Archive for February, 2011
Bigger version of the photo on my Flickr.
Anyone with an iPod touch or iPhone may well know the alarm sound called Old Car Horn. If you don’t, well, it sounds like a very old-fashioned car horn. It’s my alarm sound of choice. Being freelance, I have the luxury, most of time, of setting my own schedule. It’s a luxury, and it’s a pain in the arse, too. I genuinely like getting up early, getting on with stuff and feeling like I’ve accomplished something by lunchtime; rather than feeling like lunchtime is actually when I’m eating breakfast. But, most days, I hit the snooze button. Which is nowhere near as satisfying on an iPod than on a real alarm clock. Trying to be careful and just tap a glass screen when you’re half-asleep is tough going. And launching an arm in the general direction of an alarm clock feel more appropriate at that time of day. The problem I have, though, is too much snoozing. This morning, I snoozed for an hour. That’s six snoozes. On Tuesday, I snoozed for three whole hours. Eighteen snoozes. Impressive. And idiotic at the same time. Yesterday, I just snoozed for half an hour or so, and it’s yesterday that we’re focussing on here.
A bad thing about having the iPod as my alarm clock is that it means I have easy access to the Internet before I’ve got out of bed. I really, really should stop myself from checking my email before I’m properly awake. But yesterday I didn’t. Backing up a bit, I’m doing a job at the moment that I’m not entirely enjoying. The idea from the client is a good one, but it’s a job that has never entirely clicked. It’s always felt like an uphill struggle to know how to do what the client wants and what I am capable of, and would enjoy doing. It’s also a job that was first talked about a long time ago, like November last year. And when there’s too much time between the brief and the deadline, it’s very easy to not crack on, to start it “next week.” I spent my vacation thinking about it. Trying to come up with ideas, a layout. Nothing much happened. But, over the last week, as the deadline approaches, it’s come together. I’d worked a lot on it on Wednesday, and went to bed feeling—for the very first time—feeling happy with the job. Feeling like my feet were on solid ground. Then I checked my email in bed the following morning. And suddenly I was back where I’d been. Changes needed making. Things I liked had to be changed. Bad mood. Fired off a bit of a chippy email, and went out to get coffee. Didn’t bother with a shower, just stomped out, chuntering to myself. Nearly got hit by a car that had ignored the red light (I was halfway across four lanes of traffic, so it wasn’t like he was too close to stop, he just decided to ignore the red light). Got to Starbucks. Grande cappuccino, por favor. Taste it: bleurgh! Try to explain in broken español that it taste like there’s no espresso at all in there. Another one gets made. Thanks. (That “thanks” was said in a tone that actually said “fuck you.”)
Back at the apartment, I knew I needed to clarify (ie. apologise) for the chippy email. Did that. All good. Things got cleared up, but still, foul foul foul mood hanging over me. Then I looked at my Tumblr dashboard. (If you didn’t know, I have a wee Tumblr site called Flip Flop Fly Ballin’, which is basically nice baseball pictures that I’ve seen around the Internet, and a place where I put up new stuff from my real baseball site, Flip Flop Fly Ball. And, yes, I do seem to be on a mission to create as many sites as possible with very similar names.) I saw that something I’d done (taking the eyes and mouth of one famous New York Yankees player, and putting them in the face of another, and vice versa) had been reblogged by someone else, from a different source, though. Now, it’s one of the things I love about Tumblr, that there’s a nice communal thing with reblogging other peoples’ stuff. It’s a nice tip of the hat: this dude created or found something cool, nice one. Reblog. And it seems to me to be one of the key things about Tumblr. So anyway, I checked out the source of this reblog, and it was a site that, rather than reblogging, just takes the image and posts it. It included a link to my original, but that’s not the point on Tumblr, really. The point is, this site dammed my rebloggy river, and diverted all the reblogs to itself. The bad mood that I was already in started to rage up inside. I hate that feeling. The feeling of being angry, and it being a physical feeling inside my chest. I sent them an email. There were swear words and capital letters involved.
I knew knew knew that I had to do something to calm down. Sunglasses, headphones, and a walk to the park. Chapultepec Park. A very big park about ten minutes from my apartment. There’s a zoo there, too. A free zoo. So I figured looking at some animals would calm me down. It didn’t. The bad mood made me impatient. I walked around, barely stopping to look at any animals at all, getting frustrated by the people who were enjoying the zoo. My bad mood and push chairs aren’t a good combination. I did briefly calm down a little in the aviary bit. The birds were nice.
