Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Smugglers on Red Mountain

I never miss a chance to praise radio tower mountains and roads as one of the most under-rated hiking opportunities. (Sometimes they are mountain bike-able.) Yesterday it was time to go up Red Mountain, near Patagonia AZ. There is a lot to be said for a road that does a 360 around a mountain and has several saddles on it. The viewscape changed radically about five times on the way up.

On the descent I noticed an expensive white SUV, with darkly tinted windows, driving up the road that we were descending. Was it Border Patrol? If so, why wasn't it marked with the usual green band? Then I saw three young men in dark clothes walk around a rocky outcropping. From my spot on that steep road I could see everything towards the main road. But they were walking slowly; maybe they were just locals on a hike. Who was I kidding?

A minute later I saw a second, more dispersed, group of young men fly through the juniper-covered, rocky terrain. There were four of them, running faster than what seemed possible. I've seen various animals running over rough terrain: big horn sheep might be the most impressive. I'll certainly never forget the time Coffee Girl confronted a platoon of them halfway up a sky island west of Phoenix.

Most impressive was their military organization: they worked as a team to fend off the big bad wolf (Coffee Girl). Think of the legionnaires of ancient Rome locking their shields as they faced the enemy. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep can bound up mountains as if gravity barely mattered.

The four young men escaping through the brush were amazingly fast on such rugged terrain. Mere "illegals" wouldn't have tried so hard; they were probably smugglers. I got on the cellphone -- another advantage to hiking up cell tower mountains -- and called Border Patrol. 

Then the white SUV began moving again...towards me. Was that caused by them seeing me use a cellphone? I really didn't know if they were the Good Guys or the Bad Guys. I kept talking to the dispatcher on the other end of the phone, trying not to sound too panicky. What should I say to them if they were Bad Guys, perhaps there to pick up the smugglers or illegals. In a state of nervousness I would never manage to translate, "The Border Patrol knows where I am; don't make it worse for yourselves," into Spanish.

When the white SUV got to me, they rolled the tinted windows down. The first guy I saw was a young Mexican-looking man. But he did have a barely readable US Border Patrol hat on, and his English was perfect. He was quite calm; in fact, he and his Anglo partner seemed to be young buckaroos who were quite enjoying their job. He said that the absconders were dope smugglers. Like me he had counted seven. He wanted to know if I had seen any backpacks on them.

All told, about four Border Patrol vehicles came up the road. A minute later I saw through binoculars a green-uniformed officer with a German shepherd checking out the area where the first bunch had gone through.

At the end of the hike one of the officers told me they (the dog presumably) had found the dope. But did they ever find the seven smugglers? Or did they even try? Maybe it's standard procedure for smugglers to ditch the backpack when they think they are going to get caught, at which point they just become standard illegals subject to the usual "catch and release". After all, how can the Border Patrol prove in court than any of them was actually carrying the backpack? And why even bother, if the smugglers will go back to Mexico eventually, tell the drug lord that they have no money from the deal, and get murdered? I am ignorant of how this racket works, but have a certain curiosity about it today, of course.

Epilogue: today at sunset my binoculars see a white spot one switchback above where all the action took place yesterday. From this spot, 700 feet above me, the Border Patrol SUV can see everything including my trailer's screen door. How nice!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Appreciation Versus Craving and Ownership

There must be many a man who is surprised by how his career as a girl-watcher develops as he ages. Most young men probably think that age rots the pleasure of girl-watching. Are they ever wrong! They come to this erroneous conclusion because they confuse sex-drive with pleasure, and craving with appreciation.  Something similar happens with "owning a house". The more experienced man realizes that the house owns him more than vice versa. But that isn't to say that he can't be fond of looking at old buildings, ruins, foreign architecture, etc. 

A third example of the same principle is enjoying funky, artsy, old mining towns in beautiful locations. What a pleasure they are to visit. But I don't envy those who live here. How general is this tendency for us to outgrow ownership -- with all its irony and self-impalement -- and replace it with an appreciation that is sincere, flexible, and unbinding? And why not? We don't really own Life; we're just renting it for awhile.

