To Blog or Not or What

Boy, it sure has been nice these past four days to not post an entry into Deckchairs. I spent the past four days doing very little work, thinking a lot about work, spending some calm time with the family, trying to get my daughter to eat, and see old and good friends. Lovely.
But I have three thoughts about why it’s been so nice not to blog:
1. I think blogging, for all of its gorgeousness, is a horrendously time-sucking affair that can add up to little at the end of the day. Questions like “Who the hell is reading this?” and “Why the hell am I doing this?” necessarily enter the brain of the blogger if that blogger really has a brain. It’s just that few like to ask these questions publicly and let on to the fact that ambivalence is as much a part of blogging as is typing.
2. Blogging is an inherently transitional affair of the heart. It’s not documentary writing per se, nor is it publishing, nor is it diaristic, purely. It’s a combination of all of these, filtered through the limited means of electronic forms and databases and constructed so as to appear whole, unified, cogent to the outside world. Blogging is not one thing, it’s never done, and it’s never fully satisfying because, like the medium it relies upon, it’s replete but never complete. The Web is always about the next big thing, the next thing, the next.
3. The questions I’m raising are not accepted, nor celebrated, by bloggers the world over because they go right to the heart of the experience of blogging. I’m also not raising them because I want to end my “affair” with Deckchairs and blogging, nor because blogging has become dull, tiresome, and trite. (It has not.) Rather, I wonder what would happen if every blogger could write about the vagaries and ambivlances of blogging itself — the activities, the thought processes, the improbable forays on the Web and off for information and synthesis — for one week and one week only. Only then could we see what blogging is truly about.
That’s what will happen here this week — an experiment in living blogging.


When I lived in Troy, in upstate New York, I went to the local Wal-Mart often and always felt sleazoid about it, as if I was hurting someone with every “low price” item I chose. I was cognizant that the land that once stood where the ware-box is was once gorgeous farmland. I also knew that the nice, older gentleman who greeted me at the door was a retiree who looked kind of out of place, yet he seemed happy.
The cover story in this month’s Fast Company, called The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know, puts the truth to my uncomfort. While the low prices I admired were quite nice, the economic impact of Wal-Mart’s global pricing strategy is overwhelming. Some stats: almost 10% of all Chinese exports go to Wal-Mart. 12% of the economic gains in the late 1990s “can be traced to Wal-Mart” according to McKinsey. None of this is, in and of itself, terrible. But, in its desire to own world commerce, the company has essentially driven all retail production to factories where labor is hardly an issue to be reckoned with. Moreover, manufacturers like Levi Strauss, one of my favorite brands, is now selling its cheap-o Signature line there, killing its more quality-driven labels, and putting all of its factories across the border. What does all this mean? My guess is that Levi Strauss will be out of business in 5 years. And so will all of its employees, here and abroad. The race to the bottom only goes one way.

Signs in NYC

14 to 42: New York City Signs features about five dozen photos of those beautiful, hand-painted and now decaying commercial signs that used to be found throughout Manhattan. These ads for hotels, clothing, restaurants and warehouses are symbols of an era gone but they continue to peek out from beneath their blankets of grime and worn paint and remind us of our pre-lapsarian past.
While the signs speak for themselves, the author, Walter Grutchfield, has researched many of these fading images, providing commentary and context to this visual archive. I especially like the the all-over signage on the Endicott Express building at 555 W. 33rd Street.


I watched a great friend complete the Philadelphia Marathon today at 11:58:08 (I think). Althought I’ve been here in New York for many years, I’ve never actually thought of attending a marathon (let alone participate in one).
But watching my pal complete the 26.2 mile course around the entire city was not only a milestone for him, but one for me. I saw not only the spirit of pure individualistic athleticism but the mysterious advances of almost perpetual motion on the human form. I witnessed a woman weeping as she crossed the finish line. I watched a man in a wheelchair fly across the finish, arm muscles bulging brightly. I saw two retired-looking women cascade through the gates together, almost holding hands. I felt the pain of one woman who walked through the finish line after stopping every 5 seconds to look at her evidently badly hurting foot. I saw one man do push-ups on the pavement only six yards from the finish as the crowd gushed. And I saw sheer glory in the smiling faces of people cheering others’ accomplishments, on the largest scale in the smallest form.


