Friday, February 6, 2015

Sad Keanu

I was unaware of this until recently, but in May of 2010, a paparazzi captured a series of photos of Keanu Reeves eating a sandwich on a bench. After Keanu finished his sandwich, he sat for a moment appearing contemplative and sad. This particular image captured a lot of traction as a meme with numerous photoshop interpretations appearing on the web; Keanu looking sad among a group of kittens, Keanu looking sad with Iron Man, etc. I stumbled upon this “Sad Keanu” phenomena accidentally when browsing the Shapeways website, the marketplace for 3D printed objects. One of their most popular products is “Sad Keanu,” offered in two sizes, itty bitty and little, “both equally sad” (according to the website).  Like the rest of the public at large, this image resonated deeply with me. Keanu looked so vulnerable in that moment. Even celebrities, it seems, with all of their wealth and popularity suffer from the same range of emotions as the rest of us. Sadness is a great equalizer. It somehow made me feel that if I were there at that moment with Keanu, I could have put my arm around him and comforted him uttering something profound like, “there, there . . .”

Articles and posts proliferated summarizing Keanu’s tragic life. His father was a drug dealer who was sent to prison when Keanu was twelve. His mother was a stripper who married several times. Keanu’s girlfriend was pregnant with Keanu’s child, which was later delivered stillborn. Months later, his girlfriend died in an automobile accident.  Keanu’s sister suffers from leukemia and his brother has been in and out of prison a number of times. Undoubtedly all of these factors have contributed to the overall sadness of Keanu all of the posts have speculated.

In truth, Keanu has stated that he was not all that sad when the photo was taken. He did mention that it was a downer being photographed while eating a sandwich however, and he has declared quite often since (with an insincere look) that he finds the whole phenomenon amusing. Even after his protestations, he was once again captured looking sad as he was smoking a cigarette, fueling the “Sad Keanu” fire. His spokesman felt it necessary to issue a statement at that point to the effect, “Keanu Reeves would like to thank all of his fans for their concerns regarding his happiness and wants to assure everyone that all is well.” So there you have it. Keanu is really not as sad as we all think. He just naturally looks sad. Our outpouring of love and sympathy is grossly misplaced. We should probably divert our attention and emotions to other more pressing concerns. Even if Keanu is truly sad and only putting on a brave front, what could we really do to make him happier? Keanu’s happiness is ultimately Keanu’s responsibility. It is time for all of us to move on.

However, I will confess that I did order an itty bitty Sad Keanu while on the Shapeways website. It doesn’t hurt to have a small (no pun intended) reminder of one’s own humanity; the initial twinge of sympathy and empathy I felt when I stumbled upon this image, the fact that we are all sad at times and in need of comfort or that our emotions are often misinterpreted and we are grossly misunderstood. We are all Keanu and Keanu is us.   

Saturday, November 23, 2013

finding enlightenment

When I purchased my new, sporty, red Honda CR-Z, I made arrangements to protect it with a clear coat bra, window tinting and to have an optional armrest installed. The dealer, Willey Honda, had the shuttle drop me off at Phillips Gallery while they completed the work and subsequently, pick me up. When I was picked up after they had completed their task, the shuttle driver and I had a conversation about the gallery. The driver asked about if I knew of John Erickson, a childhood friend of his, who happened to be a painter. "John Erickson is one of the premier artists represented at our gallery," I told him much to his surprise. The driver recounted incidents in the past like the time he dropped acid with John to go to his friend's opening. "Yup," he said. "John used to call me Little Buddha." "Why is that?" I asked as he was a thin, older white guy with a slightly scraggly beard. "Because I was always seeking enlightenment," he countered. "And did you find it?" I asked. "Yup, at Willey Honda," he replied.

Friday, October 18, 2013

elsewhere . . .