I'm currently enjoying a marvelous example of this in Patagonia AZ.  After doing a couple minor errands the first thing Monday morning, I was furious with being ripped off. There are no bargains in this town. And yet people manage to live here, despite the lack of good-paying jobs. (Obviously there is the usual contingent of wealthy retirees who made their money in the city and are now living in 4000 square foot retirement homes, 20 miles from a grocery store, and passing their time as environmentalists.)

I kept fussing and fuming when I noticed a brightly colored bird flit from the bumper of my RV to a nearby tree. It was unusual to see such a stunner hanging out on your bumper.

This calmed me down. Ah yes, this is why people are here. They are trying to make charm permanent. Personally I don't think that is any more practical than trying to turn a hobby into a job or a girlfriend into a wife. But I wish them luck.

But is it a red-headed woodpecker or an acorn woodpecker? Neither seems quite right. But you'd better believe that there are plenty of people in this birder town who know the answer, and I'll bet a couple of readers do, too.

There is plenty of funky charm and freedom here. Dogs are allowed in the library. I went into the library to find that I still had a library card from four years ago; and it was a card, literally: a 3 X 5 index card, made of paper.

My neighbors run their black labs to the coffee shop in the morning. How do they keep the leashes from tangling?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Living at Home Beautiful

Southeast of Tucson. Every now and then a full-time RVer gets an opportunity to house and dog-sit. Normally it is during the "off" season, when the homeowner and everybody else wants to get out of town because of the dreadful weather.

The ranch was drop-dead gorgeous. It was my favorite land: rolling grasslands, with an occasional mesquite or live oak tree, and a great view of the Santa Rita mountains, only seven miles away.

It was amusing to watch the culture gap between normal, house-obsessed women and an RV boondocker/camper like myself. I was hoping for some shade to park my trailer under. It was surprising to learn that an entire guest house was available to me. It looked like something that belonged on the front cover of a glossy magazine, Fine Ranch Living Today, or some such thing.

I was only concerned about heat, happy dogs, and good bicycling. After I surprised the women by showing no interest in even walking up six steps to inspect bedrooms and bathrooms -- plural -- the women, being what they are, wanted me to submit to the bourgeois ritual of taking a "tour."  What did they really think: that it would make or break the deal if the window treatments in the bedroom were my favorite color or if the bathroom fixtures were stylish and cute? (And do I even have a favorite color?)

But my ears did perk up when she mentioned a washer and dryer. People who live in houses usually consider them mundane and unglamorous. They just need more exposure to commercial laundromats, like RVers get.

I probably won't take the gig, primarily because it lacks a swamp cooler or air conditioner. "But it cools off nice at night," you say. Yea, I've heard that one a few times. In fact it doesn't cool off that much at 4900 feet. Whenever you are in the gravitational field of a metropolis, all cliches about the weather contain an implicit comparison with the metropolis. The comparison might be accurate, but it is irrelevant to me: why do I want to give a place credit for being "cool" compared to some urban hellhole like Tucson or Phoenix?

Sigh, how nice it would be to have friends living in a place like this who would let me camp on the back lot for a week! One reason to try to be open-minded about these house-sitting gigs is that they might lead to something better next year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mountain Biking with Johannes Brahms

A few miles south of Tucson. A friend had camped here recently and warned me how rough the Madera mountain bike trail is. How typical! I've yet to enjoy any "official" mountain bike trail. If there's a sign calling it an official trail, or if it's listed in some book ("Top Ten Mountain Bike Trails in the XYZ Mountains"), you are almost guaranteed to find a rocky single track that will make you worry about falling, instead of enjoying the ride. But you are guaranteed a nice hiking trail as long as mountain bikers aren't using it at the same time.

