Steve Jobs and Life in General

Steve JobsA couple of weeks ago, on the evening of October 5th, I was about to start dinner. My wife comes home from work and as usual, sits on the couch and checks her iPhone for Twitter and Facebook updates. She looks up at me, “Oh my god, Steve Jobs is dead.”

I began to feel myself crying. And just a little over 6 weeks since my own father’s passing, I became teary over someone I did not know personally, although in some respects Steve Jobs was in my life as much if not more than maybe even my father. Steve Jobs had really become a kind of patriarch of modern life, it was really he that was Apple: completely synonymous. Even I, who is now typing this Post on a Windows 7 computer, who does not personally own any ‘i’ anything am affected daily by the new world that Steve Jobs created. Every modern computer device that is not Apple evokes the Apple design and concept.

My next phone may be an iPhone, but what about the phone after that? Will Apple still have the vision with out the patriarch?

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Why I Think Dr Keith Ablow is a Douche

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Being a pop-psych doctor on TV doesn’t necessarily immediately qualify someone as a douche.  I have a great respect for Dr Drew Pinsky, even though I’ve heard him talk out-of-his-ass a few times about celebrities’ personality disorders without (I’m sure) ever having met them.   But I guess that is part of being a TV psychologist:  analyzing someone from afar and having the gift of being able to give an on the spot diagnosis.

What makes Keith Ablow seem like such a douche to me is the outrageous agenda that colors his diagnoses.  The first part of his agenda is that he is such a media whore, he’s written novels, he’s a celebrity life coach, he’s had a couple of failed talk shows, self-help books, etc, (see Bio).  By comparison Dr Drew emits a true sincerity and to me his pop diagnoses do not seem outrageous or irresponsible.

The agenda that irks me the most is Ablow’s affiliation with Fox News, it just completely rubs me the wrong way.  It’s obvious now that anything he says is slanted toward the Fox right agenda.  (And nothing against Fox per se, especially where politics are concerned, all is fair in love and war, and I’ve been known to be a Bill O’Reilly fan even though our politics tend to deviate most times.)  But the thought that some, supposed doctor could filter his prognosis through the distorted lens that is Fox News Broadcasting, just seems incredibly douchy and disgusting to me.

The most relevant example of Ablow’s douchyness comes with his amplified objection to Chaz Bono’s participation on Dancing with the Stars.  It irks me as much that he is media-whoring up a controversy to get on all of the news and talk shows, (most likely looking toward the future for some resolution to meet Chaz on some talk show couch. I’m sure he is just wishing that Opra was still on the air) as the fact that he is using homophobia or some type of xenophobia as the agenda for his objection to Chaz. Ablow says that children will see Bono as a role model to ‘kindle’ and emulate.  This is just an absurd assertion. Using myself as an example, no matter how much I want to be gay, I’m just not attracted sexually to men and I just don’t get the whole Lady Gaga thing.  To think that someone would want to change their gender on a whim is absurd.  If anything, Chaz should be respected and celebrated for his ability to make difficult decisions in his life in order to find the ultimate truth about his existence on this planet and for not towing the line of what the current status quo is for normalcy.

Ablow goes on and gives another example of why Chaz shouldn’t be on DWTS: that transgendered people do not go on to live physically as healthy lives as the non transgendered and if a child sees Chaz on TV they will then go on to live unhealthy lives.  This is such bullshit, basically he is saying that Jacky Gleason should not be on DWTS because kids would get fat and hilarious and go on to live unhealthy lives. (Obviously Jacky Gleason is dead and couldn’t appear on DWTS, but I couldn’t think of any other funny, fat people at the moment).  Or, OK, Carrot Top shouldn’t be on DWTS because he takes steroids and dyes his hair too much.  Or Elton John, because he wears bad glasses.  Or Tony Hawk because the kid watching DWTS will later go on to break their neck on a bike.  I can go on and on.

So, even though I hate Dancing with the Stars and probably won’t watch it, (I have too much on my plate as it is now with House Hunters, Survivor, now X Factor and America’s Next Top Model) .  I will still be rooting for Chaz though, remotely and passively while watching 2 Broke Girls… By the way, I didn’t even scratch the surface about the fact that Chaz looks like a dude and what kid watching DWTS would even know that he was formerly a girl at some past time anyway.

Post Script: Below is an Ablow attack on Bill Maher that is just stupid, douchy and colored by the Fox News agenda:

Eulogy for My Father

Morris Brown
Morris Brown

My first memory of my father outside of his role as my dad was in the spring of my senior year in high school. My classmate and friend, Phil and I traveled to Israel, the first time traveling unsupervised as part of our high school’s senior curriculum. We later had to write a paper on our experience for credit before we could graduate.

