12 Days of Aggravation

Male Call}*

…in which the Male Call Advisory Board™ attempts to relieve some of your holiday season stress by declaring a moratorium on 12 Kinds of Aggravation. Presumably, the powers that be, who are known to be avid followers of Male Call (after a morning of CNN, Fox & Friends and Morning Joe), are paying heed.

“Seriously?”

All that many of us really want for the holiday gifting season is less aggravation. Here are a few empirical guidelines for you singletons.

  1.  No use of the word “gifting.”

Ok, but seriously…

  1. No matter how much holiday fun you’re having, don’t plan an extended vacation together until you’ve endured a road trip.

Picacho Peak — on the road from TUC to PHX

Oh, wait, you already made that mistake. Let’s start over:

  1. No matter what else you’ve done, you’re not a couple until you’ve taken a vexatious road trip together. (Over the river and through the woods to Granma’s does not count.)
  2. Men: In your dating profiles, stop writing what you think people want to hear and write about the true you. You know, like your alleged love of cuddling, chilling a Netflix night, and how laid-back and drama-free you are. The women see through this nettlesome subterfuge.
  3. Women: Stop fake-complimenting yourself: “My friends say I’m funny, adventurous, and look younger than my age.” In fact, leave all those tiresome adjectives out. If you’re funny…be. If you’re adventurous, describe an adventure. In short, use the screenwriter’s maxim: Show Don’t Tell.
  4. Men: You need to know that women are aggravated by your crappy-looking shoes…and apparently they especially hate the socks-with-sandals thing unless you’re a sand volleyball player. (Same goes for “flooders,” aka “high-water” pants).
  5. Women: Take it easy on the garish pink club-going outfits unless your name is Paris Hilton. Same with capris — the “soccer mom” of fashion — unless your name is Alessandra Ambrosio (However, the Male Call Advisory Board tells us there’s such a thing as a “cropped ankle pant” that isn’t too bad.)
  6. Everyone: You don’t get to tell everyone how fair or honest you are (“I guess I’m just too honest for my own good!”). Factitious.
  7. Men: Stop lying about your height. This is women’s number one peeve when they finally do meet you.
  8. Women: Stop posting pictures of your cat, dog or flowers as your Meetup profile pic. Exasperating.
  9. Oh, and stop no-showing at Meetup events: über-exasperating.
  10. And when you do have to cancel going to an event with your friends, you don’t need to add “You guys have fun!” Irksome. Just cancel the RSVP and go to the party you really wanted to in the first place.
  11. Everyone: Don’t give someone driving directions to your meeting place by referencing all the landmarks you and your bothersome besties are familiar with: “Take Via Linda to the Sprouts then turn left at Home Depot and keep going past Trader Joe’s. It’s next to the new Starbucks.” In Arizona, this is known as “Scottsdale navigation.”
  12. Advertisers: Give us all a break and retire the galling phrase “Give the gift of…” as in “the gift of Amazon Prime / adventure / a calmer mind / Master Class / productivity” etc. when you know it’s not a real gift category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you are: Enough pointers for the 12 Days of Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day and Festivus (for the rest of us) to get you through to National Fruitcake Toss Day (Jan. 3).


Originally published by the author in City Sun Times (an excellent metro Phoenix community newspaper), Dec. 4, 2017.
Picacho Peak photo (c) copyright 2012 by James Veihdeffer
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It’s all about the angle

I was whiling away 20 minutes in McDonald’s the other night with an Americano caffé when I looked up and saw the most gruesome visage staring back. I wasn’t sure if it was some kind of McDonald’s whimsy or an alien that didn’t hide itself away quickly enough.  I checked my caffé in case it was drugged but it was still too hot to drink so I felt safe on that count.

Fortunately, it turned out to be an optical illusion (in the broadest sense): What you see depends on where you’re looking from–and maybe what you’re pre-disposed to see.

Here’s the scene that someone not hyped up on coffee and an impending tennis match might have readily seen.

It’s still a bit eerie…

But obvious non-alien…

…at least that’s what they want you to think.

Pizza Puzzle: Landfill or Recycle?

I was walking to my class at a certain community college the other morning at 6:45 a.m.  I mention this not to try to shamelessly wheedle sympathy out of you for my early rising, but to point out that the display in the first photo must have taken place in the oh-dark-hundred hours.

Yes, there is a third of a pizza resting blissfully on the ledge of one of the trash receptacles. Since I had 23 rhetoric-hungry students waiting for me I didn’t take the pic right then but did remember to look for it an hour later and, sure enough, it hadn’t moved.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to the original owner, I figured they* simply couldn’t decide whether a used pizza is considered “landfill” or “recyclable” and so they left it for some other food savant to decide.

