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).

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.

Another Nominal Post

This was a spectacular flight over Ten Sleep Canyon on the western front of the Big Horn Mountains, but the flight itself was truly nominal.

Nominal. Why isn’t it more popular to use in everyday conversation? During the Perseverance mission to Mars, that word must have been used over 100 times during the last couple hours of the vehicles final approach to the red planet. NASA has been using it for years. Why hasn’t it caught on yet?

 

Even Elon Musk used the word recently when he tweeted about newest Space X Starship prototype, “Starship landing nominal.”

 

A typical dictionary definition for nominal is something like, “functioning normally or acceptably.” Yet, how might it sound in everyday language?

 

“Hey Morgan, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m pretty much nominal.”

 

“His graphic design project is nominal.”

 

“That was a nominal meal!”

 

Perhaps the problem with “nominal” is it sounds too much like “normal,” and for anything to be normal, it’s just not worthy of  mentioning.

 

In this day and age, we don’t like talking about things that are nominal. In fact, we seem to prefer hearing about one’s troubles or misfortunes rather than about all things that are nominal in their life.

 

Still, I think it has a chance. If the word “dope” can go from the nickname of drugs to something that is fantastic, there’s certainly hope for “nominal” as well.

Inocculation Observations

Today I received my first COVID-19 vaccine. It was fairly uneventful, yet here I am somehow writing about it. I filled out a one-page form and before I knew it, I was taking off my jacket and rolling up my sleeve for the curly-haired, red-headed nurse.

In our short visit, I found her sense of humor and bed-side manner a pleasant surprise given the gravity of a pandemic. She said sternly, “Morgan, take off your clothes,” and then chuckled. The only reply I could come up with at the moment was, “Gee, I haven’t heard that in a long time.” If I could do it all over again, I probably would have said something even more self-deprecating like, “Oh, you’ll be so disappointed.”

I knew a few people there for the same reason. I found it amusing how some of the men—older of course—felt the need to remove their shirt rather than roll up their sleeve to receive the vaccine. I don’t know, maybe it was a long-sleeve kind-of-thing, but I was reminded of my father. Even in his late years, he never had second thoughts about being shirtless. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Regardless, after I turned 40, I felt pretty certain that no one would see me shirtless in public even if it was Jay-Lo wagging her “come hither” finger at me from her hotel balcony.

My partner, Mish did her fair share of socializing with the medical staff as well—especially after her inocculation. We sat together afterwards and she told me of her moments with the nurse and needle—as we witnessed another shirtless, old-guy with man-boobs directly in front of us receiving his vaccine.

Looking around the cavernous room of others visiting at the fairgrounds I considered how normal mask-wearing was becoming in any given social setting. I wondered if this new norm might have some staying power long after the pandemic is behind us. If one needs any evidence to support such a possibility, look no further than  the Japanese culture and their practice of mask-wearing, long before any pandemic was on the horizon. It seems very possible that the rest of the world will now see the wisdom in that practice of social hygiene. 

The actual shot was pretty typical of any—like a bee sting that doesn’t last very long. Six hours after getting the shot, the only thing I have noticed unusual is that my arm is sore where I received the injection—reminiscent of the occasional charly-horses John Polinger administered back in junior high. I do feel a bit fatigued as well, but that’s more likely just attributed to another Thursday and knowing that the bulk of my class load is behind me for another week. Whatever aches or pains come with this vaccine, I’m thinking they’ll blend right in with the aches and pains that come with a 60-year-old body. 

Stay tuned for Part II.

Sixty & Way Beyond

My father at boot camp.

I don’t remember many of my birthdays. There was a neighborhood party when I was five. When I was 21, my big brother and I hit a couple bars that were open on a dull Sunday evening in Akron, Ohio. When I turned the odometer over at 40, I had just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, but there were few people I knew, and those I did, not very well, so I didn’t tell anyone.

On the eve of my 60th birthday recently, I ran a little over two miles at the local track—running one lap in all eight lanes continuously. I’m unsure if I ever ran farther in the span of my 59th year. If I did, it wasn’t often and it couldn’t have been much farther.

