Oil Changes & Fashion Magazines

May 2022 Issue of Vogue Magazine

While waiting for the oil to be changed in my truck at Right Choice Automotive Repair in Fairbanks, Alaska, I decided to hang around their modest waiting area rather than leave the premises (since I had no other ride). Instead of turning to my phone, I noted a disorganized pile of magazines and pulled the first one off the top because it appeared to be the newest.

The May 2022 issue of Vogue would be my muse as I waited for the ordinary yet necessary service to my rig.

The first thing that came to mind as I started to browse through the pages was what I often tell my students, “Stay up to date with as much as you can, stay up with current trends and fashion, the news, culture, art, everything around you whether it interest you or not. It will make you a better graphic designer.” Following up on that, I thought yes, a subscription to Vogue magazine would be a step in the right direction when it came to such advice.

As those thoughts went through my head, I pondered the last time I had picked up a magazine of this genre myself. It had been awhile—long enough that I couldn’t recall when. Mind you, when I was in my mid-20s, I had a subscription to Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) for at least two years. So, there’s that.

Unlike my mid-80s, young-adult outlook, I wasn’t looking through Vogue as a consumer now, I was looking at it as a graphic designer—taking note of all the techniques and treatments they employed in their advertising and editorial pages. With that keen eye dialed in on the pages, I didn’t find anything too cutting edge. In fact, many of the layouts were fairly pedestrian. I reckoned that this conservative design ensured that whatever typography and design was employed, it wouldn’t distract from the “high-end” photography whether it was on the editorial or advertising pages. And, isn’t that why people pick up magazines like Vogue… for the photography?

Omega watches model: she clearly doesn’t like wearing a watch.

Along with the above, here are a few not-so-graphic-design take-aways from my one-hour romp with Vogue in a Fairbanks, Alaska, car repair shop.

Regarding the skin care and make-up advertisements throughout the publication, I would like to challenge these advertisers to run disclaimers in their adverts akin to what the tobacco companies are required to post in their advertisements and products, but a little different… something along the lines of, “No Photoshop was used in the creation of this advertisement.” I mean, think about it, you’re advertising a skin care product that is said to make skin look smooth and youthful, but like most advertisers, (and most folk know this) you have post-production Photoshop work on the images to make sure the model’s skin in the advert is actually smooth and youthful. That’s hardly a convincing sale.

Speaking of smooth and youthful skin, where are the older adults? I never noticed their absence when I was going through GQ back in my youth, but it was glaring in this 2022 Vogue issue. I mean if you want to talk about how great your skin care product is, why not employ a model who is at least pushing 40 instead of 20? (Who cares if they do Photoshop work at that point?)

My recollection of 1980s GQ was that the models all appeared happier, or at least not miserable—even if they weren’t all smiling back then. Most of the posers in 2022 (assuming this issue of Vogue represents today’s average model facial expression) are simply expressionless, and come across as bored, even miserable as if they were some kind of indentured, rich punk. I have to wonder, was the photographer behind the camera saying things like, “C’mon, show me sexy, babe,” or were they saying, “Show me how excited you are about a weekend getaway with… (insert least favorite celebrity/politician here).”

Perhaps the exception in fashion magazines: an older model who is clearly happy for Dolce & Gabbana.

I know these kind of publications are known for their advertisements and that’s one of the top reasons people purchase them, but I counted 27 pages of advertisements before I reached part one of the table of contents. Following that, more ads and then part two of the table of contents. The first editorial piece was listed on page 49.

A few things that I noted that haven’t changed at all since the 80s is the advertisers. There is still an abundance of jewelry, clothing, make-up, skin care, and perfume ads (and their fragrant pages), but only one cigarette ad in the entire issue and it wasn’t even a cigarette one would associate with fashion—Lucky Strikes, the cigarette my father smoked when he was a young man.

I suppose my grumblings here are somewhat expected given my past 60-year-old status, but I did find one very nice and refreshing feature of this 2022 periodical—it’s cover featured a pregnant, Black woman named Rihanna. I hear she’s very talented and popular.

Beyond an Everyday Failure

A World Without Borders

The other day, I put together a list of things I needed to accomplish for a trip into town—you know, errands.

Most important was a visit to Costco and to have a meander in some of the Fairbanks charity shops. I also considered finding a new place to have lunch and perhaps consider an early afternoon movie.

