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Showing posts from November, 2010

Anti-Consumerist Rant

Think of the conversations you've had over the years, usually with males I'm afraid to say, who hear one wrong buzzword out of your mouth. That's all it takes for their "mind" to snap closed, and off they go onto an angry rant, spewing out absolute opinions. The rants are mental recordings which the fellow gets off on. Digital thinking of this type poses as manly forcefulness, while in fact, it is emotionally self-indulgent and mentally lazy. The best essays and blog posts are those that allow a wide range of readers to be in partial agreement. It would please me if people read my posts who think that 15% of my opinions are not complete crap, and therefore I might be redeemable. And yet, brutal honesty requires us to admit that there is something gratifying about going on a rant on the internet. Occasionally. James Quinn outdid himself recently in an anti-consumerist rant about credit cards, big screen TVs, McMansions, SUVs, sprawl, etc. In a similar vein I w

Turf Battle

Rebellion in Winter

So maybe Robert Falcon Scott and Richard E. Byrd (author of Alone ) wouldn't be too impressed with the "cold" that we've been having here in the highlands of southern New Mexico -- after all, it's only a Dry Cold. But then again, so was theirs.  Last night I got overconfident and slept without wearing my winter parka. Big mistake. When I jumped out of bed this morning I wondered first if the water had frozen inside the RV. In my rig, freezing the plumbing is not destructive since the plumbing runs off of the water pump and inside reservoir, which makes for plenty of air spaces in the plumbing. It hadn't frozen, but the water pump hesitated like the starter motor in a car, after a cold winter night. Since I was getting suspicious of a "hard freeze" inside the RV, I had implemented standard winter survival techniques, such as filling a pan of water the night before. In the morning, if you do discover a freeze, you can still get breakfast going.

The Wing Artist

On a standard mountain bike route the other day, I was passing by the western edge of a hill. The first runner that I've seen in a long time came by and joked about how cold and windy it was. I had to agree, but wouldn't complain about sunny, cold, and windy weather. It is New Mexico after all. A few seconds later I was at a cliff face that faced west, where a raven was showing off, thanks to ridge lift . The raven was so close. He folded his wings in and, for just a second, paused, suspended in space with all the drama of an Olympic high diver at the edge of the board. Then he fell straight down. The fall was so different than the flight, and yet, they both borrowed from something outside that individual bird. The raven was borrowing the Will of Gravity and Wind, combining them, and composing something that befitted his intelligence and playful mood. In all the rides and walks that I've been on, over the years, I've never seen anything quite like that. 

Creepie Crawlie

This creepie-crawlie was on the pavement one cold morning recently. If you count those two spindly forelegs, there are eight total. But scorpions have high tails and a pair of front pincers. Perhaps this is an immature scorpion in one of its numerous manifestations (molts). (The photos on the internet never show immature critters.) I gave icy glares to passing motorists. Somehow the creepie-crawlie made it through the car tires without being squished. Forgive me for not carrying it to the other side of the road.

Arizona Arroyos

There are plenty of arroyos (dry washes) in the Little Pueblo, but bein' az we're at the foot of the mountains, they are usually soggy and full of plants. They just don't make for the peerless walking of the arroyos of lower Arizona. Forgive me for feeling a little nostalgia for them; during my traveling years I'd be in Arizona at this time of year.  My dogs and I hardly ever walked real hiking trails in the uplands there, since the rocks were too sharp for dog paws. A woman in the campground here sewed up a boot out of cloth for her dog. She was amazed how short the boot's life was. But even leather doesn't stand a chance. I spent a couple years trying different brands and materials before finding Neo-Paws . Contrast the prickliness of an Arizona razor-rock hike with the pleasure of an arroyo. Cactus and mesquite grow on the banks, but not in the middle of the "stream." As if that wasn't relief enough, the rocks and gravel are mercifully round

Oak Leaves

Identity Crisis

  My favorite spot at the arroyo, where desert-grasslands and riparian plants get confused. At any rate it makes this area a good place for wildlife.