I thought about my father during that run. Could he have run two miles when he was at the same point in his life in 1985? Probably not, but unlike me, I never knew of him to do any kind of long distance running—even when he was much younger and I was only a child. Regardless, he would have destroyed me in the bench press.

Thinking back a year from this time as I was turning 59, I remember being concerned that my partner Marsha and other friends might throw a big party for this 60th milestone. As it turns out, that worry was all for nothing thanks to the new norm of social distancing compliments of COVID-19.

I have wondered if I’ll be one of those looking back on the pandemic and thinking about those who were lost to it, or will I be one of the casualties. It’s odd how clinical I can think about this even as it could be residing just outside my window.

Getting back to my father in 1985, I think about what he was doing as a 60-year old. He was still working at Goodyear as a pipe fitter. And, much like me, he was starting to see his retirement on the horizon. And when he was 60, I was going back to school for my graduate work at Northern Arizona University—I was 25 then.

Further down the family line, my paternal grandfather, Emory Hansford Tyree was 60 years old in 1960, the year I was born—also working for Goodyear as a tire-building supervisor.

Another grim thought came to me recently regarding this milestone. If I live to be 100, I’ve exhausted 60% of my life and the remaining 40% should be anything but a joy ride. I reckon if I’m lucky, I have another 20 years of decent quality living. Past 80, surely I’ll be on borrowed time. Should I check out tomorrow, I can’t complain as I look back on the big picture of my life, it feels pretty complete.

Sixty-years-old is one of life’s fencelines. I see it as the official threshold between the middle-age years and the senior years. Although a bit grim as I consider my status, there is a small amount of consolation in that I’m a young and spry old man rather than a washed-up, middle-aged man.

* * *

Along with the pandemic of COVID-19 that is currently upon us, another unexpected, but delightful event has emerged during this milestone in my life… only a few months ago (late March) a comet was discovered making its approach toward the Sun and here in July of 2020, it is close enough and bright enough to be seen with the naked eye as it makes its way around the sun and back out to the periphery of the solar system. The comet has been named NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) after the orbit-based telescope (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer) that detected it.

As I understand, the comet’s last pass by Earth was about 4,500 years ago. That would have been about 2,480 B.C. Recorded history is scarce that far back and what is known has mostly to do with Egypt and its “Golden Age.” This would have been around the time when the famed “Seated Scribe” was created. The Temple of Khafra had just been completed too—along with the second largest pyramid at Giza. What a great time for something as mysterious as a comet to show up in the heavens above.

In North America, little history is known while exact dates are only imagined. But it’s worth noting that in NEOWISE’s previous appearance, the Independence I people from North America had just arrived in Greenland, while the Aleutian tradition was emerging in Alaska along with Arctic Small Tool tradition around Bristol Bay.

From here, I went down another historical rabbit hole. If the great dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period were roaming the Earth some 145 million years ago, NEOWISE has probably made some 20,000 round trips in the solar system since that time—assuming its existence back then.

As a result of the comet’s close approach to the sun in this latest visit, its orbital period has increased another 2,300 years meaning that the next time NEOWISE shows itself near Earth, it will be around the year 8820. As it approaches the Sun, NEOWISE rises above the orbit plane of the planets, but not long after as it makes its way back into the outer solar system, it dips below the orbit plane at an angle of about 30-degrees.

As NEOWISE makes its way back to the darkest reaches of our solar system and beyond, moving at a speed of 144K miles per hour (or 40 miles per second), it will have passed a distance that matches Jupiter’s orbit by this time next year, and about a year later it will have passed a distance that equals the orbit of Saturn. In June of 2025 NEOWISE will be as far away as Uranus, and in a few months before my 70th birthday, it will have reached a distance that equals Neptune’s orbit. By the time my 80th birthday has arrived, NEOWISE will be some 40.4 astronomical units* (au) from Earth—as far away as the Kuiper Belt where Pluto resides. And should I live to see a century, NEOWISE will still be traveling away from Earth at a distance of 63.998 au—toward its origins in the Oort Cloud before it starts making its way back for that 8820 rendezvous with Earth.

By 8820—who knows—maybe short trips to see the comet up close will be possible or our descendants will have bridled the celestial traveler and placed it in a permanent orbit around Earth to be viewed indefinitely like the moon.