It’s a little over 20 miles from the house to Fairbanks, so I always put a list together to make sure I get as much bang for my buck—especially when gas is well over five dollars per gallon.

After driving all the way into town and making it to the Salvation Army thrift shop,  I realized my wallet wasn’t with me (but my phone was) and I had only been in the store for a couple of minutes. I was dead in the water as far as achieving the goals for my excursion into town. In short, my jaunt into town was a total failure resulting only in a waste of precious time and fuel.

So, home I went thinking I would just get an early start on the second part of my day—weeding the garden. I couldn’t bring myself to return to the house and retrieve my wallet and then do it all again. I felt as if a little self-imposed punishment was needed. Besides, when I do this back home, it usually relates to forgetting something that is work related, but in those instances, we’re only talking about getting back on my bicycle and riding the one-third of a mile back to the house to correct my forgetfulness.

So, one might be saying to themselves about now, this seems like a pretty innocuous event to even write about here; and perhaps it is. However, the following day I made sure I had everything I needed and made the drive again—successfully completing all of my objectives (sans lunch and a movie).

Coming home, I started thinking about the previous failed trip. Anytime I do-something-for-nothing (as I like to call such events), I start thinking about everything that transpired and challenge myself to find something that might have been meaningful in my folly… you know, a message or lesson that perhaps the universe was attempting to convey to me that I initially didn’t note.

All I could think about was the Fresh Air story on the radio coming home. Terry Gross was interviewing Kelly Lytle Hernández discussing her new book Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands. It was very engaging as I drove home—making me forget my forgetfulness—and realizing this was a bit of American history that I’d never, ever heard about in any of my history-related formal education courses. Here I was, almost 62-years-old and I was learning about something that we should all know.

Without getting too much into it, I’ll just say here for the reader, that Hernández’s book is about Ricardo Flores Magón and his magonistas that played a pivotal role in early days of the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910, including the role our government played in the event’s outcomes and the impact it had on our country.

So, upon realizing what that non-productive round-trip was really about, I purchased the book and have added it to my growing summer-reading list.

All I can say is that the next time you “drop the ball” regarding some task or objective you’re out to complete, look around you, there might be something else there worth picking up.

Mosquito Confessions

I’ve been struggling lately with the following: I love to kill mosquitos. Truly, the only good mosquito is a dead one… or at least one about to be eaten by a creature that feeds on them.

There I said it (i.e., “…forgive me Father for I have sinned”). It seems wrong to admit this. It seems wrong to say that I enjoy killing anything. But, there’s nothing like having a mosquito alight on your forearm only for it to be squashed rather than sucking your blood. It’s so satisfying. Or even if he does start to partake of your precious bodily fluid, to smash it before it can lift-off in time is pretty rewarding too—in a vengeful sort of way.

I suspect I’m far from being alone in this frame of mind.

This started me thinking about why it is so many of us truly love to kill them and, why—in my case—I don’t like to kill anything else.

Perhaps it is their small size. The smaller something is, and the simpler it is as an organism, and thus the better it feels to kill it. Yet, I don’t go out of my way to step on ants or squish a spider, but I don’t have much guilt when I consider all of the various splattered insects on the grill of my car or truck after a long road trip in the summer. If I hit a bird or run over a small animal, that will bother me—sometimes for days.

Each of us should probably ask ourselves, how big does an organism have to be before we end up feeling guilty about ending its life.

To enjoy the killing of mosquitos might also have something to do with how one can’t reason with a mosquito. You can’t just say “NO!” to them like a dog or some other threatening animal. You can’t shoo them away either. They don’t listen, they just relentless keep on coming after you, and the only way to stop them is to kill them. Even the slightest physical force is likely to kill them given their tiny and delicate anatomy, so might as well be certain in their killing.

Oh, I suppose if you are a committed humanitarian, you can repel them with my favorite Alaska aftershave, Off! (the Deep Woods variety), but who wants to spray poison all over their skin everyday—even when indoors—just to repel a pest with a single-minded objective of drinking your blood.

The idea of being attacked must have something to do with enjoying the killing of a mosquito. No one likes to be attacked. Come to think of it, I like killing deer flies and horseflies too. Why? Because I’m being attacked in the same way. Something wants to bite me, I will likely want to kill it, and in the case of mosquitos, enjoy doing it. There’s no turning the other cheek to mosquitos or other biting insects in my world.

