Just Charlie

A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Thanks, Greg Morris, for the Reminder…

…that sometimes, the best thing we can do is do something for ourselves, because we like it, not because it’s making money or getting attention or approval, or any of that other stuff.

From his post

This isn’t another don’t do it for others, do it for yourself post – there are enough of them online. It’s a realisation that one of the backbones of the web, Google search ranking, and to a certain extent, social media, has ruined so much of it. There are a huge number of people still blogging and not giving a damn, but many more that don’t bother because of these feelings.

Perhaps we are edging our way back towards a better social web that encourages blogging more, or perhaps this is just wishful thinking. One thing I am certain of is that a lot of blogging has been ruined already, and it will take a concerted effort from us all to build it back up again.

Random Tuesday in October, 10.17.23…

As devoted readers of this space—all both of you—know, I’m a firm believer in serendipity, that happy circumstance of finding something valuable on the way to looking for something else. This morning’s installment is brought to you, in part, by serendipitous observance, AKA, the fine art of looking around. For instance…

Serendipity #1: I came across the word welter in one of the blogs I follow. That led me straight to the Little Red Web, where I discovered welter is “a state of wild disorder; turmoil; a chaotic mass or jumble.” Here’s the serendipitous part. A couple of entries down the page, my eye caught the word weltschmerz, a fancy German term denoting “a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state; a mood of sentimental sadness.”

And there it was. Those two dictionary entries together summed up what has been the late theme of my life. Oh, there’s nothing particular that has me in that state, just a general feeling that this old man is in the October of the years. And that he (that would be me) is looking back upon a life mostly well-lived, but lacking in real significance or value.

Serendipity #2: This quote about G.K. Chesterton, from Joseph Pearce:

‘Not facts first,’ Chesterton insisted, ‘truth first.’

Serendipity #3: This suggestion from Rilke to the young poet, Mr. Kappus:

So you mustn’t be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloudshadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.

Substitute “the Lord” for amorphous “life” in that passage, and the serendipity finds its way back home, and there is an assurance, a confidence, that this life, mostly, but not always, well-lived, isn’t a vain endeavor for something you can’t grasp. It is the life that you’ve been called to experience, to live. And there is more to come, more for which to be thankful, and more about which to be curious.

Look for the life around you, and you never know what you might find.


Thankful Friday…

Ooh! Ooh! Two posts…in the same month! And on the same day!

As I was writing the ol’ Morning Pages this morning, I began to think of how Fridays are the perfect time for reflecting on The Week That Was, The Weekend That Is To Come, and The General State Of Things In This Life As We Know It. (Looks more epic if you capitalize it like a title, no?)

Anyway, there are several items that make me thankful today, even in the midst of—especially in the midst of—these topsy-turvy times in which we are called to live. Here we go. Add your own if you’re playing along.

  • Gooey, cheesy ziti al mondo at our favorite reliable American Eye-talian joint is better when it’s shared across the table from My Favorite Hoosier. Oh, and keep the rolls coming, please.
  • Playlists. Yeah, yeah…I know. More AI-generated “music” than real artists sometimes. But I’m very thankful for the people who have the knowledge and the time to curate and share their playlists. Right now, for instance, Tsh Oxenreider’s “Deep Work” is powering this blog post. Thanks, Tsh!
  • And finally, this story showed up in my Twitter…I mean…X! feed. The original feature was in 2021, so I don’t even know if Caitlin and Street Brew Coffee are still a thing in Toronto, but it sure made me smile out loud this morning. Turns out Caitlin is still pumping out coffee and good vibes!

Remember (he says to himself)…you’re pretty much going to find what you’re looking for. This quote from Katherine May’s Enchantment is a sound observation…

Enchantment is small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory. It relies on small doses of awe, almost homeopathic: those quiet traces of fascination that are found only when we look for them.

So today, dear both of you readers, make your Friday a day for looking for and finding The Good Stuff that’s all around, the Stuff That Makes Your World Wonderful.

AI for Non-Creative Creative Wannabes…

Greetings, fans of Just Charlie! All both of you have been waiting with bated breath for another infrequent installment in this space. Well, wait no more! It’s Friday, and that often means random goodness from all over the place. Let’s jump in with a quick glance at a new cool tool…

See those two images at the top? They’re what happened yesterday when I discovered the rabbit hole that is Adobe’s Generative AI products. I’ve used the Generative Fill tool in the beta of Photoshop once, and I had pretty good results. But I’ve kind of resisted playing around with Firefly and the tools in Adobe Express, just because. But yesterday, with a little dark and early time on my hands, I jumped in. Here’s what I discovered in my short introduction:

  • If you can describe what you want to see, there’s a good chance these tools will get you a reasonable facsimile.
  • There’s an issue with eyes, faces, and fingers. Why do the eyes look so funky? And why do some faces look distorted and even downright scary?
  • And what’s the deal with six fingers? Seven fingers? No fingers, just club hands?
  • The results are a mixed bag, but if you keep refreshing the space, eventually you’ll get something you can live with.