Back home, I’d had a reply from the Tumblr site guy. He was polite and apologised. He explained that he thought that reblogging was a “shitty user experience” and that “we’re a website on tumblr, not a tumblr.” I should’ve just left it, but couldn’t. The hypocrisy annoyed me. Using Tumblr to get reblogs, but never dishing them out. I went on and was just spoiling for a fight. To his credit, he stayed fairly calm while I got increasingly annoyed.
By this time, the day was a right-off. Bought some beer, and sat down and cracked open a can. And cracked on with the changes to the job. And worked and worked. And by the end of the evening, I’d done all the changes and done all the beers. And, well, I went to bed feeling like the job was in a good place again.
This morning, I deliberately didn’t look at my email in bed. I got up, and had a shower first. Email checked. Client seemed happy. Went out to buy coffee feeling better than 24 hours earlier. And just as I was about to enter Starbucks, a bird shat on my head. Bird shit on my forehead and sunglasses. Perfuckingfect. (This is true, not just a comedy ending to the blog post, by the way.) This particular Starbucks doesn’t have a bathroom. So I wiped the poo off with my hand, wiped my hand on a few napkins and went to the bathroom in the small mall-type thing that the Starbucks is a part of. Of course, the bathrooms were locked, with no attendant around. So I walked home chuntering to myself, conscious that there may well still be a smear of bird shit on my forehead. Back at home. There wasn’t bird shit on my forehead, but still had to take my second shower of the hour. Tomorrow, tomorrow, please please please, tomorrow: don’t be a cunt.
I had a haircut yesterday. Really, Craig? Do tell us more! Yes, I had a haircut. Like most boys who were forcibly dragged to a barbershop as a child, I’ve poured that fear and panic into a nice neat capsule of stress, swallowed it, and it lives inside me to this day. I over-exaggerate a touch, but I’m not a fan. I tend to keep my haircuts down to two a year. Three at most. So by the end of the hair cycle, it’s a big old shaggy mess. And the cycle is always the same: looking okay, looking okay, looks okay now and again, wearing a cap out of necessity rather than choice, and then a couple of weeks after I’ve decided that I simply must get it cut, there’ll be one day. One beautiful, magical day. One day where the hair, for some unknown reason, looks great. And on that day, I contemplate keeping it. But I’ve come to know that that one day is the Hypnic jerk of the hair knowing it’s about to sleep.
I’m impatient by nature, but when it comes to getting a haircut, I really hate waiting. Mostly because of the mirrors. I really don’t enjoy being surrounded by so many mirrors. Who’s that cunt? Oh, yes, Craig, you look like that. And you sit and wait and eventually someone comes and asks how your vanity would like to be pleased. And I’m embarrassed by any form of vanity in myself. At the end of a haircut, when the cutter asks if I want any product to put in my hair, I shake my head: that’d be too vain to stand in an open space with others around, trying to make myself look good. Of course, the alternative is looking like an idiot who has just had a haircut. But rather an idiot that someone who is vain.
I got my dictionary out before I left. Checked the Spanish words for short and long. Corto and largo. I had a couple of places in mind, places I’d walked by in the past. Because of the impatience, though, I ended up going somewhere else, somewhere closer. Simply because I saw through the window there was nobody in there. I muttered some blah blah in Spanish, used my corto and largo whilst pointing at parts of my head, and was told to follow a lady into a downstairs bit where she washed my hair. It’s not often someone washes my hair, and it should be enjoyable, but it rarely is, because I’m usually feeling uncomfortable in that unnatural position in the chair. And just as I am starting to enjoy it, that’s when she wraps my hair up in the towel turban and beckons me to follow her to get my locks chopped off.
She asked if I wanted the back rounded. She asked and did a smile shape with an index finger. I held up my hands to indicate, a bit more squarerer, please, luv. As she chopped away, she sang along, quite loudly, to the pop music that was echoing around the fairly large room. Mirrors everywhere. Even with my glasses off, I could see the two dudes at the counter were watching me. Stop it! stop looking! My armpits were getting warm. I felt uncomfortable. And all the time, the woman was singing along to the insipid music. It sounded like music made by someone who liked the Pet Shop Boys, but had only 1% of the talent, with some warbling woman singing on top.
Feeling uncomfortable. Being looked at. Semi-blind because of lack of glasses. Wet armpits. Thankfully I distracted myself when I noticed my terrible posture. I tried to scooch up the seat a bit to straighten my back, between the hairdresser’s snips. As I was doing that came the thought to end all stupid thoughts whilst having a haircut:
What if there’s an earthquake?
Yes, Craig, what if? This does tap into a little fear I have anyway living here. But mostly I get over that fear by thinking of the huge amount of people that live here, and the huge amount of people all over the world that live in places where earthquakes happen or might happen. The apartment I live in rumbles a wee bit when a big lorry passes on the street below. The makes my desk and bed shake a bit. And it’s a very similar feeling to that of the earthquake that I [dramatic tone, please] lived through in Toronto last June. So every time a lorry goes by, I’m never quite sure if it’s a lorry or a quake. I feel the rumble, then listen to see if I can hear a big truck on the street.
