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My IKEA Complaint Letter


TO: IKEA Complaint Department

FROM: Mr. Keith Yancy

RE: Product Issue Causing Gradual Insanity

Dear IKEA:

My name is Keith Yancy, and I am a customer at your Michigan (Canton) IKEA store.  I have a complaint.

Along with my wife and three daughters, I am a loyal customer.  I have purchased furniture, pictures, lights, light bulbs, rugs, drapes, plates, and a host of other products.  I like them all, even though they have unusual names like “Besta Vassbo,” “Vejbon” and “Hemnes” that I suspect I mispronounce.  I even like the food, from the meatballs to the 50-cent hot dogs, and I’m particularly fond of the cinnamon rolls.  I’m not ashamed to say I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years at your store, and was generally happy to do so.

Until now.  And it’s all because of this:

photo 21_Cropped

Yes, this is a cup.  A cup YOU sell, in packs of 8, I believe.  Various colors, of which I own all.  To fully understand my problem, allow me to explain how these cups have begun to chip away at my sanity.

__________________________________________

It began with a trip to your store, obviously, with my wife and kids.  Because you design your store to channel hapless patrons like myself through all the merchandise, I unwittingly passed a display of these cups, and (unbeknownst to me) my youngest daughter put two packs of plastic cups in our basket.  My wife and I only discovered these cups as we were checking out, and began to debate our kids about why we didn’t need them.  But, with other customers waiting behind us and our daughters’ obnoxious ability to argue endlessly about anything for hours and hours, we gave up and just added them to our bill.

And that’s when it all started.

You see, these cups are left everywhere in my home.  EVERYWHERE.  Some empty, some half-full of water or milk, many COMPLETELY full of water or milk, all of which are left just waiting to be discovered by my wife or me.  This process can take days in some cases (as they are sometimes placed in very strange places), and only the smell of curdling milk makes their location — eventually — known.  My favorite ones are the ones with a spoon in them, fused to the bottom of these evil little colored cups by a layer of what was once hot chocolate (I hope); all attempts at getting a kid to wash them have, to date, resulted in dismal failure.

No matter what day of the week, time of day, or season of the year, these cups are everywhere.  They can be found left on the table,

D

on a countertop,

A

scattered around the house in places they shouldn’t be,

C

or even inside a candy dish, for reasons unknown:

B

This has been going on for months.  Little plastic IKEA cup-bombs, forever lurking within my home, their multi-colored silence mocking me from room to room.  I’ve tripped over them, found them in the yard, in the bathroom, in my cars, and because they are seemingly made of indestructible, perpetually cheery colored plastic, they never break, and therefore never grow fewer in number.  Even the colors contribute to my descent into madness: I find my OCD in full bloom when, as I load the dishwasher, I become agitated because I can’t find the OTHER orange cup, or wonder why the blue cups always wind up in the kitchen while the green ones disappear for weeks at a time, or why I secretly like the yellow ones the best.

I’M LOSING MY MIND.

Now you may protest that this is MY problem, as MY children are the ones leaving them everywhere, but I believe you are partially to blame.  Sure, all our parental attempts at getting the kids to clean up after themselves are generally failing, but it was YOU that designed your store to put them in our path.  YOU offer these cups in bright colors that kids like enough (apparently) to put them in our shopping cart without permission.  In other words, you set a trap for us (me), and I’m suffering as a result.

In case you wish to know how bad this situation has become, I’ve begun to suspect that these cups will eventually wind up everywhere — like a virus that takes over the entire planet.  I’ve begun to have visions of them cropping up around the world, like this:

verlander

patagonia

obama

korea

Given what I’ve observed at my home, I even think these cups could escape the bonds of earth.  I really do.

space

In fact, I’m convinced that these cups are so pervasive, there is absolutely nowhere they can’t turn up.  I’m willing to bet that if someone actually DOES find Bigfoot out in the forest somewhere, he’ll be walking around holding one of our little plastic IKEA cups, like this:  

bigfoot

In short, I don’t think I can escape these cups.  Ever.  Even when it’s my time to go, I suspect they’ll be waiting for my arrival:

heaven

Or, in the event that my behavior here on Earth isn’t as good as I think it is, I could EASILY picture these cups waiting for me elsewhere, poised to ensure my journey to insanity is both complete and eternal:

hell

______________________

So, IKEA, since you were in part responsible for my deteriorating condition, I propose compensation.  Clearly, you’re cheerful little plastic cups have negatively affected my mind, and I think a free package of cinnamon rolls is a fair exchange for my mental health.  If you are particularly moved by my suffering, some meatballs would be nice too.   I may eventually go completely insane, but it would be nice to do so after sampling your cinnamon rolls, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be a more docile and satisfied insane person on a full stomach.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I feel compelled to observe that, even if you choose not to offer compensation, my wife and kids enjoy your store too much for me to effectively boycott your products.  So while this may appear to be an empty threat, I can only trust that your conscience as a marketer and as a parent (if you have children) will nag at you, knowing you have driven a cynical suburban father of three out of his mind.

