Tomato Planet
Probably pretty ugly if using Internet
Explorer 9 or earlier.

9 16 18

Don't Glue on Your Face.

great white whale

I don't hang much with kids. Maybe I should more. It seems when I do, I learn something, usually profound. Like the time just before my wife and I went to Ireland and our nephew Shawn, then 7, sent a nice hand drawn card that said, Watch out for leprechauns. They steal your stuff. Sure enough, my passport went missing halfway through the trip.

I've been watching out for leprechauns ever since.

I just had another infusion of this wisdom of children. Owen Kleon, age 5, occasionally posts on his dad's web site. Last week, in his post A day of zines, one of the entries was titled Don't Glue on Your Face. The accompanying picture shows exactly what he means. Applying glue to face art makes a mess. And yes, glue can make a mess of real world faces, too. It can stick your nostrils together and remove eyebrows. It would take weeks to recover! Practical advice for art and makeup. I'll follow that advice.

But there is also a deeper ambiguity in the statement. I thought of the persona that we all glue on. You know the ones–the bored, don't-bother-me face for work, the faux happyface for the cousin we don't like but have to put up with, a look of studious concentration in a philosophy class or a happy hour conversation where you lost the thread a long time ago because you got a little ahead on the dollar jello shots.

Anyway, don't glue on your face. Let your true self and feelings show! Be authentic, be real. T.S. Eliot probably said it best–there will be time/ To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Best except now for Owen, who said it more colorfully and graphically. So don't glue on your face. It's a lot of unnecessary work.

Even I'm surprised that I'm quoting Eliot. I'm still ticked at him for resuscitating Moby Dick. If Melville and the try works were still buried in obscurity (that is, not on the syllabus), I would have enjoyed college a lot more.

9 2 18

Things We Do

Last week, I mentioned practicing some automatic learned behavior when someone asked for a light.

A couple of days ago, I was watching The Hallmark Channel (AKA the guilty pleasure network) and spotted another example. An older couple was bicycling, using two old-school girl's bicycles, (the type without a top bar for you young'un hipster millennial types, who, now that I think about it, probably know exactly what I'm talking about, since they've probably gone full circle and now are back in fashion).

When it was time to continue the journey, the woman stepped through the bicycle, putting her leg in front of the part of the frame that held the seat. The man, meanwhile, swung his left leg over the seat, like he would have done when he was younger and riding a real bicycle, i.e., a boy's bicycle. Boys didn't ride girl's bicycles. You could catch cooties that way.

Even so, they still got one thing wrong. Usually guys would get on from the left side, because that's the side the kickstand is on. Raise kickstand. Swing leg. Pedal off.

They Said It

Creativity is not and never has been sensible.

Julia Cameron

8 28 18

Alas, Ernie.

Strand Magazine just announced that they will publish a previously unpublished Ernest Hemingway story. Titled A Room on the Garden Side, Hemingway had apparently told an editor about it and five other stories back when he wrote it in the 1920s, but only gave the editor one of the stories to publish. The others were tucked away until now (apparently)

I haven't read the story, and don't plan to. I suspect Hemingway had reasons for not releasing those stories for publication, and I, for one, am going to respect the author's judgement and wishes in this regard. My guess is he probably thought they weren't good enough and wasn't going to insult his readers, no matter how tempting the money was.

Old Habits

Last week, I was walking back to the car from the library, when young man politely asked if I had a light. I slapped my pocket to make sure before I said, No, sorry.

I knew I didn't have a light. I haven't smoked in nearly twenty years. So what am I doing checking the pocket on the outside chance that a lighter had suddenly materialized?

They Said It

Sanity Lies in Paying Attention.

Julia Cameron

8 19 18

On Being Tall

I've always been tall. Most of the family is. I guess given a choice, that's preferable. I have heard that tall people have many distinct advantages, especially men. Women prefer tall mates and tall men are supposedly at an advantage in the workplace in terms of advancement.

