Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sad and Lonesome Death of DVDs

The first inkling that things were changing came right under my nose came as I was driving home with our Chevy Impala rental car. As usual my fingers went probing for the CD slot to play my favorite music. None could be found. When I inquired at the rental car company they stared at me through the phone. My kids were less kind and laughed at me. So I went to my secret advisor and Google stated quite simply that General Motors no longer equipped their new cars with such antiquated means of carrying a tune.

Well, pardon me for missing that seismic change in my life” I thought out loud. When did someone decide that the old reliable CD or, DVD for that matter, was no longer cutting edge technology? I guess the answer is ‘everyone else.’ I just didn’t notice those changes coming fast and furious all around me.

Now instead of delivering packages of entertainment and distraction through the mail or in retail stores, it’s all gone ‘streaming.’ There are streaming movies, streaming cable series and streaming music services. Anything under the sun is for sale on our computer screen. Oops, I misspoke. I meant to say on our tiny iPhone screen. So much for checking the mail every day or visiting my local music shop. Now I can sit on my butt, munch on bon-bons, and get everything and anything I desire (not need, mind you) at the touch of my fingertips.

But try as it might, technology hasn’t won me over quite yet. Case in point, I have an old but reliable Sony turntable and CD / tape player downstairs. Truth be told. I don’t use it very often. But the sound is still good and the emotions emoted still comforting. The same can be said for my stack of LPs (that’s long playing) records.

I never got into 8 track tapes or reel to reel audio recorders. But there is a shelf of audio tapes still down stars. Until the untimely demise of my Ford Escape I had a good place to play them. But atlas I still have an old cassette player to take up the slack when the mood strikes me.

I never got into video discs and my collection of VHS and DVD movies hasn’t moved much. But they’re still a source of enjoyment some evenings. Despite what Hollywood would like you to believe they actually made good movies before the present hysteria over the latest summer blockbuster. I was never tempted to switch to Blue ray or Digital DVDs. Now even those devices are old fashioned and quickly being replaced by ‘The Cloud’ and other streaming services.

Progress marches on. My flip phone will soon be obsolete. If Microsoft finds out that I’ve still got Windows 4 to back up my Windows 7 they’d probably come and shut me down. Oh, my, how do I survive?

Perhaps it’s a good thing I wasn’t born around the turn of the century. I have nothing against the horseless carriage but horses are a noble animal. And I wouldn’t have to change their oil. It’s all part of a paradigm shift taking place 24/7 in our lives. From entertainment to medicine to transportation to everyday living, the only constant seems to be constant change.

For the last hundred years we’ve been sucked into this reflective prism called ‘new.’ New is good. Old is bad. It’s as simple as that. Even back in 1946 a portable typewriter was the end all be all…until a couple of years later they sparked the keys with electricity.

Don’t get me wrong. I love using Google Drive. I love sharing my thoughts and ideas through my blogs (400 and counting). I love showing my brand on Facebook; 3 separate sites, and Twitter (although I don’t use it) and LinkedIn to expand my reach.

Self-publishing has been a God-send in terms of publishing and sharing my novels. That in turn has given me increased credibility as a playwright and screenwriter.

But time marches on, leaving only fading memories in its wake. I think it’s OK to hold on those old musical tools of the trade while the rest of technology morphs away along with our past lives. I accept that one has to keep up with the crowd or at least graciously accept those constant changes. I’ll do so when it fits my work routine or presents new avenues of distraction. So goes the circle of life.

In the meantime, I still get to keep my audio tapes, LPs, VHS and DVD tapes. When the mood strikes I can always retreat downstairs and get lost in my music and movies. On the road, my 2015 Toyota Camry has a CD player so I intend to keep it going forever or until…

It’s comforting to know that the music never has to end.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Through Younger Eyes

The question was always key to our travels abroad. How much would the youngest in our group really pick up and understand from foreign travel? If she was too young it would be wasted on her. Too old and a hundred thousand other distractions might take away from the excitement and educational value of being aboard if only for a brief moment in time.

We pondered that question when Sharon decided that as a gift from her children she wanted to return to London with both families. How would the youngest in our entourage handle traveling abroad?

A precocious and very intuitive seven-year-old Charlotte passed the test and our respective families were off to London and Paris. Her brother at nine years old and their cousins at nine and twelve years old respectively were all well equipped to ‘get it’ as we foraged our way through the customs, culture and excitement of both London and Paris.

At first glance, it might seem like privileged travel for my five grandchildren. I was twenty-one before I took my first plane ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a turbo-prop airliner. I didn’t travel abroad until I was twenty-four. My own kids took that up a notch by traveling to England twice when they were both in their teens.

Privileged yes, but without apology. We hope to impart on my grandchildren ‘real world’ experiences instead of material things. Experiences they can use as life lessons for a lifetime. It’s hands-on grand-parenting instead of the Daddy Warbucks approach. It’s about giving them our shared wisdom learned over a lifetime and a respect for other people and places around the world.

So how did the grandchildren do during their time abroad? Just fine, thank you, just fine. Travel is always an educational experience in more ways than one. It brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people. Unexpected delays, different customs, strange foods, other beliefs and a change of routine can test even the youngest and certainly the oldest in any group. Our gang passed that test with flying colors. And in the process we all learned just a little bit more about one another.