Yours,

Keith D. Yancy

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I never thought these boots would last a quarter century…


Image

by Keith Yancy

A few days ago, I decided to do some yardwork, and since I knew the ground was still damp, I decided to put on my work boots.  I got them out, and decided — based on a father’s instincts — to turn them upside down first to see if anything were inside them.  (Don’t ask me why I’ve developed this habit.  Trust me — it’s justified.)

One boot contained an impressively large collection of twigs and sticks, which rained down onto the floor and made yet another mess to pick up.  The other boot housed a bracelet made out of Scrabble tiles, which I later discovered had been missing for “months and months.”  These sorts of discoveries cause me to have the same sort of resigned shoulder shrug as Ralphie’s dad in “A Christmas Story,” when he discovers his son Randy hiding in a cupboard under the kitchen sink.  No, I don’t know why that stuff was in my gross, nasty old work boots, but I’m too apathetic to try to figure such domestic mysteries out anymore.

Anyhow, I put the boots on, did my work, and took them off later.  As I was going to put them away, though, it occurred to me that these boots were pretty old.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these old boots were among the oldest items in my wardrobe.  I finally realized that these boots were older than my daughters (one of which is 17), and even older than my marriage (20 years). 

Incredibly, these boots are, by my guess, almost 25 years old.  That, my friends, is a great investment.

Now, that’s admittedly a great example of how cheap I am, too.  I just never really felt like I needed new work boots.  Even when the insulated lining succombed to dry rot and crumbled into dust, I just vacuumed out the dust and insulation out and put them back in the closet.  When the left sole cracked in half, I tested them to see if the crack let in water, and when it didn’t, I put them back in the closet again.  Nope, these boots — which I purchased for about $18 at Kmart — just never seemed quite worn out-enough to throw away. 

I’ve shovelled snow in them.  Took my kids sledding and fishing in them.  Stepped in dog poop (many times) in them.  Killed bees, mowed lawns, assembled playground equipment, planted trees, remodeled a basement, even almost got electrocuted in them (a long and stupid story for another time).  I’ve spilled chemicals on them, dripped wood stain, paint (and blood) on them, had spray foam insulation, Krazy Glue and metal filings stuck to them, and through it all, they’ve held up for a quarter century.

They’ve outlasted two houses (we’re in our third house now), about a dozen “moving parties,” 8-9 different cars (I’m too lazy to remember them all), a couple of friends’ marriages, 5-6 American Presidents, and, because I live in Detroit, countless political scandals and exactly ZERO World Series or Superbowl championships.  They were around when I got married, had three kids and one open-heart surgery.  They outlasted two cats, several goldfish, one turtle, half-a-dozen uninvited mice, and a squirrel who hid in my basement for several weeks.  They saw me start a 21-year stint at my former employer, and were there when it ended.

So, these silly, beat-up boots may look shot, but I’m keeping them around.  In fact, they’re staying until they literally fall apart (or, at this point, disintegrate). 

By the way… they were originally branded as Texas Steer work boots.  I don’t know if they were American made, but I hope so.  Because they were a pretty damn good investment, in my opinion.

Until next time… 🙂

Frustration


by Keith Yancy

At last, some time to write… and, in no particular order, I’m sharing a few of my recent frustrations.

