Saturday, August 18, 2007

Illegibly yours

Penmanship just isn't that important for most gen X-ers.

There wasn't much time devoted to teaching proper penmanship. While we had the lined paper and the uber-big caricatures of what the letters should look like, writing in longhand wasn't stressed. I always felt it was faster to print than write in cursive. I attempted to use cursive, but I never mastered it.

Sporadically you come across someone who still writes in cursive. I think they must have had the nuns "instilling" the importance of legibility.

Thinking about my previous entry about celebrity and requesting autographs I thought about how illegible autographs are these days. The musicians quickly scribble their name on the CD jacket. Perhaps this evolved out of signing numerous albums for fans and wanting to get through them quickly instead of distinguishing each letter of their name. Nowadays you're lucky to pick out the first letter of their first and last name.

I have fallen into this laziness/expediency as well. I blame a few things, seeing as it clearly isn't my fault but some external factor.

The digital age has led to more typing than writing by hand. Word offers a number of fonts if I really want to make it look like I wrote a note or paper by hand. The large shift to digital writing came around high school. Why write twice? I can type up my thoughts in the 'ole word processor, spell check, save and print. While typing seems more efficient I believe it removes a step from the writing process. Whenever I write on paper I have more time to reorganize and collect my thoughts. I am not focusing on the red and green squiggly lines under my prose. Instead I doodle my own "art" in the margins. Also by writing things out you are forced to edit what you wrote when you eventually type up what you wrote.

The other thing I blame is the credit card signing machines in stores. I used to try to distinguish each letter of my name but now it's a big A followed by one of those wavy lines, a break and another indecipherable line. It makes no difference in the store if my signature really looks like my signature. Unfortunately, my real signature now resembles the one on the credit card machines.

Go here and see if you would have been able to match the scribble to the scribe. My theory is that over time signatures have become less decipherable and more unique (perhaps to combat forgery). We surely have come a long way from John Hancock.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sign here

Get it in writing they always say.

It's story time:

A young boy eagerly attended a Cubs game with his Uncle and cousins. Hoping to get his first signed ball. The ball was neon orange and green, slightly used. Once at the park the uncle took the ball and went behind the dugout to see about getting some autographs. The ball went unsigned. Derrick Mays didn't sign colored balls.

For all you sleuths reading this, you may have already gathered that the young boy was this underpaid, under-utilized writer. Go ahead. Get the Kleenex. I'll wait.

This was one of the first big disappointments from a superstar. One of many I could expect from the Cubs style of baseball. For the record I didn't want Mays' signature. I was after Sosa's.

I've never really been star crazy, hungry for autographs. It seems like by asking someone to sign something you are elevating them above you. Putting them on a pedestal. I'll admit there are many people with great talent in this world. Athletes, movie stars, comedians, rock stars. They all get bombarded to sign various things.

Recently I've deviated from my no autograph policy. While I still firmly believe that stars are people too, no better than most of us (possibly much worse), of late I have requested some scribbles. I feel awkward doing it. The past requests have all been of jazz artists I really dig. (I use the word 'dig' because Kurt Elling used it and I feel it's one of the ways I can show that I'm hip and "get" jazz.)

Now, I conceptualize autographs like photos. They commemorate an evening. When I saw "Fathead" Newman at the Jazz Showcase I purchased his CD and asked him to sign. I also asked the other band members. They stated that they didn't play on the CD. I wasn't concerned with that detail. All I knew was that I saw them play that night.

My second signing was the incomparable Kurt Elling at the Green Mill. I went up in between sets and offered up my CD to the altar of musical gospel. He signed and gave a smile out of the side of his mouth and returned to sorting through his sheet music.

The final one was Karrin Allyson also at the Mill. I went to her after the final set of an amazing show that I didn't want to end. She gave a sincere thanks and off I went. I think I said the show was amazing or phenomenal.

Despite saying earlier that artists/stars are just like everyone else there is something different. When I've gone up I am not quite sure what to say. Like conversations with strangers at a bar, you cant really engage in meaningful conversation. I have yet to say anything unique or distinguishable. Most times it's "I love your style" or "You're great." They respond "thanks" and that concludes the "conversation." There is a certain level of admiration for people who you hear on the radio or see on the screen. They are both like you and not at the same time.

I guess I have more respect for musicians, especially jazz, than I do for athletes, especially ones who don't provide their paying fans with autographs. I am not sure if someday down the road I want to be the one taking requests for autographs. In whatever I end up doing I want to be respected as a leader in the field (power napping?). In the corporate world I have a feeling signatures are only valuable on contracts. I doubt people run up and ask you to sign a TPS report.

I am looking forward to getting some signatures...on my paychecks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If I had a nickel

First read this if you haven't already heard about the latest Man versus McDonalds.

If you are lazy and don't wish to read here are the bullet points:
  • Man goes to McD's yearning for that greasy goodness
  • Orders quarter-pounder repeatedly telling staff: no fromage
  • Goes home and eats in "darkened room"
  • Gets ill and has to go to the hospital
  • Sues McD's for $10 million (for those fans of Wendy's that's 10 million frostys or 50 million chicken nuggets)
It is likely that most of us repeated connoisseurs of the nearly instantaneous have received an order that wasn't right. I surely can relate to this man. Unlike Jake Blues and the Lord, me and cheese don't have an understanding. While my temperamental tum-tum doesn't fancy the lactose offerings, it is thankfully not to the degree of this man. I have gone to restaurants and fast food chains and received my food with shavings of Parmesan or slices of American.

In our haste to feast, when do we usually figure out the mistake? Only when we free the burger from its constrictive foil wrapper and lift the bun do we spot the pernicious pickles or the melted, inseparable cheese. How do we respond? We respond as if this is some malicious catastrophe.

"I can't believe it! I told them no ________. I hate _____. Next time I'm checking the bag before I leave. I should take this back."

But we don't go back. At least not often. But why? Fast food is usually a last minute decision to put food on the table and quickly thereafter in the belly. We get the grub on our way home from work or during a lunch break. We simply don't have time to go back. By the time we get the food, after waiting in either the drive-thru or in-store line, we drive home wafting the aroma of a juicy burger or greasy, salty fries. The stomach juices start flowing; sustenance is near.

It's very logical, you see. The only thing you perform at the restaurant is a cursory count to see if everything you ordered is in the bag. You may toss in some sauce, napkins or straws. Rarely does someone check the food before they leave. Maybe it's because we don't want to disrupt the process of other people in line. If you think about it, we, the consumers, act much like the cattle that found their way to the "Burger Shack." We wind through the metal fencing/stockades and then take part in a routine transaction. (Sidebar: are we all really that tired that we ALL need to lean against the railing thing?)

One final point before I make a run to eat great, even late: cut the workers some slack. How many burgers do you think they make per day? Perhaps you are the lucky one that continuously gets the burger with mustard despite emphatically declaring that if a seed of mustard is on your food you may die. Sometimes they get your order right, sometimes not. I am not sure how accurate I would be after hours in a hot kitchen with the only reward being that huge check I could expect.