Previous to that spring of 1977, Morris was to me, I guess, as most dads were then, hard working – even though I wasn’t exactly sure what he did – and a great provider. My mother was the nurturer, my father, semi-aloof behind the newspaper.

It was a generous gift of my parents to send me to Israel that spring. On our trip we took a planned bus tour with other Americans to Masada. Through the hot Israeli desert, up to the high bluff in the 110 degree heat, I began chatting with another American on our tour, a bit older than me but not by much. He said he was a New Jersey lawyer. So, just to make conversation, I mentioned that my father was a lawyer too, “Morris Brown, do you know him?” “Your dad is Morris Brown?” he exclaimed. I will never forget the expression on his face; to me it seemed a strange combination, a mixture of respect, awe and terror. I assumed immediately that it was because Morris was such a force to be reckoned with in court. This was not the last time this happened either, in fact where ever I traveled since then, if I ran into a New Jersey lawyer, they would know Morris Brown. “Tell you father, I said hi.” Most would request of me. I would always try to remember their names to relay back to my dad.

Coming from modest means in Carteret and on a lark taking the bar exam after college, he came in the top 5 percentile on the exam and went to Harvard Law School. Morris was incredibly motivated to do well in life, he knew that success was not defined by how wealthy you are but by how generous you are. He was one of the most gracious, generous people I’ve ever met. Generous almost to a fault, I’m sure anyone here; who ever tried to buy lunch would agree.

My father would tell me this story: There is this town; it is the toughest town in the state. He would begin.  And in this town there is a neighborhood; it’s the toughest neighborhood in the town.  In this neighborhood there is a street; the toughest street in the neighborhood. As you go down this street, with every house you pass the street gets tougher and tougher.  And you want to know what? He’d say; I lived on the last house on this street!

In more recent years I shared my father’s passion for enjoying the newspaper. When visiting, I’d usually have some gnawing question about a piece of news I read that day. “What’s this about congress having to pass this bill now?” I’d ask. He’d answer me with patients and with such an incredible grasp of the material, I was in awe, and frankly envious. He knew every congressman who was involved with the bill by name, what state they were from, what their politics were, why this bill needed to be passed now, what previous presidents tried to pass this bill before and so on. I could only imagine trying to win an argument in the courtroom with someone so brilliant, someone who could retain so much of the material plus view the bigger picture.

My father tried to be stoic during my mother’s long battle with cancer. On the morning that my mother died about 10 weeks ago, he offered the best advice anyone could give. Be strong, he said, we all knew what was coming. I looked up at him and saw he was completely devastated, frail and sick himself, he was still able to see outside himself, still looking to provide for his family.

12 Suburban Pet-Peeves

Living in suburbia forever is like being married forever, certain qualities you may have originally found endearing are now just annoying, obnoxious or at the extreme can be grounds for murder.

If you are reading this and you are from Greenwich, Bedford, Palo Alto or Alpine, you may not recognize, in your neighborhood, any of these pet peeves listed below at all.  In my suburbia – not poor – not rich – just middle class with a lot of recent NYC transplants out to the sticks, we have many, hmmm, how should I word this… ‘Aesthetic infractions’ that could easily upset one’s eye or stomach.

#12 Weird Fencing

Two Fences
#12a Two neighbors not communicating

I’ve never been a big fan of stockade fencing, especially the cheap wood ones.  I’ve warmed up a bit to the big plastic stockade fence.

In photo #12a: I’m not sure what happened here.  Either the neighbors were fighting over their property lines or somehow they both had their new fences installed on the same day without mentioning it to each other.  There is about 16 inches between the fences.  I’ve witnessed  one of the fence owners squeezing between the two fences to rake out the tall overgrowth, weeds, leaves and such.  Very weird.

 

 

#11 Ugly Electric Poles – Ugly Trimming of Trees Around the Ugly Electric Poles

See my previous post: Click Here

#10 Vote to Renovate your School

Rundown High School
#9a This must've looked nice in 1970

Do you want to live in a town where the high school looks like shit?  If there is some kind of referendum coming up to cash some bonds or something to renovate your schools, vote: Yes.

 

 

 

 

#9 Suburban Blight

Suburban Blight
Another empty storefront in my town!

What the hell is it with these big stores moving into my town and then going out of business within a year leaving their big-ass, empty, ugly storefronts to linger as huge canvases for bad graffiti artists to desecrate?

If you see photo #9a, this is an abandoned supermarket.  A&P built this with my townships blessing literally 200 yards from our well established Shoprite.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the A&P would be out of there in a year or two.