  1. Plane trips.  I’ve been exactly six feet, one-inch tall for the past 26 years or so, but recently, and ONLY recently, I’ve discovered that I’m becoming uncomfortably tall on airplanes.  At least it feels that way when I sit down.  The leg room on the last few flights seems to be steadily getting smaller and smaller, with more and more people jammed into the same confined space.  I know there are people taller than me on these flights, and during the last one, my knees were literally up against the seat in front of me… and that person hadn’t reclined their seat.  Higher prices, no food, and now, apparently, no space to sit comfortably.  Thanks for putting customers first!
  2. Politicians.  From presidential candidates who could be the poster guys for the “Pick Your Poison” award… to Michigan state politicians scandalized by the word “vagina”… there seems to be so very, very few political figures I respect these days.  At the very, very bottom of the political “food chain” is, as always, our illustrious Detroit and Wayne County politicians, who make stupidity and chronic bumbling a true art form.  It’s so bad, the Mayor, the City Council, and the Detroit top attorney can’t even agree on who is actually in charge.  These political cronies and hangers-on would rather argue endlessly (and collect their paychecks) than do anything to try to keep Detroit from sliding into bankruptcy.  For many, including myself, I’ve given up any hope that this collection of fools can do anything useful, and would actually welcome an Emergency Manager.  Detroit deserves way, way better than these sorry excuses they call leaders.  And all of us — across the country — deserve better choices for who is running for office. 
  3. Bullying kids, and the parents who raise them.  Bullying is a funny thing — everyone’s against it, but it sure seems to be a popular problem.  Why?  For one thing, kids are kids, and some of that is going to happen.  But I know that if I learned that my kids were bullying others, my kids would get corrected IMMEDIATELY, and that requisite apologies would be forthcoming.  Bullying others is not tolerated in my house, within my family… and my kids know it well.  Yet, there are parents out there who somehow believe that it’s better to be dealin’ than receivin’, and thus if their kid’s a bully, then it’s somehow okay.  These parents are stupid.  The recent punishment for the four boys who bullied the bus monitor (a year’s suspension from school) is a fitting one, and it was encouraging that several (not all) of the parents involved not only made their kids write letters of apology, but apologized themselves.  Rightly so.  I would have been mortified to be one of those parents.  Parents should bear the consequences, and share in the punishment, for their kids’ poor behavior.
  4. Bad manners.  Is it that hard to say “please” and “thank you” to waiters and waitresses?  Is it too much to ask to chew with your mouth closed?  Don’t you think that — by the time you’re in your 40’s with kids, no less — that trying to cut in front of others in line makes you look like a jackass?  Perhaps I’m just naive, but it still surprises me when grown-up, old-enough-to-damn-well-know-better adults display such appallingly bad behavior.  Most of the time (especially with the chewing with the mouth open one) I just suffer in silence, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some pushy person try to get in front of me in line, like the person who tried (and failed) to do so in St. Louis.  Later, this same person — in front of her kids, no less — made some presumptive statement about people hogging all the observation windows in the observation area.  Lady, thanks for reminding all of us how not to behave… but unlike yourself, I know that already, so spare me (and others) the example next time.
  5. Paper-thin hotel room walls.  Blech.  Recently, I had the pleasure (I thought) of staying in a high-end, posh hotel for a business conference.  The kind of place that spares no expense to make visitors comfortable.  Unfortunately, the only expense that WAS spared was the one to put some insulation between the rooms of the hotel.  I was the victim of (apparently) newlywed next door neighbors, whose vocal amorous episodes were both loud and amazingly frequent.  In fact, the walls were so thin, I could actually hear their jokes… and that with both a television and an iPod turned up.  4:40AM, 5:30AM, 1:00PM, 3:00PM, 7:30PM… no time of day or night was safe from this very, very verbal couple.  I found myself feeling somehow guilty for being subjected to hearing it.  Though I never met them, their stamina and enthusiasm earned my respect, if nothing else.  But I’d rather not have heard it at all, and shouldn’t have in a hotel as high-class as the one I stayed in.
  6. Unmet expectations.  Okay, yeah, this is a pretty broad category.  But I’m talking about not living up to your own expectations, specifically when it comes to controlling one’s own worry and anxiety about life’s challenges.  Having read my Bible enough to appreciate the true “heavy hitters” of faith, i.e., Moses, David, the 12 apostles, Paul, etc., I wish I could have 1/100th of the faith those guys had.  But no.  Despite constantly reminding myself of the Almighty’s guiding hand, I could lock up the gold, silver AND bronze medal in the Worry Olympics.  I worry about everything, constantly.  And it drives me absolutely nuts.  If Daniel could handle the lions’ den, Samson kill 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, and Paul get shipwrecked three times (not to mention amicably attending his own beheading), you’d think I could stop sweating a 30-minute business meeting in which I would suffer no bodily harm.  And yet, I worry.  I may never learn, which frustrates me even further.

Normally, I try to stay positive on this blog, but I just wasn’t up to slapping a happy face on things today.  Thanks for reading, and I’ll do my best to be more upbeat in my next post.

Until next time… : |

boneyards


Kinyon Cemetery, Canton, Michigan.

by Keith Yancy

Like so many people nowadays, I’ve been working a lot lately.  Meetings.  Deadlines.  Schedules.  The pace seems breakneck, the list of things to do endless.  And when the demands seem overwhelming, I find myself thinking about “the larger things” — those elements of our existence that transcend the day-to-day routine.  Focusing on the enduring aspects of life, rather than the endless minor issues of our daily lives that always threaten to wash over us.

Last Sunday, while attending our family church service, the congregation said a prayer asking that, one day, we would rejoin in heaven those who had departed in death before us.  I found myself thinking about this prayer long after the service, and it brought back to my mind a wonderful book I had purchased early last year — Boneyards, by Richard Bak.

Boneyards, by Richard Bak.

Boneyards, at first glance, looks like both a coffee-table picture book and a collection of the macabre; picture after picture of funerals, cemeteries, and headstones.  The title even suggests a bit of tongue-in-cheek approach to the contents.  But the reason I recalled this book wasn’t for the pictures or the mischievous title — it was for the wonderful, tragic, and certainly memorable stories that the author tells about those who have, indeed, departed in death before us. 

