Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Too Much Moleskine?

I’ve been writing in journals for the last 22 years but for the last 6 years I’ve been addicted to the little black book. I started out with the sketchbook as a second journal to keep sketches and drawings. One day in a pinch I switched to using it as a journal and have never looked back. With the exception of trying out the Miquelrius for a short period of time I have been a true user since. The only other deviations I have made have been trying the various sizes of the Moleskine plain sketchbook and un-ruled book. Prior to that I used the standard Canson sketchbooks in the 5x7 and 4x5 formats. No sketchbook or notebook that I have used so far is as good as any of the Moleskines. the quality of the paper, the thickness and tooth are perfect and just work for me.

A new Moleskine watercolor book arrived in the mail today. I now have three different versions in my briefcase, a blank pocket notebook, a blank reporter’s notebook, and now the watercolor book.

So you ask, why would you need three?

I’m going to Tahiti at the end of June so here are my reasons:

Blank Pocket Journal
I normally use the Blank Pocket journal, I have just filled up my last journal and I was in need of another one.

Reporter’s Notebook
Whenever I have covered a story I have used the standard issue J-school, spiral bound, blue-ruled, 4x8 Sparco reporter’s notebook. On my next trip that we are taking I would like to take a few notes about some local industries there in Tahiti and write an article or two for submission. I like to keep my reporter’s notes separate from my personal notes and observations. After an article has been submitted for publication I like to they keep the notes filed with the story for later reference.

Watercolor Notebook
When traveling or just out and about I take my Windsor & Newton pocket watercolor set with me. Finding a watercolor book equally as small has not been easy. As others have already observed the sketchbooks is not suited for watercolor work. The current book that Arches 8x16 book that I have is too large. The new Moleskine looks just right. Plus you can tear out the pages after making a sketch, slap a stamp on the back and presto…instant post card. I know that there will be a moment out there in the beach or on the deck of the over-water bungalow where I can capture the moment in watercolor.

Yes, my Moleskine(s) is my obsession, but they now make a different one for each of my needs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Death of Common Sense

“The scone must go on the conveyor belt or it doesn’t go onto the plane!” the TSA agent shouted. I had just placed all of my carry-on items into the x-ray machine and was about to go through the metal detector. “What about the coffee? Is it too a possible weapon of mass destruction and a threat to the passenger and crew? It’s only decaf.” I reply.

This only seemed to agitate the minimum wage federal agent even more. “Just put the scone on the belt!” he shouted.

As I turn I mumble some more acidic comments. “Is this a new plot from al Qaeda? Have the terrorists infiltrated Starbucks and replaced my regular chocolate-chip scone with a Symtex explodie scone?” I could tell that what I had just said was heard by the second agent located next to the metal detector from the look on his face. He shouts at me, “who has the boarding passes!?” “I do and you should consider switching to Sanka, you guys really need to calm down,” I reply. “Just step through the metal sir and hand me your passes.” As I walk through the metal detector I raise my hands above my head and say “I’m an American, hold your fire.” This really sets them off. A supervisor walks over and tells me to put down my arms. I then ask them if my papers are in order. Realizing that their aggression will not get me to act submissive they just give up with their border guard act and send me on my way. For the moment I had won.

“You were in a testy mood,” Jill remarked. Up to the point where the guard had started to shout at me I was in a pretty mellow mood. It was the total lack of logic, the lack of respect and lack of common sense that set me off. Just looking into their sullen, sunken eyes you could see a lack of intelligence, a lack of soul or self.

This leads to the question; Do we have the right people in place doing this? Are they merely a rubber stamp place-holder of a federalized minimum wage rent-a-cop?

...all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public...

To be honest we never got it right the moment that the 4th plane hit the ground. We panicked and federalized the airports with the military who were untrained and unable to deal with the public. Problems with complaints began early on about the military and the new security force in place ranging from harassment to inappropriate searches on females.

For the most part all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public that are verboten on planes. Most of the time these items that were about to be carried on were forgotten about in the bottom of the bag. The TSA agent merely reminds the passenger that they were there. Many times items make it past the guards and scissors, razor blades and needles make the journey without incident.

What does the TSA do with all of their sharp and pointy booty that they have acquired over the years? Even by modest estimates they should have amassed several metric tons of nail clippers, scissors, and Swiss Army knives by now. According to the TSA website all of the items that are detained or “abandoned” are held for 30 days then turned over to a government surplus outlet.

America for the most part has is in the process of becoming a zero tolerance state. Why is that? A child is suspended for a year for having a bottle of Tylenol at school, another is expelled for having a steak knife packed in his lunch by his mother so that he could cut his food.

I met a salesman some years back, an elder gentleman. Very laid back and easy going compared to the harried mentality of Los Angeles. “Life on the range,” is what he would say about his Wyoming upbringing. He said that his son had recently moved out to LA and just as quickly had moved back. The first time that he got out of his pickup truck with his dog he got a $250 ticket for not having a leash. That’s all it took. “What kind of a place is LA where you can’t even walk around with a dog,” he thought.

What it comes down to is the more people you have the more rules you must have. Think about it. Where that kid came from they probably didn’t have a stoplight in his town. He moves to a town of 10 million or so and sees that just about every move that you make is cover by a law of some sort, including his dog.

I’m not going to discount that the TSA is there to make sure that we are all safe and their ultimate responsibility is to get us home safely. I will not forget the fact that 3000 people vaporized in just a few moments because we lacked the follow through in while pretending to be vigilant. All of these laws, rules and regulation are put in place to protect us. But does that have to come with the price of trust and human respect?
Must regulating ourselves as a society result in the death of common sense?

Once on board I ate my scone after spilling my cup of coffee. I ordered a second cup from the stewardess who was kind enough to show me all of the freedom badges on her apron that she had collected from various military, police, fire and governmental agents since 9/11. I thanked her for the coffee and for sharing her story.

The scone was plain, dry and not very good. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. In retrospect this one was not really worth it. I should have given it to the angry TSA agent. Maybe he would have had a better day.

It’s ironic that they don’t serve food on the plane yet you are subject to an inquisition if you try to bring something onboard.