The "too rough to ride" syndrome is almost universal. So why doesn't the world catch on? Do people believe every brown sign or everything in print? Of course if you had world-class technical riding skills, you might feel differently. But most people don't have such skills.

Why not just ride dirt roads? There are many thousands of miles of such roads on public lands. Occasionally there might be too much motor vehicle traffic. But that's usually limited to weekends or national holidays. It isn't such a bad thing that an occasional pickup or ATV goes by. You might need to use them as a tow truck or ambulance someday.

The only real value added by mountain bike trails that I can think of is the social scene. Young people like to have other birds-of-a-feather congregating at the hotspots for any sport. But mountain biking is dominated by men, as is true of most arduous outdoor sports that involve dirt, blood, and gears, so I suspect that the lads are going to be disappointed socially. Of course racers enjoy having some competition on the same trail.

Since I expected a terrible trail I wasn't disappointed. The question became: how do I salvage the day? On another day I could come back and hike the mountain bike trail. But today pushing the bike for long distances would be no fun. Next idea, please.

I started backtracking, while pushing the bike, and got busy improving the trail by kicking rocks out of the way. I did this over a hundred times. It was surprising how satisfying this was. It was tangible, semi-permanent, and quite noticeable. Compare that to the average work done in a cubicle in a large organization.

From one point of view this was humble, pathetic, solitary, and almost forlorn.  But I was improving the world one rock at a time. Each rock was a humble nugget of hope; they assuaged the anger I felt about the mindless momentum of the world.

Leaving youngsters and racers out of it, why do other mountain bikers get sucked into trying to ride on these dreadful rough trails? Gee, I'll bet it has something to do with media and money. Think of the front cover of a glossy industry magazine. A famously rugged trail justifies spending $4000 on a bike: one with a radical design, and titanium "this" and carbon fiber "that". "I waste more money than you do  -- naa-naa-nuh-NAA-nuh."

The American bicycle design shops are located in places like Boulder, Durango, and Marin County CA. These are not low-cost places to live. They can not compete against East Asia on price. So they sell toys and status symbols to the aspirational consumer -- the standard chump who thinks he can raise his self-esteem by letting others be smarter than he is. Why doesn't it ever occur to these losers that consuming (shopping) is a pretty big part of their lives, and therefore it behooves them to be good at it, and maybe that is the way to raise their self-esteem. That's how housewives of our grandmother's and mother's generation thought.

This is all well and good, you say, but what does it have to do with Johannes Brahms? I was surprised by how moving a certain work of his is. Brahms isn't flashy and noisy enough for some classical music lovers; nor did he write program music. You might even consider him a bit of a downer, moodwise. But what if you've already discounted his austerity and melancholy? Any surprise will then be to the upside, like a momentary break in the clouds on a day socked in with clouds. 

Sometimes it would be useful to know more about music. I don't mean dry technicalities, just more basic vocabulary and categories. The second movement of Brahms's Piano Quintet is slow, quiet, and unflashy, almost to the point of being a bit melancholy. It has that quiet yearning so typical of Brahms (with most of it probably aimed at Clara Schumann).

The second movement then surprises the listener with gentle ascending scales and crescendos, played by the piano soloist. They remind me of walking and breathing; or rather, of sighing over stubbornly-held hopes. That is just what I had experienced, walking back up that dreadful trail while kicking rocks out of the way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free Therapy in Dog Parks

Since I normally pound away at government and politicians on this blog, it is a refreshing change to praise one of the rare success stories of local governments, the dog park. Whose idea was it originally, where did it get started, and how did it achieve critical mass?

Dog parks are almost as big a success for people as they are for dogs. How much friendly interaction (between strangers) is there in the average public setting, such as the city park, festivals, restaurants and bars, etc.? Even "fellow" hikers on a hiking trail can be neutral or icy to each other. In a dog park the human owners trust each other and give compliments to the other owners for the appearance and comportment of their dogs.