I know there’s quite a bit of conversation about AI and its role in our culture. I do fear that people like me—old coot wannabes with limited skills, at best—will likely be replaced by these tools. I’m also afraid of the ramifications for communication, politics, and our society in general, as we cede more and more of our rational human function to The Machines. Maybe more on that later. But for a few minutes on a Thursday, it was a fun little distraction for a guy who had an artistic and creative bypass at birth.

Random Notes from That Conference, Day One: The Preliminaries…

Georgia World Congress Center main entrance and sign at Twilight with traffic streaks.


I wrote in this space yesterday about my anxiety about attending a large conference for the first time in a long time. Let me give you a little recap of Day One, just to keep both of you loyal readers in the loop.

  • If you know anything about Atlanta, the event venue is Building B of the Georgia World Congress Center. It’s next to Mercedes Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, and Centennial Olympic Park. I parked at our headquarters building just across Northside Drive from The Benz, and decided to walk across the street to the conference. At 3:30 pm. In mid-July. It was HOT! Did I say it was HOT? Let’s just say I’ve already paid for closer GWCC parking for today.
  • Check-in was a breeze. Lots of nice smiling folks to get you where you needed to go. But $100 to replace a lost ID badge?
  • I thought my team members would be there already, but they (wisely?) decided to wait until closer to the start of the main session to show up, so I wandered around by myself for a bit. (Fine by me…don’t get me wrong!)
  • I meandered down—and down—and down—and down again to the exhibit hall. That part was wall to wall with vendors of all kinds, hawking everything you could imagine—and some things you’d never think of. I didn’t go to every booth or table, but I was disappointed in the swag—or lack of it. Maybe there’ll be more today.
  • Unless you’re absolutely starving to death—and I mean that literally—you might be wise to avoid the “Philly cheesesteak” booth in the exhibit hall. Just sayin’….
  • I met a few of my colleagues—three women, I’d guess late-30s/early 40s—in the lobby, and went with them over to the Once and Former CNN Center while they ate. And while I washed away the afterthought of the “Philly cheesesteak” with sweet tea from Chick-Fil-A. A wide-ranging, but pleasant enough conversation ensued.

Another installment shortly, in which your observant scribbler reports on the actual content of the opening session. Stay tuned…


Into the Crowd…

Today marks the beginning of the first conference/convention/etc. I’ve attended in a long time. I’m a little bit anxious.

It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I think I have a servant’s heart for people. I do. But as I get older, my tolerance for people’s BS has diminished. I don’t relish the thought of sitting/milling around/interacting with a crowd.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. Get ready to send in the rescue team.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023…

It’s taken me almost a month to get used to the pocket sized Moleskine again, but now it just feels right, like the good ol’ days, or something.

Here’s fair warning to all both of you, loyal readers. This post will not be earth-shattering, life-changing stuff. It won’t. It’ll be a couple of random lines, mostly copied from somewhere else to accomplish two things: getting my mind and fingers working, and boosting that word count up to 300 for the day. You’ve been advised, so you can probably go ahead and move on to something more profound and productive.

How Does it Profit the South?

John Slaughter writes over at The Abbeville Institute about how the South as we know it is being homogenized away by encroaching factors mostly beyond our control. Now, I understand there aren’t a lot of folks who love the South out loud (the result of those “encroaching factors”), but I am one. You can save all your blah blah blah about racism and Lost Causes and backward ignorance and all that. That’s not the South I love and it’s not what I’m talking about here. It is true, however, that Aunt Pittypat (from the Book That Shall Not Be Named—and Film That Shall Not Be Named) was quite prophetic: How, indeed?

But back to Mr. Slaughter:

We are already seeing our rich customs, traditions, and values being overshadowed or discarded in the relentless pursuit of profit and conformity. How many statues and headstones now lie in ruins or hidden away in storage lockers because transplants brought forth by the lure of money and employment sought to turn the South into little New England?

The consequences of large corporations dictating our cultural landscape weigh heavily on my mind. In a world driven by mass consumption and fleeting trends, I can’t help but worry that the vibrancy and authenticity of our Southern traditions may be reduced to mere commodities, stripped of their true essence and significance. The introduction of conflicting values from diverse backgrounds further compounds these concerns, as it threatens to dilute the very core of our heritage and erode our collective identity.

Moreover, the rapid expansion of urban centers raises valid concerns about the displacement of longstanding communities. Iconic cities like Atlanta and North Carolina’s Research Triangle now wield significant influence, overshadowing rural areas and threatening the very fabric that has nurtured our customs and shaped our collective memory for generations.

Reflecting on this situation, I find myself drawn to Christ’s words in Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Are we willing our identity for GDP and manicured lawns? Is increased tax revenue worth forced cultural amnesia? I for one do not want a South that is indistinguishable from Ohio or Illinois.

Eleven Reasons for Stories

Nicholas Bate reminds us that stories are powerful means of communicating important material. After all, the Great Storyteller and some who followed in His footsteps have been good examples.