Bronze Age Warriors Reincarnated

Nobody likes a thermo-wimp. Early winter's cold caught me by surprise, and I struggled to make it through the night without using heat in the RV. How could 45 F inside conquer a man? Off I went on a mountain bike ride, one cold windy sunny morning. Carelessly or deliberately I under-dressed, for the first time in years. It turned out to be a blessing. Being chilled brings on fear first and then anger, finally leading to combat. At some point I stopped at the top of a small cliff by an old mining area and faced the foe, the cold wind. I love visiting and writing about ridgelines, but this was different. It was bloodthirsty, vengeful, and triumphal. Maybe a book was working on me. In The Discovery of the Mind , by Bruno Snell, he talked about Homer's language being quite different from later (classical) Greek; Homer used 'skin' or 'limbs' in situations where later Greek or English would use 'body.' "Thus the early Greeks did not, either in their lan

A New Stoopid Party?

The internet is abuzz with howls of protest about the TSA's new procedures for screening airline passengers. I wasn't too interested in this at first, probably because I haven't flown for years. But then I saw an angle that did interest me. When an issue fits neatly into the Left-versus-Right paradigm, it can be quite boring. All the shibboleths and slogans are so predictable. If you ask somebody for their opinion, it ends up being a mere recording. But it is much more interesting when an issue produces mixed feelings and cross-currents on both sides. Let's consider the poor Democrats first. A good liberal's instinctive reaction to some -- nay, to any -- new or expanded federal government program is that it must be a step towards Progress. At least its intentions must be good; what else matters? And yet, this is part of the War on Terror, which is Bush's War. And the airline unions hate the new procedures. Furthermore privacy issues are a not-insignificant pa

Veterans' Day

As national holidays go, Veterans' Day is a rare success. It stands for something serious instead of frivolous or merely traditional. Oh it's true that there are a few political cranks (like me) who get nervous about too much patriotic bluster on 11 November because they think it contains an implicit advertisement for the permanent Warfare state that America has become. But many people would admonish the cranks thusly: Why not put your stupid politics aside for one day of the year, and honor the individuals who suffered and sacrificed and were proud to do so? Very well then, let us put politics aside and admire individual soldiers for what they went through. But wasn't war itself once called 'the continuation of politics by different means?' If that is true, and if we are serious about ignoring politics, we should be just as happy to honor soldiers who fought on the "other side." Why focus exclusively on American troops? Surely most people have the great

Nature Before Rousseau

It's probably time to explain why I am so resentful about being clumped in with the itinerant nature-monks and desert ascetics who are not so rare in the RV blogosphere. At times it seems that they belong in the Canterbury Tales. Most of them were young adults who were influenced by Earth Day 1970, and are now retirement age. The irruption of nature-romanticism circa 1970 is one of those recurring fantasies that our civilization is susceptible to. Before Earth Day 1970, nature-romanticism had been in abeyance since the publication of Thoreau's Walden . Naturally young hippies, with little interest in old folks' history, thought they were on to something novel and exciting with their recycled sentiments of the Romantic age. They painted up the VW bus and headed back to the Garden of Eden with just a plastic sheet and some bean and squash seeds, back to an age of innocence and peace when man lived in Harmony with Nature, and shared everything equally. In its 1970 reincarna

Aesop's Flickers

So now I learn that a commenter thinks I watch too many movies. Hmmpf. Anyone who subscribes to Netflix watches a lot of movies of course. Some people watch their Netflix movies instead of watching boob toob sitcoms, soaps, "news", etc. Actually the case could be made that I watch few movies if "watching" refers to paying attention to a story. The stories are usually pretty uninteresting. If you've seen one adulterous love triangle, with its psycho-sexual obsessions, you've seen them all. Then there's rags to riches, revenge, who dunnit, poor boy meets rich girl, honest poor guy versus evil pol/priest/businessman, etc. I'll bet that a discriminating movie junkie could count on his fingers the movies that had good scripts, such as Network, All About Eve, Twelve Angry Men, Bridge over the River Kwai, Ikiru, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Shakespeare in Love, The Mission, and Traitor . In addition to good soundtracks and cinematography, the real rea