Coffee Girl just finished up a workout at a dog park south of Tucson. This is the third time we've been there, so it almost saddens me to leave the area. It is the best dog park I have seen yet; I'm not referring to the physical facility. It's the critical mass of participants that matters. Perhaps this results from the sheer number of snowbirds in the area. Once I stayed there most of the day because it was such a good time. 

But it's more serious than just having fun. Modern life for dogs can be very stressful with the shots and inoculations, confinement behind chain link fences, leash laws, etc. They are adaptable animals, but still...

They get all bottled up with tensions that climb to toxic levels. They need an internal cleansing, a catharsis, which Aristotle defined as a violent expurgation of the soul. A catharsis for canines means getting in touch with their Inner Wolf...

 ...and what an aura a dog comes away with, after a session at the dog park! As a rule dogs don't exude relaxation the way that cats do; but their behavior after a workout at the dog park might be the exception.

During her workout I kept giggling at a ridiculous image that perhaps somebody should make a cartoon or comedy skit out of: the dogs and their owners come through the gate into the dog park; the dogs stand around sedately while the humans immediately pounce on the fresh meat -- the other human -- who comes in. They wrestle and thrash each other with complete abandon. One man is brave enough to mount an especially saucy wench, who breaks free and starts biting him in the throat.

A frequent visitor might start to categorize the humans. (Please, no sermons against stereotyping. If dogs come in distinct breeds, why shouldn't humans?) For example there is the over-protective mommy type. Or consider the control freak: this is typically the owner of a serious hunting dog. The poor dog has no fun at all in the park; he either doesn't know how to play or isn't allowed to. But there are individual hunting dogs that can put work aside and act like one of the pack.

Not surprisingly, I am one of the lax owner types who allows his dog to misbehave as long as she's having fun and isn't doing (serious) harm to another dog, other than gnawing on its shoulder as it tries to escape. More times than not, Coffee Girl is the agent provocateur for interaction that turns to mayhem. Other owners are grateful to her for making "it" happen.

Is there anything about these wonderful experiences at the dog park that can be generalized or adapted to human-human interaction?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slovenly Campers from the Big City

How many place in the world are clean, and why are they so? I'd like to ask an experienced world traveler about that. My guess is that Japan and northern/Germanic Europe (and her colonies) are clean, while most of the world stomps around in its own litter and excrement.

Consider this attempt at philosophizing to be an exercise in "anger management". I am camped outside a (fee-ed and over-managed) recreational area run by the forest service. Essentially it is a "metro park" for the ghastly conurbation of Tucson. Since my boondocking area is outside the "high rent" district, it is free 14-day camping, although the campsites are numbered. There is no campground host and no facilities. I've been here almost a week and haven't seen a ranger yet. It almost seemed too good to be true. And you know what they say about that...

After about a week of complete solitude some yahoos came in to camp on the weekend. You should see how the slobs leave their campsites:

These slobs might have left in a hurry due to the high winds last night; notice the half-case of abandoned, unopened beer in the cardboard box. Other campers have left old car batteries. Since many of these campers are car-campers and tent campers with young children, there is a lot of toilet paper blowing around. It truly amazes a non-parent like me to see how much paper and plastic crap is needed to support a litter of human puppies.

The first interloper to disturb my solitude chose the adjacent site of course -- so I would benefit from the sub-woofers on his car, presumably. They were high-achievers, leaving not only a still-smoldering campfire (in a windy area surrounded by dry grass), but a large pile of human excrement a few feet from the fire. (It was a calm morning, but I returned to their site and doused the fire with water.)

Now, one way to look at this is that I'm just a vile racist who is looking at things from a (northern Protestant) Eurocentric, repressed, old-fashioned point of view. Mexico, like most third world countries, is content being filthy; what we still call "the USA" is really just northern Mexico; therefore 'when in Rome...'

Or maybe the campers were low-end-of-the-bell-curve whites with an Appalachian culture. Have you ever traveled through the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee and seen all the debris and litter? 

