Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Freud to Avoid

I ran into Sigmund Freud the other day (I told you once but I’ll tell you again. It’s my fiction so I can meet up with anyone I like).

We were in front of a smokeshop and he was just coming out the door.

Sig, long time no see. Are you still smoking?

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

I know, but the research? I mean you must know smoking is bad for you.

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

Hey, I’m really glad I’ve run into you because I had this dream a few nights ago that —

“The madman is a dreamer awake”

Okay, but this dream was really weird and I can’t figure out what it means.

“If you can’t do it, give up!”

That’s it? What happened to the whole dreams as wish fulfillments and dealing with the unconscious? You’re the man when it comes to understanding repressed thoughts.

“The ego is not master in its own house.”

Boy oh boy, today you’re handing out these bromides like they’re lollypops.

“When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

Sig, you know I respect you and the whole thing with the Oedipus complex and the libido, I mean it’s brilliant. You’re brilliant. But sometimes you can be really dense.

“We are what we are because we have been what we have been.”

That explains it. That explains everything. How about a little help here. My dreams make no sense to me and I’m really trying to get to the truth.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

For a guy who’s explored the human mind for a living you can be little flippant about my problem. I’m looking for answers.

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.”

That’s what I’m talking about. You talk to me like I’m a hopeless case. Can’t you tell me some universal truth, something that will forever improve my psychic condition?

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Things Boomers Can't Let Go Of

I recently stumbled across a list of things baby boomers can’t let go of…I’m guessing it was composed by a millennial. There were supposed to be 25 things on the list but it ran closer to 45. Maybe boomers have trouble letting go but we did learn how to count.

So what kinds of things made the list you might ask? It starts off with diamonds, golf, the mall, plain toast, 24-hour news networks, Yahoo and Crocs. Honestly, I know many boomers would be OK with losing all those things.

From there the list moves on to Reader’s Digest, ironing, jorts (which I had to Google to know what they are), airbrushed t-shirts, cruises, messages in all caps, and Mrs. Dash spice. Once again, many of the boomers in my circle would have little trouble walking away form these things forever.

Racquetball, patterned wallpaper, those fuzzy rug matching toilet seat covers, potpourri, buffets, metal detectors, juice from concentrate, infomercials, Avon, knickknacks and chain restaurants? It’s all good man, if I never see any of them again.

The entire concept of boomers being unable to let go of these things was starting to smell funny. Fossil fuels? Most of the boomers I know want us to promote alternative energy sources so that we can fend off climate change for future generations. Maybe the 70 year-old oil company executive wants to keep drilling but that would put him in the boomer minority.

Was there anything on the list that I did want to hang on to? How about meatloaf? I’m okay with that. It’s not my favorite but it still ranks very high on the all-time comfort food list. Retirement funds? Millennials are so cynical about the future that they think saving for retirement is pointless. That’s harsh. Catalogs? I like catalogs in moderation. Sure it’s a dead tree product but sometimes you just want to see something printed on paper rather than on a monitor.

Somehow this list comes off as just another Buzzfeed tease. I’m ready to battle back with a list of things millennials can’t let go of. Start with bashing baby boomers by blaming them for everything that’s wrong with our world. Then add Starbucks, YouTube, smart phones, yoga pants, Chipotle, Pinterest, Snapchat, Netflix, and more. You can see where this battle of the lists is going, and it’s pointless. The stereotyping does not work. Let’s try to spend more time focusing on what all of us agree are things that are worth hanging on to. Someone second that motion!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wild Thing – You Move Me

I killed a scorpion in the bathroom today. How many people you know can say that? And don’t give me that “living thing” rebuke. Did you want me to put this stone cold killer in the scorpion relocation program?

Okay, they don’t often kill you. I’m exaggerating as usual. But within a few hours of being stung by a scorpion you can experience pain and swelling, difficulty swallowing, drooling, muscle twitching, respiratory problems and sometimes death. Does that sound like fun?

