FLASHBACK: Untitled

*originally published 1/31/03*

A friend asked me recently, “What should I do with this unwieldy, hulking terabyte of archived emails from my ex?” He was torn between the “Your mailbox size has exceeded its limits” warning that threatened to cut him off from his precious virtual network, and the desire to relive his memories of Love Lost from time to time over a strong cocktail.

I told him: written words are photographs of our mind, capturing an odd moment here and there, a wink in space-time never to be repeated. They afford visual and sensory affiliation, for those so inclined, and hint at the moments and moods that came both before and after. I save the emails that move me, shock me, inspire me, or make me pee my pants a little from laughing. I re-read them, over and over and over, exploring the nuance and placement of each word in each line. I am an email voyeur; message me with care.

But while email may be the pen-and-ink of the new millennia and I its adoring slave, I believe the handwritten word is an art-form to be preserved, not an archaic or antiquated “technology”. Strange thoughts for a blog – I’m aware of the irony. But I love the eager release of a rollerball pen against newsprint when I do the Sunday crosssword. I sketch my costume visions with a sharp, soft-leaded pencil on the back of envelopes and other random scraps of paper found lying around the house. Every Christmas card is painstakingly addressed by hand, and those pre-printed Unicef address labels are the first thing in the recycling bin when I sort my mail. This is what we did, before word processors and PCs took over our lives. I used to write on every other line of my ruled grey paper, leaving ample room for the endless additions, deletions and changes of heart that characterized my fifth-grade essays. I could see every edit in those smeary pencil shadows covered with dingy Pink Pearl crumbs. My mistakes surrounded me like ghosts, gut-wrenching evidence of my imperfect prose.

A handwriting analyst would think I was schizophrenic, all lazy slanted loops one day and uptight angular print the next. At some point I realized I needed to enforce a standard signature, one that would transcend the unpredictable ebbs and flows of my fickle right hand, if the bank was ever going to let me withdraw money from my accounts. While the resulting scribble bears little resemblance to the shape of my actual name, I’ve managed to commit the experience of writing it to sense memory well enough that it’s reliably repeatable, and I have yet to be arrested for fraud.

At the tender age of nine, I received a portable electric typewriter for Christmas, and it was a brave new world! I vascillated for days: Pica or Elite? Which one would a real writer choose? True to form, I ran out of correction tape long before the ink cartridge could empty itself onto my pregnant page. Other girls sold Thin Mint cookies and fantasized about Barbie+Ken’s Dream Wedding; I developed a devastating addiction to my dog-eared, kelly-green Webster’s Thesaurus. And I wrote, and wrote and wrote and wrote… Short stories for the local writing contests. Haiku extolling the virtues of dry California summers and the joys of reading. Poems for the unfortunate souls in the local children’s hospital. Eventually my subjects became dark and tantalizing: the history of LSD, satan worship in Contra Costa county, the death of my dearest, poetic hallucinogenic meanderings, miserably unrequited lust for a punk rock pop star. Teachers called parents, aghast at my seeming descent into unrecoverable teen angst. Couldn’t they see? Didn’t they know? I was never in danger – I was a WRITER. It’s all just self-indulgent worship at the feet of the Language Gods.

These days, I get my Thesaurus fix online through my wireless LAN, while my fingers tickle the ebonies of my trusty laptop. My mistakes are mine alone to grieve, whether through the careless flick of a pinkie or a self-conscious trigger of keystrokes that summon the all-forgiving UNDO. It will mislead me, the passage of time that fades immeasurable edits and revisions, and I’ll wonder if I really was the prodigal daughter when I typed the last period.

This is a blog. We will never know the truth.

I repaint my ghosts.

Years ago I sanded an old piece of door trim, chipping away at a jawbreaker, each layer of color slowly surfacing beneath my palm. I wondered in particular about the red, peeking from sheaths of white like a secret. I wondered if I would ever be a woman who would paint my trim red. Some years later I became a woman who painted her walls red. In one room, for awhile. It was a fun few years, and I think about it from time to time.

Now I’ve lived in this house for 17 years and the shadows of previous housemates relentlessly surround me in the edges of painted walls, in the floorboard stains. They moan softly from compressed sofa cushions and chatter beneath the coffee table. I didn’t even choose this coffee table; it was left by a former lover who chose to redecorate his future on departure.

I could ignore these voices or I could just… leave.

