More about Things that Splash

I’ve been figuratively swamped at work lately, and literally swamped at home, and that hasn’t left much energy for other pursuits, like adding to this big heap o’ words.

Currently part of our living room is sealed off with plastic and tape. It would be cool if it were quarantine for some sort of exotic alien life form, but it’s not. There’s no floor in that part of the house. You can see right down to the dirt beneath our stylish home.

The kitchen is soon to follow, but there’s a wrinkle. The floorboards are ruined, but the cabinets that sit on top of them are still OK. Alas, removing the cabinets might damage them. The contractor and the insurance adjustor are currently working things out. They have both been very reasonable so far (they even offered to put us up in a hotel during construction), but this has to be worked out before anyone can proceed.

I am categorically NOT thinking about what happens if the insurance says they won’t pay to replace cabinets that are still good, and then the cabinets get damaged. What would you do if you were the adjustor? Saying OK pretty much gives the demolition crew the green light to ruin the existing cabinets.

We turned down the hotel; we didn’t try to squeeze new carpet out of the deal. We don’t need that stuff and when my sweetie is under stress home is where she wants to be. I don’t blame her. Now her kitchen is about to be torn apart and that means the greatest hardship of all for me: no cupcakes until this is all over.

Meanwhile, I’ve been pretty worthless, creativity-wise. Looks like I’d best just get used to the situation and find a way to produce.

Two Plugs in One!

I’m a little late on this one, but there are still issues left of the third Poetic Pinup Revue. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome. We’re learning as we go, and it shows.

The current Poetic Pinup Revue

There’s some work in this issue that I really like. Of course, that’s always true, but this time the bar seemed higher. Maybe it was the theme, “Bridges and Things that Burn Them”. That brought out some good stuff.

To get your very own big, majestic, heavy love-fest of poetry and imagery, drop by the current issue page at PPR.

One important lesson we learned this time around, one that is obvious in retrospect: When you make a saddle-stiched magazine, you don’t just need an even number of pages, you need a multiple of four. This issue comes with two empty pages for your notes and poetry inspired by the other, print-cluttered pages. At last! A magazine that leaves a little space for you!

When I put it that way, I’m tempted to put blank pages in every issue.

The Editor of PPR spends a lot of time hunting for the right material, haunting places online where artists show their work. She looks forward to the day when she won’t have to — enough submissions will come in that she can spend her time crafting the magazine. But there’s something to be said for this method (as long as someone else is putting in the legwork); There are a lot of talented people out there who don’t bother to submit their work, especially to print markets. Are you one of them? Some of you that read this are, I bet. Toss us some work! The worst that can happen is that we say “no, thanks” in a respectful manner. The best writers (or photographers, or painters, or…) are the ones who hear “no thanks” the most.

An aside on the subject of “no, thanks”: Even the best artists go downhill when they’re not afraid of rejection anymore.

So seriously, if you or someone you know is talented with words or pictures, send them to the upcoming issues page at If any of the upcoming themes inspire, it’s a short trip from there to the submissions page.

Up next: Contumulation & Carrying On. Think about what comes after all this noise we call life, or perhaps how we deal with the noise when someone special is gone. Very close on that issue’s heels: Food for Thought. Art about that which sustains us. This one even has recipes! Click the link above to see the completely awesome covers for those and the following issues.

Another thing we learned this time (the second plug at last!) is that MGX Copy down San Diego way is pretty dang awesome. We use them because their prices are easily the best we found, but when we got this last issue and there were problems with the pages, they cranked out an entire new batch for free. No hassles, no pushback; we took pictures of the flaws and they sent a sincere apology and a rush-order redo. So, if you want quality and service for a great price, I highly recommend MGX. They’ve done right by us, and we’re hardly a big account.

Check out Poetic Pinup Revue. It’s good and getting better. If you subscribe, you can even trace our meteoric rise.


Things That Go Splash in the Night

Long-time readers will remember my story of being awakened in the night to the pounding on my door by guys who didn’t speak English, only to set my foot on the floor with a splash. They lived downstairs, and the charming waterfall cascading down the stairs was already filling up the basement.