Among the most memorable pictures and stories, for me, include:

  • Children sledding down a hill in Elmwood Cemetery in 1885.  A grainy black-and-white photo shows young kids sledding among the headstones of the deceased.  I know it’s completely inconsistent with my belief that cemeteries should be places of quiet and respect, but I can’t help secretly thinking that, if it were my headstone and grave, I’d enjoy knowing that kids were sledding nearby. 
  • A voodoo cult leader who, along with his family, was murdered in 1929.  Even the Catholic priest who presided over his funeral doubted that the man truly believed in the bizarre cult he tried to create, and was convinced that he did it solely to make money.
  • A 62-year-old farmer who, in 1892, killed his wife in a grisly murder-suicide after a domestic dispute.  Even in his suicide note, he was so angry with his wife that he asked that she not be buried on his land. 
  • Pictures of headstones showing people of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds, and races, equals in death if not treated as equals in life.
  • Soldiers who served and, in many cases, died for our country.  The years between birth and death far too close together, these graves show that many were still teenagers when they died, child-soldiers in some of mankind’s most horrific wars.  My own child is only two years younger than some of these boys (yes, boys), and I can’t imagine her facing the hell on earth these kids were asked to face.
  • Graves — and entire cemeteries — that not only rarely if ever get a visitor, but in many instances are almost entirely inaccessible.  Monuments that were once erected to proudly mark important people and families, now partially submerged in water and surrounded by abandoned factories, urban decay and a neighborhood oblivious to who they once were. 
  • Grave sites and pictures of famous people, along with weathered gravestones where the name is lost to time.  Wealthy people with their name carved on a mausoleum, and paupers marked only with a number on a stone.  Leaders and ordinary citizens.  Mothers, fathers, infants.  All with a story to tell, even if it’s simply, “I lived.” 
  • And, the most piercing memory of all, two small pictures of a 7-year-old girl and her headstone.  This girl didn’t die of illness, she was murdered on her way to school, her body dumped in a blanket far from her home.  The murder was never solved, though the detective who handled the case still remembers it vividly.  The image of that little girl, her life taken away so young, is one that may never leave my memory.  Perhaps it’s because I see her as a father would, and can glimpse — if only for a moment, in a small, fleeting way — the never-ending agony a parent must feel to lose a child.  She was murdered in 1955. 

How do such stories — from a book that illustrates Detroit-area cemeteries — relate to a weary, rumpled, working father like myself?  Most of these stories seem so sad, so marked by tragedy.  Yet the stories in Boneyards remind me not of death, but rather of the wonderful tapestry of lives lived, of people who faced many of the same dangers and problems we face today, of people loved and lost. 

But, perhaps more importantly, it reminds me that one of our most common cultural myths — that today’s society is getting steadily worse, and that people are somehow more evil and brutal than those in the past — is just not true.  Murder, heartbreak, sickness — these have been with us throughout time, in every land and town, everywhere.  The photographs in Boneyards and the silent gravestones in cemeteries in our neighborhoods provide testimony to that fact.   

Our culture is one marked by the bizarre duality of instant connectivity and cultural isolation, in which we too often sit alone with our computers and televisions as we’re inundated with “news” that’s too often a collection of our sins, mistakes and failures.  I believe it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that all the negative attributes of humanity have somehow become worse in our time.  But I believe that we are getting better, we are getting wiser, that with the advances of education, travel, modern medicine and science, we are improving the human condition and the dignity of mankind. 

Perhaps we’re not moving as fast as we would like.  Perhaps its hard to see the progress when we only see the setbacks.  But I believe that, one day, we’ll look back on these times and realize that we have made progress, that the majority of people want peace, freedom and prosperity, and that our society is capable of growth and improvement. 

So when my life gets too stressful, I think of those who have gone before us.  As my daughters know well, I do stop occasionally to take in the silence of such local cemeteries as Shearer Cemetery in Plymouth or Kinyon Cemetery in Canton.  Not to reflect on death… but to reflect on life, my gratitude for the life I have and those around me, and my recognition that these times — for all their challenges — are still “the best of times.”

Until next time… 🙂

Yes, I Do Want a Toaster for Christmas


by Keith Yancy

At this stage of my life, there are exactly two people who ask me what I want for Christmas, my wife and my mother.  I have informed both that I only want one thing: a toaster.  A nice, non-complicated, functional toaster that really, truly TOASTS food.  In fact, I’ll cave on “nice” and even “non-complicated,” as long as the damn thing works.

I am currently the owner of two lousy, worthless, space-eating lumps that masquerade as toasters.  (I’ve written about one of them before, but I just can’t get this frustration out of my system.)  Both reside in my kitchen, and I have an abiding, profound disdain for both of them.  My expectations, despite being pretty reasonable, are never met by either of these “appliances.”  All I want is one thing: to toast bread in such a way that the final product is both toasted AND edible.  Neither of these so-called “toasters” can consistently meet this  requirement.

The first (and the primary object of this rant) is a second-hand toaster my parents had in their basement.  Our previously owned, rotten toaster had a bad habit of bursting into flames, so my dad remembered that they had an old toaster they didn’t use anymore.  Sadly, none of us remembered WHY he didn’t use it anymore.

The "Toastmaster." It has a subtitle that says, "Toaster's Choice," which is, in fact, sarcastic and true: the toaster itself makes most of the decisions.

This sad exhibit is ironically named “Toastmaster,” and I’m convinced that it’s someone’s idea of a cruel joke.  It has two controls: one for a wide food slot (presumably for bagels, or in this case, half a bagel), the other for two bread slots.  The controls seem simple enough — lighter or darker toast, depending on your preference.  The problem (and the sick joke part) is, these controls apparently control the TOASTER’S preference, not the operator.  And, in a final cruel twist, they aren’t even consistent in how they malfunction.