This was an Arizona bark scorpion and they, like most scorpions, prefer to hang out in dark and damp places. Hence, it’s no surprise I found one in the bathroom. People here advise one to shake out their shoes and damp towels before using. One advisory notes that scorpions can climb any surface except glass and plastic, which comes as little comfort since houses are made mostly of wood, plaster and tile. They have some impressive survival skills due to their ability to slow their metabolism. It allows them to use little oxygen and live off as little as a single insect per year. You can freeze them overnight and put them out in the sun the next day only to watch them thaw out and walk away. We’re talking hardy.

The stinger is in the tail but I didn’t feel the need to get up close and personal with this cousin of the spider family. Experts suggest you hunt for them at night when they are most active. Dig out your old black light if you have one because they glow in the dark. A flashlight with a black light bulb will work just fine. They also suggest you have a long-handled tweezers or a knife and boots. They don’t say it but I think the implication is that if you don’t want to tweeze them you could alternatively give them the boot. You can also use Raid ant and cockroach spray which has the fastest activation. It’s a good idea to check the perimeter of the house at night with black light in hand to see if you can find them before they get inside.

Cats and chickens enjoy hunting scorpions so if they are persistent, it may be time to get a cat or keep chickens in the yard. Ground cinnamon is a natural scorpion repellent but it can get pricey sprinkling that spice all around the baseboards.

My defense plan? I’ve only seen 2 scorpions in the house in 8 years so I’m going to do nothing unless a third one shows up.

However, I will shake out my shoes more often.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Welcome Campers!

Summer camp for baby boomers? Yes, that’s a thing. And it’s probably great if you loved summer camp the first time around when you were 10 years old. Or if you never had the summer camp experience back then and want to see what all the fun is about. If your only summer camp experience was not having a belt to hold up your shorts and resorting to using the rope that came with the duffel bag, it may be more of a “not so much” proposition. (Yes, that was my camper experience. My belt was at the bottom of my brother’s duffel bag…a fact that he denies to this day).

Camps geared to adults are becoming a big deal. According to the American Camp Association, about a quarter of their accredited camps offer adult-only programs. Prices range from $375 on the low end to more luxurious camper digs for $1,170. Adults in their 60s and 70s are signing up in big numbers.

Canoeing, swimming, archery, tie-dyeing and crafts are still mainstays of the camp experience. But the counselors are there to provide support rather than keeping an eye on rambunctious kids. There is still storytelling and singing songs around the campfire, so nostalgia is very much a factor if you’re wondering what would motivate a 70 year-old to sign up for summer camp.

My memories are a little fuzzy (except for the missing belt….that part is seared into my brain), but I remember the canoes being fun and we made potholders (OK, hotpads for some of you) to bring home to Mom. The highlight for me was making a lanyard out of something called gimp. I think we were supposed to use the lanyard to hold a key. I didn’t own a key so it’s unclear what use I would make of it, but I was pleased that I could learn how to do a box stitch to create a multi colored marvel. Little things can entertain little minds.

I get why a baby boomer would want to relive summer camp life, especially if the away camp experience was the highlight of their adolescent years. I’m going to stick with independent travel that does not include potholders and gimp. And I’m going to wear one belt and pack a second one just in case.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Date With Kate

I met Kate Hepburn yesterday outside of Target. I know. It seems so improbable. You never think of her as a Target customer.

You look fantastic, I exclaimed as I hugged her svelte frame.

“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

And your hair, it’s gorgeous.

“Fuck the roots.”

I’ve always wanted to know what your secret is. How did you get to live the life you wanted?

“As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.”

But didn’t you feel like you missed out on things you wanted to do?

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

From what I’ve read about you, you must have been one of the bad girls then.

“I don’t care what is written about me as long as it isn’t true.”

Well you didn’t get much help from the Hollywood establishment.

“If you need a helping hand, you can find one at the end of your arm.”

You showed them. You bought out your studio contract and picked your projects.

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”

But didn’t some of the critics make you angry?

