Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Autumn begins: today at 9:31 AM

Happy Autumn!

Welcome to the shortest season of the year. Not technically but it always feels like it. Part of why autumn is so great is of course because it comes directly after the worst season, especially in NYC, summer.

Psychology Today: Three Ways Autumn Promotes a Happier Frame of Mind

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Karen's quirky narcissism, or good riddance Bloomberg Karen

I've worked with several people who live to sabotage their coworkers, over the course of my career, but in the past year I've worked with a woman who was the worst of all and on top of that she was the living embodiment of the Karen meme.

And her name is actually Karen.

I was forced to work with this woman as part of a three-person team, but unfortunately she didn't understand what it meant to be a member of a team. She would demand that the other two of us obey her arbitrary commands and if we did not, she would run to our manager to complain.

Within the first weeks of being forced to work with her (remotely thanks to Covid 19) she was asking to speak to the manager. The first time it wasn't about me, it was about someone else who had declined to do her bidding on command, but I rightly anticipated she would eventually find an excuse to snitch on me.

She seemed completely incapable of understanding how human social behavior works. She would reprimand coworkers one minute and then suggest we have a virtual cocktail party the next. The other team member and I did not want to associate with her in our free time, but suspected if we didn't she would find an excuse to retaliate. 

She revealed her true character at one of these virtual cocktail parties, complaining about a homeless man, and telling us she wanted the police to turn a hose on him.

And on top of everything else she was the most narcissistic person I have ever met. She touted herself as a model and used to give the rest of us regular reports on her latest outfit for her latest photoshoot, which nobody wanted to see. Her personal web site is full of images of herself. 

Although unlike the quintessential Karen "can I speak to a manager" haircut, this Karen's hairstyle is a mullet. A florescent red mullet. She seems to think this is quite attractive.

I was watching old reruns of M*A*S*H recently and I was struck by how much her character is like that of Frank Burns, who was constantly barking orders at coworkers and snitching on them when he didn't get his way. Although at least Burns had a higher rank than those he wanted to boss around. Karen was a co-worker who only thought she outranked us.

And the worst part was that she really believed herself to be superior to the two of us. She once barked at me "I'm not your mother!" and it took me awhile to realize what that bizarre statement meant: she actually thought I was asking her for help rather than questioning her approach, on a death-march project.

She made my life absolutely miserable and so I found a new job. 

My life is much better now.

Thursday, September 17, 2020


I know two people who know Tony Shalhoub ("Monk.") When am I going to meet him?

OK to be fair, I don't exactly know Itamar Moses, we are just Facebook friends. Here is a photo he posted recently, that's Shalhoub second row from the top on the left.

I don't only love Shalhoub for his portrayal of Adrian Monk, although every time I watch another episode of Monk (I am rewatching the entire series one episode per day right now) I admire his acting work even more. 

But I also caught him on Tig Notaro's show and I thought he was completely charming.

Monday, September 14, 2020

You should give the thing back, Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall, pioneering
the use of conjoined twins in children's
book illustrations
If the election of Donald Trump isn't enough to convince you we do NOT live in a meritocracy, consider that one of the worst professional illustrators of all time, Sophie Blackall, apparently won the Caldecott Medal for a second time.

From seven thousand miles away I heard the crackling committee and the word medal, and the first thing out of my mouth was…
Oh no. No. No.
Followed by, Are you sure about this?
I hate to tell you, but I tried to give the thing back.

As the news of this second Caldecott sank in, I kept thinking, No one deserves this much good fortune. And then I remembered how I felt when my second child, Eggy, was born. I didn’t, for a minute, offer to give my son back. His arrival was every bit as miraculous and joyful and distinct as it had been with my first child, Olive.
I was surprised to learn she had children. I guess I had unconsciously formed the impression that she hated children. But the ultimate consumers of her work don't have much artistic discernment and are unlikely to complain about her bad work, and most adults don't read or care about children's picture books. This is why she's gotten away with her career of artistic abominations. That and a Caldecott Award committee full of cretins.

Here is a list of the tasteless, asthetically-challenged oafs:

Members of the 2019 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee are: Chair Mary Fellows, Upper Hudson Library System, Albany, N.Y. ; Farouqua Abuzeit, Boston (Mass.) Public Library; Heather Acerro, Rochester (Minn.) Public Library; Tom Bober, School District of Clayton, Mo.; Megan Alleyn Egbert, Meridian (Idaho) Library District; Lucia Martinez Gonzalez, North Miami (Fla.) Public Library; Dr. Darwin L. Henderson, Cincinnati, Ohio; Shannon Horrocks, Sno-Isle Libraries, Snohomish, Wash.;  Dr. Jonda C. McNair, Clemson (S.C.) University; Dr. Ruth E. Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, Ill.; Chinasa Izeogu Seyse, Schenectady (N.Y.) County Public Library; Amanda Struckmeyer, Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District (Wisc.); Marilyn J. Taniguchi, Beverly Hills (Calif.) Public Library; Gwen Vanderhage, Brodart Co., Williamsport, Pa.; and Caroline Ward, Cos Cob, Conn.

As with the 2016 award, the  2019 runners-up to Blackall's work - the hideous Hello Lighthouse displaying again Blackall's complete unfamiliarity with the concept of perspective but she keeps trying it anyway - are so far superior to Blackall it is heartbreaking. How frustrating it must be for talented artists to be runners-up to such a sub-mediocrity.

Blackall writes: "no one deserves this much good fortune." Certainly nobody with as little drawing talent as Blackall deserves to win one of the highest honors in illustration. Twice.