The bagel side has, based on many instances of exasperated experience, two settings: “slightly warmed/non-toasted,” or “smoldering/incinerated.”  Nothing in-between is ever produced.  Naturally, the only way one can both have a half-bagel actually toasted (in such a way as to be edible) is, literally, to stand in front of the “Toastmaster,” eyes transfixed on the half-bagel one is attempting to toast, and monitor the entire toasting process until that fleeting “tipping point” is realized when you actually have, for a brief space, a toasted half-bagel.  One then must either unplug the device or, if one’s courage is running high, attempt to (gasp!) use the controls to eject the half-bagel.  This often results in a loud clicking noise and violent spasms from the Toastmaster, which seems to intuitively know that its gone too far to not toast an object, but not completed it’s mission to transform it into pure carbon, either.

Who the hell has time to stare at a toaster?  And, for the majority of adults who like to eat the ENTIRE bagel, why should this process be repeated TWICE?

The bread slots are no better, but in a different way: these slots stubbornly refuse to toast anything.  Thanks to the lever being broken off, one must use a sharp object on the Toastmaster to adjust the bread slot toaster controls, which isn’t so bad because the control is usually left in the “dark” setting.  This is because, no matter how many times you push the lever down, the bread will cheerfully pop back up a few moments later in a slightly warmer and not-at-all-toasted condition.  Only by repeating this process several times will anything resembling toast be produced.  Though I’ve not had the patience, I suppose one could eventually obtain a “dark” version of toast, but even then, the Toastmaster seems to take a dim view of repeated attempts to toast bread, and after a while, refuses to keep toasting. 

And then there’s this little gem: the OTHER toaster, a toaster oven.

The Euro Pro toaster oven. Cool on the inside, blistering on the outside, the Euro Pro makes the process of toasting bread nearly endless.

This one I bought, about 15 years ago.  Though I can’t remember the actual shopping trip, I suppose I was somehow enticed by the international flair of the “Euro Pro” name on the top of the oven.  I can only say that we still have it because my wife seems to like it.  I can’t stand it.  Anything that you wish to be toasted seems to take an endless amount of time, regardless of setting, food inserted, anything.  It’s no secret that my wife has substantially more patience than I do, but waiting on that silly device would have Job himself coveting a new toaster.  Plus, one cannot activate this device without having to hear it emit a clicking sound every bit as irritating as an egg-timer (or a bomb, I suppose).  I’m convinced that a sunny summer day and a magnifying glass could produce faster results.  It sits in the corner of our kitchen, with a partially melted cord and plug, because while the inside of the device doesn’t actually toast, the OUTSIDE of the thing gets intensely hot.  (NOTE: the cord, while partially melted, is still safe.  I check it from time to time hoping that it is compromised enough to justify throwing it out, but that day, alas, has yet to arrive.)  In a final act of defiance, I considered putting the bread ON the toaster rather than inside, but the manufacturer has affixed some type of super-plastic label on it that says in about 6 different languages that the outside of this oven is “extremely hot.”   What it really is “extremely worthless,” if worthlessness could be extreme.

So… I want a toaster.  A good one.  Ironically, I went with my family to Target one day, and we happened to wander down the aisle that included toasters.  I was spellbound.  They had a decent variety of toasters, every one of which I firmly believe was better than the two I currently own.  I looked at them for a long time, and then, while my wife was doing something else, put one in our cart.  My wife noticed it immediately (the box was pretty large and garish), and we proceeded to discuss whether or not we really needed a toaster.  My kids all thought this was quite amusing, especially since — despite my views on our current toasters — my wife had the better of the argument, and I eventually put the toaster back on the shelf.  This elicited a lot of mostly false sympathy from my kids, along with some teasing, and I left the toaster aisle behind.

I know now that the best way for me to get a new toaster is to ask for one for Christmas, and I’m seizing my opportunity.  That’s why, when my mother texted me about the toaster request, I re-iterated that I did, in fact, want one as a gift.  Even when she called me a few days later to see if I was serious (I was, obviously), my request remained unchanged.  I genuinely, truly, honestly want a toaster.  I want to be rid of the Toastmaster, once and for all.  I want to make the Euro Pro superfluous.  I want… toast.

Until next time… 🙂

Photo Blog: My Very First Comic Book Convention


 
Detroit FanFare 2011.

by Keith Yancy

Not too long ago, I went to my very first comic book convention.

I admit, this was not something I initially wanted to do.  My daughter and her friend wanted to go, and since it was being held in downtown Detroit, someone needed to take them.  And, since I know that my wife typically does this stuff, I came down with a fairly serious case of guilt (entirely self-inflicted) and volunteered to take them.  I figured that I’d take some iPhone pictures and wander around while the girls did what they wanted.

