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.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Feng Shui Trails

If you’re not looking down when hiking, you either have super powers or you fall a lot. The point is you’re constantly thinking about where you are going in order to plant the next step and the step after that, and the step after that. The trail could be rocky, muddy, sandy or covered in pine needles (my favorite), but you need to be looking down and making hundreds (maybe thousands) of split second decisions about where to plant your feet.

With all that concentration focused on remaining upright, it can be easy to miss nature’s feng shui efforts along the trail. You will encounter a log or root that crosses the trail at an angle with pine cones or rocks placed strategically in just the right position. You might see a natural step carved from a rock ledge that traverses the path. Even treefalls that block the trail have a natural symmetry that is unmistakably nature’s handiwork.

When viewed on a map, the entire trail can be an example of feng shui in that it conforms to the slope and topography of the land. Hiking trails were usually constructed with a nod towards finding the easiest line or axis. Given feng shui’s history as a forerunner of the magnetic compass, it makes perfect sense that there’s a real astronomical connection between the trail and the stars.

The English translation of feng shui is “wind-water” and both of these elements have a significant impact on the appearance of a hiking trail. Drainage erosion has created new trails and rerouted old trails, while wind blown sand covers up the path or forces the hiker to find a new line or route.

Is feng shui science or mystical pseudoscience? It doesn’t matter to the hiker who just wants to take the correct line or the right steps. Humans may create the trails but nature, and by extension feng shui, performs most of the upkeep. All we can do is try to take the right steps and be on the lookout for millions of feng shui examples one might see on any given hike.

It shouldn’t be that hard to see them. You are looking down at your feet for most of the hike.

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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Recliner Generation

Great news! Baby boomers are getting face lifts in record numbers, but even better than that, they have spurred a revolution in recliner chair design. That’s right, recliner chairs have gotten their own face lift.

Out of fashion are the big and bulky recliners your parents might have favored. They never fit in with your sleek d├ęcor anyway. But now that baby boomers are ready to recline, they want something more aesthetically pleasing and the furniture industry has responded.

A little history might be helpful here. La-Z-Boy (there’s something so perfect about that name) introduced the recliner in 1928. Apparently it was an immediate and long lasting hit with lazy men, and since they were often bought in pairs, there must have been a decent number of lazy women conjoined with their lazy mates.

The new and sleeker recliners not only have a smaller footprint, some are equipped with device charging stations and beverage coolers. They have even begun to motorize them so that the recliner will stand us up when we’re ready to get out of the chair (but why would we want to get up?). It’s not hard to imagine recliners that come with IV drips and other hospital-like features so that aging boomers never have to get up out of their chairs.

Four out of 10 recliners sold in 2014 were sold to baby boomers. Face it. Our generation is ready to get off its feet and stay off. But we want to do it in style. No more hiding the recliner. We want it out in the open for all to see and it has to look attractive. As usual, whatever boomers want, boomers get, as manufacturers clamor to please us.

Still, the old boxy recliner models are not going away. La-Z-Boy representatives say that they will never stop making the traditional recliner. So if you’re not jumping on the latest “sleek recliner” trend, La-Z-Boy can still accommodate your lack of fashion sense.

Either way, boomers appear ready to take this all lying down.

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, April 27, 2017

Camus to You Too

I ran into Albert Camus the other day. (it’s my fiction, I can meet up with anyone I want).

We were in front of Starbucks.

Quoi de neuf? I hailed.

“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?”

Jesus, you go dark all the time. Lighten up, I replied.

“To know oneself, one should assert oneself.”

Come on Al. It doesn’t have to be like that. Are you working on anything new?

“Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.”

Oy, you’re killing me with these quotes. You’re like a one-liner factory. Just tell me if you’re working on a new book.

“Charm is a way of getting the answer ‘Yes’ without asking a clear question.”

See, this is why everyone thinks of you as an existentialist.

“We are all special cases.”

Enough! Are you seeing anyone?

“It is necessary to fall in love… if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.”

Can’t you ever be rational?

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.”

Totally! I have always admired the way you are in touch with your inner self.

“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.”

That’s what I’m talking about. And you know what you like.

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”

That’s absurd. But then you’re absurd. Has anyone ever told you that?

“I draw from the Absurd three consequences: my revolt, my liberty, my passion.”

Right, right. Not like you’re some kind of fame whore or anything like that.

“To be famous, in fact, one has only to kill one’s landlady.”

Seriously? You’re going there?

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.”

Yeah, okay. Listen Al, it was great seeing you again. I know you’re still not speaking to Sartre but you know he thinks the world of you. Maybe it’s time you guys patched things up.

“Every man, and for stronger reasons, every artist, wants to be recognized. So do I.”

Okey dokey. Good seeing you again. You take it easy. Or take it any way you can get it.

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, March 30, 2017

Hugging for Life

Around ten years ago I wrote an essay for this blog about not being much of a hugger. I theorized then that hugging is a learned response and no one in my family seemed to be enthusiastic about hugging. Who knows what went on behind parents’ closed doors but that’s another day on someone’s couch.

Only recently has hugging become important to me and what a revelation that was. Chalk it up to age or life changes or whatever, the point is that I now have come to understand the value of a hug. Now I know that it’s a vital connection that tells someone that they are important to you, and if the hug is reciprocally enthusiastic, you know that you are important to them. And that’s what hugging has always been about – I just didn’t know it.

I still have a problem hugging a tall person. Getting up close and personal with a sternum is not my idea of a good time or a good hug. But it’s a minor complaint in the scheme of things, especially when hugs are loaded with health benefits. Yes, when you feel close and connected to people you care about, studies have shown that this enhanced social support can mean you’re less likely to catch a cold.

Then there’s the fact that hugging can release oxytocin (also known as the bonding hormone) and that in turn reduces stress. Receptors under your skin can increase vagal activity that helps to put you in a relaxed state. The calming effect of a hug has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.

I’m not confident that our current state of polarization could be ameliorated by increasing hugging, but it might not be a bad place to start. It’s hard to yell insults at someone when you’re in a close embrace.

So I’ve come late to the party but that beats not being invited, or worse, not knowing there was a party. I no longer shrink from the hug. Quite the opposite. I’ve embraced the embrace. Don’t you think I even sound calmer?

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.