On Paying Attention to What You See

August 8, 2011
How carefully do you notice what is happening around you?

A few years ago I started something I called Visual Viewpoints. This was a way to suggest that you could tell something about a person by the pictures they share, based on where they choose to stand to take the picture and the subject they select.

Don’t know what, exactly, my pictures say about me, but they offer you a glimpse into the kinds of things I am interested in capturing on film (well, on tiny digital memory cards anyway)

Interesting patterns of white on mountain is ItalyIn the case of the picture on the right, I was flying over the alps from Italy to Munich a few years ago. What puzzled me were the patches of white against the dark ground. It looks as though this is snow on a hiking trail, or perhaps on a ski run, but it is only the beginning of November.

Yet if it is snow, why would there be only white in these lines but not in the deep valleys Why are there breaks in the white, as though there is a deep hole filled with snow? But there wasn’t much snow on the mountains as a whole, so why did the “snow” create a pattern like this? There are other areas that are in the shadow more than these appear to be and I assume they would continue to have snow, so what makes these areas special?

I am puzzled by this and offer it here in the hope that someone who reads this page will explain it. My interest in it is a little like that of members of the Google Earth Community who examine Google Earth pictures to find anomalies that are interesting to them.

There are many who would look at this and only think of it as a beautiful mountain scene. If they noticed the white at all, they would ignore it or file it as an-unknown-thing-not-worth-pursuing. Yet doesn’t it puzzle you? Don’t you wonder what it means?

I share this to encourage you look with a bit more questioning eyes at the world around you, including pictures in print and TV. And then, when you see something that is a puzzle, that you try to find out what it is. There are a zillion things that I don’t know the why of, but whenever I take the time to see what they might be, when I ask questions about “why” they are the way they appear—even if I don’t find the answer—the mere fact that I’ve tried enriches my life.

If you know someone who might have an explanation for this picture, please let me know how I can get in touch with him or her.

What about you? How do you view the world? What is your viewpoint?

When you look around you, besides needing to watch where you are going as you navigate the world without running into something, are you interested in what you’re seeing?

When there is something you haven’t seen before, do you try to understand what it is, or do you let it become just one more thing that is a puzzle not pursued?

Finally, are you willing to pay attention this week to at least one thing that you haven’t known how it is made, why it looks the way the does, or its possible purpose—and then actually pursue the answer?

Create Your Own “Burma-Shave” Sign

November 4, 2010
For several decades motorists enjoyed Burma-Shave signs lining America’s highways. Now you can see them again in a video of Historic Route 66 and can enter a contest to create your own “sign” to promote any cause you’d like.

If you need relationship info, here, my friend, is where to go: Support4Change.comThis past July we took two of our grandsons for a Road Scholar program (it used to be called Intergenerational ElderHostel) near Grand Canyon. Fabulous time, except that I was having some trouble with the heat and decided I would skip the day trip down the Colorado River. Have wanted to do that all my life, but apparently have waited too long and the body objected.

Instead, while everyone else was out having a grand time on the river, I took myself for a ride along Route 66, the “Mother Road” of America. That’s how I was able to greatly enjoy the chance to stop and take as many pictures as I wanted without having someone along who was anxious to get moving. It’s also why I could capture a number of Burma-Shave signs in a video called “Historic Route 66 Between Peach Springs and Seligman, Arizona.”

You can see the video below. But first, in case you don’t know about Burma-Shave signs, a quick note of history can help you appreciate them more. And if you read to the end of this blog post, you’ll understand the Create-Your-Own-Burma-Shave-Sign Contest.

Burma-Shave was a brand of brushless shaving cream with lack-luster sales in 1925 when the son of the company’s owner suggested a campaign of highway signs. Sales took off when people began seeing five or six small signs posted along the highway; just far enough apart so that passing motorists could read a humorous rhyme as they traveled.

Some were designed to simply advertise the value of the product in a clever way. While others caught your attention because they promoted safe driving in a clever way. Always the last sign would say, “Burma-Shave.” Until 1963, when the signs were discontinued, it was fun to figure out the last part of the phrase before you could see it. As super highways became more wide spread and speeds crept up — a sign in the video mentions “a mile a minute” as dangerous — the signs were considered not as effective an advertising gimmick as they had been.

What is interesting is that the signs originally were not posted in New Mexico, Arizona, or Nevada because it was decided there wasn’t enough traffic to justify the cost. They also weren’t posted in Massachusetts, where roadside foliage and high land rentals made them less desirable.

Now, however, the place where you can see newly erected signs is on what is called “Historic Route 66” between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona. The signs (now erected by the American Safety Razor Company) are part of an attempt to bring tourists, and their dollars, to communities bypassed when the interstate was built. Today Seligman, as you can see in the video, makes it a point to emphasize its connection to the old route that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles.

After you watch the show, you will find more Burma-Shave signs you may enjoy — and a suggestion.

Even if you don’t watch the video, please read to the bottom of the page for the Create-Your-Own-“Burma-Shave”-Sign Contest.

Hope you enjoyed those Route 66 and Burma Shave signs, although as I said, originally they weren’t in Arizona. But as a child I loved those signs and now, fortunately, the Internet has several sites with many of the slogans for those of us who are nostalgic for the pleasure of wondering what the punch line will be when we would see the red-and-white signs in the distance.

Before telling you about the Create-Your-Own-Burma-Shave-Sign Contest, here are some of the many signs that I have enjoyed in years past.

