Tuesday, November 6, 2012

One Vote, Two Vote, Red Vote, Blue Vote

Over the last few months, the vilification of local, state, and national candidates for political office has trickled down from the hallowed halls of Washington D.C., through our media outlets, and into our social media pores. Friends, countrymen, posting half-truths and headlines about candidates and political parties, all to the chagrin of the majority of their friends. The vitriol overwhelms friendships, divides families, and befuddles our prior conceptions of who our friends really are.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Google Maps our Frontiers, Ruins it For the Rest of Us

Google is now attempting to take their maps and street view innovations a step further by mapping not only our byways and avenues, but now giving us a ground level view of the great outdoors. They've started with the Grand Canyon, and have plans for many other national and global treasures. At first, this might seem an awesome way to show the online world some of our natural beauty, but the implications of this virtual pioneering on the physical experience are troubling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

See No Evil, Hear No Evil

A friend and I were out for coffee at a diner a few weeks ago when the conversation fell upon the concept of subjective evil, or the gray area surrounding morality. A macabre topic for eggs and bacon, no doubt, and my friend noted that the rise of the anti-hero in films and media has been growing in popularity in recent years. The protagonist, in the form of a retired gunslinger or introverted curmudgeon, is forced into the chaotic fray of by some violent circumstance, only to save the world and become a better functioning member of society. This basic plot construct can be found in action flicks, epic fantasy films, and every single Nicholas Cage feature.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't know much about Cognitive Reasoning

Early in life, most American students learn the basic principles of Algebra and scientific method. Associative properties, testing hypotheses, and isolating variables are general concepts with which most eighth grade educated students are familiar. The process of proving theories and understanding causal relationships is drilled into us as we watch soy beans in paper cups and apply construction paper to tri-fold cardboard display boards throughout our adolescent lives.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food Trucks, False Facts, & Fair Play

This week, the Chicago City Council passed new regulations for the hundreds of food trucks that shuttle about serving tasty offerings to busy workers and curious passerbys. The bureaucracy of the city, along with many of the major media outlets, is claiming this to be a step forward for the city, bolstering the city's position as a progressive supporter of innovative entrepreneurs. I had the opportunity to speak with several food truck owners this week, who painted a much more grim picture of the landscape.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Transparent Ethnicity

White is not an ethnicity.

My whiteness is a void of cultural identity. Even when I meet other Caucasian individuals, they are often first or second generation Polish or Serbian immigrants. I love this diversity and I am fascinated by the stories these people carry, but when contrasted against my own fallow immigration narrative, these characters are so much more alive and visceral, so much more interesting than my farm boy upbringing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Inertia of Creativity

It has been way too long since I have written anything. It seems that, over the last month, my life has gotten extremely busy and consumed much of the time I normally dedicate to this site. The result has been a great deal of vain ambition, early morning alarm clocks, and blank pages. No unique perspectives, no insights into the rambling thoughts of a diversified dilettante. It seems that the further away my calendar got from my last post, the more difficult it became to conjure the energy or the inspiration to pen another essay. Which brings us to today, three weeks from the date of my last essay.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Loving - Wedded Bliss

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being present at the wedding of two very good friends. The ceremony, though not held in some prescribed hallowed hall with preordained sanctity, was one of the most beautiful spiritual moments I have seen in quite a while.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Final Stretch

So Annie and I keep arguing over whether we are in the final trimester of our pregnancy or not. I say that simple math prevails, counting boldly on thumb and two fingers,

"June 20th to July 20th. July 20th to August 20th. August 20th to September 20th. That is three months. TRImester!" Annie rebuts with some technical explanation of weeks to term and an algorithm that calculates from last menstruation to due date. I sigh and concede that the professionals who devised these calculations are much more experienced at this than I.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Illustrated Mind

Upon hearing of the passing of Ray Bradbury, I was immediately transported back to my youth, reading of the dystopian anti-literary world of Guy Montag and the Sultry September evenings lounging with a mysterious tattooed man. As I spent my day inundated with emails and clients requests, my mind wandered back to Bradbury - his wonderful ice cream suit and his dreams of marionettes and virtual realities. By the time I left the office, headed for home, I had convinced myself that I owed it to the author to revisit some of his work that had left such an impact on me in my youth.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Innovation Stagnation - Set Knowledge Free

Trade secrets. Proprietary knowledge. Insider information.

Corporate America is notoriously tight fisted with their secret sauces. A company figures out some competitive advantage within the production of their widgets, then they horde that knowledge, unwilling to let anyone outside their W2's know about that bit of knowledge that sets them apart.