There is luxury in moving: the culling and the discarding, the forcing function of a stack of brown boxes, each of which must be trundled out and trundled in *if* you choose to fill them. I could/should engage in the ritualistically (optimistically) named ‘spring cleaning’ but it’s so much easier to simply close the door to Those Rooms and set up shop on the dining room table that has steadfastly hosted the birth and death of a thousand costumes, jigsaws, craft projects, term papers. I predictably and reliably turn to that table because I have, in many ways and for many years, claimed it solely for my purposes. It is bounded space that has simply always been mine. Its memories are only of me.

I choose to stay and make peace with them all, and I’m painting the back bedroom for the fifth time. The first color was chosen by KB, a muddy beige called ‘Peanut’ that went a bit jaundiced around twilight. MB picked a pale but bright blue that P and then MH chose to live with rather than redo. There was a softer blue for CS, accented by a blue-striped light fixture that would look at home in a child’s room. The velvety moss green for AC’s ‘man cave’, chosen by us both, is slowly disappearing under a wash of Vanilla Ice Cream.

I ran out of paint before I finished the second coat, and it may need a third anyway. That color is hard to cover.

FLASHBACK: Songs of love, songs of forgiveness

*originally published 4/27/08*

I made a muxtape recently. It felt perfectly natural to make it, assembling meaningful songs, poignant songs, songs that make me lock up and feel something. But when I listened to it the next day I caught the narrative… It’s chock-full of people I’ve loved, lost, unloved, hated, unhated, forgiven, missed, miss. It’s really fucking sad, this collection of songs that somehow floated to the surface of my conscious subconscious.

And they’re not all current tunes; some have been dancing in my head for years and years. A few are from college. One is in the mix explicitly to honor someone I knew from 16 to 23 (he killed himself at 25, my best friend and lover, so give me some slack on this one). Some of them are so so so so old that way… And each of them is an ode to someone I know or have known, all of them songs I might sing to myself in someone’s honor. Sometimes they’re sung wholly for myself, but just as often they’re not. Just as often, they’re a tribute to someone you might think I’d be better off forgetting.

So what keeps me gripped to this story of my life? What is it about this monologue that continues to fascinate me after all this time? Me, this “oh so independent woman”? I don’t forget. I do keep singing these songs. I do remember.

A ex questioned me about this very thing: why do I keep the pictures around? Why do I keep reminders so close to the surface? Why do I TALK about the PAST so MUCH? Did time stop for me somewhere along the way? I guess his real question was: Have you lived so much already that there’s nothing left for anyone else?

No. The answer is no. But sometimes I need to wallow in it.

P.S. I lied. Two songs are for you, Don, and they always will be. I miss you.

I died in a fire.

mel_cryo

FLASHBACK: Where the hell have I been?

*originally published 8/30/04*

I fell in love with a painting over breakfast and took the artist’s number – does that particular piece mean as much to him if I never call? It’s a strange phenomenon: the more you make your thoughts public, the more you doubt they actually exist when you opt to privatize. I’d be lying if I said that I write solely for myself. If that were true, I’d put it in a journal beside my bed and never let you in on my secrets. I would never wash my hair or put on a pretty dress, and I certainly wouldn’t flirt with you at parties, if there wasn’t something in it for me.

I’m convinced that we do it all for the love, whether it comes from family or friends, or perfect strangers, or our own personal muse. If my words never left the privacy of my keyboard, they would still fulfill a need in me to create art through exposition, through my self-centered pseudo-philosophical musings. I would still be convinced I had contributed something to this world through the means that I am programmed to believe are valuable. I would also believe that I’m somehow rewarded for it, that my karmic bank account is bumped up a notch for having “left my mark”. But who gets to decide these things, anyway? If you’re reading this right now, you’ve either assigned some abstract value to my meanderings or you’re an axe-wielding stalker, and why should I trust either one of you?

I suppose it comes down to a perception of some shared experience between us, even if you don’t know my ass from a hole in the wall. Paintings move me because they strike a nerve somewhere, and it doesn’t have to have even the remotest connection to the artist. A trumpet player on Hawthorne almost moved me to tears this morning with his stilted rendition of “Rainbow Connection”, but he wasn’t anywhere near that play I did in the 5th grade. Sure, he was playing for spare change to get a cup of coffee, but doesn’t he want to know that I’ll remember him tomorrow?

Is art the affirmation, or is affirmation really the art?

Simplicity means taking into account the capacity of the communication channel. A simple app or website is tailored to the channel capacity and does not make users work more than necessary to attain their goal.