Or maybe the campers looked at the cow plops every 20 feet and thought that it was pointless to be meticulous with litter if the place is already over-run with "pollution". I consider it a positive thing to have cattle grazing on public lands, as long as they're aren't over-grazing it. It is proof that the "multiple use" policy of managing public lands has not yet been completely killed by vegetarian Greens from big cities in California. Why are cow plops pollution, anyway? Their feces is just rendered grass, and I love grasslands. Animal feces is simply a part of nature -- but don't tell that to the squeamish, college-educated suburbanites visiting the "high rent" district of this park area.

How is a libertarian to feel about a situation like this? Bad, I guess. "Freedom" to a lot of people just means the opportunity to destroy with impunity; to make as much noise as possible; to leave filth or smoldering campfires; and to destroy land with ruts and motor vehicles. People abusing their freedom just gives the Regulatory State an excuse to ratchet a click or two closer to its dream of totalitarian maternalism.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Aesthetics Bend Under Strain

Some types of outdoor enjoyments are easier than others. Getting a kick out of desert poppies takes little effort. But experiences of that type don't stick with you very long either.

Appreciating geology is far more difficult. Geology is huge and fundamental. Despite being able to see it raw and exposed in arid lands, such as the American West, it is difficult to actually enjoy it in the normal sense of the word. For one thing it doesn't move, except in the case of active volcanoes. It is also hard to pronounce all the scientific terminology. The whole thing can be off-putting because it seems cold and technical.

Go for a hike or a mountain bike ride through the mountains and you will occasionally see some impressive folds. Sometimes they're just little guys at road cuts. And yet something keeps you from doing backflips about them. How could hard, strong, brittle rocks be permanently deformed? Bent into arcs.

When possible, I try to anthropomorphize "uninteresting" things in nature. It doesn't matter if it is scientifically unrespectable.  

That's not the only possible technique. How about wallowing in any imagery that grabs you, wherever it be from? Don't be proud, politically correct, or anything else. Outside of Leadville CO, I once had great fun wallowing in imagery that should be quite alien to an atheist with a Protestant background: a large group of backpackers -- probably Baptists from Texas! -- resembled pilgrims in the high Pyrenees on their way to Santiago. Rocks aren't the only thing that can bend and deform under heat and pressure; so too can your aesthetic sensibilities.

The other day I was having a rematch with a rough road that goes up to a saddle at the north end of the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson. The mountain bike has to be pushed most of the last mile. (Fortunately I had remembered to wear regular trail sneakers, rather than cycling shoes.) But I had forgotten to wear a helmet. I only had a sombrero, and was quite conscious of it, since a helmet would be necessary to protect me from an "end-over" on the way down.

I will lose readers by talking about the rest of this experience, since secularists can be such prigs (and hypocrites), but here it goes anyway: halfway up the final push I stepped away from myself and grinned at what I saw: a fellow pushing his mountain bike up the hill like Christ carrying his cross up Calvary. Even the sombrero, that I was worried about, had become a crown of thorns. I was actually milking the act by bending the back and altering the stride, as if to glory in the suffering. 

But, at the same time, the experience was completely real and serious. Those are great moments when you experience something as if 100% of you is focused right there and then. You remember such moments for a long time.

Of course at the top was the usual bliss that comes at a saddle. I could see the viewscape to the east, all the way across the San Rafael grasslands. 

I do feel sorry for rigid atheists who won't allow their imaginations to run. Religious imagery should be seen as part of a continuum that includes mythological, poetic, sentimental, or romantic imagery of all kinds. If nothing else, surrendering my usual anti-religious prejudices honored the occasion. I bent to a special setting; in an indirect sense it was at least a partial success in appreciating those geological folds at the beginning of this post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fred Reed's Link Added

Every internet junkie gets in a rut now and then. At that point some friendly help is needed. I got some recently from fellow blogger, Ed Frey, who brought Fred Reed's website to my attention. I was familiar with Fred Reed as a writer, but the website is a new discovery. Fred has the proper attitude toward contemporary American culture and politics: sheer disdain and curmudgeonly wit. I put his link in the link section of my blog.

