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Every Friday afternoon, I spend an hour at my kids’ school. It’s on Friday afternoons that Ione and her classmates from the 2nd grade have Art class. Sometimes, it feels like that commitment is infringing on my free time, but most of the time, I really enjoy it. The teacher likes having me help out because I know a little about art and she likes the way I interact with the kids about their artwork. The kids work on something, and I sit down and talk to them about what they are trying to communicate and what they are thinking. It’s fun. But, I won’t lie. Sometimes, I encourage their less appropriate creative expressions.

A few weeks ago, the kids started working on white glue relief print Christmas cards. Don’t ask, it’s not important. The important thing here is that I was walking around the room and I stopped by one of my favorite students. She sees things a little bit differently than the rest of the world. I like her. She had created a very interesting image. It was obviously a manger, the place one would expect to find a baby Jesus. But, in her manger, there appeared to be a 30 pound sausage. My curiosity was piqued.

“Hey, Jane (name changed to protect her identity). Cool picture. What’s that in the manger?”
“It’s baby Jesus. He’s wrapped up like a mummy cuz he’s dead.”
“Sweet. I really like it.”

See what I mean? Well, I came back a couple of weeks later to help the kids finish up their projects. I cut out the prints they had made and, using glue stick, glued them to a large piece of black paper. Glue stick sucks. They should outlaw that crap. I passed out all of the prints to their respective owners and then handed them a white pencil. They were supposed to come up with a greeting or phrase that played off their image. Another one of my favorites had drawn a cross with a manger in the middle of it that looked like light was exploding out of it. He was struggling, so I suggested he write something about light and darkness. He came up with, “the light came into the darkness.” I thought that was very hopeful in an Adventy kind of way.

I kept walking around the room until I came to Jane’s station. I looked down at her work. She had written:

Jesus is alive!, or
is he dead?!?

I think that’s probably the best Christmas card I have ever seen.

I heard a story on NPR this morning about “scraper bikes” that really got me thinking (and feeling). Scraper bikes are all the rage in Oakland amongst kids that don’t have enough money for cars. No, scraper bikes haven’t saved anyone’s soul or paid anyone’s way through Harvard. But, they do represent these kids taking control of their own lives and their own destinies through creative expressions and solutions.

The thing I love most in this (homemade, mind you) video is the shot of them all riding through their town in a giant pack, taking over the streets. I think these kids would scare the hell out of most of the people reading this blog (even me). But, that’s why I like it so much. These kids didn’t suddenly stop being African American teens in Oakland. They didn’t magically become white, middle class kids. They are what they are, and they are finding the inherent positivity in order to keep themselves out of trouble – doing it the way they want, looking the way they want, on their own initiative. In my day, we called that “being punk”. Now that I am old, I just think it is damn cool – and, it represents a hopeful future for America.

You can also check out their myspace pages.

The actual headline? “Giant poo wreaks havoc” Well… duh! What else is it gonna do?!?

As reported by National Nine News

A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again, the museum has said.

The art work, titled “Complex S**t”, is the size of a house.

The wind carried it 200 metres from the Paul Klee Centre in Berne before it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children’s home, said museum director Juri Steiner.

The inflatable turd broke the window at the children’s home when it blew away on the night of July 31, Steiner said.

The art work has a safety system which normally makes it deflate when there is a storm, but this did not work when it blew away.

Steiner said McCarthy had not yet been contacted and the museum was not sure if “Complex S**t” would be put back on display.

They almost never use the actual word. Fired. They prefer more sanitary, dignified phrases like “terminated.” At least that’s what Mrs B. said when she unwittingly destined me for a lifetime of unfulfilling employment (for both me and my employers). I’ll never forget that day. The very first time I got fired. I walked into work one day, and there it was – the pink slip. Literally. My head began to swim. This can’t really be happening, can it? My eyes scanning the page for the words “final warning,” but to no avail. This was the real thing – terminated. I was suddenly aware of the presence of a dozen or so coworkers. 28 eye balls mercilessly burning unspoken shame into my very soul. Now I understood why silence had dropped as they all watched me walk to my work station.

What do I do now? How will I survive? Who’s going to hire someone who’s been fired? What will my family think? I felt my future crumbling. The humiliation. The embarrassment. My life will never be the same.

I felt flushed. I felt faint. What’s that near my eye? Is that a tear? I’m crying?

Deep breath. Breathe, Jim.

Right then and there, I pulled myself together and I told myself, “Enough!” Never again will I allow someone else to infringe on my dignity. Never again will I allow a “superior” to determine my value as an individual. No corporation is ever going to determine my worth!

I sat on Mrs B’s garage floor and I folded those papers like I had a purpose! Each rubber band surrounded the neatly creased newsprint with a defiant SNAP! I filled up my paperboy bag, placed it on my handlebars and I peddled like HELL! I was in the zone. I was perfect. I would show them! I porched each and every delivery on my 36 subscriber paper route – which I had worked up from 32 just 5 months earlier!

As I rode home, I consoled myself with one thought. “I’m the best damn newspaper boy the Chronicle has ever seen. They’ll miss me. I’m going places. They’ll see. They’ll see.”

I can’t quite remember what I was fired for. But, who remembers details when they are 11 anyways? Gimme a break.

This series of posts has been a long time coming. Honestly, the only reason it has taken me this long is that I couldn’t decide where to start. Yes, I do have that many choices. So, I thought a preface, a preamble, possibly a prelude might be appropriate. An introduction, you might say. Just to make a few things clear.

First, I am a good employee. I don’t care what anyone says (obviously). I have always had a very strong work ethic. I have always performed well. I have always been promoted – providing I didn’t get fired first.

Secondly, there was not a single time I was fired for fair, reasonable, or just reasons. Honestly. No matter what I was accused of, I never did it. It wasn’t my fault. Ever. I’m serious.

Thirdly, I have had jobs I did not get fired from. Some might suggest that I usually left them in inappropriate, immature, or insensitive ways. But, in my experience, former bosses never have kind things to say.

Fourthly, I once heard getting fired from jobs was a sign of intelligence, creativity, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

As you wait for the second installment of the ongoing series “jobs I’ve been fired from”, which, if all goes well, will include an actual story of me getting fired from a job, I have a question or two for you… Have you ever been fired? From what job and what for? You’ve never been fired? I find that hard to believe. Either way, let me know.

Some people geek out about classic arcade games. Some geek out about Battlestar Galactica (yes, I am looking at you, Erika). Some geek out about Pokémon. Some, believe it or not, geek out about Calvinism. The list goes on and on. Ironically, I geek out about very few things. Why is that ironic? Because I am interested in many things which would normally top the geek out lists: Star Wars, action figures, comic books, computers, vintage rayguns. But, I almost never geek out on those things. What do I geek out on? Typography. Cut me some slack. I was (and still am on a limited basis) a graphic designer for a major portion of my life. And, the most exciting thing about design is typography. Ohhhh, I just love that word. Typography. The combination of ascenders and descenders. The possibilities for ligatures. All that glorious negative space. Mmmmm, I just want to look at it: typography.

One of my most favorite things about typography is how it can enhance or distract from a text’s intended meaning. In other words: how I can make words mean more or less than just their intended denotation through the manipulation of font, size, color, placement, etc. That is power!

Enter my new favorite website, wordle.com. Letterforms, letterforms, everywhere letterforms! Here’s one I made of one of my sermons out of 1 John. Of most interest to me is the reinterpretation of the body of the text using the most often used words. It communicates the message in a completely different way while using the same words. That is just neat!