Monday, February 28, 2011

As Sensible as Climbing a Ladder to Look for Fish?

Okay, the actual metaphor is "as sensible as climbing a tree to look for fish". Apologies, I didn't have enough paper to draw a tree. But you get the drift.

A metaphor is a phrase that, when well crafted, uses one thing to mean another. It puts things into a clear picture... sorta like in a nutshell (sorry). They carry a lot of power and allow a writer to use fewer words – to better effect. Note: This post used to be three pages long.

An analogy is another technique. It shows how two different things are similar. In demonstration, here are my favorites from a funny analogy competition: 1) "He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree." 2) "The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease," and 3) "It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools." Okay, one more, 4) "She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef." (For the full list go here.)

Words are both fun and a challenge. Set out to write a metaphor or analogy and you'll discover why some people spend hours on a single, simple sentence or phrase.

Now that I've got you all revved up with your tach hitting the red zone you might ease up on the gas pedal; there is a danger. It's called mixed metaphors. Like my  favorite: "An early bird gathers no moss." Don't go there unless you're doing stand-up. :o)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Human Nature of Birds

Three things the Great Blue Heron has in common with the human race:

1) They are most vocal during the breeding season, but will call at other times of the year if disturbed

2) Once they find a pond, as long as they know they can get a good meal they will keep returning. It is said that, given free reign, one can clean out a small pond (read fridge) in a matter of days, and

3) Herons don't go around with their necks stuck out. They fly with their heads tucked between their shoulder blades.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smart Burtie and The Wire

Meet Smart Burtie. He hangs from a wire.

Like most of us reading this post, he's a nice person. Wears a nice bow tie (okay, nice clothes). Tries to say all the right things at the right times. Truth is, he's a nice person. Does his job well. Stays loyal to his cohorts. Loves his family. Plays his cards close to his chest. Yada yada yada.

All is not always peaceful in the kingdom of Smart Burtie though. Sometimes he feels absolutely STUPID for not being some maverick-entrepreneur-internationally-recognized-expert-with-an-Oprah-entourage-and-a-villa-in-Spain-with-all-the-money-in-the-universe.

Breaking free and flying high would be much better of course. But would it, Smart Burtie mused?

"Nuts," Smart Burtie found himself saying out loud to no one in particular. "Life is all about connectedness, hanging out and having a grand old time with everyone else on the wire."

The End.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wanted: One Early Spring

Help! I ordered one on Groundhog Day weeks ago but it seems to be taking too long to arrive, making me think it got lost in the mail. So I am posting this in the hopes someone has one hanging around that they are tired of. A melt would do.

Will trade for maple syrup once the sap begins to run. And I get myself dug out.

Please hurry, this snowbank is beginning to affect my normally cheery outlook on life.

(And to the party that offered me sixteen blow dryers, thanks but I tried that last year and got iced in.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On Connecting and Negotiating for the Bed

Meet Peanut. We're friends and we live together. We met online, just like most of us here. He came to me as a rescue dog.

Peanut was his name when we met and, because he seemed partial to it, I didn't feel the need to change it.

The first day I brought him home I gave him a tour of the house and told him it was his home too. That may have been a mistake.

He immediately laid claim to my bed.

After a few nights on the floor, and some negotiations, he let me share it with him.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sparkle Versus Art

I love washing dishes.

In fact, I am known in certain circles as the King of Dishwashers. Over the years I have painstakingly developed my patented 'technique' and I thought for a while I had taken dish washing to an art form. But I was mistaken. In the end, there is no difference between a dish that I clean and one that you clean. My dishes are not special. (deep sigh)

True art is no pile of plates. It speaks to people in a way that no stack of sparkle can. Dancers, writers, artists, designers, musicians – anyone involved in the development of creative communications all have a unique destination. Technique may be a tool to help get there but it's not the end of the journey... technique is not art.

We have all seen, heard, tasted and experienced excellent pieces – a sink full of technique, but somehow without substance. Great skill but, gee... it's missing something. The kitchen may be tidy but it's been tidy before.