I recognize that by posting this, I'm only revealing my strange thought processes, but I cannot help myself. For me (as I suspect for everybody), reality is what looms right there in front of me at the present moment. At times, I am reminded however, that this is just a perceptual misconception. In truth, much is happening beyond my little sensory field. As an example, tides are rising and falling, causing water to lap on beaches on the west coast and east coast (and beyond) at this very moment. My favorite street in San Francisco is teeming with people and traffic as I write this. Delicate Arch is standing majestically in the quiet sunlight, perhaps experiencing a solitary moment between the sporadic visits of tourists. Somewhere, the sun is rising. Meteors are hurtling through space and the universe continues to expand. Yes, yes, it's a strange thing to share with all of you, but nonetheless, it is just part of the wonder I experience every day.


Occasionally, (OK, every day) two of my co-workers and I venture out to the 7-11 a few buildings away to indulge in some unhealthy, but otherwise delicious “manufactured” treat. Lately, a Pillsbury sweet roll has gained favor over the 4 for $1.00 mini-tacos. What can I say? I am a self-confessed and deeply ashamed junk-food junkie. Lately, as we step outside, our faces are brushed with the brisk, cold air that is autumn. I love autumn. Each season has its own charms, but autumn remains my favorite. It marks the gentle transition of the hot days of summer into the ultimate brutally frigid days of winter. The briskness energizes me and reminds me how wonderful life is with all of its small surprises and delights. Time passes and we are inexorably caught up in its wake. Even as I grow older, I would rather surrender to its movement and enjoy it rather than hopelessly rage against it.

the end of the twinkie apocalypse

Did I chronicle my Twinkie-deprivation trials and tribulations to you? (Of course I did. Nothing brings me more pleasure than whining to a prospective group!) Once Twinkies were spirited back into the open market by an obviously benevolent power, production could not keep up with the demand. It was very difficult to purchase a box even after repeated visits to key locations (Walmart, UGH!, was a main distribution outlet!) at methodically timed intervals. I cannot list the number of times I stood brokenhearted at an empty Hostess display. This has prove to be quite a horrible and grueling time for me, even worse perhaps than the period where Twinkies no longer existed in this universe. At least I was relatively consigned to a CERTAIN hopelessness and despair. (I could tell you tales of my search for a reasonable substitute. In short, there are none even though cosmetically, some appeared close. In retrospect, some seemed close enough, but I think that conclusion was colored as the taste of the original faded through time.) I'm happy to report that now, after this near culinary apocalypse-like period, Twinkies are in abundance. I can rest easy that order has been restored to my universe. My Twinkie-deprived dread (picture images of withdrawal convulsions) of replacing the latest devoured box has now abated and no longer haunts my subconscious. It is as if a great weight has been lifted from my psyche. The birds chirp a little sweeter, the pickles taste a little crisper.

Live long and prosper.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

twinkies and the holy grail

I’ve always had an attachment to Hostess Twinkies. Inadvertently, I even purchased a two-pack one week prior to the earth-shattering announcement of the Hostess dissolution. Too late I wandered into the local supermarket to stock up after that proclamation only to find the bare metal of emptied shelves where the Hostess junk food once sat. “Oh, Hostess! We hardly knew ye!” How could I have taken them for granted for so many years? Why, why did I not pick up on the prescience of the movie Zombieland, in which a Twinkie-obsessed Woody Harrelson scoured every store he came upon in the post-apocolyptic world to search for his beloved snack (often risking his life in the process)?