I am so thankful I decided not to become an illustrator as I had planned back in art school. I would be losing my freaking mind at this miscarriage of justice.

I just hope she sticks with illustrating books for children so that I may avoid seeing her work. It's bad enough I have to be reminded of it every couple of years. 

If, god forbid, she is commissioned to do another piece of public art where blameless adults are forced to stare at her awfulness, as I was back in 2012 when I first became aware of Blackall, I will file a formal complaint on behalf of the citizens of New York City.

She is apparently so proud of her subway art monstrosity it's the first thing you see when you go to her web site.

According to the web site for the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance, we can blame the New York Times for inflicting Sophie Blackall on New Yorkers.
In 2000, Blackall was inveigled by New York. She convinced her husband, and two small children (who couldn’t talk and had no say in the matter), to pack suitcases and sense of adventure and join the diaspora. After two months of pounding the streets, portfolio in hand, and despite the tireless efforts of her agent, the return plane ticket was cashed in to pay the rent. Just when the highlight in the day had become half a can of Budweiser at six o’clock, the fax machine coughed and spluttered and delivered a commission of nine illustrations for The New York Times.
But at least someone else has noticed how awful Blackall is at perspective.
Sophie Blackall grew up in Australia where she learned to draw on the beach with sticks, which has not altogether helped her sense of perspective. She completed a Bachelor of Design in Sydney, which furnished her with useful Letraset, bromide and enlarger machine skills. The following few years were spent painting robotic characters for theme parks, providing the hands for a DIY television show, and writing a household hints column. 
She's also bad at composition and anatomy.

I can see how painting robotic characters for theme parks also influenced her style because she can barely express human emotions and her people's faces look the same.

The standard Blackall face. Almost no differentiation between character or gender.

And one more thing.

The waves in this image - from her award winning (gah!) picture book - the waves are very stylized - so stylized you'd barely know they were waves except for the context. That's not a bad thing in itself. Except that the clouds are rendered in a realistic way.

It's choices like that which make Sophie Blackall's work look so amateurish.

But I guess trying to explain to the Caldecott committee why she is incompetent would have about as much impact as arguing with a Trump supporter over his incompetence.

They just don't care.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Memories of drug busts past

I always wondered if the big Palmyra drug bust of 1978 ended up in the newspaper, and thanks to my subscription to newspapers.com I discovered that yes, it did.

This is from the August 19, 1978 edition of the Camden County Courier Post. I had no idea my ex-husband (who they misnamed "Howard") and our friend Matt ("Edward") were charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" of the 17-year-old Pennsauken female (me.)

The "controlled dangerous substance" was various experiments Matt, a budding botanist, was performing with seeds from morning glory plants. If he had any intent to distribute he never told me about it. 

I was impressed to see that the arrests were the result of a "month-long investigation."

The best part of the story is the photo that came with it, of the results of the arrest.

A few beakers and some sickly-looking marijuana plants. Not exactly breaking bad.

One more error in the article - I wasn't released to my parents, I was released to my in-laws, since my parents were vacationing in the mountains - they almost never went anywhere - and I had no way to contact them. 

I also never heard about "action by the county juvenile court." My entire personal experience with the law was being taken to the Palmyra jail, almost directly across the street from our apartment, cavity searched (I do not recommend it) and then allowed to call my in-laws who picked me up.

Matt and "Howard" were in county jail for a few days and then their lawyers pled down the charges in court and they didn't have to serve any prison time. According to my mother, who happened to meet her one day, Matt's mother blamed my ex-husband for everything. Not that my ex-husband wasn't a dummy, but he wasn't the one responsible for all the "controlled and dangerous substance."

Matt's attempt to extract some kind of psychedelic substance from morning glory seeds (I think he got the idea from "The Anarchist's Cookbook") was a bust for the bust - his laboratory, such as it was, had been up in the hot un-air conditioned attic of the apartment and any success he may have had with his pharmacological experiments was destroyed in the heat, which  left the Palmyra police with little but a few marijuana plants to show for their trouble. 

Apparently it was a big week for the South Jersey police - ours was one of four raids according to the Jersey P.M. Report.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Remembering Earl Rich

January 1995
Today marks 23 years since the death of Earl Rich.

I'm working on a collection of essays about people I have known who died and I'm writing a piece about Earl. I've written about him many times on this blog but it's good to have one polished and comprehensive piece of work.

This is how it begins:

I am skeptical of claims of the supernatural, so there must be a rational explanation for the sound outside my window, someone calling my name and saying "good-bye," on the morning Earl Rich died.  

I've often wondered what the rational explanation could be. In the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, "Breakfast of Champions" one of his characters died this way: "Like all Earthlings at the point of death, Mary Young sent faint reminders of herself to those who had known her. She released a small cloud of telepathic butterflies..."  

I thought of that Vonnegut passage just after I looked out my window to see who was calling. Nobody was there.  In his book "The Demon Haunted World" astronomer Carl Sagan said that one claim of extra-sensory perception that deserved serious study was this: 'people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images "projected" at them.' 
Sagan doesn't speculate on how thoughts or images might be projected. One of my theories is that maybe neurons in the brain, which send and receive electrical signals, at a moment of extreme stress, could transmit electrical pulses at a wide distance. Another theory I have was inspired by reading about quantum mechanics. There is a phenomenon called "entanglement" where two particles become "entangled" and then the state of one particle is always matched by the state of the other particle, even when very far away from each other. It's so strange and counter-intuitive it freaked Albert Einstein right out. He called it "spooky action at a distance." That sounds about right to me: spooky action at a distance. 

nt faint