So perhaps that is it… the simple fact that we are being relentless attacked by a species that clearly outnumbers us, and along with all of that, carries a number of deadly diseases in their assaults on us.

Here in Alaska (for the summer of 2022) where there are so many mosquitos, they take the killing of them to another level. Introducing the electrically charged mosquito racquet. At first glance, it looks like a racquetball racquet, but with two AA batteries (or USB charging) and the push of a button, any flying insect in its way, gets zapped. If they get trapped in the metal mesh of the racquet and the operator keeps the button engaged, they are simply cremated. Again, it’s a bit disconcerting to say this, but this mosquito racquet is pretty cool as the blood-suckers are practically vaporized before your very eyes. 

I overheard on the radio yesterday that during the Stone Ages, it is estimated that half of the population back then died from malaria-carrying mosquitos. So, consider the killing of these pests as payback for the death of so many of our ancestors.

On the brighter side regarding mosquitos, the gene-editing technology CRISPR is to be used to produce a gene-altered mosquito that would be released into the wild carrying an anti-malarial protein that would be passed on to offspring when mating with other mosquitos. Ideally, malaria could be wiped out or drastically reduced in the near future. For now it appears that this treatment is probably at least a decade out before full implementation. If that’s the case, you might want to invest in some good, old-fashioned mosquito protection (see above).

The Permafrost Highway

Looking down on a section of the Permafrost Highway

Somewhere north of Haines Junction, Yukon Territory and say, 30 miles south of Tok, Alaska is a stretch of the Alaska Highway (AlCan Highway) that really test one’s resolution and will  to “go north.” This 250-300 mile stretch of highway appears to suffer from the freezing and thawing related to the permafrost, and nothing suffers more than the road itself—in particular the asphalt.

Sometime after passing through Haines Junction, one gets the feeling that Canada—or at least the Yukon Territory doesn’t want the traveler to leave as the road seems to deteriorate the farther up the road you travel. I was reminded of that line from the song Hotel California, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”

After 75 or so miles of dodging potholes and uneven folds of asphalt, I found a campground about 50 miles before the Alaska border. I fell asleep in the back of my truck wondering if the Americans had an answer for permafrost’s unrelenting war on asphalt.

The next morning, my hope in Yankee engineering and road crews wilted—before I was even five miles past the border. As it turns out the Americans have lost the battle to permafrost as well.

It’s comical to observe the various methods (dare I say, “patchworks”) employed in attempting to alleviate the effects of permafrost—from new asphalt to chip-seal patches that probably last no longer than a week after a few heavy trucks have roll over them. Adding to the comedy are the occasional signs that warn, “ROUGH ROAD,” as if all the other road mines along the way were somehow insignificant.

Once in Alaska the speed limit increases to 65 mph compared to 80-90 kph in Canada. I want to see someone drive that part of this road at 65 with their cruise control on. In such a case, we would be talking about someone with a death wish, or at least someone who has fallen out of love with their vehicle. Very few stretches occurred where I was able to travel over 50 mph due to my truck’s stiff suspension.

Speaking of stretches, there are those places where the highway as been repaved (my guess within the last year) and like a mirage, seems like a normal two-lane highway suddenly, but in another half-mile to a mile, potholes and massive heaves reappear in the asphalt, preventing you from anything that resembles a relaxing drive—just as you start to think that maybe they’ve finally got it figured out. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a shooting arcade (or “Whac-a-Mole”) as you’re driving through a gallery of mixed asphalt obstacles that are continually popping up with little time to react.

Permafrost pothole detail

Given the shortened season for road construction up here, it seems like maintaining this highway is a lost cause. It will likely never be smoothed out completely—at least not in this particular stretch. After all, why would Alaska want to fix the remaining miles of their highway that simply and only allows people to exit to the Yukon Territory (Canada)—and the same goes with the Yukon and the remaining miles in their road leading to Alaska (U.S.)?

One has to wonder if there is any discussion about returning these roads back to dirt/gravel. In the case of permafrost, road graders would simply blade, thus re-leveling the road each spring in time for a new crop of tourists. Surely this topic gets thrown around from from time to time, but when do asphalt roads ever experience a downgrade?

