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Showing posts from February, 2019

A Remarkable Small Town Library

Once again I am quite affected by the movie, "Paradise Now." It seems that I rewatch it every year that I revisit the Patagonia library. During my years of travel, there have been a handful of public libraries that stood out. They offered something of quality -- not just the usual mass market drivel. It feels good to see somebody "come through" for you, like that.  But why doesn't it happen more often? Isn't a high quality selection of books, music, and movies seen as part of the culture of society, and isn't culture important?  I could offer four of five bullet-points on possible answers to this question. But analyzing it would kill the mood I feel after watching this marvelous movie.  More generally it seems that most places are content to be like every place.

Oscar Who?

Pop quiz: what was the last movie you saw? What year did you last see a movie at the theatre? It is getting so I am not even sure which decade it was when I last went to a movie theatre. I guess you could say that movie DVD rentals still make the movie industry important. But isn't it strange that there is still so much hype and hoopla over the Academy Awards, when the movie industry is sinking into irrelevancy? Is so-and-so going to say something against Trump at the awards? Will Hottie Buns win an award, or expose 80% of her body during a speech, or will it be 82%? How earth-shaking! Stay tuned!!! Why not spew out vast amounts of publicity over who won the Pulitzer Prize, despite the fact that the newspaper industry is dying? Or why not glorify the hero who works for the United States Post Office and won this year's "Employee of the Year" award?  

The Wandering Holy Men of the Desert

If it is possible for the smirk to become seated permanently in the muscles and wrinkles of the human face, then I am running a risk right now. It is impossible to read a history of early Christianity and not see parallels with bloggers, vloggers, and self-proclaimed holy men of the winter camping scene. But my smirking is not mean-spirited. I just find the parallels amusing. After all, times are so different now than 400 A.D.; and yet certain psychological drives persist. Why I even know one blowhard on the internet who brags about not using any heat in his camper! (grin.) Should I give a list of quotes from the book? Maybe that would get too drawn-out. Perhaps it suffices to put in an endorsement for "The First Thousand Years," by Robert Milken (A Global History of Christianity.) Asceticism is only one parallel between early Christianity and modern desert camping. Consider: The growing pains in any movement; certain forms of decay. Fire-breathing rebellions agains

The Un-desert

It certainly is ironic how a desert is at its best when it is temporarily acting like an un-desert. Do you think there is a 'moral' to this story? It was wonderful to experience the slow rain in the desert this morning. Numerically it might have amounted to only a couple hundredths of an inch. But every drop soaked in. The desert even seemed soggy. And it smelled so good! Of course it is easy to praise rain when there is no soil and therefore no mud. The roads are pure gravel and rock around here. ________________________________ By the way, the photograph above answers the question that a commenter recently asked about 'why I was even troubling myself over shopping for a new camera.' Objectively, the scene was of pendulous raindrops, clinging to desert vegetation. But the camera's response to the harsh backlight turned the scene into luminous globules or water balloons. Thus the photograph is a visual representation of the theme of this post. This can

Our Digital Menu-driven World

It has been quite an eye-opener to shop for cameras. It seems that if you hate on-screen menus as much as me, and you desire a rotary "mode dial" that allows you to select things like Aperture-priority shooting, you will soon be in the $400 price range. I'll bet the mode dial itself only raises the manufacturing cost by a dollar or two. But the business model says,"Soak the bastard" if he thinks of himself as photographer enough to want manual control over the camera. Sometimes the website won't even let you know whether there is a mode dial or not. It will make you dig through all their verbiage. This has been educational. It reminded me of the frustration I usually feel when drowning in the digital menus of just about any gadget these days. Remember the first time I walked into a McDonald's that used an ordering-kiosk? I started mouthing off, right in the store. But if you really want a scary thought, just imagine the "information co

Waiting For a Winning Streak with Books

Reading history books is not for sissies; nor for people who demand instant gratification. In fact one must expect to endure a great deal of drudgery before finally getting onto a winning streak. I have done just that, recently. How refreshing it is to escape the cloistered writing of scholarly bookworms who have spent their entire lives with their noses buried in other people's books. Contrast that with the chapter on Jacob Burckhardt in Michael Dirda's "Classics for Pleasure:" In those days, many scholars refused to confine their efforts to some narrow field of specialization; in fact, they ranged across subjects with the swagger of adventurers, soldiers of fortune, condottieri. For Burckhardt, the Renaissance in Italy is essentially an age of energy and charisma, when a man was "forced to be either hammer or anvil." Contrast that with overly verbose historians, who drown you in microscopic details that never add up to anything. So many of t

Before Everybody Was Clogging the Back Roads

I certainly looked twice when I saw this off-road classic sitting in the downtown plaza in Ajo, AZ. I sighed with pleasure, and fluttered my eyelashes at the car. This seemed odd because antique car festivals do not interest me in the least.   What was it about this off-road classic? Why was I mooning and swooning over it? It is hard to imagine the owner of a modern "off-roader" jumping into this classic. (This refers to crossover-utility-vehicles, CUV.) There aren't eight air bags in the classic. And no 8" information display in the center of the dash. Actually dozens of modern "necessities" are missing.  Something about the classic vehicle and its owner smacks of moral integrity. Those were the days when family campers went to 'the lake' on the weekend, or maybe to a state park. They didn't blast around on dirt roads, making noise and traffic, where dispersed campers are trying to 'get away from it all,' and where I woul

A Chiaroscuro for the Skin

Has another warm winter made me soft? Apparently it has. Last night I finally used the warmer sleeping bag, purchased recently. (It's nominal rating is -25 F.) In the morning I deigned to heat up water for a bladder, and to insert it into my parka. But it wasn't that cold inside the camper -- 38 F is nothing extreme. (I refuse to use propane heat.) But once the sun came up, I was lured into another mountain bike ride -- this time to town for a visit to the coffee shop, and a few errands. Later in the afternoon I sat in a chair on the south side of the trailer and faced the sun. Sunlight was reflecting off a small piece of broken glass lying on the desert pavement. It was so bright that I could only look at it with my eyes mostly closed. Normally this would be unpleasant. But under the circumstances it felt wonderful. I moved my chair closer to the leeward side of the white trailer. It felt like a warm oven. How utterly perfect it was to balance the recent cold air

Drinking the Desert Air

I almost didn't go for a mountain bike ride today. The excuse was that it was too windy and cool. But my 12+ year old dog didn't feel the same way. She was insistent, as if she were still a wild puppy girl. I'm glad she won the argument. In fact it wasn't too cool. The wind was moderated by some of the gullies and hills I rode through. Actually the air felt wonderful on the skin. You must try to appreciate how rare this is, in the desert Southwest. What great timing! I am camera-less right now, and having little luck in finding a new camera. But why not try to turn that to advantage?  Didn't Shakespeare say something like, 'A young man falls in love with his eyes, rather than his heart...'  Travelers have the same problem: they can't reach out to nature except through their eyeballs. The ubiquity of digital cameras, social media, and blogs has worsened the disease: nothing is worth appreciating unless it makes a purty postcard (and brings applau

The Evil One is Back

There are plenty of Arizona snowbirds who think that sunny 70 F weather is perfect. What do they know? They are just tourists. On a day of this so-called perfect weather I couldn't believe the force of the sun. Wasn't it just a month ago that we were worried about the solar panels charging the batteries completely? A feeling of pure dread came over me. Here it is, the first of February, and I am already being knocked into 'hide from the sun' mode. The sun is already a Malevolence. It is the purpose of all Life to vanquish it  -- or be vanquished by it.