Last Sunday I became aware of a possible replacement in the form of a coupon in the newspaper for $ .75 off the purchase of a box of Little Debbie Cloud Cakes. I recognize many of you involuntarily wince at the mere mention of Little Debbie, as do I, but hey, if there is an alternative (at least until the powers that be settle on the rights to Twinkie and who will ultimately purchase them), I’m willing to overlook past prejudices. I’ve never seen a Little Debbie Cloud Cake before. Perhaps the world supremacy of Twinkies shamed them away from the supermarket shelves for all of these years. Coupon in hand, I began my search two days ago. Both supermarkets nearby (a Dan’s and a Fresh Market) contained no such treats. A search on the Little Debbie website lists stores nearby that supposedly stock these babies, but then, they listed one of the two stores that I previously scoured to no avail. Today, I will widen my search perimeter to include supermarkets in the vicinity of my workplace. I fear Little Debbie Cloud Cakes are like the mythical Unicorn, somebody’s imagined creature, beautiful yet non-existent. (Side note: North Korea news sources recently announced the discovery of a past Korean King’s unicorn stable, so perhaps there is hope . . .
Another side note: how pathetic and desperate is that to hope for the credibility of news from North Korea?)
In any event, I’ll keep you posted on my quest for the alternate Twinkie Holy Grail, Cloud Cakes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

the wells fargo wagon . . .

As a child, I would read the back of my morning cereal box with relish, looking for the latest offer diabolically imagined by the corporate suits at Kellogs to stimulate continued sales of their cereal line (but I digress). I just loved the marvelous and wonderful toys you could receive for just the price of cereal box tops, which were, in my mind at least, free. I ate cereal every morning and knew that each bowl I consumed would bring me that much closer to ordering and receiving a new magical toy. One such  toy I specifically remember was a plastic submarine that would surface and dive with the help of baking powder (not soda, as you would expect, but baking powder) tamped into a little chamber in the underside of the hull. Once I had placed my order (the ritualistic sealing of the envelope, the licking of the stamp, the strategic placement in our mailbox for the mailman to gather and send it on its way), the wait was simply excruciating. "Did it come yet?" I would ask my mother each day as I returned from school. It was frankly difficult to focus on anything else.  Nights would be especially difficult for me. The quiet of the night would only amplify my apprehension and anticipation. Had I made a mistake with the number of box tops I had enclosed in the envelope? Had the mailman stolen my package for his own child? It was too painful to recount the various permutations of disaster that occupied my tormented mind. My preoccupation for the arrival of my package was much like the scene in the "The Music Man," where a gathering of people sang jubilantly of their anticipation as they peered down the street awaiting the arrival of the Wells Fargo Wagon. Inwardly, I was one of those singers. This was the song that played over and over in my heart. "Oh, it could be, yes it could be, something special, just for me!" I lived that song for much of my cereal-eating childhood. Such is the world of a young boy.

Four weeks ago, on September 14th at 12:01 A.M. PDT, Apple and its various Cellular Phone partners began taking orders for the newly unveiled iPhone 5. I had been avoiding a purchase of the iPhone since its first iteration was announced, opting instead for the iPod Touch. The iPod Touch simply offered virtually the same level of functionality of the iPhone sans the relatively expensive monthly data plan that accompanied it.  Needless to say, I was instantly smitten with the technology proffered by the iPod. It provided access (via Wi-Fi) to the Internet, e-mail, and a plethora of apps, in addition to its native ability to provide the soundtrack to my daily life.

Sadly, after a time, the iPhone began to outstrip the iPod Touch in features. Undoubtedly this was a marketing decision by the powers at Apple. Each iteration of the iPhone widened the gap between itself and its lesser sibling. The iPhone incorporated a camera and more importantly, apps that could simulate some of the artistic "looks" that I worked so hard to create via traditional photographic methods. As an example, the Hipstamatic app provided filters that closely resembled the look of plastic toy cameras, or images taken with infrared film or pinhole cameras. I was annoyed that an artistic venue had been denied me simply because I did not possess the right technology. I anxiously waited for the new iPod Touch to incorporate the same capabilities in its next incarnation. In a fashion it did, only the resolution of the camera was laughable. While the iPhone was offering a built-in 5 megapixel camera, the iPod was offering less than 1-megapixel resolution. The gap between the iPhones and the iPod Touches widened. The difference between the latest incarnation of iPhones and iPod Touches is reported to be already one generation different, owing to the different processors incorporated in each. The iPod Touch camera now it sports 5-megapixel resolution, a noticeable improvement over the previous generation (which I had told myself would be enough to warrant my next purchase), but again lags behind the iPhone 5 which offers a (second-generation) 8-megapixel camera. This was the tipping point for me, coupled with the annoyance of searching endlessly for free Wi-Fi spots in the cities of our travels to access the internet for information. I finally decided to make the leap to the iPhone. I had been reading the cereal boxes long enough regarding the popular smartphone. It was time to commit.

