My Dinner Party

I have a friend named Kathleen. She used to live nearby but now lives in Detroit with her husband and son. I miss seeing her and talking with her. I do realize technology enables conversations between people seperated by distances. But, it’s not the same.

 Molly, me & Kathleen. Someone said, “duck lips” and I had no idea what they were talking about

Molly, me & Kathleen. Someone said, “duck lips” and I had no idea what they were talking about

Kathleen always challenged me to think bigger and beyond. She asks great questions and she plays these little games. She has one where she asks people to imagine a dinner party where they can invite anyone they want. Then she asks, “Who would you invite?”

I wrote a post about this a few years back. It’s called “Keeping Company”. You can read it here. Or save yourself the time. Here’s my list from that post. I don’t think I would make any changes.

David Letterman (he would ask really good questions, keeping the discussion going)

Flannery O’Connor (because she scares me and it’s good to be scared sometimes)

Paul McCartney & John Lennon (I know, I know)

Tina Fey & Amy Poehler (They will split an entree)

Yo Yo Ma (hopefully he and John would play “Imagine” together)

Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck)

Flannery O’Connor may be the least familiar of these. Wikipedia has this to say about her: “She was a Southern writer who often wrote in a sardonic Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and supposedly grotesque characters, often in violent situations. The unsentimental acceptance or rejection of the limitations or imperfection or difference of these characters (whether attributed to disability, race, criminality, religion or sanity) typically underpins the drama.”

Her book, “The Violent Bear It Away” still gives me nightmares. All of the people at my dinner party, I believe would not be afraid to ask hard, intriguing questions. I probably would have to ask them to clarify and I still might not understand, but I believe they would accept me anyway.

When Kathleen plays this game, she’s not happy to just let you name who you would invite. You must talk about the conversation you imagine might take place. It goes like this: if you ask Kathleen a question, she might say what would the people at your dinner party have to say about it?

For example, (and by the way, I’m using the actual words from my dinner guests in this make-believe scenario) maybe I would acknowledge the despair I sometimes feel these days regarding the state of our Union. Maybe John Lennon would say:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the wo
rld will be as one

To which Flannery O’Conner would surely reply, “To expect too much is to have a sentimental view of life and this is a softness that ends in bitterness.”

Then Paul McCartney might suggest:

When all the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Wow, this is getting deep. So we retire to the living room. Now we’re enjoying coffee and pecan pie.

David Letterman says, “If it wasn't for the coffee, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsover.”

The conversation pauses and we listen reverently as Yo Yo plays “Thaïs Méditation” on his cello he just happened to bring to a dinner party at my house.

Then I say something like: Thank God for beauty; for art; for music, and for humor! Tina, you must have grown up in a funny family.

And Tina says, “I grew up in a family of Republicans. And when I was 18 and registering to vote, my mom's only instruction was 'You just go in and pull the big Republican lever.' That's my welcome to adulthood. She's like, 'No, don't even read it. Just pull the Republican lever.’”

The laughter feels good.

Ms. O’Conner says, “At its best our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”

Lennon and McCartney:

I’m so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone
I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me?

To which Amy Poehler advises, “Don't treat your heart like an action figure wrapped in plastic and never used. And don't try to give me that nerd argument that your heart is a 'Batman' with a limited-edition silver bat-erang and therefore if it stays in its original packing it increases in value.”

Then Atticus takes his watch from the pocket of his vest. I’m not sure if he’s really checking the time or if it’s just a habit—pulling that watch from his vest pocket. He has the full attention of the dinner party and he says, “You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change.”

And Yo Yo plays, “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms”.

A few days later I see Kathleen to tell her thank you for the Dinner Party game. She’s wearing a shirt that says, “Dare to Dream”. So I do.

 my friend Kathleen

my friend Kathleen

Beyond Underwear

There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.
— Milton Glaser
 eames chairs

eames chairs

In my last blog post, “Let’s Talk Underwear”, I attempted to show the importance of design at a most basic level. If you’re a designer of Ralph Lauren’s notoriety and scale, how do you come into the studio one day and say, “We’re going to design a pair of men’s boxer shorts so amazing it will be worthy of our signature polo player embroidered on the garment.” I guess it’s the attention to detail.

Now, thinking bigger: is there anything we see, use, play with or consume (afterall we are “consumers”) that has not been designed?

Design fascinates me. Because, it is built of some of my favorites things: inspiration, ideas, creativity, motivation, trial, error, success, failure, beauty, function and simplicity.


Design is so simple. That’s why it’s so complicated.
— Paul Rand

In addition to mentioning underwear in the last post, I made a glancing reference to the #2 pencil, specifically the Ticonderogo Dixon. Look at the beauty and complexity of its design! A wooden shaft hollowed and filled with lead, just the right lead to make a #2. Shaped on a lathe and cut to a hexagon so it won’t roll off the desk and comfortable in the hand. Made of wood that can be sharpened extending its use. With an eraser on the other end, because stuff happens.

Dixon-Ticonderoga-Wood-Cased-2-HB-Pencils-Pre-Sharpened-Box-of-30-Yellow-1.jpg

Let’s think about ultimate design—big C, Creation. Everything we know about the creative process and the inspiration behind it we know from the Creation process. Some will think me narrow-minded because I believe in Divine Creation. Frankly, I see myself as being so open-minded that I believe I am creative because I am made in the image of the Creator. 