It makes sense, right? Protect what makes you money. Hire the top talent, who will hopefully keep your company on top, attempting to keep things fresh with the same intellectual ingredients.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Hired Man - Tales of an Unwitting Driver

As I have mentioned in previous essays, my college years were filled with a variety of odd jobs that provided a substantial financial cushion during a very frugal period of my life. Amid yard work and house-cleaning, childcare and livestock medicating, one job dwarfs all others in longevity and peculiarity. This is the story of my time with LMG.

Please note that all accounts in this story are true. Many names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Social Enterprise - Blurring the Lines of Business

Do you ever stop and try to remember what life was like before we were armed with phones and tablets, connected with Facebook and Twitter? I often think about how, only a decade ago, our dependence upon social media and technology was much different. The way we interacted, our behavior, and our thought processes were so much more independent. But with the ability to instantly connect, share, and browse, our way of life is intrinsically different.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

For America!

My college roommates had a penchant for trash posed as art, pranks shrouded in peculiarity and destruction masquerading as patriotism. Pizza boxes and discarded homework assignments were glued to the ceiling. We sang "You're a Grand Ol' Flag" while dancing around in our underwear. Our neighbors lawn furniture found it's way onto their roof on more than one occasion. For the men of The Music House, this was what college was meant to be.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Life Well Lived

Michael "Flathead" Blanchard
1944 - 2012

Michael "Flathead" Blanchard
A Celebration of the life of Michael "Flathead" Blanchard will be held on April 14th, 3 pm 8160 Rosemary St, Commerce City. Weary of reading obituaries noting someone's courageous battle with death, Mike wanted it known that he died as a result of being stubborn, refusing to follow doctors' orders and raising hell for more than six decades. He enjoyed booze, guns, cars and younger women until the day he died.
Mike was born July 1944 in Colorado to Clyde and Ethel Blanchard. A community activist, he is noted for saving the Dr. Justina Ford house from demolition and defending those who could not defend themselves. He was a Republican delegate, life member of the NRA, founder and President of the Dead Cats MC. He loved music.

Mike was preceded in death by Clyde and Ethel Blanchard, survived by his beloved sons Mike and Chopper, former wife Jane Transue, brother Stephen Blanchard (Susan), Uncle Don and Aunt Cynthia Blanchard(his favorite); Uncle Dill and Aunt Dot, cousins and nephews, Baba Yaga can kiss his butt. So many of his childhood friends that weren't killed in Vietnam went on to become criminals, prostitutes and/or Democrats. He asks that you stop by and re-tell the stories he can no longer tell. As the Celebration will contain Adult material we respectfully ask that no children under 18 attend.

- The Denver Post, April 12, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Everyone is a Little Bit Racist

With all the controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting and the recent attacks in Oklahoma, the question of racism in America is again under scrutiny. In a society that many have dubbed "post-racial", some are wondering how far we've really come in the mission for equality that began over half a century ago.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On a Chilled Iowa Night

The midnight sky was normally inky-black, but the iridescent glow of a perfectly circular white orb cast a brilliant glow across the landscape. The fog that was rolling in across my grandfathers eastern fields lit up as if comprised of neon gas let loose from a thousand beer signs from a hundred taverns and allowed to float free of the cigarette smoke and cheap liquor that swirled about the wooden floors and pool table legs and starched blue jeans and well-worn leather boots.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Contact - When Science and Religion Collide

Last night I stumbled upon the 1997 film Contact on AMC - complete with Story Notes. First, let me say that I love Story Notes. The nerd in me loves to learn more about the details and impetus of those who create film, and this program allows a peek into that world.

Contact, aside from being a great science fiction film, is an amazing philosophical conversation between science and religion. Ellie Arroway, the films protagonist (played by Jodie Foster) is driven by an empirical focus on science that leads her to the discovery of an extraterrestrial communication from near the star Vega. Alongside this attempt to communicate with a far off civilization is a deep internal and external conflict between faith and science. Arroway is an atheist, but romantically entangled with philosopher Palmer Joss (played by Matthew McConaughey) who is constantly presenting Arroway with soul searching quandaries. The film is truly an exploration of faith, science, and the balance between the two.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Something to Talk About

Sometimes good news is better when it is heard second hand, so rather than postulating on the thoughts that have been flourishing through my mind the last few months, I'll leave the telling to the professionals - my family.