 

 

 

#8 Politico Banners

Politico Banners and Signs
#8a Hey, I don't need to know your politics!

Don’t wear your politics on your sleeve and certainly don’t put banners with your John Birch, or for that matter Al Gore, all over your house.  It’s just tacky.

 

 

 

 

#7 Arborvitae Killers

Arborvitae Killer
#7a This was a 'living' fence. Every Spring a couple more die.

We all know the arborvitae killer, the guy who wants to create a natural fence around his yard.  These guys usually get the bright idea to do this planting around May or June.  (Arborvitae is the knee-jerk go-to shrub when planting.  Arborvitae is really the poor man’s boxwood, just go to Deal NJ or Bedford and you’ll see what I mean).

Arborvitae Killer 2
#7b This is an example of a pretty good one.

Even if arborvitaes are relatively inexpensive, you still have to buy enough of them to create a visual blind circumnavigating the perimeter of your property and depending on how large your lot is, can become expensive.  So in May or early June inevitably we will drive by one of our neighbor’s homes and notice hundreds of newly planted arborvitae fencing in their yard.  What your lovely neighbor doesn’t realize is that it’s a good idea to water your arborvitae or they’ll die, newly planted arborvitae die real quick.  June is usually a hot month and what can be predicted is that before the July 4thweekend probably about half of these beautiful plants are as brown as the Gobi desert.  The unfortunate thing that happens is that not all of the plants die, a percentage of them can survive through a hot summer, so as each plant dies the beautiful fence will eventually look like the teeth of a hillbilly. (Replanting is an option, but will be seen as cost prohibitive to someone who just spent $3000 on the original plants).

#6 Skinny Columns

Skinny Columns1
#6a Columns Way Too Skinny
Skinny Columns 2
#6b Nice house. Get nicer columns!

After you just spent $30k to $50k renovating your home, spend a couple hundred extra and get some meatier columns for your front porch or façade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5 Weird, Tacky, Bad Architecture

Smurf House
#5a Did Papa Smurf design this?
Double Gable House
#5b Example of a double Gable Roof

These come in all shapes and sizes.  Terrible architecture usually occurs when someone renovates their home without using an architect: screwing up proportions, removing nice detail, bad wrapping of aluminum around detail, making a nice porch terrible, weird kitchens or an extra bedroom sticking of the side of the house like a goiter or malignant growth, etc.

Bad architects can create all sorts of visual nightmares too.  The knee-jerk, uninspired architectural element is the double gable.  Check out the facades of newer McMansions with the double gable element.

If you see photo #5a, this is an example of atrocious, tacky design.  The architect must’ve been going for that King Arthur /post modern/Big Ben, who knows, but I personally think that theserealtors hired Papa Smurf to design it.

#4 Bail Bonds – Check Cashing

Bailbonds
#4 Hey Creeps, get out of my town!

As soon as you see a Bail Bonds – Check Cashing storefront open in your town, you can just see your property values diminish as every scoundrel or scoundrel’s spouse or relative walks through those doors.  Or for that matter, anyone, for whatever reason, who doesn’t have a bank account walking around your town looking for a check cashing place.

 

 

 

#3 Poodle Trees

Poodle Trees 1
#3a Enough Said

Thank god that the trend for poodle trees (topiary) is passing.  And some topiary can be beautiful if well maintained and trimmed by a professional.  Bad maintenance of a poodle tree and it looks like someone took a huge, green shit on your front lawn.

Poodle Trees 2
#3b Nice!

 

 

 

 

 

#2 Anti Abortion Protesters – Abortion Clinics

Abortion Guy
#2a Hey! Get off my lawn!

I didn’t even know that we had an abortion clinic in our town until I saw the anti abortion protester.  I have nothing against abortion or abortion clinics, except the fact that they draw anti abortion protesters.  I subscribe to Howard Stern’s proclamation that a woman should be able to have a legal abortion until their child reaches the age of 18 (it gives a mother enough time to determine if her kid is going to be a shit or not).

Yet on the other hand, there are so many great drugs these days like the morning after pill.  I hear they even have a 5 day pill, that any cell divisions within 5 days of sex can be washed out of a woman’s system.  Any woman, who walks around for 5 days with some guy’s jizz sloshing around in them and can’t decide whether or not to have his kid, should just bring it to term.

#1 Boat, RV, Project in Driveway

Boat in the Driveway 1
#1a Not too bad - Almost tolerable
RV in the Driveway
#1b Props for the cute front yard with low water effort

Come on.  Is there anything more trash than leaving your boat, RV, camper or project in the driveway?   If you love these things so much and you call your boat ‘Obsession’ or something, get a garage or slip. Jeez.