* * *

Two days following my birthday, I planned a solo overnight trip to the light-depleted expanse of Polecat Bench—only eight miles from my home town. I arrived well before sunset waiting for the comet to appear. I laughed so loud when I finally saw it as if someone had let me in on their joke. I even danced a little as it was pure joy.

Turning 60, may have been my best birthday ever.

*One astronomical unit represents the distance from the center of Earth to the center of the Sun—approximately 93 million miles. NEOWISE’s location on any given day, HERE.

Medical Minutiae, Ch.1

duplicate medical forms sent on the same day
Four duplicates of the same correspondence from eviCore Healthcare.

At a healthy 59-years-old, I’m not an expert on all things medical yet, but I think my education on this subject is going to be coming faster than I ever dreamed. And, a good part of that education will likely have to do with the exceptional waste and overpricing that we hear about on this subject, on any given news day.

Recently, I received four identical envelopes in the mail on the same day, and in opening them, wondered if the content was the same as well. “Nah, couldn’t be,” I thought to myself. “Surely there’s a different correspondence in each of the alike envelopes,” yet I couldn’t imagine what they were.

Anyway, whoever these people are at eviCore Healthcare, located in Franklin, Tennessee, they did manage to send me four identical letters with the same message about an upcoming MRI. The only contrast I could find in these four correspondences was that two of the letters had a time stamp of 9:54 a.m while the other two were stamped at 9:54, but all four were dated February 11. Go figure.

I’d like to think that this little anecdotal account isn’t representative of a glaring incompetency in the medical/insurance profession, but one has to wonder. I can almost understand getting two identical letters in this case, but four is something that makes you pause—and write a blog entry about.

Be a responsible calendar event scheduler

Office geeks: take notice.

Isn’t it nice that in the “busyness” of the world we live in, we have calendars that are integrated with our personal computers that help us stay organized and up-to-date with whatever is happening—on any given day, week, month, year, etc.? It certainly is helpful for me. That said, it’s not quite as euphoric as it sounds.

Not only can we schedule events on our calendars and be reminded of their impending happening, but often others (within the same group/organization) can invite—and thus schedule—events on one’s calendar too. Again, this is a great thing with the exception on one little oversight.

When I get a calendar invite, I typically only have to accept and the event is put on my schedule and I never have to worry about it again until the event is upon me—say 15 minutes upon me. You see, almost every person I know who has scheduled an event on my calendar has done so by not considering how much alert notice time is needed before the event arrives. By default, Microsoft Office Outlook’s scheduling of an event defaults to 15 minutes in the “Reminder” pop-up menu. However, there are many choices that are certainly better than “15 minutes.”

Microsoft Outlook’s default alert notice time. Go figure.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What is so bad about the “15 minutes” reminder of an upcoming event?”

In short, what are the chances that I’ll be sitting in front of my computer 15 minutes before a scheduled event to be reminded of it? And even if I was, who wants to be reminded with only 15 minutes notice of a meeting or event that might require 10 minutes just to get there—never mind whatever preparation is needed before arriving.

Consider the more and better options than a 15-minute default reminder.

The naysayers of my critique here will say something like this: “You can change that reminder notice on your calendar.” This is true, but I might as well schedule the event myself if I still have to go to the event on my calendar and edit it. And even when I do, I get this notice: “You have made changes to this meeting. If the organizer sends an update, your changes will be deleted.” And organizers changing their events is not exactly a rare occurrence.

I’ve lost count of how many meetings/events I’ve missed because I wasn’t in front of my computer 15 minutes before the alert reminder kicked in. And, it really takes the wind out of your sails when you finally do sit down in front of your computer to see one of those reminders staring you in the face knowing the event started 30 minutes ago or has already passed.

So here’s my proposal to all you office geeks who like to send out invites to meetings. Change the default “Reminder” time to something that is at least civil—say two hours. Personally, I prefer four or six hours, that way it is on my mind for a good chunk of time before I actually have to be there and I’ll be able to schedule any prep time that might be required as well.

It’s a simple request and a simple solution to a problem that can be way more complicated than need be.