes the first line of the next, and the last poem is made up of the first lines of the preceding 14. That difficult framework made it possible to deal with the impossible story she had to tell, she says: "The strict form became a kind of insulation, a way of protecting myself from the intense pain of the subject matter."

It's a beautiful book (with illustrations by Philippe Lardy) that ties many kinds of plants into the tragedy to make a wreath. That made it extra resonant for me. Rosemary, bloodroot, Indian pipe, mandrake, trillium; the oak trees used to hang lynched black men.

This is one of the poems:
Trillium, apple blossoms, Queen Anne's lace,
woven with oak twigs, for sincerity...
Thousands of oak trees around this country
groaned with the weight of men slain for their race,
their murderers acquitted in almost every case.
One night five black men died on the same tree,
with toeless feet, in this Land of the Free.
This country we love has a Janus face:
One mouth speaks with forked tongue, the other reads
the Constitution. My country, ’tis of both
thy nightmare history and thy grand dream,
thy centuries of good and evil deeds,
I sing. Thy fruited plain, thy undergrowth
of mandrake, which flowers white as moonbeams.
That duality of the American story — liberty for some but oppression and death for others — is our country's constant refrain, though all too often unknown to white people. I appreciate Nelson's service in making it apparent.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Where Does It All Go?

For Tax Day, one drawing from the graphic explainer Hypercapitalism:

Lack of understanding of complexity and the desire (human need?) to simplify things work against us every day.

Monday, April 16, 2018

I Don't Get It

One aspect of Christianity as it is often practiced (or its texts are written) that I don't understand is the use of adulatory language toward god. This is an omnipotent, omnipresent being, and yet "He" needs humans to exult him and praise him.

I am a relatively normal human being and I hate being praised. I don't like being recognized for my efforts, and I don't like being thanked publicly. Why does anyone think an all-powerful god needs puny-old-us to praise him? I know I'm extending my attitude to someone who is supposed to be beyond human understanding, but what seems more likely, that an all-powerful entity who created everything wants to be praised constantly, or would rather stop hearing about it all the time? He knows he made it, right? Does he need us to keep jabbering on about it?

I was thinking about this a few days ago while attending a Lutheran memorial service. As church services go, it was fairly inoffensive and the hymns were actually highly appropriate to the day and the person being memorialized (references to snow storms and higher learning and a kick-ass attitude toward life). But the part of the responsorial that had the congregation saying, "We glorify you," "We praise you," and "We worship you" made me wonder.

Worship: From Old English, originally the word meant the "condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown." The verb we use today dates from the 14th century.

Praise: "to laud, commend, flatter," c. 1300, from Old French preisier, from Latin pretium "reward, prize, value, worth," from PIE *pret-yo-, suffixed form of *pret-, extended form of root *per- (5) "to traffic in, to sell." [Related to "price." Huh.]

Glorify: from Late Latin glorificare "to glorify," from Latin gloria "fame, renown, praise, honor." Use with God as an object dates from late 14th century.

It also occurred to me during the service that the Lord's Prayer, which (according to the Bible) was  uttered by Jesus Christ in the Sermon the Mount, contains none of that stuff. The closest is saying god's name is "hallowed," which just means his name is holy (from Old English. Note that, according to the two Bible books that include the Lord's Prayer, Jesus did not say "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.").

These thoughts are similar to my ruminations on the word "proud" a few years ago. I was already this way before Mulligan came to power, and now I want even less to do with recognition and praise. Knowing that "praise" and "price" are related makes enormous sense in this day and age.


All etymologies are from the excellent website,

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Imagine a Man, Part 2

Remember that recent post of mine about the woman dentist, who posed like a pinup in an ad for her own practice? I asked if you could imagine a male dentist posing that way, knowing the answer would be no.

Here’s an inverse situation from a letter back in March to advice columnist Carolyn Hax. It’s written by a mom of an adult son. He’s in a serious relationship with a woman and they’re likely to get engaged, mom reports. “We like this young woman, but we have reservations,” she says. And then she gives the problem:

It’s clear our son spends a great deal of time and energy taking care of his girlfriend and making her feel secure and content, although she is rarely content for long. He makes all the food, goes out for her coffee, makes all the reservations, plans trips, etc. This never-ending support over her workplace and social worries seems awfully one-sided, and my son has confided that it can be exhausting and frustrating.
Okay, now, change this situation and imagine the writer is the mother of a young woman, describing her daughter’s possible future husband. If it helps, imagine this letter was written in 1958 instead of 2018.