On that occasion I found myself standing in water, wanting nothing more than a nice hot cup of tea. There was none to be had.

Fast forward to yesterday morning. After one more snooze-button hit than usual I crawled out of bed and cracked open my eyes just enough to find my mug, the one that would soon hold tea. I staggered toward the kitchen and heard the sound of running water. “Holy crap,” I thought, “did we leave the kitchen faucet on all night?”

In fact we had not. Yet sometime in the night a hose below the floor beneath the kitchen sink had decided to succumb to pressure and just let water flow where it might. “Where it might,” it turns out, was just about everywhere. Beneath our floor is a nice thick layer of insulation. That space filled with water and carried the flood through the house, unimpeded by walls.

It took me a while to get the water turned off (there were two valves on the water line, one camoflaged between two pipes, and the setup looked like a gas line to boot), but it was clear that the deluge had been under way for a good long time already.

I was on the phone with People Who Can Do Something About Things Like This when the lights in the kitchen went out. Oh, happy day. One thing about living in a home that was delivered on wheels: you can get a warranty, much like one for a car. We got one to protect us against just such surprises during the first year in our new abode. The warranty covered a plumber visit to fix the pipe. The warranty did NOT cover “access”. The plumber came out, discovered that he couldn’t get to the leak, and left again. Had I been there at the time (my sweetie has done the lion’s share of the work on this issue) I would have provided him access, no matter how big a hammer I needed. Instead, Father of Sweetie came over and tore the bottom out of the cabinet under the sink, revealing the original floor, and enough of the pipe to reveal the leak. Another plumber arrived promptly.

Tearing out the cabinet floor also revealed the valve to turn off the hot water to the sink. Good thing we never needed it. The previous owner was a handyman of sorts; he installed a lot of upgrades and generally kept the place in great shape. The thing is, when you look close you can find a lot of questionable work. A fence latch that doesn’t line up right. Concrete poured so water pools up. A screen-door pneumatic closer-thingie installed… creatively. Sprinkler heads that don’t work in the right geometry. Add to that list the water purifier in the kitchen and the cabinetry (which he might not have done). Before we moved in the inspector found nails through the unsheltered ends of shingles. A lot of energy put into home improvement but undermined by… I’m not even sure what to call it. Ignorance? Sloth? For all his energy, he took the easy answer often enough.

The ideal home maintenance guy: someone with his motivation and my penchant for getting things right. One reason I don’t do as many fixit jobs as I should is that it takes me forever to get things right. I’m the slowest handyman out there.

Back to the flood. One difference this time around: I live with a good Californian who keeps reserves of drinking water. After the first crisis was past, I had tea. Man it was good.

Now we have a maze of insurance and warranties to figure out. (The good news: insurance covers it. The bad news: we can’t get anything done until the adjuster comes out. The good news: He’ll be here tomorrow.) Meanwhile, the light of my life continues to sop up the flood as the water in the insulation wicks back up into our house.

Getting Snooty

I was working this afternoon, but I really wanted to play with my toys. So, after I got something done to make my day feel productive, I pulled out the camera, and fashioned myself a snoot.

In photography, a snoot is an attachment you put on the front of your light so that all that comes out is a really narrow beam. With a snoot you can put a splash of light exactly where you want it, and be confident that it won’t spill somewhere else.

Funny thing about cone-shaped pieces of black plastic, they’re kind of pricey. So today I set about making one of my own. I’ve done it before, but this time I wanted my snoot to be a keeper (although after the fact I’m already designing version 2).

I also thought it would be fun to play with color a bit. I went for green, and my goal was to get an interesting green rim light. So I put a green gel in another light. The downside of my homemade snoot is that it doesn’t work with my gel-holder thingie. I think in the end the color should have been in the snooted light. Never got the green highlights I wanted, but that’s OK. It gives me something to shoot for next time.

Once I got one light all snooted up (with a narrow grid attached as well to increase directionality) and the other gelled for color, I cast about for a suitable subject. I tried a pair of steampunk goggles (looking for cool reflections), a pewter mug, and a fake skull (ideal for rim light, I thought), but none of them worked out so well. Then I found this trinket (click to biggerize the photos):

Now, in the interest of science, I possibly should have posted untouched photos so you could see how the lights worked out. But I didn’t. Instead I fiddled with the pictures to enhance what the lights gave me, and to get three different feels for the same object.