Two hours later I was returning from nourishing a different group of MLA Style-starved scholars and could hardly believe what had happened:

Uh huh…the pizza slice had moved itself over to the Recycle side, as though to taunt the by-now-hundreds of shredded-jean passers-by to make a final decision.

Honest…I hadn’t touched it. And though all I had to eat by 11 a.m. was a banana and several cups of coffee, I was still not tempted to scarf it down.

By 1 p.m. the slice had inched a bit closer to the slot. Here’s a close up, just to get your mouth juices flowing.

So whattya say? Which slot does a used pizza go in? My students voted for “landfill” since it’s not technically something you can recycle. And really…who just leaves a pizza and paper plate on the side of a trash receptacle, as though to say, “Hey, I’ll be right back for this, but feel free to nosh on it if you get there first.”

Just as important: Why does “Landfill” get a square opening but “Recycle” gets a keyhole slot?


* yes…we’re now allowed to say “they” instead of the annoying and space-consuming “he or she” or other klugey abominations such as “he/she,” “s/he” that have been proposed, including the “whiplash grammar” solution of alternating “he” and “she.”

Trippin’ along the Arizona Canal

In previous posts (July 13 and Nov. 2015) I’ve mentioned a number of oddities along the Arizona Canal that runs past my house. As I’ve said, my early morning bike ride down the canal often reveals surprises, sometimes in the form of amusing graffiti but just as often in the form of abandoned or otherwise unheralded public art—such as the rather mysterious sandstone sculpture below.

There’s no sign or other indication of why or how it appeared on the raised berm between the paved pathway and gravel path adjoining the canal itself.

I decided to get to the bottom of this and found more than I expected.

The primary reference that Google turned up was a brief essay titled, Arizona Canal Demonstration Project Sunnyslope Community” crediting M. Paul Friedberg – Landscape Architecture and Jackie Ferrara – Artist.

This is apparently part of a “multi-room” landscape art project from 2001 and the sandstone design turned out to be the fourth “room.” Each room supposedly illuminates one or more of the environmental characteristics that contribute to the uniqueness of this area.

I gather the sculpture above is an artistic interpretation of either the Salt River or an ancient Hohokam tribe drawing of the 2,000 year old canal system. The Hohokam flourished in the Phoenix valley from 300-1450 CE.

A close look at the sculpture reveals two sets of openings, one of which appears to be a dual nozzle which may have been intended to create a water/stream effect. Or it could simply be an alien!

The canals are operated by the Salt River Project (SRP) and while the canals are technically a utility corridor, meant to deliver water to this desert metropolis, they’ve historically been associated with recreation.

 

 

Recently, a longtime Sunnyslope resident told me that maintenance of the various artwork installations—the sequence of five outdoor “rooms” at intervals of approximately 500 to 700 yards carved into the berm—was abandoned for budgetary reasons when a different authority took over management of the berms and paths.

Now, here’s a rundown of the various “rooms,” in sequence starting from the Central Ave and heading southeast toward 7th St. It’s not entirely clear which rooms are which from the write-up but I think my guesses are reasonably on target.

First room: the “circle room”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, here’s an amazing little peculiarity of the Circle Room: if you stand dead center, you can create a strange auditory “echo” effect — much like those so-called “whispering galleries” where your voice is amplified beneath a dome or a vault. Except that here, a person standing outside the very limited circle, more than 2 or 3 feet, just hears your normal voice. But you hear your voice as though it’s being piped into a microphone. Everyone who has seen this acts blasé at first, like, “OK what’s the big deal?” But when they step into the small circle and try it out, it’s “Whoa! What just happened?”

I have no idea whether the designers intended to create this effect or if it’s just an unintended artifact of the circle. You’d really have no idea to even try it unless you came upon it by chance or someone told you about it…like I just did.

Second room: the “water room”

Third Room: the “time room” —  yes…it’s an actual sun dial!

The fourth room, seen at the top of this posting, is called the “map room”

Fifth room: the “grass room”?

This is described as a rectangular space outlined on three sides by a stone seating wall. “A planting bed of tall exotic desert grass creates a spatial frame around the sitting area, thus focusing the visitor’s view toward the top of the grass and the canal.”

Obviously the “planting bed” was a budget victim. And, oddly, one can only wonder what force of nature caused part of this very solid-looking wall to break away in two places (one shown here).

 

I’m putting my money on ancient aliens as seen from these artifacts, with characteristic beady eyes, metallic, hook-ended legs and strangely bicycle-like form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


All photos, except Hohokam illustration and canal map are copyright (c) 2017 Jim Veihdeffer.
In case you’re interested in exploring this mile-long stretch, you can start at Central Ave. just south of Dunlap and head southeast along the left side of the canal. The first room is about 2/10ths of a mile from the overpass, with subsequent rooms at more or less regular intervals. Most bikers are not even aware of the installations, but they’re pretty obvious if you take a moment to just observe.The nine canals that make up the Valley’s canal system were developed over the past 100 years. Each canal has a unique history and service area. Work on the Arizona Canal that runs past my house began in May 1883

Early Morning Canal Oddities

My early morning Arizona Canal ride from Central Ave. to Maryland Ave. in north central Phoenix yielded several interesting oddities.