There are too many juicy quotes to begin listing them all, but just to give you a brief slice of the flavor of Fred's blog: "Things change, usually for the worse, and always against the innocent. (This truth is a principle of curmudgeonry.)"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Cowardly Camper

One day a huge, expensive police SUV (not border patrol) dropped in at my campsite near the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson.  Out jumped two large cops, dressed head-to-toe in black. They had belts loaded up with so much armament it's a wonder then can sit down in their patrol car and buckle their seat belts. They were friendly enough and even enjoyed the antics of my Australian kelpie, Coffee Girl. But it bothered me the way one officer kept his hand on his gun the entire time he talked to me, while the other one snooped around my trailer. They said they were just doing a routine patrol, and wondered if I had seen any suspicious activities. I hadn't, so off they went.

The next day I was stretching my legs by walking up to the top of a small volcanic knoll. I saw a dense cluster of bright red blinking lights nearby. What could they be?  Safety lights on a piece of construction equipment? Binoculars didn't help because they wiggled too much in the wind.

Of course we all know that once an idea is implanted into a guy's mind, he sees what he is looking for. So I was reluctant to call the police about this weird cluster of red lights in the desert, lest it prove to be a nuisance call by a nervous Nellie.

Finally I did call, and an officer came out. This one was dressed like a normal police officer of pre-9/11 America. He had excellent eyes and identified the "mysterious" object as a red balloon! The last 24 hours had been windy and the balloon had blown in from somewhere, as unlikely as that was. With the sun's angle hitting it just right, and the wind buffeting the partially deflated surface of the balloon, it looked like bright blinking red lights.

He was kind to me by showing a sense of humor about this false call. Still, I'm glad that I don't have to read any paperwork that he filed on this "incident."  In my defense, I am camped alone pretty close to the Mexican border, on a through road that heads to a major city. And I don't have a gun.

The next morning I heard the whirring of a helicopter. It was searching for someone one dry-wash away from where Coffee Girl and I take our sunset hikes. Hmm... maybe I shouldn't go into dry washes in the mountains around here. Then again, the helicopter might have just been a border patrol pilot getting in some practice time.

Later I leashed the Girl up, jumped on the mountain bike, and cycled some dirt roads near an old mining town. I saw some dark-haired young males cross the road a half mile in front of me. Illegals? Maybe I should call border patrol. Then again, maybe I shouldn't; I'd already made of fool of myself once. As it turned out it was a group of (non-Mexican) locals looking for "Pete-y", a pit bull that had wandered off the previous night. They assured me that Pete-y was a real snuggle-bunny -- they all say that! But given my recent luck with pit bulls, Coffee Girl and I turned tail and went back to camp, despite having pepper spray along. Wind is always problematic with pepper spray. Why didn't I ask the police officers about when and when not to use it?

Over the years people have asked whether I camped with a gun. I don't, primarily because I'm too lazy to keep up-to-date with all the regulations about guns; and I fear the amerikanisch police state more than banditos and drug smugglers. But maybe I'd be a little braver if I was camped with more than a cellphone, pepper spray, and hammer near the trailer door.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Zest When Camping

It was a record morning for camping this winter: 34 F inside the trailer. (Oh sure, I have a catalytic propane heater, but it would have been unsporting to use it.) As I learned long ago you simply cannot get warm by putting on more clothes; you must move your body some, even if it means flapping your arms. But I had to keep reminding myself how glorious this discomfort was, or would be, once the sun starting cooking the opened trailer.

What interested me was that it actually took effort to "suffer" a few minutes of chill in order to glory in the warm sun that I knew was coming momentarily. Was it just my weakness or was it the old idolatry of Comfort sneaking into the mind of an experienced camper who should know better?