I learned a lot.  Here’s a few highlights, in the order I learned them:

  1. I can’t resist taking pictures of some of the buildings downtown.  As I’ve said before, I’m proud of the history of Detroit, and every time I go downtown, I can’t help admiring the buildings.  Even in the rooftop parking at the convention center, I started taking pictures.  The girls didn’t seem particularly impressed, so we went inside and went to the ticket counter.

    Detroit skyline, seen from the roof of Cobo.

    Detroit Firehouse, across the street from Cobo.

  2. The people at comic book conventions are… different.  I’m not sure when I realized this, but it might have been when I got in line for tickets behind two tattooed zombies.  Or maybe when the Imperial Stormtrooper walked by, armed with a blaster.  Or maybe when a young woman walked into the convention center and immediately took off her shirt and pants, revealing a bikini-and-fishnets-type outfit.  Whenever it was that I realized that comic conventions were different, I know it was before I even purchased the tickets.

    One of the many Stormtroopers. They must get hot in those outfits...

  3. No one at a comic convention seems to have any inhibitions at all, and everyone seems accepted. Pointed, metallic bras.  Tails protruding from people’s butts.  Latex and leather jumpsuits.   Thigh-high boots.  Face paint.  Fake blood.  Masks, capes, hoods.  One superhero in a wheelchair, another on 3-feet tall mechanical stilts.  All was in abundance, and no one seemed the least bit fazed by any of it.  In fact, people were generally really friendly, and would quite willingly pose for pictures for anyone who asked. 

    This woman wore a metallic bra that seemed to be very well appreciated by teenage boys.

    Uh... I have no idea.

    I'm stumped on these people also. They had masks on, too...These two were very popular. Everyone wanted pictures with them.

  4. There’s a lot of really, really good artists. The artwork was really diverse.  Bleeding skulls, fairies, superheroes, you name it — the styles and quality of the artwork on display was impressive.  There are some very, very talented artists that draw comics.

    "Lackluster World." I think I've been there on occasion...

  5. Comic convention people have a pretty good sense of humor. No one seemed to take themselves too seriously.  I loved that.  People took their ART seriously, but they also seemed to have a good sense of humor about themselves and each other.  Everyone was well-behaved, and people seemed to enjoy talking and joking with each other.  Kudos to the two Stormtroopers who were also Muppets… they half-jogged around the entire convention, waving and (you guessed it) posing for pictures.

    In case you were wondering whatever happened to Kermit...

  6. There are actual “stars” that show up at these things. Peter Weller — “Robocop” — talked to a bunch of people.  Some attractive actress from a superhero movie (no, I have no idea which one) signed autographs.  Famous comic book authors had meet-and-greet sessions.  I had no idea that stars attended these things.

    People gathered to listen to Peter Weller, the actor from "Robocop."

  7. Superheroes and comic book characters aren’t the same as when I was a kid.   In all honesty, most of the characters I saw were a complete mystery to me.  In fact, I think I was the only person at this thing who didn’t recognize most of the characters.  I recognized Batman, and Robocop, and the dozen or so Imperial Stormtroopers, and Darth Vader.  That was about it.  There were a lot of other characters I knew nothing about.  What’s worse, when I showed some of the photos to a friend at work, he knew them ALL.  Looking back, I feel old.

    Hmm... Another guy I couldn't identify. One of many.

  8. T-shirts, t-shirts everywhere. Apparently, comic convention people like t-shirts.  There were t-shirts for sale of every type and description.  Again, most had phrases I didn’t recognize… and several times, I found myself standing in front of t-shirt displays with a confused look on my face.  I eventually broke down and bought a t-shirt that said “Detroit” on the front, which was the least comic-y shirt in the entire convention.

    I don't think I could pull off wearing a "This Little Piggy Went BOOM" t-shirt. There were about 50,000 to choose from, apparently.

  9. In the end, the real dork was… me.  When I went to this thing, I expected to make fun of people and make snide observations.  But after a few hours, and while munching on some really expense and not-very-good nachos, I came to the conclusion that the only dork in the place was myself.  I was dressed like a bore, while everyone else was all decked out in costume.  I was strangely self-conscious, while most everyone else seemed completely at ease and having fun.  While I had an appreciation for comic book art, I had no talent or understanding of the plot lines of the popular comics; everyone else seemed very knowledgeable about the characters and stories.  People were having a great time, laughing, comparing art styles, meeting celebrities and artists, talking comics and buying  stuff.  I, on the other hand, looked like a father who had been ditched by his kids, eating red and purple nachos with artificial “cheez” splooged all over them, sitting by myself at a table that seated 12, looking completely out of place. 

When we finally left for home, I actually was glad I went.  I still don’t really have a strong preference for comic books, but I do appreciate the artistry and talent required to make comics, and I’ve got a new-found appreciation for the individuality and creativity of the people who like them. 

And so… I went into the convention expecting to have a harmless laugh at other people, and came out laughing at myself.  If nothing else, I learned I’m still capable of learning, and it’s okay to be a dork.  And that’s a good thing.