Nana held classes most evenings. There were lessons in charcoal sketching, rehearsing for a short play, playing poker and journaling their daily experiences, impressions and thoughts of that days excursion around the city.

I watched the boys play ‘Exploding Kittens’ on the back patio which brought forth gales of laughter and glee.

We ended up taking the tube everyday everywhere.

We watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

The kids loved exploring the Tate Museum, especially the photography exhibit for Maya.

Exploring the National Gallery of Art was interesting but playing paddy cake in the grand plaza was more fun.

The London Eye gave us an unprecedented view of the great city.

Borrowing from their parent’s generation all the kids had to retrace those famous Beatles crossing Abby Road.

One of the most satisfying experiences for Sharon and I was taking our kids to ‘School of Rock’ in the West End Theater District. The play was loud, ambitious, fun and exhilarating even for the seven-year-old. It has set a new standard for us when we have the grandchildren all together again. A love of the theater is something they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The Eurostar through the Chunnel was uneventful except for the card games.

A River cruise on the Seine was only topped by climbing the heights of the Eiffel Tower.

The card games and sketching continued through our last meal in town.

In the end, the long time spent waiting at the airport, over 8 hours on the plane then a rush to transfer to a last minute flight from Detroit to Minneapolis proved too much even for an ardent traveler among us.

The same could be said for the Colorado cousins. But Sharon and I are confident that a good time had by all…especially doting grandparents who see even more adventures in our collective future.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Liquid Lightning Two

Sharon is finding her muse once again with new approaches to her painting. In the beginning, it was welding and metal art. Then it was making collages out of old National Geographic magazines. The particular arts and crafts exercise didn’t really matter as long as they suited her fancy…if even for the moment.

Sharon first became a metal head after a career in academia and business. She learned to pinch metal around stone like Giacometti and apply torching like Motherwell. She was comfortable with heavy metal in her hands and blue-yellow flames framing her face.

A couple of years ago Sharon took classes from Vesper College located in the heart of Nordeast. Vesper is one of those non-profit schools offering classes in such esoteric areas as metal bending, torching, welding and stone sculpturing. Sharon loved it…and I love the fact that she’s found a new outlet for her creative juices.

Now she has expanded her creative expression far beyond metal art. The medium that Sharon pursues is less important than the act or process that she goes through to get there. She began with classes on alcohol ink painting at the old NKB (Northrup King Building) in NordeEast Minneapolis.

Alcohol ink is an acid-free, highly pigmented, and fast drying medium used on non-porous surfaces. By mixing alcohol inks an artist can create a vibrant marbled effect. For many enthusiasts, it’s a new way of artistic self-expression. It means discovering the almost magical ethereal mutations that take place when alcohol colors mix and integrate into themselves. It’s layering colors, mixing tones and textures, morphing shapes and sizes into a kaleidoscope of  bastardized offspring’s of color. For its many disciples the process is full of constant discovery and, often times, pure amazement at the results. It’s like trying to cup liquid lightning in your hands.

By the end of this last season in Palm Springs, Sharon had expanded her artistic expression to cover a gamut of new avenues. She moved from the Palm Springs Art Center to specialized classes to her own roughhewn studio in our garage.

Then this spring, she discovered the White Bear Center for the Arts and a new medium called ‘cube art.’ Now it’s exploring new techniques at the Plaster Center for the Arts and International Market Square where some of her work is being displayed.

But it always seems to come back to Norde East and the NKB building. Even as the neighbor-hood grows with its artistic enclaves and new breweries, it retains its old charm.

Little has changed there since I camped out near the University of Minnesota. It’s the same old neighborhood just 55 years later. Millennials are rediscovering the place where they can be urban and ‘in the city.’ With establishments like Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge and Fried Bologna Vintage, how could they go wrong?

Fifty years after the West Bank of the University of Minnesota harbored the disenfranchised, the hippies, and other malcontents of a similar ilk that population or their decedents have now moved to the Northeast part of Minneapolis. In an unplanned, almost organic metamorphosis of a cityscape, this unwashed morass of creativity has moved west. Old Nordeast, an eclectic enclave of blue-collar Eastern European nationalities, has become the new West Bank.

But instead of hippies, now people of color, Hispanics, artists of every variety, house flippers, yoga gurus, craft beer specialists, software developers, and other creative types are flocking to the area. A new variety of business has also sprung up whose main purpose is to breathe life into the arts for a whole new generation, young and not so young. These include art classes of every type, including metal sculpting.

The roughhewn, anti-fashion, individualistic, truth-seeking individuals whom I find so fascinating all hang out there. Now my wife does too. It’s not as compact as Dinky town but the atmosphere is much the same. It’s almost as if inquiring minds once again scream for an exploration of life’s truths in that modern version of old Bohemia.

So while I’m there I want to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps build a nest someplace where I can just write to my heart’s content. It seems like a good place to explore the recesses of one’s mind, mining whatever thoughts and ideas might be lingering there. I’ve got a companion in the arts now, sharing the same excitement I feel every time I put finger to pen or keyboard.

Strange how after fifty plus years, some things change and yet many things remain the same. Now I get to explore my creative self with Sharon alongside me doing the same.