Long-suffering readers are familiar with my standard stump speech against bourgeois idols such as Comfort, so let's not repeat all that. But since this was the best experience of this type in some time, let's honor the occasion by looking at it from a different angle.

In his chapter on Zest in Conquest of Happiness Bertrand Russell illustrated the general principle by imagining several types of men sitting down to their meal:
There are those to whom a meal is merely a bore; no matter how excellent the food may be, they feel that it is uninteresting. They have had excellent food before, probably at almost every meal they have eaten. They have never known what it was to go without a meal until hunger became a raging passion, but have come to regard meals as merely conventional occurrences, dictated by the fashions of the society in which they live. Like everything else, meals are tiresome, but it is no use to make a fuss, because nothing else will be less tiresome. [Italics added.]
On a more general level he said:
The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when by means of great wealth homo sapiens can gratify all his whims without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness. The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness. If he is of a philosophic disposition, he concludes that human life is essentially wretched, since the man who has all he wants is still unhappy. He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness. 
There is simply no way to experience camping and outdoor zest without being able to tolerate discomfort with patience and courage. Zest comes from contrast -- from the dialectic of pain and pleasure. It helps considerably when hardship and the frustration of desires are voluntary, and when you can see through to the end of it. Essentially discomfort should resemble the earnest play of children and dogs. Another comparison is that of an aristocrat of olden times who lived the life of a romantic adventurer, exploring the Poles or climbing the Alps. He suffered genuine hardship; comfort-worship would have been ignoble to him.

This is the opposite of the approach of the travel, tourism, and RV industries, who make a lot of money by selling Status and Comfort to middle-class chumps. When the novelty wears off, the chump gets bored. I guess the industry's advice to them at that point is to buy something newer, more exciting, and more expensive.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

How Long Will the World Tolerate the YHWH Cult?

The world as a whole is a remarkable practitioner of Jesus's instruction to 'turn the other cheek' when it comes to putting up with the YHWH cult in its three main manifestations: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It angered me to see President Hope-and-Change groveling in front of AIPAC, the most powerful Israeli lobby in the USA. This isn't a partisan attack against the Democrats; a Republican president would probably already be bombing Iran.

Won't some leader get up and say that the YHWH cult has long outlived its use to the world, if indeed it ever had any!? And that the rest of the world is sick of the violence and economic hardship that this ridiculous superstition is inflicting. Where are Tom Paine and French Revolutionaries when you need them?

Which of the three main branches of the YHWH cult is most bizarre and dangerous? Most people would probably answer, Islam, because of the enormous publicity given to terrorists. But how many people have terrorists actually killed, compared to "legitimate" governments? Terrorism was not invented by Islam; it was adapted by them to fight against Western imperialists who have vastly better military technology and organization.

My choice would be for literal-Bible-Protestantism as the most bizarre and dangerous form of the YHWH cult. It's ironic that 30% of the Republican party are Rapture Christians who hate Islam and worship Israel in light of what the historian, Arnold Toynbee, said about Protestantism: right from its inception, it represented the Islamicization of Christianity. That is, it turned its back on the intellectual growth of Catholic Christianity during the High Middle Ages, and stopped seeing the Church itself as a divine instrument. Instead, it retrenched in an atavistic idolatry of an old holy book. Like Islam, Bible-Protestantism can not move forward like religions that worship a church instead of an old and flawed book. Catholics and Mormons are less hopeless.

Meanwhile, the tribe of ethnocentric fanatics that started the YHWH superstition are barely religious at all. Modern Judaism is less of a religion than a nationalism. I sometimes wonder if that weren't true even in ancient times. Other countries can be fanatical nationalists, so why shouldn't Jews? But over 99% of the American population do not have relatives in Israel, so why aren't we essentially neutral toward Israel?