"Wagon Train" for Retirees

The other day I finally looked systematically into the links followed by readers who follow this blog, in order to find new websites to read. It's always been easy to be lazy about this sort of thing, in part because the number of websites soon mushrooms into an unmanageable number. The results were surprising: I was led to websites run by Rousseau or Thoreau wannabees. What commonality does the reader see between such blogs and mine? For one thing I do not see Mobility as a journey to the promised land. Some of these 'Freedom of the Open Road' blogs have the same attitude towards travel that religious pilgrims had, in the Middle Ages. The difference is that the latter had a more optimistic belief: they could actually make it to the sacred shrine. They could finish. In Rob Reiner's wonderful coming-of-age movie, Stand by Me , the boys were having a philosophical conversation around the campfire, at least by the standards of 12 year olds. One boy mused: Wagon Train is
I took a chance on a new trail yesterday. It worked out well, and was a perfect autumn day, as well. The sun penetrated the forest in a few places; sometimes it would incandesce a small oak tree that lived under their suzerains, the ponderosas. Looking for these spots was a pleasant game that honored the occasion. At one spot along the rough forest road there was a homemade sign for a trail. I walked up the short trail toward what seemed like the top of a small mountain. Just before reaching the top, an Australian shepherd came down to greet me. This was quite a surprise. What a beautiful dog, smiling from ear to ear. The dog's owners were resting at the overlook at the top. They had walked the two or three miles up from the Littler Pueblo, which looked like a Swiss mountain village from this vantage.

Layers of Existence

What is it about grassy fields at sunrise or sunset that I love so much? Part of it is my tacto-centric view of nature, that is, feeling the world through the skin and feet and lungs rather than through over-rated eyes. The best moment is when the seed heads are dense, as well as incandescently yellow; they seem to float a foot above the ground, as a separate layer. At such times, ambling through a dry, tawny field reminds me of kayaking in shallow clear water, as strange as that sounds. In the middle of a lake a kayaker can be quite bored with the featureless reflective surface of the water. He might be surprised to paddle in, almost to shore, and in foot deep water find more of interest than the rest of a large lake. The reflective surface of the water reflects reeds and marsh plants, nearby; but the surface is also transparent to rocks, sand, shells, and small plants on the bottom. It can be quite exciting to "exist" on two separate planes, at the same time. It's no

Armchair Travelers

There's probably somebody out there who knows how many armchair travelers lurk on internet travel blogs. For purposes of discussion let's assume it's 90% of the readers of travel blogs. Having fallen into the ignoble category myself, I have often wondered why I keep coming back for more. After all most bicycle touring blogs don't make for great reading unless you are really interested in whether they had oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, or whether they found a laundromat that was open, etc. Most of these people are remarkable endurance athletes, but poor visitors. They simply crunch miles all day long, and end the day over-accomplished in one activity (burning calories) and impoverished in all others, leaving them with little to say despite all their effort. So why read their silly blogs? For awhile the explanation seemed to be that theirs is a true adventure, in contrast to motor-vehicle-based vacationers or RV bloggers. But that wasn't totally satisfactory. L

When GOP Euphoria Wears Off

If I were a Republican I'd be careful about post-election euphoria. None of the fundamental weaknesses of the GOP have been addressed. It is still seen on the coasts as the party of low IQ Bahbl-bangers in the hinterlands. When an independent voter thinks of the GOP, unpopular perma-wars in the Mideast are the first thoughts to come to mind. If the "God and Country" coalition that dominates the GOP had its way we would find new wars, starting with Iran. The coalition is made of Rapture Christians, neo-cons, and defense industries. The label, conservative, is still misapplied to the GOP. The party was taken over by neo-cons during the G.W. Bush's administration. Neo-cons pay some lip service to the idea of limited government, but their real loyalty is to post-WWII hegemony by the USA. When they talk of "patriotism," they really mean defending the American global empire, starting with Israel of course. Rapture Christians naturally feel the same way. It won&

Mohawk Hairdo

  If I had known that I would someday be interested in a bird named phainopepla , I never would have gotten into this birding racket. (The usual disclaimer: unlike my opinions on sex, politics, and religion, my bird IDs are prone to occasional error.) Still, you gotta love that crest and red eyes. Finally we are getting some migratory birds, but it hasn't been a blockbuster season like last autumn.

The Internet and Elections

Every now and then the Internet is given credit for having an effect on the elections by way of fundraising and organization. But what about the quality of public discourse? Remember how narrow opinions were just a few years ago before the internet. What a disgrace it was that a country like ours was satisfied to sit before the newspaper, radio, or boob toob, and passively consume the drivel of a small number of corporate opinion providers. The opportunity is indeed huge compared to what has happened in the past. How was public discourse improved by the Hearst newspaper chain when it became nationwide? All we got was a disgusting little war, the Spanish-American War, and the "Teddy" cult. We turned our back on our proud tradition of non-interference in other countries and embraced imperialism, all because it made good copy for Hearst. A couple decades later, the high-tech miracle of the day was radio, which had a huge effect on the politics of the 1930's: it amplified