Technique is all about the 'how.' Inspiration is about the 'why.' And when we focus on the message, how we get there (all the tricks and technology and sparkle) begins to matter less.

We concentrate on technique while we learn. Then, for the lucky few, there comes a magical time when knowingly or unknowingly, we make the giant leap from scrubbing pots to producing passion. The work makes a statement. It comes from the heart. It is art.

It is inspirational.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Unscientific Moon

5:45 a.m. A bright winter moon lights the way for a pup who needs out after a long night. Einstein once said that he gained solace knowing the moon was there, even if he wasn't looking at it. 

This morning I looked. And I remembered that when I grew up the moon was made of cheese and you always looked for the man in the moon. Love meant spooning under the moon in June - the same moon that the cow jumped over. The very same moon that shone on that river for Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer's "Moon River" for a lovely Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's...

The same moon that lit the path for Hans Christian Anderson in 1840, while he wrote "What the Moon Saw."

The same moon that shone down upon me waiting at the kitchen door this morning. 

One night when you're looking for a sense of permanence in your hectic world, look up with an unscientific eye.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

About Nothing in Particular

If you can perceive nothing as a space for something new, then maybe anything can happen and everything is possible. Allow everything to be nothing once in a while: a space for new somethings...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Casting a Long Shadow

7:45 a.m. You don't really expect idioms to pop into your head while standing in minus double-digit temperatures with a pooper scooper in one hand and a baggie of poop in the other. At least I don't.

I do remember counting my blessings that there was very little wind to increase the chill and cause my eyes to water.

Then I realized the winter sun seemed more immediate somehow today. We hadn't had sun in a few days and perhaps it was more energetic because it had been resting behind the clouds for quite a while.

I happened to glance over into the next yard to where a large branch had fallen last autumn. Clean, early light shone brightly through the trees behind it, giving the unwanted branch more influence on it's surroundings, causing it to...  cast a long shadow.

There it was. Bold as brass. Completely unbidden. Astounding how that happens.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Revealed: The Chocolate Connection!

The Saint Valentine's Day massacre involved the murder of seven people in prohibition era Chicago, on Feb. 14, 1929. It is recorded in history as a settling of accounts between two powerful gangs; the South Side Italian gang led by Al Capone and the North Side Irish gang led by Bugs Moran. It was said Capone ordered it after Bugs' gang machine-gunned Al Capone's headquarters. But this recently uncovered photo reveals this might not be the case. It may have been all about chocolate.

The above photo (from an unnamed source) shows the crowd gathering in front of the scene of the crime following the shoot-out; reported at the time as the S.M.C. Cartage Co... But take a close look. It's really a chocolate shop.

Chicago News Photo, 1927
This is the photo that was published that day. We can see it was obviously cleverly retouched to remove the sign above the location of the crime. But why?

Leaked information from documents buried for 84 years reveal the clash that day may not have been about the war over control of prohibition whiskey or gang turf at all. It was evidently more personal than that. Both Capone and Moran had a secret addiction to chocolate and it was actually competition over a totally legal shipment of the tasty confection that lured the Moran men to the shop. (Moran himself was late, finishing a chocolate shake at his local soda fountain, and therefore avoided being killed.)

A sympathetic press at the time agreed with all sides that this would not look good. If it was revealed to the world that this event had taken place over candy, it would instantly make the gangland mystique a laughingstock. Hershey bars were said to be exchanged to facilitate the cover-up, and the photo and written facts were revised to remove the chocolate connection totally. 

But of course, the conspiracy of silence could not be totally subverted. People in the know since that day have shared a wink as they give the gift of chocolate on Valentine's Day. And so began the tradition...

And now you know. WikiLeaks; eat your heart out.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Electronic File Sharing

Sometimes you just have to express a feeling. Simply. And if you can, that's magic.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Beauty of Impermanence

Life has become increasingly complicated. To cope, we're told to try to balance our work and life, balance our budgets, balance our diet, maintain our psychic equilibrium and weigh the good vs bad within our personal sense of justice.