Until next time… 🙂

Music: Call For Suggestions


 

A lousy photograph of my car radio. My initial enthusiasm upon seeing my name on the radio was quickly negated by the lousy-ness of the song.

by Keith Yancy

I love music.  Maybe not every kind, but my tastes are pretty diverse.  Looking at my iTunes account, my choices range from classic rock to alternative, new age to folk, jazz to classical, soundtracks, electronica, even the occasional country song (very rare) to heavy metal (very, very rare). 

A good tune can stick in my head for days, or even weeks.  Unfortunately, a horrendous song can ALSO stick in my head for days or weeks.  Thankfully, having an iPod containing several thousand songs helps me keep stupid songs like “Yummy Yummy Yummy” mercifully out of my consciousness (most of the time).  I regret ever complaining about that song to my daughters, because they occasionally remember (like they did the other day) and sing it loudly just to bother me. 

Where do they get such behavior from, I have no idea.

But while I can go on with that line of thinking indefinitely, I’m really looking for suggestions.

You see, despite having a gozillion songs to choose from, despite having satellite radio in my car, and yes, despite listening frequently to Pandora and other sources, I’m still collecting music, still looking for new songs.  (I’m so pitiful that, as the photo above shows, I will resort to taking a photograph of my own car radio to remember songs I like.  It’s sad to be so absent-minded, isn’t it?)  So I thought I’d appeal to some of my readers, whom I know have wonderfully varied musical tastes.

What I’m looking for is this: songs that have what I feel is a somber, “urban”-type feel, complete with either trumpet, saxophone, violin, or piano prominently included.  Here’s a few examples of what I’m looking for:

  1. Rolling Stones — “Waiting on a Friend
  2. Bruce Springsteen — “Meeting Across the River
  3. Billy Joel — “The Stranger,” “New York State of Mind
  4. Chris Coco — “Heavy Mellow
  5. Cat Power — “Woman Left Lonely

Looking at this list, it seems like I’m asking for sad/depressing songs… maybe so.  But that’s not really what I’m after. 

I’m sure everyone has reasons for why they listen to music, and probably as many as there are people listening.  For my part, I listen to music to affect my mood — upbeat when I need a lift, quiet when I’m thinking, sad or peaceful when I’m relaxing.  To me, music is an essential and integral part of my existence, a gift that I enjoy every single day… and one I enjoy sharing with others.

So, I’m asking you, the reader — do you have any suggestions that might fit into or belong with the examples listed above?  I feel like I’m limited by my inability to clarify what I’m looking for, as well as my ignorance to artists that may be creating such music.  I’d love to discover some new artists/music that would expand my interests and tastes, too.

I recognize that everyone’s opinions are different, and what’s great music to one person is awful noise to another… but I’m willing to have an open mind to any suggestions.  I’ll even take suggestions for artists or songs that are your particular favorites.  And I promise this: I won’t make fun of or criticize genuine suggestions. 

So… help me out, please.  I’d appreciate it. 

Until next time… 🙂

Photo Blog: Why I Live in Michigan, Part 1


Sunset, Lake Michigan, 2011.

by Keith Yancy

Michigan.  

My home state has taken quite a beating in the past few years.  Unemployment and the resulting decline in population have fueled much of the criticism.  As residents know, the weather can change from bone-chilling cold to sweltering heat; from blazing sunshine to rain and fog; from dry and windy to oppressively humid; and, as the locals say, all before lunch.

But while the winters may be cold and long, I love it here.  Four seasons, culminating in a fiery palette of autumn that takes a back seat to no other state in our Union.  Open access to the majestic Great Lakes, and the traditions and lifestyle that can only be found along its shores.  Mountains (albiet small ones), rivers, sand dunes, farms, fields, and — of course — endless miles of silent forests.  It’s a simply beautiful place to live and visit… and I’m proud to call it my home.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our three daughters up to a town called Glen Arbor, which for those of you who don’t know, is roughly where the tip of the ring finger would be inside the mitten.  Though I took a couple hundred pictures, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ones — photos that, for the most part, highlight how beautiful Michigan is.  My only regret was that we were too early for the fall colors, which I love to see.  (One of the highlights of my youth was driving through the fall scenery in Northern Michigan with my brother — a trip and time that will always hold a special place in my memory.)

Anyhow, please forgive the quality of some of the photographs.  These were all taken with my iPhone, and my skills are, shall we say, poor.  But some scenes are too beautiful even for me to mess up.  Below are my favorites.

Our vacation condo, as seen from the forest.When the fog rolls in, the FOG ROLLS IN. This was taken at about 3:30PM.

Sunset.

One of my favorites, despite the fact that I haven't cropped it...

Sunset over Lake Michigan.

The storms rolled in, and that was beautiful too.

My favorite photo of the sunset over Lake Michigan. Absolutely beautiful.View from the bike paths.Two of my daughters... exploring. Can you see them?

Along the bike path.

I hope you enjoyed looking at one person’s view of Northern Michigan.  I loved being up there with my wife and kids, and we did so much in four days it was hard to believe the time was so short.  One of the best “mini” vacations we’ve had in years.