Would anyone have written such a letter, even today, if the gender roles were reversed? Everything the son is doing for his girlfriend is the type of work routinely expected of women in long-term relationships, from cooking to making sure the man’s job’s social requirements get attention so he can further his career. Women are supposed to do all the planning, get the coffee, and support “their man.” That’s part of why men in high-level positions can advance as fast as they do, because their employers are getting a two-fer. And I can't tell you how many women I know who care-take their husband's feelings to make sure they're "secure and content."

Carolyn didn’t address any of this in her response. She played it like an egalitarian, which is fine, but I can’t get over how essentially sexist this letter is. Maybe mom and dad have an equal sharing of tasks and emotional labor in their household and have modeled that for their son his whole life, but it seems as though Carolyn could have at least pointed out the cultural irony in the situation.

Schlitz beer ad from this Tumblr, via Cory Doctorow's Twitter feed.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Along the Way on a Snowy Day

You may have heard Minnesota is having a record snowstorm right now. Maybe you're in it, too!

I spent most of my day going to a wonderful memorial service at a church in downtown Minneapolis, and chose to get there by Metro Transit bus. The bus part of the trip was great (thanks to the driver who made his way through near-white-out conditions, especially on the return trip in the afternoon).

Walking to and from the bus was not so great, though, since there was often a 20+ mph wind in my face, driving snow, and unshoveled sidewalks.

But I did get to see this bench along the way:

At least it wasn't a fork in the road, or I might have gotten lost in all the snow.


Note: the bench is bare because the wind has blown it clean. Amazing.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Voice Recognition: Not Ready Yet

While flipping through the latest Discover magazine, I saw this ad for a captioned telephone, targeted at seniors and the hard-of-hearing:

And while I'm sure it's better than nothing, I want to warn potential buyers that the captioning results are unlikely to be as accurate as the ad shows. In fact, it's more likely that message shown would say:

hello grammar this is kale in how are you today. I what is to say thank you for the bird hey cod.
I base that prediction on the way my iPhone transcribes voicemails. It is especially bad at recognizing proper names, which is understandable, but amusing:

That message was from someone named Ellen. It cut off the beginning when she probably said "This is," and then garbled the next half-dozen words until it got to "we really need to talk to you later."

Another one from Ellen, now Helen.

This one, as you can see, is from someone named Abby, now dubbed Allie, followed by a couple of lines of unintelligible mumbling.

Here are a few other recent favorites:

I have no idea what "Fred water" was supposed to be or just about anything else in this message.

Okay, whatever that was supposed to mean.

Yes, Garalder is a common word, that's clearly the word someone would use.

On the plus side, voice recognition transcription is good for hours of amusement.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Good Use of a Tomato

Replacing a letter in a business's name with a symbol of some sort is a common technique for logo designers. All too often, it doesn't work (doesn't "read"). But here's a hand-painted sign from a Minneapolis community garden that I think does read:

I have no trouble at all reading the word "neighborhood," and I really like the use of the tomato as two Os. The G in "Garden" could have been rendered better, I admit. I tend to see it more as a C. But it doesn't really bother me too much.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Imagine a Man

In my younger days, I kept a file of sexist ads. Sometimes the thing that makes it sexist is the way the woman is posed: bashful knee bend and licensed withdrawal of her gaze are two of the ones I remember.

Yesterday I saw this ad (apologies for the blurry photo), and while its subject does look directly at the viewer, her pose is quite another thing:

This is a dentist. A professional woman. What is she doing posing like a person watching TV, or (less charitably) an old-fashioned pin-up girl?

Okay, maybe this photo doesn't strike other viewers as sexist. But tell me: can you imagine a male dentist posing like this for an ad promoting his practice?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

What a Way to Go

A few days ago, I was sitting in a Friendly's restaurant in upstate New York. In the booth next to me was a 30ish white guy with what I would usually describe as a hipster beard, but given where the Friendly's was located and the fact that he was wearing a ball cap with rifles screen printed onto it... maybe not a hipster.

Anyway, he was talking to two people across the table from him, and I wasn't listening to them, I really wasn't. But suddenly one phrase sprang out and lodged in my ear:

"She hates me. Some day she's going to kill me with a pasta salad."