Boat & RV
#1c White Trash Through and Through

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Button Fly Pants (as opposed to a zipper)

It has to be, that any clothing designer who ever added a button fly to a pant instead of choosing a zipper could not be straight**. And I can confidently say that there is not one straight man on this earth who enjoys the extra attention paid to his crotch while he tries to button his button fly pants in a public restroom.

“Ahhh, no sir, I was not playing with myself in front of your son here in the airport restroom. I was just trying to button my new fancy, button fly pants.”

“Yes, sir, I realize that the zipper was invented like a hundred years ago.  Actually, it was about a hundred and sixty years, in 1851.”

“No sir, I do not think I’m ‘some kind of fucking cowboy’.”

If I was Larry Craig’s lawyer I would screw the ‘wide-stance’ defense***.  What I’d do is, I would appoint as many men to the jury as I could.  In my opening statement I would walk up to the jury and just say three words, “Button fly pants”.

All of the jurors would then go, “ahhhhhh”.  End of case. In the law books forever as, “The Button-Fly Defense”.

** I may at this point be accused being some kind of homophobe, which is completely untrue.  I am the least homophobic person that I know, (and I will be able prove this in a future post).  I just feel that a gay clothing designer would have trouble predicting that there would be an issue with the extra 5 minutes that it takes to button up your fucking button fly pants.

*** Larry Craig was arrested for soliciting sex from men in the restroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  He tried the now famous ‘wide-stance’ defense.

Eulogy for My Mother

It’s hard to sum up in a few words how you feel about someone when you’ve known them your entire life.

Sylvia literally fought for her life for three years.  Tooth and nail.  And she fought, not just because she loved life, as we all do, but also because she loved her family.  She was always the care taker.  Her biggest disappointment with her illness was that she became compromised in her ability to take care of her family.  I think that of everything that she set out to accomplish in her life, everything she read, of all of her charity work that I could go on about, her biggest source of joy and pride was in making sure that my father, my brother and I were not for want of anything.  Come to think of it, any cousin, uncle, brother, friend, visitor or stranger were treated with the same genuine, loving care.

In almost every note of concern I’ve received since her illness began, there is the prevalent theme of Sylvia’s generous, welcoming spirit.

So, in these last few weeks, when I had a moment or two, I would sit at my computer and allow myself to venture through all my memories with my mother.  In all of this recollection, I cannot remember even one moment -not even in my most rebellious teenage years – of having any bad feelings toward her.  Never a blow out argument, I can’t even remember a single, simple spat.

She had an incredibly keen eye to how I was feeling, almost a sixth sense.  Asking pointed questions and easily extracting a guarded emotion or feeling I had.  Her advice was always good.  Since the time that I left for college, I never remember a week, when we didn’t talk on the phone at least a couple of times.

Whenever I visited or we were on the phone she was always truly interested in my artwork and what I was painting, asking a lot of questions about subject and media.  She was always offering ideas of subjects to paint. She would reference a recent retiring Judge or prominent figure she just read about in the newspaper, that I should contact for a portrait commission.  When visiting she would show me pictures in magazines, as maybe a good subject to paint, or a review of an art exhibition I should check out.

Some of my most cherished moments with her are when I would come down for a visit at the beach club in the summers, relaxing on the chaise lounges, under the umbrellas. We would have sweeping views of the beach and ocean.  We would chat, mostly of nothing in particular, just general current events while thumbing through a magazine or the newspaper. Sometimes Sylvia would get up to chat with friends who arrived at the beach and I could hear her voice behind me, describing my most recent commission or artwork, at times, suggesting to them, that they should commission me to paint a portrait of their grand children or a lovely beach scene for their homes.

She was always a comfort when things weren’t going well. She was my biggest fan of my artwork.  Related to that, she was my agent, and my publicist.  She was my care taker and my teacher.  And above all she was my best friend.

Solar Panels Attached to New Jersey’s Electric Poles

Courtesy of Juan Arredondo for The New York Times
Courtesy of Juan Arredondo for The New York Times

I had to laugh the other day as I read the front page article in The New York Times* on how the solar panels now attached to New Jersey’s electric poles were such an eye sore.    writes in the first paragraph of the piece “All they knew was one moment they had a pastoral view of a soccer field and the woods from their 1920s colonial-style house; the next all they could see were three solar panels.”.