Among the eleven reasons Mr. Bate gives for good stories, this one sits in the middle:

Stories use language not just words; it requires an engaged brain to use a story. And the latter is an increasingly rare commodity on a Zoom/Teams call.

Toni Cade Bambara reminded us to take words seriously.

And finally, this morning, Mitch Chase engages Proverbs 15:30 to encourage us to be, well…encouragers!

And would you look at that? That 300 word goal? Well, it almost doubled! Take that, inertia!

Random Friday Morning…

Watercolor painting of coffee cup with steam rising.

This morning, I don’t even know why I’m sitting here at the desk with this screen up on my computer. I don’t really have anything to say, or anything worth saying, and come to think of it, that’s been going on for a while now.

I started out this morning, as I usually do, reading through my RSS feeds on Reeder, but quickly found myself hitting the “Mark All Read” button without so much as skimming the individual posts.

I noted in my notebook that today’s adventures were brought to you in part by the words “melancholy” and “whimsy,” two words that seem as disparate as possible. And yet, for me today, they might be connected. Maybe a certain amount of whimsy just for its own sake would be the cure, however temporary, for the foreboding in my mind these days.

(And maybe, just maybe, all two of you dear readers might want to close our your browser, and forget this post ever happened. It’s not getting any better at present.)

In fact, this post may not really happen at all. It may just be the latest attempt to do the morning pages. I notice I’m currently at 198 words, on the way to 300, and then I might stop without hitting the “Publish” button. Some things might be better left in draft mode, you know?

On a positive note, it was good to catch up with The (Big) Boy for a few minutes yesterday. There’s something about tacos and chips and enchiladas that make things better for a moment. And for some reason, I love hearing The (Big) Boy talk (OK, gush!) about The (Little) Boy. I really want the picture of The (Little) Boy standing (yes…standing!) at the library window. That they’re taking The (Little) Boy to the library warms my heart, and reminds me that I need to get there myself, for a change of scenery and a change of outlook.

Date Stamps and Spanish Moss…

Date stamp of February 17 2023 at top of notebook page

It’s a rainy, windy February Friday morning, and the temperature is dropping, reminding me that even though we’ve had spring-like conditions here, winter is not done yet. Here are a couple of those random thoughts banging around in my noggin this morning.

See that image at the top of this post? (Right…there.) I love everything about a vintage date stamp. It reminds me of the libraries of my childhood and young adult years. (Really random recollection: I worked in the music library when I was a wide-eyed naïve freshman music major. It was loads of fun.) My current date stamp setup is simple and old school. I bought this stamper and this stamp pad at our local Staples. On the stamper itself, you rotate the little rubber bands of numbers and letters around an axis, press it onto the stamp pad and apply with varying pressure to your paper. Part of the quirky charm is the slightly off-line alignment of the characters. The other part that appeals to me is the color of the ink, which just about matches the color of my current Pilot G-2 and the nifty fountain pen I got for Christmas. Yeah, I’m a blue ink guy. So there.

Spanish moss in Savannah, GA.

Image via Flickr

This morning, for some reason, I found myself thinking of—and missing Spanish moss. I grew up a few miles inland from Savannah, Georgia, and that stuff was everywhere. A lot of people have the notion that Spanish moss lends a spooky air to the locale, but I never saw it that way. I always thought it was another idyllic feature of my South. The way it blew in the breeze, the way it added a “something” touch to the stately oaks. I remember the way it smelled, the way it felt. And I remember people warning us kids that the “redbugs” lived in it. (Actually, the redbugs were chiggers, and according to the great Walter Reeves, they really don’t make their home in the moss if it’s  in the trees. Good to know.)

Anyway, here’s a quick feature on Spanish moss in south Georgia.

On Journals and Whatnot…

I’ve been keeping a somewhat regular journal/notebook since around 2003. Coincidentally, that’s about when I started blogging (but not nearly as regularly).

Anyway, I’ve never been real sure about how to format my journal, what to include and leave out, pencil or pen, computer or whatever. Somewhere along the line I came to the conclusion that what I have is not a journal in the classic sense, but more of a commonplace book that includes all kinds of stuff.

Today as I was making my way through the stack o’ stuff in my Reeder feeds, I happened upon this article from The Millions. This part about Lynda Barry helping non-creative people learn to express themselves included this:

I’m turning this over when I come across Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. Barry is a cartoonist, author, and teacher whose recent books are devoted to changing the way people think about their own creativity. Syllabus is based on a workshop Barry teaches called “Writing the Unthinkable.” The main course requirement is keeping a notebook—and not just any kind. Each day’s hand-written entry must contain these items: 1) a list of seven things you did, 2) a list of seven things you saw, 3) something you heard someone say, and 4) a sketch of one item from the “saw” list. Don’t even think about skipping the sketching step.

Much like , this approach has been bouncing around in my brain this morning. I think I’ll try it. Here’s my hack, though. I’m going to try to start each day’s entry with Barry’s list, and then keep using the same book for the commonplace items I come across throughout my day. We’ll see.