Well. maybe. I'm sure there are advantages i've received that I'm not really aware I'm receiving, because I've always been tall.

And yes, of course there are disadvantages to being short. Lord knows I've heard most of them, usually from short people who resent my height.

Hey, don't put that on me. Go back in time and get taller parents, or get better fed, or whatever it is that makes people taller. Maybe a different ethnic heritage. Lots of possibilities.

So what are the disadvantages? They sound petty, but they can have profound effects far beyond the simple surface statement.

  • Tall people are always in the back in any photographs or lines or classes based on height. Even if the class was alphabetical, if I was in the front row or two, I would get shifted to the back of the room. After a while, you just automatically head to the back of the line or posing area. And once you start thinking that way, it applies to life. You're going to be in the back in all sorts of ways. So just go and stay there.
  • Getting things on low shelves. Yeah, people keep you around when they need something off a high shelf. But where are they when you need something from a low shelf? Right. Nowhere to be found.
  • Health hazards. I am constantly banging my head in our basement. I'm surprised I haven't knocked myself out yet. I was in my thirties when I finally was able to stretch out completely on a bed, and then I did it by lying diagonally on a queen size bed. (Yes, I know there is such a thing as a long twin bed, but try and find sheets for it, especially at a reasonable price.) Anyway back trouble, head trouble, shorter life?
  • Adjusting to a Lilliput world. I saw an episode of Property Brothers where the construction brother was fighting with the homeowner about the height of a kitchen island–the homeowner wanted it higher than the standard. I find it much easier to cut, chop and prepare food on a higher counter. We have one in this house. I am happy.
    On the other hand, I think that plumbers' unions have a height requirement for membership, and once a member, ll no plumbing fixture, including shower heads, can be installed any higher than they can comfortably reach. So every morning, I get into the shower and I'm staring down at the shower head. I't's a perfect height to serve as a microphone if I sang in the shower. The list goes on, everything adjusted to the height of the average American, set I think in 1830, when the height of the average American was like 5 feet 3 inches, also known as really short.
  • Stereotypes. OK, I know people are just trying to be nice, or acknowledge your presence, or whatever, but sometimes, the same ol' gets, well, old. I bet you played basketball in school. (No, I wanted to be a racehorse jockey.) or How's the weather up there? (Raining [or sunny, whatever the opposite weather is]. How's it down there?)

It's probably just as well that when we were growing up, we were always told to not intimidate people. Otherwise we could get really mean. If only our backs didn't hurt so much from not being able to stretch out in bed.

8 12 18

Telling the Whole Story

In Turtles All The Way Down, the protagonist Asa learns that a story her mother told her was not the whole story. Because of her new knowledge, she undergoes a transformation and acceptance of self.

Asa's mom is not the only one who shorts stories. Angel Chernoff did it too. Here's the story she told.


A couple thousand years ago in ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates was strolling contemplatively around a community garden when a neighbor walked up to him and said, You’re never in a million years going to believe what I just heard about our mutual friend.

Wait,” Socrates interrupted, putting his hand up in the air. “Before you continue with this story, your words must pass the triple filter test?

The what?

The triple filter test, Socrates said.

The neighbor just stared at him with a blank expression.

Socrates continued, The first filter is Truth. Are you absolutely sure the story you are about to tell me is true?

Well, no, the neighbor said, I literally just heard it from someone else I know.

Ah-ha… Socrates quickly replied, then let’s move on to the second filter. Is what you are about to share Good in any way, shape or form?

No… no, the neighbor said, This story is actually quite…

Before he could finish his sentence, Socrates interrupted him again, Ahh… so may not be true and it is definitely not good.

That’s right, the neighbor assured him.

Well, you may still be able to save yourself, Socrates said. Is anything about the story you want to share Useful?

The neighbor stared blankly again for a moment and then said, No, I suppose it’s not really.