“Enemies are so stimulating.”

They thought you dressed funny, wearing trousers at a time when women just didn’t do that.

“What the hell — you might be right, you might be wrong…but don’t just avoid.”

And you kept on working in film and television well into your 80’s.

“I have no romantic feelings about age. Either you are interesting at any age or you are not. There is nothing particularly interesting about being old – or being young, for that matter.”

Your career had lots of ups and downs in the movie business. That must have been hard on you.

“Never complain. Never explain.”

Good mantra. I bet that catches on.

“Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I’ve had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh.”

So true. Life can be a bitch.

“Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Me and My Bot

The future is now. Or something like it. For a long time it seemed like only the Japanese were exploring all the ways that robotics could be of service to their aging population. With its labor shortage and lower birthrate, the Japanese felt compelled to turn to robotics to take care of their elderly. I admit I was very amused to see a contraption that washed and dried someone, but when there is a severe shortage of caregivers and that shortage is only getting worse, it’s what you do.

And now it’s here. Retirement homes and assisted living facilities in the U.S. are testing a variety of robotic tools that undoubtedly will be commonplace by the time most boomers are ready for them. A telepresence robot helps residents stay in touch with family and friends via video. With isolation and loneliness being such a tremendous problems for older adults, this tool is life changing.

Virtual reality technology allows seniors to revisit destinations they remember fondly and experience new places they always wanted to visit but are physically unable to experience any other way. Finally, a worthwhile use of VR capability other than gaming.

What’s most encouraging about this entire trend is that inventors are cutting through the geeky side of technology to make it so much easier for the elderly to access the benefits. Tricky interfaces and passwords are out and voice recognition is in. Much like automobile multimedia interfaces, you can request a service, function or communication device with a voice command. Consider the capability of Amazon’s intelligent personal assistant Alexa to see where this is going. Calling up entertainment options and being able to interface with home automation functions such as lighting and HVAC will supplant many standard caregiver functions.

This is big. We are about to experience a level of technology that changes the way we’re going to age. While it’s true that the age of social media sometimes dulls actual human interaction, an older population with limited mobility and resources will most likely be very grateful for any kind of connectedness that reduces their sense of isolation.

How far can all of this technology go? Most experts believe that in the next five years we will have robots that pick up objects, do the laundry, wash the dishes and provide basic housecleaning.

I would take that now, thank you very much.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Who You Calling a Sociopath?

Can you really label an entire generation a bunch of sociopaths? You can if you write a book with the title A Generation of Sociopaths, but that doesn’t make it so.

Antisocial, lacking empathy, impulsive, egotistical, shameless, manipulative, deceitful….are these words that describe you or your fellow boomers? Maybe a few words match up with a few friends or acquaintances, but an entire generation? I don’t think so.

The author cites the usual suspects for his claim. Permissive parenting, too much television and prosperous times made us who we are. Massive debt, unemployment and environmental degradation are all down to us. Somehow, one generation (albeit a big one) has been able to ruin the world for everyone. The author won’t even give baby boomers credit for doing anything worthwhile. No credit for equal rights or anti-war movements, no pat on the back for efforts to promote clean water and protect the environment. We just greedily looked out for our own wellbeing and to hell with everyone else. All for one and all for one.

Slandering an entire generation with massively scaled generalizations seems so unfair, but when you’re part of what was then the largest generation ever, you come to expect that there’s a target on your back. Honestly, don’t you think our influence on everything from culture to politics is a little overrated? Every generation is responsible for a variety of trends but bell bottom pants and platform shoes did not really change the world.

Isn’t there a little bit of irony to the fact that the millennial author of the book is a venture capitalist. He was an early investor in Pay Pal and Facebook and that qualifies him to generalize about our lack of empathy? I’m thinking that banking on the internet to produce the next big thing to make a pile of money has a sociopathic ring to it.

Too bad we won’t be around in 40 years or so when someone writes a book titled “Millennials: The Next Generation of Sociopaths.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.