When I first looked at the photo by Juan Arredondo attached to the piece, all I saw was the ugly phone poles and wires (what ‘pastoral view’?).  So, what I asked myself was: what is more of an eyesore, the rectangular solar panels or the ugly electric poles and wires?

These horrible electric poles and wires have become so ubiquitous everywhere that no one sees them anymore.  They have become visually erased from our retinas due to their unsightly ever-presence.  The only reason the residents of Fairlawn think the solar panels are ugly is because their attention is now directed to the ugly electric poles they are attached to and never before saw.

A good exercise to correct your retinas is to drive around your neighborhood and look for the electric wires and poles.  Caution: You will see your quaint, twee town completely differently from now on.  (This of course unless you live in a town where they’ve decided to bury the unsightly wires).

Yesterday, I drove around and photographed some of the eye-sore horrors around my town of Woodbridge, NJ.

Another Tree Abortion
Another Tree Abortion Courtesy of Woodbridge Township

You don’t have to look far, just up, and you can see the horrors and atrocities of your local townships’ utilities.  Tree-abortions are a common disgusting side effect, as your townships’ laymen wield their chainsaws like Jason in that Halloween movie. Chopping into your trees like a spastic monster trying to buffer the zone around the utility poles.  The worse tree atrocities are committed by Woodbridge Township trying to keep the tree branches away from the electric wires. This seems like a supreme waist of time.  If a tree is going to fall, do we know which way? To do a hack-job on trees as Woodbridge does is ridiculous.

Beautiful Telephone/Electric Pole and Tree Abortions
Two Tree Abortions Courtesy of Woodbridge Township

If you take a good look at the rectangular solar panels attached to the electric lines and poles, which truly is uglier? One thing that I don’t understand about these solar panels on the phone poles is that the utility that places them, puts them up so haphazardly. It appears that they have no strategy and no idea of  how a solar panel works.  Many of these panels probably only get 30% of their potential.  Many are just blocked in shade by neighboring trees.

California or at least some parts of Southern California, like Orange county have policies where you have to bury the electric lines.  There have been studies where they’ve found crime to diminish in towns with buried electric wires.

The biggest visual and financial blunder that these local townships have been doing to beautify, is to dig up their old concrete sidewalks and put in new beautiful brick-paver sidewalks and these little twee gas lamps.  During this process of digging up the streets, which has to cost millions of dollars, they do not bury the electric and phone lines at the same time. I’m not sure of the reason.  I’m sure that these administrators do not foresee that the effect will just create more visual havoc.  With the phone polls, with the existing street lamps, plus the new twee gas-like street lamps, plus the electric wires and whatnot? There is so much visually going on that it makes the Xanadu Mall look like a Zen mat.  I have a feeling that either the budget won’t allow all of the costs of burying all of the electric lines or they are not allowed by the utilities to do it and these administrators just say screw it, let’s do it anyway.  Or maybe these people don’t see the electric poles either. To them, the end result looks marvelous.

3 Solar Panels
What is uglier in this photo, the three solar panels or the phone poles?

I get my haircut in the Clara Barton section of Edison where they had this ‘beautifying’ project.  Everyone in the barber shop was thrilled.  When I mentioned how ridiculous it was that Edison was spending so much money digging up the side walks to put in the new paver-brick sidewalk and gas-like lamps and not burying the electric lines and that it still looked atrocious they were incredulous. I am sure that no one actually saw the electric lines and poles, they were erased from their daily experience.

Unfortunately I am cursed.  I’ve always seen these electric lines within a landscape. It may be my artist background that teaches to see everything.  I am lucky to be a painter, if I don’t want to paint like Rackstraw Downes and paint in every urban detail, I can easily ignore the poles and wires.  A photographer would definitely have a time of it in Photoshop.

Clara Barton Section of Edison
Notice the beautiful street lights and sidewalks - Clara Barton, Edison
Fords New Jersey 1
Notice the Beautiful Street Lamps

Plus the idea of:  Is there a way to paint an electric line to make it beautiful? Or should I just ignore them and never paint them in?  Depending on whether it’s my personal art or commission.  Does a client want to see them in a portrait of their property? Somehow I doubt it.

Maybe one day, there will be no need for this anyway.  We have cell phones now so there is really no need for telephone lines.  Maybe someday each home will be individually solar powered, creating enough hydrogen to power our cars, homes, TVs, etc.  The landscape will maybe in the future look less 19th century.  Maybe every home will have some kind of fusion generator that we can just throw our trash into for power.  Will we always be connected like puppets to our utilities, our ISPs and our Cable Companies?

*April 27, 2011 – The New York Times – Solar Panels Rise Pole by Pole, Followed by Gasps of ‘Eyesore’