So, you want to tell me something that may not be true, is definitely not good, and is not useful to know? Socrates asked. The neighbor looked down at the ground and nodded. Well, you have no good reason to tell me this story, and you have no good reason to believe it yourself, Socrates added, as the neighbor dolefully walked away.

The rest of the story: Before the neighbor was out of earshot, Socrates called to him. Is it about Aristophanes? Or Zeno? Or their wives? If so, we can make an exception.

Or at least that's the way the story was told to me.

Conversation with Editor: Do I really have to put a winking emoji on this, or some disclaimer that it's a joke? I mean, do you really give my readers that little credit? I think they're smart enough to figure out that I wrote the ending. Just because you missed the humor is no reason to have to add silly little marks that aren't even really English. Yes, I do think my readers are smarter than you. I think the tie you're wearing is smarter than you. Well, same to you, buddy.

8 5 18


Apple just passed $1 trillion in valuation. What does that mean?

  • To Apple:. Nothing. Market valuation is a made-up number derived by multiplying two other numbers. it does nothing much for Apple. It probably helps Warren Buffett. But then, doesn't everything?
  • To Apple haters: They're spinning. Some are pointing out that Apple isn't really the first trillion dollar company. Or they take out the publicly traded part. Or they focus on who will be next.
  • To Apple operations: Pretty much nothing. Apple hit that number by not paying attention to money. At least, it wasn't its primary focus. Apple focuses on building great products that deliver a great user experience. The money is secondary. No Apple executive ever appear those 100 best paid executives lists that show up from time to time.

I guess the lesson is to pay attention to what you do, to what you make, not to your compensation. If you have customers, pay attention to meeting their needs and making them happy.

Cultural Relativity

We are all products of our time and place. I was reminded of this when I saw an article about archeologists uncovering a building in Cologne, Germany, which they claim was a huge, second-century public library.

My first thought was, OMG! Do I have an overdue scroll?

Second thought: How did they know it was a public library? Did they find a list of card holders, or checked out scrolls? Or was there a sign over the front door that said public library? I was going to have to read the article, darn it..

I found out that the archeologists knew it was public because of the location and the size of the building. It was big and in the forum, so public. They found 20,000 niches in the walls, so library.

Partly what threw me was the phrase public library. I was picturing a building with books where people can read and check books out, just like I do every couple of weeks down the street. Then, far less than ten percent of the population could read, scrolls were very rare and of interest only to historians, archivists, lawyers, philosophers and other academical/professional types, not the motley assortment of people at the local library. (I fit right in with the clientele at my library, by the way. No judging me, please.) So not public in the way we think.

It's interesting that the Romans thought it important to establish libraries, even in the hinterlands. Personally, I never think of the Romans that way. Decadents, conquerors and engineers, yes. But they understood that administration, law and culture were equally important to maintaining the empire as the military.

I could be wrong. Maybe they did have Vandals and Goths Days, where tribesmen were let though the gates, er, doors. But my whole wrong attitude? Chalk it up to looking at the past through the lenses of this time and place.

7 29 18

Trailing Indicators

I've started reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art as research for a book about writer's block. I'm only a few pages in, so I can't give a review, but one of his themes is wanting to do something (like writing or painting) but never getting started. We're always chasing dreams, he says.

For some reason, that made me think abut other catchphrases–Follow your bliss (Joseph Campbell) and the pursuit of happiness promise in the Declaration of Independence.

It strikes me as odd that, in a culture that encourages us to take responsibility for our destiny and chart our own path, as it were, that in two major expressions of creativity and freedom, we're not in control, we're not directing, we're not taking charge, we're following, chasing after, always trying to Catch Up.

And here's a quote from Pressfield, totally unrelated:

Every sun casts a shadow.

I'm not sure if that's supposed to be hopeful, or realistic, or if I've embarked on a downer book. I'll let you know.

They said It

And since we're dong quotations, here's another one from Marc Chernoff:

We are often far too concerned about how people died rather than how they lived.

7 15 18

Prime Day

The Mr.