There is so much to learn here when you dream on this scale. Let’s take a look at just one element of design: integrity. For certain, one of the elements of great design is integrity. Here’s the test: It is what it purports to be, it delivers what it promises, it is honest and reliable.

How does Creation show the integrity of design and the Designer? Consider a banana. Have you ever peeled a banana and found anything but banana inside? This wonderful, self-packaged, portable fruit is well-designed for a number of reasons, but the one we’re considering right now is its integrity. It promises to be a banana and it is—every single time.

Just a suggestion or two: 1. Have a banana today. 2. Pay attention today to the design of the things that are a part of your life. Imagine the design process of the designer behind it.

Let's Talk About Underwear

NORMALLY I DON'T take pictures of my underwear, but hey it’s the 2000s right? So, here it is.

boxers.jpg


LET’S TALK ABOUT GOOD DESIGN. Sometimes it’s about aesthetics, or at least it is to me. Sometimes it’s about function. Sometimes you get both.

 THE ICONIC KITCHENAID MIXER

THE ICONIC KITCHENAID MIXER

Fashion design is big business, and I’m guessing that when most people talk fashion design they are speaking of the aesthetics, the form and then the function.

Fashion design for me is first and foremost about comfort. For many years I’ve worn Polo® boxers. Not because of that little polo player embroidered somewhere on the garment, and not because I want to wear “designer” underwear. I don’t know Ralph Lauren personally, but I hope he reads my blog. As far as I know he still lives in New York City and I do have readers in New York, but I don’t know who they are (in most cases).

So Ralph, if you’re reading this: WHY IN THE WORLD DID YOU CHANGE THE DESIGN OF YOUR TRIED AND TRUE BOXERS? 

One of the reasons I’ve worn overpriced undies for years is the quality and comfort. I tend to wear my boxers until they are so threadbare they are reduced to molecules holding hands. My favorite feature has always been that the fabric is wrapped around the elastic waistband and then sewn. Soooo comfortable. [see my underwear photo above for a comparison of the two waistbands]

Dixon-Ticonderoga-Wood-Cased-2-HB-Pencils-Pre-Sharpened-Box-of-30-Yellow-1.jpg

Maybe it’s the spirit of “back to school” but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to go shopping for #2 pencils, new jeans and underwear. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened the package and saw the irreverence for good design in this new style.

The last thing you want in the hot, humidity of an Oklahoma summer is uncomfortable underwear—especially an itchy, scatchy, prickly, bare waistband. 

A few days later

They’re not as bad as I had feared, but still… Come on Ralph! Can’t you put your design energy into something new and leave a great design like your boxers alone?

Remember that time Coke tried to change their recipe and pass it off as “new coke”? That could happen to you Ralph.

Vlogging--Fun for all ages?

THE KIDS ARE DOING SOMETHING these days called vlogging. Best I can tell it hasn’t set off danger alarms and warning flags among parent groups and religious fundamentalists like poor little Harry Potter did, or Ouija boards, or Chubby Checker and The Twist, or the Hula-Hoop, or The Beatles. It does involve social media, a device with a screen, and putting-yourself-out-there, so it does come with those typical inherent concerns.

It’s kind of a fun word to say—vlogging. Rhymes with clogging, which, by the way, sounds like something you might see: someone vlogging about clogging.

Best I can tell, it is sort of a mix of journaling and home movies; except for the fact that probably few people care to read my journal, and if I remember correctly, no one wants to see anyone’s home movies. I may recall that there were times when we would have company over that didn’t seem to want to leave, even though it was “getting late.” So, Dad would say, “Let me get out the old slide projector and show you the shots of our vacation to the painted desert.” Within minutes you could see the hazy red of their taillights glowing through the exhaust of the family sedan.

 Home Movies. Stevan Dohanos (1907 – 1994)

Home Movies. Stevan Dohanos (1907 – 1994)

Here’s an official definition:

A vlog (or video blog) is a blog that contains video content. The small, but growing, segment of the blogosphere devoted to vlogs is sometimes referred to as the vlogosphere. Definition from WhatIs.com

I like to journal. I like to write a blog. I like taking pictures and shooting video. And although I’m an introvert, I have enough arrogance and creative drive to put-myself-out-there. Do I have delusions that anyone would watch an on-going vlog called About Pops? None! I can imagine someone saying, “WOW, would you look at the time! Honey, better gather up the kids. We gotta get home.”

It’s kind of like this blog. I created AboutPOPS.com in August 2013. Five years ago (and my sixth grade teacher told me I couldn’t stick to anything). I didn’t start this blog with aspirations of a huge readership. As I’ve said before, it was mostly about a motivation to write. I love to write, but without a deadline, an impetus, a spark, I lean to good intentions but no words on the paper.

Now, five years later, I enjoy looking back over the posts and remembering the births of grand-kids, a marriage, trips, good times, uncertain times, silliness, making people mad, making people question my sanity, questioning my own sanity.

The other day I got a call from our son Corey: “It’s time to renew your URL for About Pops. I’m assuming you want to do that?” I didn’t think about it. I just said yes. Had I thought it over, I might have said, “Five years is long enough.” I’m glad I didn’t. It’s still fun.

Blogging is one thing. Vlogging is another. My 8-year old Grand-Girl, Karlee, showed me a few videos by vloggers. Then I found a few on my own. I find it fascinating. If I were 17, I would definitely start vlogging. At 67? Why not?

Hold on while I set up the movie projector.