Once resolute in my decision to purchase the "5," I was not rabid about ordering it, unlike cereal-box-top boy of so many years ago. True, I had considered staying up until the designated hour to place my order online, but decided instead that a good night's sleep was more important than the possible three to four week delay it would cost me to wait until the next morning. I had waited for 5 generations of iPhones to place my order, I could easily wait a few more weeks. Eventually, at around 10:00 A.M. the next morning, I accessed AT&T's site to place my order.

That day, the media was overwrought with reports of the frenzy of iPhone orders that accompanied the pre-order opening day. As suspected, the anticipation and fervor immediately outpaced the available supply and all of the websites were reporting 3-4 week delays in deliveries. It was mildly amusing to read the articles about the queues and server difficulties encountered by the onslaught of Apple fanboys (and fangirls). I couldn't help but feel a little superior as I was calm and comfortable with the anticipated delay until I noticed my confirmation e-mail. It stated simply without a hint of irony, that ("Congratulations!") my order would be delivered September 21st! WHAT? Could this be a mistake? Most likely it had to be the result of an automatic reply geared toward the best possible scenario embedded in the AT&T order confirmation response system that would undoubtedly be corrected later in a subsequent e-mail. And yet, when I entered the tracking system, the order stated that not only had it been processed, but that the iPhone had been shipped! How could this be possible? Could I really be one of the first to have the iPhone 5 in my hot little hands? It could potentially be delivered to my door without having to endure three (or more) nights and days of camping out in front of an Apple store? Cereal-box-top-boy was back! Sleepless nights ensued. Each day, I checked the status of my order and to my dismay, there was no tracking number assigned. The tracking number was the designated next step in the process and its absence hinted of a system error that would dash all of my now falsely-raised expectations. I searched the web and found a forum of people who were in the exact circumstance that I faced. They had received a confirmation with the 21st delivery date with no progress in the tracking system beyond "shipped." The general consensus was that it was simply not to be. I cannot calculate the number of times I would check that system in a given day. I became resigned to the fact that I would indeed have to wait for 3-4 weeks prior to receiving my iPhone, a now intolerable waiting period. Resignation grew to depression. Then, on Thursday, at about 9:14 P.M., the evening before the 21st, my tracking number appeared! Clicking on that number revealed that my iPhone had traveled from Fort Worth, Texas to the FedEx distribution center in West Valley City!

As per the tracking status, the iPhone would be delivered to my door no later than 3:00 PM. I called in sick as a signature was required for the iPhone 5 to be delivered and I did not want to jeopardize a first day delivery. I had to run a quick errand first thing that morning and hurriedly set out to quickly return. While I was driving, I spotted several FedEx trucks in the neighborhood prowling the streets no doubt loaded down with iPhone 5s in their cache. I returned home, thankfully with no note of a failed delivery awaiting me. I was confident the wait would not be long and I could go to work having benefited from a miraculous recovery. And so I planted myself on the front porch armed with my newspaper and Kindle Fire to keep me occupied while I occasionally peered down the street feigning indifference. Time passed slowly, but eventually, my particular FedEx truck arrived, clocking in at 2:23 PM. FedEx cannot be accused of "over-promising" on their delivery times. When I interrogated him about his other deliveries of the day, the driver reported that like me, others were outside awaiting their deliveries and that they too, were very, very happy to see him pull up. The next day I read numerous reports of others who recounted their wait outside. And so, it appears on that Friday, September the 21st of 2012, scores of people across the United States paced impatiently outside of their homes while they awaited their own Wells Fargo Wagon and similarly, they waited for it to bring something special, something very, very special just for them.