Artists, designers, photographers and illustrators all strive every day for  the perfect combination of color, composition, visual and layout.

Nowhere is this whole concept epitomized better than in the balancing act of rock vs wind vs current in the Remic Rapids, Ottawa River, Canada.

In 2011, Ottawa artist John Felice Ceprano will be celebrating 25 years of creating his rock sculptures on the river. He puts up these creations every year, knowing that they are subject to the ravages of nature. In truth, it's part of the reason they are so valuable. Inherent in the process of attempting to create balance is the reason for creation itself. And vital to this process is its impermanence.

Because all who view these creations know that eventually; perhaps in a few moments, days, or during the ravages of winter - they fall. It's meant to be.

Who hasn't done something that we hoped might last but knew deep down it may not, and all the while believing it was a worthwhile expenditure of energy? Answer: every single one of us worth our salt.

We all set things up so they work and none of us should be surprised when the wind or waves come along to say "Ha! Gotcha!"

And then, with renewed energy, we begin again.

Footnote: Although I am not a Buddhist, I note with interest that impermanence is understood by Buddhists as one of the three marks of existence.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Tiddly-Work

Photo/Illustration: M. Wissenz/R. MacIvor
Get this. Now, corporations and businesses are taking a long look at allowing, encouraging and even scheduling times for play. Experts are lauding the value of fun activities at the office, saying it reduces staff turnover, creates a happier workplace and makes people more productive.

Utter bunk.

My father is rolling over in his grave. Just the thought of incorporating play at work would have raised eyebrows in his day. Work was for work. Period. You worked hard all day and then came home, ate dinner, watched the news and then worked at something else.

Incorporating play into the workplace is nothing but the next generation of modern-leadership-zenning-itself-into-their-happy-place gone awry. This is where the brilliant minds who gave us "Jeans Friday" and the casual workplace have lead us.

Excuse the bad play on words, but play at work will never work. First, you have to teach grown-ups what play is again. There would have to be studies commissioned, courses and workshops would have to be offered costing a huge amount of person-hours, not to mention consultants' fees. Then you have to define what types of play are allowable and during what time periods... Plus, if you have a variety of lifestyles, religions, races and ages in your office you have to take into account personal sensitivities, and age-appropriateness. Can you imagine asking an avid animal rights activist to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey? I don't think so.

What are you supposed to tell a client? "Oh, I'm sorry I can't make it at 1 pm on Thursday, that's our Tiddly-Winks time?" Or try asking your next customer to excuse the noise from the Giggle-Belly session next door... again, I don't think so.

Besides, what if you don't want to play some silly game? What if you want to actually work? Increased productivity comes from applying yourself to your job and not from shooting Nerf balls into waste basket hoops. You're supposed to be miserable at work.

I'm with my father on this one. Play is for kids. (If there are no chores to be done. Or homework. Or music lessons...)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday with Icing

Ah,  fleet of wee flickering flakies,
I beg you come and see
what a wonderful winter gathering
I have planned for thee. 

Up high upon my arms of fur,
lies a rosy roost for all.
Upon each busty branch of needles
all gatherers reign tall!

For when we gather together
joining voices on a bough,
the song we tell the world portrays
the magic of  'just now'.


(apologies to all poets everywhere)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Buy In Mapping

You may not know me as a very disciplined professional but trust me, I try. :o)

The idea of being able to understand the scenario that best enables people to buy into a worthy cause in today's world of social media (and what that looks like graphically) has been an interest to me for many years. There are so many worthwhile causes out there - with very limited resources - an understanding of the factors that allow the public to invest in a cause may lead to more success in fund raising... and possibly a formula for future best practices.

How do we connect effectively with people who dare to care?

Perhaps mapping it out in a graphic manner may give us a reference to relate to, react to and give us a platform to base future planning.

The above schematic is admittedly preliminary (based on a model that many of you may recognize) and I'd love to get any feedback you might offer.

I would be pleased to present your considered revisions in this post as I get comments. Stay tuned!

Cheers, Rand

Tuesday, February 1, 2011