I’m very happy to announce that, after about six weeks of redesign, is now relaunched.
Unless you have an extremely good eye, you won’t notice much of a difference, which was the entire point of the exercise. The new site, which features new client case studies, new copy, and slightly updated navigation is done entirely without tables in XHTML and CSS.
What does this mean if you’re not a Web designer? It means the site is available to those with visual and hearing disabilities. It means that the entire site is built with structural markup so PDAs and cell phones can see the site easily. It means that the site loads in about 1/2 the time as it did before. It means that it adheres to advancing Web standards and it is very easily managed and updated.
Much thanks go to Michael Barrish for his patient and brilliant XHTML/CSS assistance.

The Sprint

Today I received my first email ever from Sprint PCS President Len Lauer that reiterated how happy the company is to have me as a customer. The headline was “Your loyalty is appreciated.” I do appreciate the nicely designed email newsletter that went out to all of its customers today and the facts the email enumerated. They are, for instance, building 1700 new cell towers this year — where I don’t know but probably not in NYC where I live and work.
I also appreciate the fact that they are offering better customer service. And mostly I appreciate that Sprint is the first to line up for my valued loyalty, which on November 24, 2003, will be splintered into a newly traded commodity.


Here is a random series of thoughts that will make sense if I let them:
I just slipped on a small, rubber frog. I bought a new product today called “Miii Milanos” by Pepperidge Farm, but I ended up eating more of them than I would have if I bought regular Milanos. Michael Jackson’s initials are “M.J.” I’m watching the Bachelor choose his wife now; we all know it’s going to be Kelly Jo and that his parents are liars. I had a headache all day today but managed to come up with some really nice designs for a client. My daughter spilled chocolate milk in the bathtub which was kind of beautiful. The rain is coming down hard and they killed another big tree for Rockefeller Center.

Matt Lauer

I always wondered when an erudite commentator would write a fine article about the illiteral rise and shine of the morning shows. It’s happened in last week’s (or was it two weeks now) issue of The New Republic.
I can’t recommend this piece highly enough. In it, Lee Siegel brilliantly and so cogently deconstructs the awkward ties between the emotional and monetary oddities that play out on shows like The Today Show, where Matt Lauer’s thin hair is a point of dishonest shamefulness (unlike my own) and Katie starts to look a bit like a stuffed animal. Siegel makes the point that, as the morning shows have eclipsed all other “news” programs on television, the strained and self-conscious faces of the commentators have taken on a reality that everyone can bear, particularly in the morning. I’ve always thought that it was odd that these people are pretending to be like our jagged morning selves and because they’re tired and well-paid, they are. Just a few excerpts, which do so much more justice to the entire affair:
Diane Sawyer is the master of the endearing awkwardness, sometimes forgetting which way to walk on the soundstage. (She always remembers when to forget.) There is even a kind of daily duel between her and her office-husband, Charles Gibson, over who is a more flawed and ordinary human being.
Matt Lauer makes Sammy Glick look like Khalil Gibran. The new haircut, revealing the thinning hair, gives his anxious pushiness both justification and pathos. His facial expression is always one step ahead of his conversation. He is a man whose eyes have never been introduced to his tongue. If he is talking with someone who just lost a child, his expression indicates that he is thinking about his next guest, who just made a new movie.
and mostly:
Gide said that you cannot appear sincere and be sincere at the same time.


A well-written article in today’s New York Times detailed the growing probability of health insurance will become a luxury. I’ve known about the statistic for some time: 15.2% of the US does not have health care, 32% are Hispanic, most are 18 to 34 years of age, and they span the geographical spectrum. Now it appears that span is hitting the socio-economic spectrum, excluding the very wealthy, but perhaps not even.
The health of the United States and the health of its people should be equivalent, no? I only wonder where is the tipping point of this outrage: what will push the balance over, to begin re-regulation or re-distributive health services? Would Malcolm Gladwell say 30.4%?