The cool part is the way the green light lit up the glass. (The actual glass is not at all green.) It worked best when the green light was straight behind the object, of course, but my favorite lens is a sucker for lens flare, so I had to be creative in my positioning and use of a gobo. You can see the green-haze effect in the second pic in the series.

In the end, though, I’m pretty happy with the results, and maybe I’m even a slightly better photographer now. Practice, practice practice, after all.


Ugly Cars

OK, to start things off, I’d like to go on record to say that the new Fiat they’re selling here is ugly. It’s lumpy and wrinkled, but lacking the charm of a shar pei. When the ads try to liken the lump of poo to an Italian supermodel, I just roll my eyes.

But the Fiat is a passive sort of ugly, the kind of ugly that mothers the world over look past.

When the Pontiac Aztec came out, I was stunned. My first encounter with one was in a parking lot; I walked a complete circle around the thing, laughing the whole time. I thought, naïvely, that I’d seen the pinnacle of ugly. Surely nothing could ever surpass it. I mean, come on. Presumably most auto designers want their cars to look good.

Except maybe the ones at Toyota. It started with the Prius, which is not an attractive vehicle. Aztec territory. Particularly offensive: the giant silvery tail light cluster. Two giant festering boils on the back end of every Prius.

The infection spread. More Toyotas inherited this horror, and then it caught on with Toyota’s other labels. Terrible designers at other companies picked it up, putting the awe in awful.

This isn’t to let the makers of big, angular red clusters off the hook. Still ugly, but easier to overlook.

All this in a time when technology allows designers to do just about anything with the tail lights of a car. If I were in charge of the VW, there’d be optional flower-shaped brake lights on the bug – and they’d sell. There is less need than ever before for giant plastic warts on the ass ends of cars. Yet on some vehicles these unsightly growths just keep getting bigger and uglier. I saw an SUV today, painted in a dark color, with giant silvery tumors on its ass so big I was tempted to chase it down to see who made the damn thing. But I had better things to do.


Executive Severance

So there’s this thing called The Twitter that all the kids are using. In terms of literary forms, it’s the shortest of the short, measured in characters, not words. It’s about the opposite of a novel. So what if you tried to write an entire novel in tweets?

Right off the bat, you’re faced with a critical decision: Does each tweet have to be interesting on its own? If not, then just tweet each sentence and ignore the fact that no one is following along. But if your medium truly is the tweet, then success is measured by followers, and that means that you will approach the story differently.

In the forward of Executive Severance by Robert K Blechman, the author discusses that briefly, and when the story gets meta (the bad guy is following the protagonist’s tweets), it is discussed more. The medium is the message, and whatnot.

Structurally, then, the story reads more like a daily comic strip than it does a traditional novel. Every third sentence or so must be a payoff. Blechman often achieves this through wordplay, which he obviously enjoys, and he transmits that pleasure successfully. With a wink toward character limits, he has contrived to give many of his characters single-letter names, and he plays with that quite a bit as well.

If you judge this story as a mystery novel, you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s not strong on narrative, but then again neither were the Pink Panther movies, which felt similar — the story is just there to hang funny episodes on. In this case, it’s a couple hundred very short funny episodes.

There were occasional tweets that I sat back and admired just for their economy. Wee tiny poems. One thing for sure, doing a story in this medium requires skill (and the willingness to drop the occasional punctuation mark).

It is a thought-provoking story, not so much for what it says, but for what it is. Which is something the story itself tells us.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a 1 CT Champagne Diamond Solitaire Pendant), I get a kickback.

Pardon the Dust – again

A warning sign I saw between Calgary and Edmonton.

I’m putting in a new comment system that hopefully will answer a couple of annoyances I found with the old. It may look wonky compared to everything else. I’ll probably just turn it on, see how things look, and turn it off again in a few hours once I know the effort it’s going to take to get it looking right.

In the meantime, leave a comment and tell me what you think!