Random Topics

This page features random topics that are (mostly) unrelated to art. Neighbors who smoke, resumes that keep people from getting work, people and products that aren't what they claim, they're all here.


0:00 and counting. Those darn neighbors! Every time they light up on their patio, the wind blows cigarette smoke into my living room. I've got a sliding glass door, and the smoke blows in, even when the door is closed. Like right now.

0:49. Those darn neighbors! It wouldn't be so bad, but they're chain smokers, and it's constant. All day long. All night, too.

1:32. Those darn neighbors! This time the smell is especially bad. It's almost like they're burning garbage.

1:44. Those darn neighbors! What could they be smoking that smells that bad? I'd better open the sliding glass door and check . . oh wait. . . I had something on the stove. . .

1:55. Burning carrots.

1:59. I can't decide if burnt carrots smell better or worse than cigarettes.

Not quite ready

Many of us work on projects too long, when we should just release them in an imperfect state and see how they do. If they sell, we can improve the next release. If they don't sell, we can move on to something better.

Seth Godin writes in his book Linchpin, "Sometimes, shipping feels like a compromise." (102) That's for sure!

But shipping a product out the door, sooner, rather than later, is essential. Somehow we must press through our internal and external resistance and get the product out so it can be seen and commented on, out where it can start helping people.

Seth writes, "Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that's the way to head -- directly into the resistance. . . . The resistance will help you find the thing you most need to do because it is the thing the resistance most wants to stop." (131)

Today, you and I need to get something out the door. First, before anything else. If you accomplish that, you can order Seth's book as a reward.

Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? New York: Portfolio, 2010.

Not quite ready (part 2)

I'm working on a painting project that's "not quite ready."

I've started a series called Hidden Prayers. Each painting has a prayer hidden under an abstract image. Sometimes some of the words or letters of the prayer show through; most of the time they are completely obscured.

When I started the series, I wanted to paint the prayers with something that could be easily discovered by X-ray. But lead paint is out of favor.

There must be something else I could use. But I've started the series even though I haven't got all the details worked out. I hit a deadline and I had to start, ready or not. The early prayers will be hard to discover by X-ray. Art historians will just have to sort it out later.

It wouldn't make sense to wait until I get it all perfect. Mastery requires practice.

In the meantime, postage stamps with imperfections often are worth far more than "perfect" stamps, so I know there will be a market for the beginning paintings in the series.

Reading (and writing) resumes

I posted an opening for an Admin Assistant on CraigsList. They said they'll keep the ad up for 30 days. 24 hours later I had 250 applicants. I stopped the ad.

Then I read all 250 cover letters and resumes. All the people who had applied had been online, with our business name in hand. Not one person in the first 100 looked up our website and commented on it. Only five acknowledged our business in their cover letters. (A much greater number mentioned the wrong business.) Less than ten talked about the specific things we said we were looking for.

If the shotgun approach to job hunting (or whatever else you're currently doing) works for you, awesome. But if it's not working, change your strategy.

For job hunting, pick one site. Craft the application just for them. It may take an hour. But your odds of an interview will go way up. With practice, you'll be able to write a targeted letter in ten minutes.

If your competition is anything like the first 100 resumes I read, your well-written, targeted letter will stand out and be noticed.

Dress code for job interviews

"What's the dress code?"

I was asked that by a third of the people I interviewed. Frankly, I'm more interested in the quality of the work than the appearance. But I'm also aware that the Admin Assistant represents us to the community. And in our community, appearance and style matter.

The well-dressed applicants who asked about our dress code were essentially asking if I would tolerate bait and switch. Bait and switch is advertising one thing, then delivering something else, of lesser quality.

These people wanted to be hired on the basis of how well they presented themselves in a 20-minute interview, but they didn't want to have to deliver that level of quality day after day on the job.

My suspicions about this were confirmed when these people showed up to work for a three-hour project, looking nothing like they had looked in the interview.