But I got to thinking about the 1985 Mexico City earthquake as I was sat there with half of a haircut. It’s entirely understandable and entirely the correct thing that news reports of earthquakes focus on the lives lost, injuries, collapsed buildings and such. But what of the people who were midway through a haircut? Chaos all around, covered in dust, with a thin black apron tucked into your collar. Hair clips making half of your head look big and stupid, while the other half is kinda looking nice. You’d have to wander around the broken streets with stray hair clippings all over your face and ears. The inconvenience of earthquakes is entirely overlooked. What if you’ve had a big night out, eaten a load of tacos, and you’re on the lav. Boom! Earthquake. You may be alive, but you’ve got underpants smeared full of taco shits. And like the haircut: people who were shaving. The 1985 earthquake hit at 7.19 a.m. so there were bound to have been people who were shaving as it happened. Shaving. Shitting. Showering. Earthquakes are inconsiderate buggers.
My haircut was coming to an end. Snip snip snip with little scissors around the ears. Hairdryer. Brushy hairs from neck. She holds a mirror behind my head. I put my spectacles on, and there in front in the mirror is my face with the hair of Christopher Moltisanti. The length and everything is fine, but she’d brushed it back. I guess that is how a lot of Mexican fellows wear their hair, but it was tough for me to not laugh. I think she saw my reaction, though, cos she raised her eyebrows at me in the mirror like, is it okay? Being a pussy, I said si. I paid, tipped, and left. About ten metres from the place was a side street. I darted down there, put my cap on, and hurried home. How’s that for paranoia? I didn’t put my cap on straight away just in case some random people who I’ll never see again would be offended that they’d not done a good haircutting job. My brain is a dick. Back at my apartment, shower, comb, bit of wax. Bueno. She did a good job.
Back in November of last year, I did an illustration for the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek. I just found out that it’s been nominated for an award. [Insert a little touchdown dance here.] It’s one of six magazine covers nominated in the Illustrated Cover category at the Society of Publication Designers 46th Annual Magazine Design awards. Hurrah for me.
If you like reading long rambling blog posts, you might enjoy this one written by the utterly fantastic Joe Posnanski. He writes about sports—baseball mostly—for Sports Illustrated, and for his own blog. This post, though, is an enjoyable read, called Thoughts in a bookstore. It’s worth the ten minutes.
On a nearby street, Calle Liverpool, there’s a hotel. Separating two parts of the hotel is the thinnest of alleys. That alley has a door. It’s about a foot wide. But it seems to be a fully-functioning door. You can see it on Street View here.
I tried out another drawing app for the iPod touch. This one is called C64 Paint XL. It’s available for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and as the name suggests, it’s kind of a pixelly 8-bit thing. Obviously, I’m not really a fan of pixel art: it’s so tediously boring. But this app is kinda fun to use. Normally when I do pixelly drawings, there isn’t a limit to the amount of colours I use, because, well, it’s 2011 not 1984; but with this, there’s only 16 colours. The strangest thing when I was giving it a go was how my fingers have got used to doing certain things. When I see pixels on a screen, my fingers automatically want to be clicking a mouse, because that’s how I draw everything. When drawing on my iPod, my fingers are used to the finger painting style of using the Brushes app. Anyhow, not sure how much I will use this app. I’ve not tried the iPad version yet, but will probably give it a go soon. The drawing, by the way, is of a skinny church near where I live. You can see it on Google Street View here.
A few days late with posting this, but, y’know, pretend it’s Monday morning if you’d be so kind.
It began with taking a Google Maps screenshot on my iPod. Well, actually, it began with standing in front of a selection of eight baseball caps laid out on my bed. I tried them on one by one, dismissed six of them, came back to the other two, and settled on a Milwaukee Brewers cap. A New Era 59Fifty replica of a cap they wore from 1978 to 1993, and continue to wear as an alternate now and again. I had no dog in the Super Bowl fight, but because of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger being a less than savoury character, I’d plumped to root for fellow Wisconsin team, the Green Bay Packers; thus the Milwaukee cap.
Google Maps screenshot taken, iPod stocked up with podcasts that had accumulated during my vacation, and I was ready to rock. Or ready to walk. I’d decided, you see, to walk to a friend’s house. I’d measured it out on Google Earth, and it was about 7.4 km. And it was a long walk. Felt long, anyway. Mostly because the route took me along one mostly straight road for the majority of the journey. I could’ve got a cab, or used a bus, or even done about half of the journey on the Metro, but it was a nice day—not too hot, not too cold—so walking seemed like the perfect way to start the party. Plus, doing a wee bit of exercise before spending the rest of the day boozing seemed like a good idea.