In all of this grim reporting of road conditions, there is some comfort in knowing that not too far from Tok, Alaska, the permafrost is somehow subdued and the road stays smooth sailing all the way to Fairbanks (and Anchorage I’m assuming)—60 mph easy.

However, there is the return trip to keep in mind if one wishes to return to those places where home is somewhere in the latitudes of Calgary or below. For now, I have almost two months of preparation; that is, psyching myself up for the return trip down the Permafrost Highway .

The Tragedy (and Comedy) that is America

Uvalde, Texas… America’s newest mass-murder capitol.

I never would have known a thing about the town of Newtown, Connecticut if it hadn’t been for the senseless slaughter of school children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. Now, here in 2022—and for the same reason—I get to learn about the town of Uvalde, Texas and its ordinary-sounding (up until today) Robb Elementary School. I suppose this is how America gets a small town on the map these days for the rest of us, they have a mass shooting there.

Take comfort America in your thoughts and prayers; across the street from the Robb Elementary School is the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home.

I’d truly prefer to discover the charm of these towns on my own, rather than the blood-filled news after they are cursed with a mass shooting.

So, how does stupid America solve the problem? The same way it’s always solved the problem (not really)… by throwing more guns into the equation. More guns for the “good guys.” If this wasn’t such a tragic solution, it would be a comedy.

And, if America was a fire brigade, it would bring gasoline to every house fire.

So, when all of the teachers and educational administrators are “packing” during the normal school day to end “school shootings,” we’ll need to do the same for our doctors and nurses. Why? Because inevitably, the blood-thirsty, attention-needy, fringe element of the gun-owners and NRA (all hiding behind the Second Amendment) will be coming for the hospital nurseries.

That’s right, you heard it hear first. The new-born children will be next because these gun-worshipping, sick-fucks are all about soft targets and nothing is softer than a ward of new borns and their weakened mothers. On top of that, we’ll also have an occasional gun-toting educator who flips out and commences a second wave of school-based mass shootings all over again.

And you thought Omicron was a bitch. 

And if the hospital nurseries are too secure, they’ll go after the elder living facilities. And after that, family reunions, weddings, funerals… any place you think would be void of such carnage.

And, finally after all of that—hopefully and deservingly—Russia will nuke us hard.

Postscript: I am a gun owner (3 in all) and would gladly jump through whatever hoops required of me to maintain that ownership, or simply (and gladly) surrender them all.

A Nuked Dream

Last night's dream re-enactment

Last night, I awoke around 1:30 in the morning after retiring at 10:30—typical of my sleep patterns in the last three years. I restarted a YouTube ASMR video on my phone nearby—the same one that I fell asleep to at 10:30, but it would be another two hours later before I would fall back to sleep.

 

When I finally fell back asleep, I found myself in some large parking lot associated with a big arena or stadium—it felt like somewhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area. There was some event going on as the parking lot surrounding the structure was full. For whatever reason, I was outside of the structure (near its doors) hanging out and waiting for the event to conclude. It felt as though I was waiting for someone who was still in attendance on the inside, but I don’t know who that was.

 

While outside, it seemed as though I was carrying on in small talk with someone that I knew—it could have been Jerry Brown, an old friend I knew when I was working for ASU Student Publications.

 

Then suddenly, Jerry or someone else nearby shouted out, “It’s finally happening… Here it comes.”

 

I walked away from the doors so I could see around a portion of the building to where a person was pointing—a rising and colorless mushroom cloud on the horizon—akin to a giant jellyfish in the sky. There was no sound at that moment, and it was far away, but not too far to be seen, growing larger and taking up more of the sky. Perhaps it was on the outskirts of Phoenix like one of its Air Force Bases—Luke or Williams, I couldn’t be sure.

 

What I was sure of, more would be coming—perhaps at any moment.

 

I was hesitant in what to do next. Should I venture into the arena and throw myself into a crowd that was certainly going to be panicked by the time I was inside, finding the person I came with, or simply go to the car and wait for them—or wait for the next strike?

 

Knowing what I had just witnessed, I knew it didn’t matter. The end that was surely near was going to override whatever I would do next. And then I woke myself for another round of sleeplessness.

 

Meanwhile, Russia’s attack on Ukraine enters its third week with everyday reminders that this is a war no one can afford to escalate.