I believe that Pat Buchanan wrestled with the central organizing myth of our political and foreign policy establishment when he wrote Hitler, Churchill, and the "Unnecessary" War. Until we confront the Good War myth, our presidents and Congress will function virtually as operatives of a foreign country.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wallowing in Repetitive Perfection

At first it felt silly to include this photograph since it is similar to recent ones. But wait a minute -- why must a blogger try to be brilliantly original? Why can't he just wallow in something he loves, even at the expense of being repetitive? The sky around here takes on a strange yellow color when the wind is only moderately strong. Perhaps it is due to the large open-pit copper mine nearby. (The photo is not sauced up by any editing-software.)

Something that is somewhat new is the seasonal adjustment to my camping style. There are plenty of reasons to stay out of RV parks, but one reason that can get overlooked is how much a camper gains by facing the screen door towards the right direction, depending on the season. In mid-winter the screen door needs to face south, in order to glory in that warm Arizona sun. 

In summer, the door must face north or you couldn't stand to open it all day; you develop an obsessive lust for the shade; and as summer wanes in late August you watch the shadows lengthen, and feel triumphant.

In spring I like to face the door to the east to allow it to bask, not only in morning sunlight, but in the calm lee of the west wind. What a marvelous time of year: no flying insects, cold mornings, and warm afternoons. I pop the door completely open; I sit at the desk in a winter parka and boots. Despite that, my feet don't really warm up until I rotate the office chair and stick those cold puppies into that incoming shaft of sunlight. It feels almost solid, like negative ice.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Back in the Big City

It probably helps your fuel economy some to blow into town riding a 30 mph tailwind. Thus it was the day I showed up in Arizona's megabarriopolis #2, Tucson. After camping in the desert for several weeks, will the big city be different than I remember? More entertaining or just more noisy and annoying?

With the strong west wind, the big city had remarkably clear air -- almost as if a big city weren't even there. It's challenging and fun to imagine the geographical setting of a big city before the big city came to be. Imagine how pleasant the land around the Old Pueblo was: a large mountain range just to the north that provided escape from the summer heat; the lushest examples of Sonoran desert vegetation, on opposite sides of town; grasslands and chaparral in the higher elevations to the southeast. 

There are probably a few people still alive who remember the Old Pueblo when it was small. I wonder what decade it was when Tucson started undergoing cancerous growth -- the Fifties? 

I have personally experienced the same destruction at other places in the Southwest, such as St. George, UT. A decade before that, it was Prescott's (AZ) turn. And so on, and so forth, until everything is ruined.

Actually a person feels remarkably clear-headed when arriving back in the big city. You tell yourself that you're not going to get sucked up into that insane culture; that you aren't going to drive around in an automobile all day, hacking your way through stop and go traffic; that you just don't need all those damn stores and strip malls. After all, in a small town you got by pretty well on a grocery store, a Dollar Store, and a laundromat. (And the internet.)

But the big city operates under a miasma of mindless busyness and phoney pragmatism. The human central nervous system has a remarkable ability to adjust to, and then become addicted to, constant stimulation, even if most of it is just annoying. The reductio ad absurdum of this is the casino, which can be seen as the holy temple of modern metropolitan culture. Without even realizing what has happened, each of the scurrying ants sees his own self-esteem and moral self-worth as being tied up in the endless busyness. Beyond self-importance, busyness implies a purpose in life.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Navigation Before GPS

It seemed prudent to drive to the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles in New Mexico to update my mail forwarding  address, lest there be complications with a speeding ticket from the Tucson reconnaissance-camera reich. After several nights of noisy, parking-lot boondocking my nerves were pretty frayed. Anybody who thinks that that style of camping is a quixotic, dreamy, escapist, full of holy Simplicity, Socrates and Thoreau-approved way of life has been sold a false bill of goods.

Thankfully I'm back on public lands near the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson. It's always a little surprising to see certain topographic features stand out so clearly, clear enough to serve as a navigational tool. In the Tucson area Baboquivari Peak serves that purpose. I like to call it "Babo".