Catching up with baseball talk in my headphones, listening to a couple of episodes of The Bugle (link goes to Wikipedia, because I refuse to link directly to something that is published by a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch) which, rather pathetically, is how I’ve caught up with what’s been going on in Tunisia and Egypt. It’s quite pathetic these days how out-of-touch I am with the news. I have, to a certain extent, stopped paying attention. A cursory look at BBC News, the Guardian, and the New York Times every day, but I’m not fooling myself that most of the current affairs that somehow make it into my consciousness happens while I’m scrolling to get to the sports news. Throw in a two-week holiday, and pictures of stuff going on in the streets of Egyptian cities kinda meant very little to me. (Although, it is one of the great joys of being on holiday: not seeing politicians’ faces for two whole weeks.)
Ninety minutes of sauntering along Paseo de la Reforma later, I was at my pal’s place in the Lomas de Chapultepec area. First time I’d been to his place. In a rather fancy area, too. Big house. I am friends with this guy, because I got to know his friend. I got to know that friend, because I’ve been a friend of his sister for many years. I arrived an hour later than the mentioned starting time of the party. I’m not gonna get all Top Gear on you, and this is something I’ve discussed with several Mexicans who all concur, but timekeeping can often be something Mexicans aren’t overly good at. It seems, from these discussions, that it’s just a cultural thing: a meeting time is mostly a guide, rather than a punctual thing. I’ve found it tough to get my head around this. I tend to be quite a punctual person. If I’m meeting someone at 3.30, I’ll often be walking around the block a few times because I’ve arrived at 3.15. So forcing myself to be later than the advertised start time of a do is something I find difficult.
The game started at 5 p.m., so I aimed to arrive at around 4 p.m. Not too early, not too late; time enough to get into the swing of things a bit before the game started. Of course, when I got there, I was only the fourth person to arrive. A couple of beers, a wee chat, TV on in the background with the sound turned down. Music on. More people arrived, and by the time the game started, everyone who was gonna be there was there. The first quarter of the game, most folks were chatting, one eye on the telly. A few were actually watching, but on the whole it was background stuff.
It’s kinda fascinating watching, and being a part of, a party progressing. From standing around behind the sofas that were facing the TV; chatting with a couple of dudes. And children who tirelessly play, and inevitably attract attention from some or all of the people. Moving around to get a drink, get some food, and whether you return to the people you were talking to, or go off and talk to others. Moments of self-consciousness when you think about going to do something, have a change of heart, and end up stood in a no man’s land, trying to look cool and calm and not attract attention, and casually moving back to another part of the room where you had always been planning to go to, anyway.
As the level of alcohol in bloodstreams rose, the game became more interesting with Pittsburgh scoring a touchdown before halftime. And thus began the only real moment of the game when everyone was watching the TV: the half time show. The Black Eyed Peas. There were people in the room who enjoyed their music. I have conflicting feelings about the band. I don’t like them. But I do really like that “I Gotta Feeling” song (partly because of associations I have with the song) and I can’t help but have a bit of begrudging respect for their ability to write earworms.
Whether it was the Peas, the booze, or the Steelers coming back a little to not look as though it was one-sided, the party got more party-er. Most people in the room were rooting for the Packers, so the result was welcomed. I built Lego “monsters” with an eight-year-old. Making a monster was pretty easy. We both took two of the axle thingies with a wheel on either end so we could make a basic car shape, then just added loads of Lego on top, and smashed them into each other.
Boozy boozy boozing. Kids and parents left and the ten or twelve people left ended up playing a word game. Word beginning with a letter, keep going until someone fails or repeats: they take a shot. Thankfully proper nouns were allowed which made my job easier, considering I only know a handful of Spanish words. And being the author of a worstselling atlas, I stuck with geographical names. Venezuela. London. Mogadishu. Burma. No shots for me, ha ha! And like teenagers, then came truth or dare. Oh dear. I truthed. I dared (shots).
And all of a sudden, when one person decided to go home, everyone moved towards the door. Ride home. Epic stagger up the stairs. Fell into bed. And woke up at midday, hungover and a bit annoyed that I’d slept so late. At least I was until I walked towards the door to go out and get coffee, and the door opened and my utterly exhausted-looking flatmates came in. At that point, I remembered it was a public holiday, so spent the day doing what I believe the Aztecs called “fuck all.”
Garganta del Diablo (The Devil’s Throat) at Iguazú Falls.
More finger painting here.