Absurdity from a Local Oligarch

It was a laughable presentation at the recent Northwest College Board of Trustees meeting when community leader and Powell Tribune owner Dave Bonner stood up before the Gods of Northwest College (a.k.a. Board of Trustees) to challenge the idea of renaming the college.

Sadly, Bonner’s new plan is nothing more than a new spin on our worn-out, vanilla moniker.

His solution? “Northwest College: On Yellowstone’s Door” with the words “at Powell and Cody” awkwardly included somewhere in his proposed word salad. It all struck me as a textbook illustration of beating a dead horse. Might as well include our zip code too.

 

Bonner spoke of the additional cost associated with a name change, but failed to mention how the college dedicated an extra $80-grand almost three years ago on a new marketing plan for good-old, multi-directional, but-we’re-not-in-Washington-state, Northwest College. How did that go? I didn’t see any results from that little investment. So now Bonner is telling us that “Northwest College: the gateway to Yellowstone” and including “Powell • Cody” will make it all less confusing? That’s the best we can come up with—doubling down on vanilla? Wow!

If our name is as great as he declares, surely it can stand on its own without a clumsy clarification statement attached to it. And history has proven over and over, that’s not the case—not when there’s dozens of other schools out there using “Northwest” in their names as well.

Let’s apply this “Bonner Logic” to that popular television series…“Yellowstone: mostly in Montana, but some in Wyoming.”

Or, consider that Major League Baseball team in Cleveland. “The Cleveland Indians: Guardians of the Land.”

Or how about that pro football team in Washington? “The Washington Redskins: Commanders of the Capitol.”

Yeah, those are much better.

The publisher’s antiquated thinking was also endorsed by his Zoom-based, posse-of-two, affluent Foundation officers and directors who basically said, “Yeah, what Dave said.” Added to that, Bonner provided more “evidence” for not changing the name because all the old guys in his morning coffee klatch said it was a bad idea too.

I was tempted to stand up and shout, “Well, the old guys in my coffee klatch think the name should have been changed to Yellowstone College back in ’89 when ‘Community’ was deleted from the name!” So, there’s that.

Bonner referenced that time as well saying that the Board of Trustees also considered Yellowstone College back then, but didn’t do it; as if there was a greater wisdom present in the ’89 Board of Trustees than today’s.

No doubt, it will be disappointing if the Board of Trustees heeds the vapid rationale from this Powell oligarch and his Foundation cronies. But, beyond disappointing, it will be downright embarrassing.

A Simple Survey

Some say it’s a no-brainer (including myself), and despite all of those who tell me they support the name change of Northwest College (in Powell, Wyoming) to Yellowstone College, I’ve started to wonder about the numbers—those who support the name change, those who don’t and those who are simply indifferent about the name change. So, here we are: a simple survey regarding the future moniker for the college in Powell, Wyoming.

Consistent Inconsistencies

A letter of feedback to Wyoming Public Radio

 

Less than a year ago I decided to not support Wyoming Public Radio (WPR) any longer after being left hanging multiple times in the middle of an NPR story as the result of your transmission failures. Sometimes less than a minute, other times more than 30 minutes. When one of the hallmarks of quality journalism/news includes attributes like “dependable,” WPR has some serious challenges in this one area.

 

In short, I’ve lived in several areas of the country during my life, and I’ve never come across a public radio station that has failed so miserably as WPR when it comes to consistent and reliable broadcasting.

 

Late last week I tuned in to see if things are any better. Sadly I’ve lost track how many times my radio went silent when tuned in to 90.1 FM. In fact, as I write this your All Things Considered broadcast for today was interrupted twice by dead silence.

 

NPR likes to boast about the “driveway moments” that result from their stories, but I hope I never have one while tuned in to WPR, because as soon as I’m hooked, the signal will surely drop and I’ll go from a sense of awe and wonderfulness to rage and frustration.

 

To be sure, there are fantastic stories that come from WPR, so I have no complaints of the actual journalism generated by your staff over the years, but when captivating stories are interrupted suddenly by silence or filler music, even the best story turns into a mediocre one (if that).

 

If I am surprised by anything, it is in the consistency (over the years) of your operation’s inconsistencies.

 

Good luck on the fall fund drive… you’ll need all you can get.