First up, a sea monster alert!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a closer look (along with possible monsters) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next: I have to say I have no idea what this is. As I first wheeled past I thought it might be hamburger patties being left out by a homeowner for feral dogs or cats. When I came back on my return trip, it looked more like the leavings of a dog or horse…but, no, much too neat. I did poke one of the items with a stick. It has roughly the consistency of hamburger but clearly it isn’t. Maybe it’s some sort of protective non-conductive goop for the electrical installation. I didn’t lift up the goop to see what the white, cuplike containers were up to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grapes anyone?* Yep, here’s about a dozen, presumably spilled earlier by someone coming in or out of the tunnel in a hurry this morning. Tasty.

This colorful wall fresco displaying eight different national flags has been there for a while. I haven’t been able to figure out if there’s a connection among the various nations (Japan, UK, Germany, France, USA, Canada, Ireland?/Italy?** Australia)

This guy, one of two different giant pottery items, has also been in place for a while. I’m guessing it appeared about the same time as the State Route 51 wall potteries that appeared in the early 1990s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the top reveals a romantic message by some pavement graffitista. I’m certainly not condoning defacing public artworks, but I’m willing to give a hall pass on this one because it’s both sweet and unobtrusive.

Here’s a view from the other side.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering who’s in charge of all this, it’s the good ol’ USA…oh, and SRP (the power company)…oh, and uncredited here, the city of Phoenix which, I was told by a cleanup guy before he got to the grapes, is responsible for maintaining the actual pathway.


*one correspondent suggests they might actually be cherries (on sale for $0.87 at Safeway)
**another loyal correspondent wonders if the flags could represent the G8 group of industrialized nations. A close look at the actual wall painting is inconclusive since it could be “Italy-red” or “Ireland-orange.” An Italian flag would fit the G8 theory, but…the next flag is Australia, not a G8 country.
Here’s the flag in question. The photo has not been retouched for color.
And if you’re thinking there isn’t enough signage along the canal, here’s a bunch from a small municipal maintenance facility just off the canal near Granada Park.

Eerie shadows and light

I thought I’d take a break from peering into the eerie creepy shadows of current politics to offer some recent shadow and light images from my own humble abode. Except for a bit of contrast control and minor cropping, these are straight out of the camera. (You can click on the images to get an enlarged view.)

Some of these are imbued with inherent mystery…

1) …such as this unusual configuration shining through an upper window, illumined by moonlight only, no camera tricks.

2) …and this bizarre light show that simply appeared one night

3) This Mickey Mouse cactus on my back patio is lit only by a porch light.

4) Can you guess this one. Hint: looking downward.

5) This small pink ball appeared on my front walkway one morning. No note. Only those odd shadows know.

6) Not much mystery here, other than the fact that the hummer was up pretty dang late for dinner.

7) Full moon across the street, along The Arizona Canal.

8) I’m a fan of this serendipitous image from my kitchen table

9) OK, this Cowboy Hydrant just outside the humble abode is admittedly not a shadow figure, per se but it seems to gain some credibility from the play of early morning light.


  1. Shadows of miniature cacti and empty vase and a small Don Quixote figure are refracted through an upper window onto my upper living room wall by the loft staircase. This is straight out of the camera with just a bit of contrast control.

  2. Turns out, the weird other-worldly display comes from from small, shiny, colored peace symbols that I had casually tossed onto the cabinet.

  3. Paddle cactus

  4.  This is a downward look into a glass jar containing sugar water and a two drops of red dye for the hummingbird feeder

  5.  This fun, colorful ball was deposited by a neighbor in thanks for a small favor I had done. When you bounce the ball, it lights up.

  6.  Not clear where the orange-ish light on the hummingbird fluid is coming from, possibly just a porch light

  7.  The Arizona Canal crosses Central Ave by my house. The 50-mile canal actually starts out in northeast Mesa, flows across the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, jaunts through upscale downtown Scottsdale and continues northwesterly through Phoenix, Glendale, Peoria before ending at New River, near Arrowhead Towne Center. (What…they couldn’t spell it “Centre”?)

  8.  I had just bought a small oscillating fan and discovered that I had to assemble it. The fan blade was enclosed in this cool, resealable plastic bag which apparently is irresistible to children.

  9. Cowboy Hydrant. Not sure where the hat came from…presumably a workman in the parking area.