Our Amazon Prime package arrived, and we couldn't be any more pleased!

Actually, we probably could be, if it was the toaster we had ordered. But this is good, too.

Be Like the Daffodil

I recently completed a poem about the garden in the front yard, One of the images was daffodils.

We always think of daffodils as being spectacular, but two things struck me about the image. First, daffodils spend eleven months out of twelve working out of sight. They only put on the show one month a year. Second, one daffodil is nice, but they only achieve crowd-drawing spectacle status when they are in large groups.

I'm sure there's message there for people who think if they aren't living out there 24/7, they cease to exist, and another about the myth of the solo artist and creative genius.

Not your Momma's world

There was a flurry of stories this week about the last Blockbuster store. Apple also announced they will be closing the Photo Print Shop. Frankly, both had fallen off the radar a long time ago, and were candidates for the Remember When? columns that pop up on social media every now and again (like remember when someone delivered potato chips in cans to your front door?). (We never got those. I was so jealous of the kids who did, and the few times I had them they always seemed waaay tastier than the bagged chips we bought in the store.) So like Tamagotchi toys, black & white TV, and hoop skirts, there are more things your mother experienced that you never will, unless you become a re-enactor.

Dealing with Trolls

The Verge recently ran an article about dealing with trolls. There's history and not-quite satisfying solutions in Don’t feed the trolls, and other hideous lies. Although somewhat enlightening, it's not the first time that we have had to deal with trolls. It reminded me of the old Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff.

7 7 18

Permission Granted

I'm sure we all remember permission slips from grammar school. Some were big things--slips saying it was OK to go on field trips, or some other major out of school event (which sometimes were like out-of-body experiences). I recall there were also internal permission slips, like to go to the office or another classroom or the bathroom (like a formal hall pass).

Well, we now have permission slips for adults, or more accurately, permission blogs. The basic premise is it's OK to do, feel, or be something. Or not, as the case may be. Recently, I've been given permission to:

  • be myself
  • do nothing
  • screw up
  • not write
  • succeed
  • fail

I'm still waiting for permission to breathe, sleep, and be rude to people who are rude to me. Not that I need permission (which is the way these articles seem to start), but still...


Way back in the day, Andy Warhol came up with the fifteen minutes of fame concept –everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. I could live with that but did get annoyed when people try to drag out their time to a half-hour or an hour with no justification. Brothers of Democratic Presidents come to mind.

Now, from the world of bloggery and social media, we now have the concept of Cancelled, which provides a remedy for this problem. At first I wasn't too keen on the idea. Who sets themselves up as arbiters of what's important, of who should have a voice and who should not? But then I found out that cancelling can be personal or a group or universal. So I can cancel someone, or everyone can cancel someone. There are probably rules, but mine just consider annoyance and stupidity. Larger cancels have more elaborate or vagarious rules, I'm sure, but I bet at bottom it still depends upon annoyance and/or stupidity.

Still, though, we have those who haven't been reading their email and did not get the message that they've been cancelled–nobody cares about their bloviations any more, if anyone actually ever did.

Now, I'm not trying to cancel these people's right to speak out, earn a living, or even be caustic in public. I just don't want to have to listen to it, especially when they're being stupid in areas they know little to nothing about. I'm tired of them consuming my bandwidth with nonsense and churning the kettle, so to speak.

I'm thinking particularly of:

  • Ted Nugent
  • Michele Bachmann
  • Kathy Griffin
  • Rick Santorum 1or any failed, self-styled Presidential contender)
  • Kardashians
  • Charles Barkley
  • John McEnroe
  • Any Real Housewife
  • Terrell Owens
  • Alec Baldwin and his brothers
  • LaVar Ball

The lack of links is intentional, and done as a public service.

Fred the Flower

9 18 18

Fred gets a disturbing message.

Fortnightly T-shirt

9 18 18

Turning phrases upside down.

Apt 123

8 13 18

Cultural misunderstanding..