Saturday Linkages: Squirrels, Sharks and Nudists

Edward Burne-Jones – An Angel Playing a Flageolet.

How the all-hands meeting became a way for bosses to give you the finger

Use it and abuse it

Safe Streets Advocates Stage Die-In to Protest Garcetti and City Council Lack of Vision Zero Progress

Oil is the New Data

Against We

The Squirrels Already Know This: Southern California black walnuts are a local, tasty treasure

Purists v partiers: the battle between two popular nudist resorts

Shark Bites Google Fiber Optic Cables Undersea

Ammo can power supply

Building a Soil Sifter / Rotary Trommel

I’m Fed Up With Amazon

News of Amazon’s atrocious labor practices, creepy surveillance deals, and Jeff Bezos’s idiotic techno-utopian space fantasies means that I can no longer use their affiliate program on this blog. For the time being I’ve stopped adding new links to Amazon products.

For years Amazon provided an ever decreasing affiliate income that, partly, pays the hosting bills for this blog and podcast. I’ve written about my ambivalence about Amazon before back in 2015 and many of you said, at the time, that you didn’t mind. I suspect, in the years since, many of you may have changed your mind about this company. I know I have.

Practically speaking, there is so much dubious, bootlegged content on Amazon’s website that I don’t trust it for purchases anymore. If I need something I will try to buy it directly from a company or a specialty retailer. Most of my books come from the library. When I do buy a book I should probably order it through my local bookstore Skylight (which has always been very generous to Kelly and I as authors–placing our books prominently and hosting a book launch event for us).

Right now I’m left with a problem. I’ve got hundreds of Amazon links embedded on this site and need to ponder what I’m going to do about that. When Amazon dumped California-based affiliates a few years ago rather than pay their taxes I switched to Portland-based Powell’s partner program but nobody used it. I’ve also got a Patreon program and, while thankful for those of you who chip in, I think I’d rather sell a physical object (like a zine) rather than beg for donations.

So I’ve got a lot to think about and I’m interested in your feedback. Do you use Amazon? What do you use it for? Do you mind affiliate links?

Starbucks Moderne

Capitalism, despite the hollow claims of “efficiency” of its zealous devotees, has a tendency to create a crap ton of useless and/or ugly objects. Unless you’re cursed with some sort of art background you’ll likely spend your days in blissful ignorance of the details of these objects. But if you’re burdened with a few aesthetic bones in your body, you just can’t stop looking at them. Take, for instance, this forgettable paper coffee cup that Kelly noticed.

Our ancestors would have poured their beverages in a reusable ceramic, metal or wood mug. Some of them might have downed their mead in a blinged out drinking horn. Before that they would have just cupped their hands at the stream. For a moment, let’s let go of the obvious problem of the “externalities” caused by sending this single use object to a landfill and take a close look at the aesthetics of this paper coffee cup.

The style and color pallet is what I call “Starbucks Moderne.” Consider it the committee-driven, focus group vetted, corporate response to the Portlandia “Bad Art Good Walls” routine. You’ll find Starbucks Moderne in the thousands of soulless hotels, “upscale” hospital waiting rooms and bank lobbies that scar our degraded architectural landscape. You’re not supposed to pay attention to Starbucks Moderne but, instead, feel like a mini-Jeff Bezos, subliminally enveloped in a muted pseudo-luxury color palette.

But what’s up with that face? Was the artist not paid enough to bother drawing a face? Is this a stab at corporate cubism? Or is this a mask? Is this a self-portrait of the artist who portrayed themselves wearing a mask as a kind of plea for help or a way of saying, “don’t blame me for this ugly thing?” Kelly actually started drawing a copy of this masked figure in order to understand it but couldn’t figure out what it was about.

The 1990s era curly chair in the background means that this hapless artist is probably of my, largely forgotten and ignored, Generation X. We’re the last generation that can remember a time of lounging in curlycued, overstuffed post-modern furniture, a time before the gig-slave economy. Now we’re hunched over in misery contemplating eking by on Fiverr and Mechanical Turk while the fat-cat masked billionaires enjoy slices of pie and a cup of coffee on the way to their Eyes Wide Shut parties.

Further evidence of the age of the artist or, more likely, that the coffee cup company hasn’t updated its art in 30 years is that there’s a be-crowned figure reading a physical newspaper instead of gigging on Fiverr for pennies an hour on a phone or laptop.

Keep turning the cup and you’ll find more bargain-basement cubism, masked, hegemonic figures and another slice of pie.

Methinks things would change if we prioritized the arts in our schools and people woke up to the sheer horror and ugliness that surround us. That day may yet come. Perhaps the revolution will be led by our blessed ceramics teachers . . .

A Rogue Mariner on the Upper Thames

Roger Barnes describes himself as an architect, writer and artist. But, while he promises to get around to an architectural video someday, he fills his YouTube channel with advise on sailing and camping in a small dinghy. As one of the commenters sums it up, “The more stuff you have in your boat, the less room there is for fun.” Sounds like good, general life advice.

Thankful for the New Rain Garden

One day during a high school English class, here in Southern California where I grew up, it started raining. The entire class spontaneously got up and ran to the window to view the downpour. Our teacher, a transplant from the East Coast, having just lost control of her classroom, looked confused. A moment later I could see in her face that she realized she was dealing with a room full of kids to whom rain is a novelty, something worthy of news reports and, these days, hashtags. Regaining control of her classroom, she patiently explained to us that she came from a place where not only does rain fall from the sky more frequently but that there was something else called “snow.”

This past summer our landscaper, Laramee Haynes and crew installed a rain garden in our backyard and Kelly and I cant stop checking it now that the rainy season has returned. The garden takes the water from the back half of our roughly 1,000 square foot roof. Using this handy online rainfall harvesting calculator, in an average year we could send almost 6,000 gallons of water to our backyard.

We ran a pipe from the rain gutter way back into the yard along a fence. The pipe terminates at a simulated gravel filled stream bed that spills into the rain garden. Kelly has just started planting the wet lower part of the rain garden with native plants including water loving Douglas irises (Iris douglasiana). She planted the dry outer edges with desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), coyote mint (Monardella villosa) and assorted grasses.

Alas, my hopes of building a little boat in which to row back and forth across our new seasonal pond have been dashed by the fact that our soil drains quickly (which is a good thing). We’ll post periodic updates to let you know what worked and what we killed.