Why would anyone think an employer would want to hire someone who only looked good before they started work?

"Actual capacity may vary"

I just bought a flash memory chip for my camera. The capacity of the chip is announced in the biggest font used on the entire package and is printed on the most prominent location of the front.

On the back of the package, way down at the bottom, after hundreds of competing words, in the tiniest type used on the package, is the line, "Actual usable memory capacity may vary."

Translation: you may not get what it says you're getting in big type on the front.

Imagine the people who produced the memory chip going to the grocery store.

How do you think they'd react if the cartons of a dozen eggs were sealed so you couldn't inspect them and the package said, in tiny type, "Actual count of eggs inside may vary"?

Do you suppose they'd buy that brand of eggs again?

Don't cheat people out of what you promise, claiming it's an "industry standard."

The flash memory people made one sale to me. But now that I see how their game works, I'm looking for a different company to patronize next time.

Beauty everywhere

I like taking pictures of things that are accidentally beautiful. Washington D.C. presented a challenge.

Everywhere I looked, for miles at a stretch, the buildings were intentionally beautiful. Gorgeous. One different style after another, each done with grace and great eye appeal.

Usually good sections of any city have lots of architectural clunkers -- buildings that might be efficient or expedient but they're not beautiful, and they're stuck right in the middle of the best real estate in town.

Not in D.C.

Everywhere I looked, there was one magnificent building after another, for miles at a stretch. No clunkers.

This was true not just in the National Mall. Every place I went.

It was a real photo challenge, if you're trying to find accidental beauty. There's nothing accidental about the beauty surrounding DC architecture.

A fresh perspective

Getting a different perspective might take a little persistence, but it will usually be worth it.

Zoom way, way in. Pretend you had been looking at your life as if you were looking at a lawn from the front porch. Change your focus so you can zoom in and see it from an ant's perspective, with each blade of grass towering over you.

It may take a while for your eyes to adjust to this perspective, so be patient. If you get out a microscope and zoom in, it can often be surprising to find the diversity and interconnected-ness at the smallest scale of our lives.

After you've looked from that perspective for a while, change focus. Zoom way, way out. Look at your life from as far away as you can get.

Sometimes patterns emerge from a long-term look that weren't visible close up. What good things do you see when you survey the last 10 or 20 years of your life? Where do you see God's love for you?

If your first reaction is "Nowhere," look again. Where in your life do you see evidence of God's love for you? It may take practice, but if you keep looking, you'll start to see it.

Every neighborhood

Every location has scenes

common to it

that other places recognize

as rare and beautiful.




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Pages on art you might be interested in:
Understanding Abstract Art
Art Basel in Switzerland
Art Basel Miami Beach
ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI
New York Art Galleries
Venice Biennale 2011
Mark Dahle Biography and FAQs

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Steel Bridge, Portland, OR. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.

Steel Bridge, Portland, OR. Photograph © Mark Dahle 2010.

Salt processor, Mark Dahle photograph copyright 2010

Salt processor, San Diego, CA. © 2010 Mark Dahle.

Construction Equipment, Redding California, photograph copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Construction equipment, Redding, CA. © Mark Dahle 2010

Rail Road Crossing, photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Rail Road Crossing, Columbus, OH. © 2010 Mark Dahle

Construction equipment, Redding, CA, photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Construction Equipment, Redding, CA. © Mark Dahle 2010

Dock, Warrenton, OR, photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Boat Dock, Warrenton, Oregon. © Mark Dahle 2010

Railing, Everglades National Park, photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Railing, Everglades National Park, FL. © 2010 Mark Dahle

Column, Washington, DC, photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Column, Washington, D.C. © Mark Dahle 2010

Electric wires, Minneapolis, MN, Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Electric wires, Minneapolis, Minnesota. © 2010 Mark Dahle

Scaffold outside Frick Museum, Washington, D.C., photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010

Scaffold outside Frick Museum, Washington, D.C. © 2010 Mark Dahle