On curves ahead
Remember, sonny
That rabbit’s foot
Didn’t save
The bunny
Are like a girdle
They find some jobs
They just
Can’t hurdle
The curve
It’s a beautiful car
Wasn’t it?
Dinah doesn’t
Treat him right
But if he’d
Don’t stick your elbow
Out too far
Or it may
Go home
In another car!
His tenor voice
She thought divine
‘Til whiskers scratched
Sweet Adeline
Is he
Or just blind–
This guy who drives
So close behind?
Train approaching
Whistle squealing
Avoid that
Rundown feeling!

Cover of Healing Relationships is an Inside JobReady for the Create-Your-Own-“Burma-Shave”-Sign Contest? Think of a rhyming phrase you could put on four or five lines (as I have done at the beginning of this post). Then add a final line as I did with “Support4Change.com” above. You can use these “signs” to promote a place, person, idea, book, website, relationship, cause, or anything at all.

You will note that I’ve waited until after the elections to offer this contest so I won’t have to sort through poems for or against political candidates. We have all seen enough ads to last us a very long time.

I will post all entries that are clean enough to be seen on a public road. Then, as a further inducement to encourage creativity, I will offer a prize of my latest book, Healing Relationships is an Inside Job (in PDF) to the entry randomly selected. CONTEST NOW CLOSED.

Good luck. Have fun.

Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


A Nobel Prize Winner’s Story Comes to Life

November 22, 2008
When going through the bazaar in Cairo with our guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony and thought of the windows that played a role in Mahfouz’s prize-winning story, “Palace Walk,” for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Impressions of Egypt Number 15

In keeping with the blog’s theme of “Enrich Your Life, Enrich Your Relationships,” this is one of several posts about a trip we took in December 2007, to Egypt. It definitely enriched my life and expanded my understanding of that country, and of the many challenges they face as they evolve into a different kind of country than the one I visited. — Note added in 2011 after the spring revolution

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Shuttered Windows
Expanding Your Horizons with an Egyptian Travelogue

Before going to Egypt, I read Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz and discovered it made Cairo so much more understandable for me. A prolific writer and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mahfouz described traditional urban life with an undercurrent of political comment that was conveyed with symbolism and allegory. He undoubtedly did this both because he enjoyed writing in that style and because some of the subjects were forbidden to be discussed.

This picture is particularly interesting to me because one of the streets in the book was Sugar Street (and one of his books is titled Sugar Street). When going through the old Cairo bazaar with our self-appointed guide, he pointed out Sugar Street (hundreds of years old) and looking up I saw this balcony (though I can’t swear this particular picture was taken on Sugar Street itself). I thought of the windows that played a role in the story, for this was the way in which women were able to look out at the world without having someone see them.

Women must feel much more liberated in Egypt today (at least in the cities), even though they sometimes have burkas and have many more restrictions than we do. But at least they can leave their homes more freely.

Incidentally, in the center of a roundabout near the National Museum in Cairo stands a statue of Mahfouz. He was clearly a very revered author.

In Need of a Wide-Angle Lens

October 8, 2008
Taking a picture in the great out-of-doors often requires stitching pictures together.

Visual Viewpoint: Scenery in New Zealand Always Presents a Photo Opportunity

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Countryside in South Island New Zealand

I’m slowly learning how to take a series of pictures and string them together, but this is the best I could do at the time. Obviously I need to learn how to get the horizons lined up. Anyway, you get the idea.

There were several spots along the road where I would insist my husband stop the car and let me take a picture. Despite the reversed travel directions, we did fairly well on the roads with our rental car and particularly liked the traffic circles, which New Zealanders seem to know how to maneuver better than Americans.

When looking at Wikipedia just now in wanting to be correct in using the term traffic circle, I found that “a roundabout is a type of road junction at which traffic enters a one-way stream around a central island. In the United States it is technically called a modern roundabout, to emphasize the distinction from the older, larger type of traffic circle.” But something I found most interesting was that, “Overall, roundabouts are statistically safer than both traffic circles and traditional intersections,with the exception that cyclists have a significantly increased crash
rate at large roundabouts. Roundabouts do not cope as well with the traffic on motorways, highways, or similar fast roads.”

No matter whether or not you like roundabouts, I’ll bet you’d do well driving a car in New Zealand, if for no other reason than that you can take yourself to glorious places like the scene above, stop, get out, and take a picture — without disturbing the travel guide’s schedule that stops only at the places he or she thinks are worth stopping at.

Almost a Romantic Afternoon in New Zealand

October 6, 2008
Discover the importance and pleasure of dating, whether or not you are already married.

Visual Viewpoint: An Inviting Boat, But No One to Rent It From

This entry could also be filed as one of my “visual viewpoints” you may have seen in earlier posts.

Quiet river in Christ Church New Zealand

It’s amazing how easily one forgets where one sees something on a vacation when the trip was a month long and almost two years ago. My husband says this picture was taken in Queenstown and I am quite sure it was Christ Church, New Zealand. If you know, please tell me, since I could also be wrong.

But we are in agreement that on this cool Sunday (the coolest summer they have had for years, according to the locals) we were walking around town and came across this delightful scene. A boat welcomed us to take a romantic ride down the river and through the town. But where was the owner? It was obviously designed for tourists. He (or she) must have been on a break or left work early that day.

To say it was “almost” romantic shouldn’t be taken to mean that the trip to this amazingly beautiful country wasn’t romantic in itself. It’s just that it would have been even more exciting had we been able to add a rowboat to the list of all the vehicles on which we road during that trip.

Toward the end of the trip we wrote a list of more than thirty, possibly closer to forty. If I can find the list we kept as we went along (from ferry, jet, and elevators to jet boat, cable car and private plane), I may write about them for this blog. Too busy to find it today, but some time in the future I just might find it and see if you can send me a longer list. Not for bragging rights. Just for the pleasure of seeing how many different vehicles for getting from one place to another you have been able to take advantage of different on one trip.