Please feel free to send your own reactions and well wishes via facebook or email - Chris.Walljasper@Gmail.com. We hope to compile a large video from all of our friends and loved ones for posterity.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flamethrowers and Cacti - Lessons from a Renaissance Man

My undergraduate career was riddled with employment opportunities of various measure. I worked at the theatre shop, constructing sets for shows. I worked as a Speech Tutor for the freshman speech classes and guided upperclassmen through presentations. I even worked one semester as a Resident Assistant, one of the few jobs I have been asked to leave.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Be like Water

Bruce Lee is often seen in caricature as a little man in a yellow jump suit, throwing lightening fast limbs, training Chuck Norris and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and throwing his foes across the room with naught-but-a one-inch punch.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Run for Your Life

Sometimes you just need to run for your life.

I am in no way a proficient runner. With bad posture, a titanium rod running the length of my left femur, and two screws lodged solidly in my knee, the act of running is a burden and a continuous inventory of the premature malfunctioning of my twenty-six year old frame. Add to this the fact that I am deceivingly out-of-shape for my slight and wiry stature, and one might wonder why I would run at all.

To clarify, I do not run on a regular basis. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I have ran in the last year.

But sometimes, running is the only option.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lunch on a Sunny Afternoon

It is all too common that, on any given weekday, my waking hours are spent rushing from home to office, appointment to conference in a flurry of corporate glad-handing and client-serving correspondence. The meantime is riddled with conference calls and emails, techno-jargon and corporate-America productivity babble. The days are a whirlwind of faux-synergy and rarely are the emergencies my clients present me anywhere near the panic level they assume.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Thousand Fibers...

"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
-Herman Melville

Consider for a moment the way in which you define your existence. OK, I realize that this is a pretty lofty concept, so let me clarify.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We've All Gone to Look For America

These words, penned in 1968 by Paul Simon, encapsulate such deep meaning and cultural angst, even thirty years later.

I posted this simple line to Facebook this weekend:

"We've all gone to look for America."

Without connotation and without direction of what I thought the words meant, it was a concise observation, pregnant with contemplation. Several people reacted politically, a few commented appreciatively, and others simply "liked" it. So what does it mean?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

When in Hawaii

I've always been of the mentality that, when in a place who's culture differs from your own, the best experiences are to be had when you fully submerge yourself in that culture. Which is why, when Annie and I visited the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, there were few items on my to-do list that ranked above surfing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

If You Can't Laugh at Yourself...

If you can't laugh at your own mistakes, do you really have any justification for enjoying the folly of others? The ability to see the humor in our own embarrassment is a skill that many of us in this self-conscious, vulnerable, defensive world lack.

But comedians, actors, politicians, and renaissance men of all variety have been perfecting this blend of humility and confidence for years. Where it may be crass and inappropriate to belittle the failings of the folks we interact with on a daily basis, there is no harm in displaying our own weaknesses, failings, and ridiculousness for all to see and publicly besmirch. It takes a real man (or woman) to laugh at their own faults and failings.

Here are a few icons of our time who have perfected the art of self-ridicule. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comment section.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Machine Stops

As we continue to descend down the rabbit hole of technology - phones, computers, Netflix, blogs, social media and now media aggregates such as Reddit, Pintrest, and Gentlemint, the question continues to arise:

Are we, as a society, growing closer or drifting further apart?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eating at The Greek

It was eight o'clock by the time we arrived at the Mediterranean restaurant off of Laclede in downtown Saint Louis. Although the frigid street was bustling with carousers enjoying the frivolity of Mardi Gras, the restaurant was barren as we entered it's warm, glowing dining room.

The owner greeted us as we hung our coats from our chairs. Arms outstretched, his boisterous welcome filled the empty space, bouncing off chairs and ringing from the chandeliers.

"Hello my friends! How are you tonight? You are hungry?"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's Half-time, America

Last weekend, I watched the Superbowl not so much for the action on the field, or Madonna's geriatric acrobatics during the half-time show. I think the most anticipated part of the Superbowl for me was the commercials. This television event has taught consumers and advertisers alike a new way to approach commercials. In a world of Tivo and DV-R, the commercial is no longer an irritating necessity. Advertisers must earn the right to show us the value of their products, and the production quality of the Superbowl's sales pitches is a perfect example of ads that engage the home audience.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Green Line

Seldom am I given the opportunity to ride the colorful public transportation system that snakes throughout Chicago's city and metropolitan neighborhoods. So when I was invited to a birthday celebration taking place at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap in the heart of downtown, I leapt at the chance to ride the rails into the city.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Creek - Reminiscence and Discovery