Raluca Budiu, “Scaling User Interfaces: An Information-Processing Approach to Multi-Device Design”

Taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, those are just tools. Metadata is just a material. Information Architecture is about making meaning out of piles of facts. Who cares how you do it, or in what medium?

Christina Wodtke, “Towards a New Information Architecture”

Just. Don't.

Preattentive Processing describes a limited set of visual cues the brain can rapidly process, what jumps out in your audience’s mind. It’s your brain filtering and detecting patterns you feel are important. Your eyes are immediately drawn to these contrasts and your brain is asking - why is this like that? What’s it saying to me?

Jon Myers, “Design: Seeing Without Thinking”

www.curtdeardorff.com
circuits

Flow, not Flow

Currents at work

I am an iWhore. I own a MacBook Pro, an iPad, an iPhone and an Apple TV (not to mention the 2nd MacBook Pro I use for work); device switching is a shockingly frequent part of my daily routine. I’ll check Facebook on all of them within a 10-minute span is there’s lively banter going on. So you can imagine my frustration when a status update I read on one device continues to blink at me on every other device, requiring me to clear it again. And again.

Here’s another fun scenario: Read more…

I think of clothes a lot like costumes. I think of what I wear in real life as being my real-life character's costume.

Ginnifer Goodwin

Sex + candy

The Killers – Mr. Brightside from leonardo gonzalez on Vimeo.

You have to purposely jam the controls. Create blips in the patterns. Get out of your comfort zone.

Scott McDowell, “What True Love Has to Do with Innovation”

Simple Desktops

Stunning (and simple, obvy) images for the desktop. A few of my faves:

Find texture in everything.

“…he seems to understand the creative potential of random acts and non-directed participation.”

You light up my life. And not in a good way.

Portland summers are long and bright. This is an amazing gift in the evenings but a horrible nightmare in the mornings, especially for people who have semi-transparent drapes and a hungry dog who wakes with the sun.

A short while back I wrote about the Put-Me-To-Sleepmask. Until some brilliant, forward-looking neurobiologist finds my blog, invents one that fits a pug’s face and gets it to market, I’m actively seeking alternate solutions. And today’s alternative is light-sensitive drapes. Lemme break it down: Read more…

MOO comes to you.

It’s been a long time since I ordered from MOO, a fabulous UK-based company that provides a variety of high-quality inexpensive cards, stickers and labels. They’ve always been service-oriented, demonstrating clear attention to the whole customer experience, even in something typically as banal as an order confirmation email. To wit, I present paragraph 1: Read more…

Brave new org chart

Today somebody asked me why I love being freelance after 15 years in the corporate and agency worlds. What I told him, in a nutshell, is simple: I want my creativity unbound by specific locations, daily schedules, and mandatory adherence to the 9 to 5. We agreed that creativity and innovation are what’s going to move this economy for the foreseeable future. Finally, we talked about the need for companies to critically evaluate their org charts and the people in them using ethics and values as key drivers. Read more…

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr I hate you.

If you read Psychology Today, you’ve likely seen the June 2012 article entitled “Heat Seekers” which equates physical and social ‘warmth’. If you haven’t, it basically says this: if you feel physically cold, you’re likely to also feel more lonely and stingy than you would if you felt physically warm. It also states that “temperature affects our perception and mood below our level of awareness”, and that drinking a cup of iced coffee can make us “judge others as unfriendly”.

Whoa. Read more…

‘Found’ – a project idea

Yesterday I left my raincoat at a colleague’s office. Because that coat tends to live in the backseat of my car, it’s out of sight and out of mind until the weather turns sour… which happened to be yesterday evening when I was across town after business hours. Nothing short of magic or a break-in was getting my coat back that night, and I was cold. Read more…

Sing me to sleep.

Increasingly I find myself awake at around 3:45am. Not just checking-the-clock-for-a-second awake, but awake awake. Actively-thinking-about-stuff-for-an-hour awake.

I typically go to sleep around 11pm, which places my nocturnal misadventures at about the 4-hour mark. The BBC recently published an article called The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep, citing substantial research supporting our natural sleep rhythm being one of the ‘first sleep’, followed by a period of wakefulness and then a ‘second sleep’. This was apparently the norm before electricity made evenings and nights longer and arguably safer. Read more…

Within your city, you find pieces of yourself.

Finding Portland from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

Fortes fortuna adiuvat. (Fortune favors the bold.)

Latin proverb