Until next time… 🙂

A Thank You Letter


by Keith Yancy

NOTE: This thank you letter goes out to my sister and brother-in-law, who I will refer to as “R” and “F” to protect their privacy.  After all, if you were related to me, you know you’d want anonymity too.

R, F,

This thank you note may seem a little strange, in large part because I’m thanking you for something you did for someone else.

But I thought you would like to know that I am grateful for the gift card you gave to my daughter (your niece, obviously) as a birthday present.  She should — and will — thank you personally, but I thought I should send you a note myself.

You see, I’m the type of person who has no problem with gift cards as gifts, especially in today’s times, when busy schedules, distance, and the sheer magnitude of personal choices make choosing a “perfect gift” next to impossible.  But I have often felt that it was the obligation of the person who received the gift to let you know the result of your thoughtfulness.

So… why are you hearing from me, instead of the kid?

This is why:

You may have assumed that your niece would choose a gift that a typical 12-year-old girl might choose.  But… rather than nail polish, or jewelry, or a book, or music, or any number of other things that a pre-teen girl would normally select as her birthday present, your niece chose that.  A Nerf Gun.  And not any sort of pedestrian, single shot, run-of-the-mill Nerf Gun… no, this is a six-shot Nerf Gun revolver.  Complete with six Nerf bullets, fully equipped with suction cups.

Honestly, this gift has been fabulous. 

This is our first Nerf Gun here at home, and has already created family fun and raised the excitement levels (and noise levels) throughout our house.  The girls were having fun with it outside just this morning.  But the real fun began when they showed me the new Nerf Gun.

And that is why I’m writing to you now.  Thank you for giving us (albeit by extension) this new Nerf Gun.  In the course of only 10 minutes, I have done the following:

  1. Shot all three of my children (multiple times)
  2. Shot the dog (ONCE, by accident)
  3. Shot my wife twice (on purpose; the first time was to show that it didn’t hurt the dog, the second to confirm her feelings of not wishing to be shot at in the future)
  4. Trapped one of my children on the landing of our stairwell under a withering crossfire (until I ran out of bullets)
  5. Shot the ceiling of my living room (numerous times)
  6. Shot the walls
  7. Shot the furniture
  8. Shot the piano (and almost got a bullet stuck inside it)
  9. Somehow convinced my kids to continuously fetch the Nerf bullets and return them to me, because I’m too lazy to actually get them myself
  10. Do 1-9 above, all while never actually standing up or exerting myself whatsoever

In other words, this is fantastic.  Or, at least it was fantastic, until the rest of the household decided to relieve me of the Nerf Gun.  I have not seen the Nerf Gun since, though I haven’t yet generated enough motivation to get up and start looking.

I am optimistic about the future of the Nerf Gun, and it’s all because of your gift card.  I think that, with little effort, I could use this exciting product to get people’s attention, encourage them to leave the room, and give them a gentle reminder to do their homework, chores, etc.  I can also use it when the dog barks or otherwise gets on my nerves.  This gun will allow me to get more done with less effort than any tool I’ve received in a long time.

I am also happy to report that, despite relatively little experience with this new Nerf Gun, my aim is rapidly improving.  I envision being able to hit virtually everything I aim at very soon, if only because of what seems to be my endless fascination with this Nerf Gun and it’s uses.

So, again, thank you.  This is another great example of why gift cards are so convenient… you just never know how much benefit such a gift can bring to others.  I secretly feel like it was a gift given to ME… and it’s not even my birthday.

Sincerely,

Your loving brother

9/11


by Keith Yancy

The day is here again.

On this day, 10 years after the surreal tragedy of 9/11, I will take time to remember.

I will remember how, in our sadness and horror, we saw humanity at its best — after we saw it at it’s worst.

I will remember the thousands that died, some heroically, some anonymously, all tragically.

I will remember the families forever scarred by the fanaticism of misguided and deluded conspirators.

I will remember the bravery and selflessness of all the heroes in New York, then the heroes in America, then the heroes of those around the world who did so much to try to help and save lives.

I will remember the solemn pride of watching a nation come together, setting aside their differences, to show the world that we are a unified, albeit imperfect, nation.

I will remember all the men and women who have sacrificed their safety, their health, and even their lives to protect us since that day.

I will remember the people and nations around the world who supported America during and after the tragedy, and continue to support our nation today.

I will remember how fortunate Americans are — despite that day — to live in a nation where we can stand together when tragedy strikes, setting aside differences in religion, race, and ideology to face our enemies.

I will remember that fanaticism knows no limits, and can twist any religion to suit its purposes.

I will remember that, when others have a different ethnic background or tradition, such differences do not automatically make them an enemy or un-American. 

I will remember, without needing to listen to cockpit recordings, video replays, or dramatized re-enactments of that day… a day that has seared its imprint forever in my memory.

I will remember that such tragic events can happen at any time, without warning, without cause… and that such events succeed only when they create blind hatred and prejudice.

I will remember how that day changed our lives, our nation, and our world.  Instantly and irrevocably.

I will remember, because I cannot — and will not — forget.

Until next time… 😦

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