As a frigid north wind battered the edges of our winter coats, Annie and I carefully chose our footing across the clods of frozen dirt and stalks of forgotten corn silage in the field that lay south of my opa's rural farmhouse. The sun shone brightly on the snow, eluding to warmth that was nowhere to be found. Reaching the bottom of the hill, we followed the edge of the field, past the derelict barn that had been neglected and in decay since I was a child, and on to the creek that lay below. Drawing closer to the trickling water in its frozen bed, Annie and I noticed that we were not the only ones looking to navigate the water at this crossing. several tracks of forked prints revealed the recent presence of turkeys in the fresh snow. The cloven prints of a deer could be seen a little further on. Raccoon prints abounded, their articulate fingers making soft indentations around the running water. A little further on, a marking that I first thought to be a coyote revealed itself to likely be a bobcat, as the prints looked more feline than canine. Annie and I paused a moment, taking in all the traffic that had evidently commuted through this crossing since the snow had fallen the night before. The scene must have been breathtaking.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Remembering a life, Immortalizing a Man

Earlier this week, a friend, fraternal brother, and greatly respected man died while bicycling across Taiwan. The outpouring of love, tribute, and sorrow has been both agonizing and beautiful to witness, and is a testament to the awesome impact that Andrew Kuebrick had on so many people. I've struggled to form words that would be adequate in expressing my emotions at the passing of a person who so obviously had the potential to indelibly affect the world in ways none of us could even imagine. The facebook tributes from friends and family have all encapsulated my emotions, though not quite embodied them. So instead of attempting to weakly piece together imperfect sentences on Andrew's greatness, I have decided to approach the event from a different perspective.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Let's Talk about Poop, Baby - Exploring Bathroom Etiquette

Last night, Annie and I went to dinner and the movies with some friends. Dinner was delicious and the movie was mildy entertaining. As we left the film, Ben and I discussed the strengths and failings of the production. We went back and forth on the technical elements, the dialogue, and the development of the characters. As we continued down the hallway of the cineplex, I paused to use the bathroom.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Come Fly Away

Last night, Annie and I went into the city to see Come Fly Away, a musical set to the music of Frank Sinatra. I will admit that I did no research into this production, but was excited, as I am a big fan of "Ol' Blue Eyes". So when the musical was bereft of any dialogue, and consisted solely of a hot brass band and fourteen incredibly talented dancers, I was not as dissappointed as the gentleman behind me who, two numbers in, audibly scoffed, "Well, this sucks!" and walked out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Renaissance Means Diversification

Last week I heard an interview with Walter Isaacson, the author of the recently published biography of Apple poster boy, Steve Jobs. The anecdotes that Isaacson shared of Jobs' quirks and philosophies were truly fascinating. I especially appreciated the refutations the biographer provided when faced with the scathing arguments that the turtlenecked CEO was no more than a tinkerer who only improved upon existing technologies. He was not dismissive of the assertions. He merely offered a defense that, sadly, Jobs can no longer send up himself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sales - Worth More Than Money

I work in sales.

I think I have discussed the slightly pathetic ramifications of my insignificant role at a major telecommunications provider in previous essays, but in case it was not well known, I work in business sales. I call on a panoply of industries across the Chicagoland area. My clients range from downtown Chicago consulting firms who peer down on the world from steel girded high rises and demand three piece suits and flashy gadgets all the way to blue collar trucking companies who operate out of cigarette-smoke engulfed trailers on the south side, nestled under the jet fumes of Midway airport.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Know Your Opponent - A Who's Who of my Boxing Experiences

After a few weeks of boxing, I still hurt every time I leave the gym. My arms feel like jelly, my entire midsection is as one giant hunk of tenderized meat. But each time I strap on the gloves and start throwing jabs and crosses, I forget about the pain as I learn a little more about this age-old sport.
Not everyone at the gym is swinging for the golden glove (Lord knows I'm not). There are several types of people with whom I have shared a class. Here is a brief cross-section of the a few of the athletes:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ghosts of Politics Past

With all the political hullabaloo dancing across the airwaves like sparks from a downed power line, I've been thinking a great deal about how the past affects who a person becomes. For every jump in popularity this political season, another skeleton emerges to wreak havoc on the career of a Presidential hopeful.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Iowa Politics- Caucus the Carcass

Tonight is the political zenith of the Hawkeye state's political influence in the 2012 Presidential race. In a few short weeks, the temporary campaign headquarters will be once again vacant, the 99 county tours will be history, and the television smear campaigns will be bad memories. But for one night, this beleaguered little state will mean acceleration or demise for the Presidential hopefuls of the Grand Ol' Party.