Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label societyAndCulture

Switch in Political Affiliation?

Could the experience of being a campground host change a person's political orientation? Perhaps it is worth generalizing this to: will working with the general public change your political views?

I am inclined to answer, Yes. I seem to be switching from libertarian to MRAG, that is, Mildly Repressive Authoritarian Regimes.

This switch does not please me. But there is a big caveat: seeing tourists all day is like teaching second grade. The tourist is not really an adult. Implicit in the libertarian viewpoint is the idea that you are dealing with adults who are responsible for their actions.

The child or adolescent gives little concern for the long term consequences of its actions. And it gives no concern for the effect on other people.



Society as a whole has become progressively more adolescent over the last hundred years. The welfare state deserves its share of the credit for this. But even more, the culture of consumer debt has enabled a childish "Gimme it now" mindset tha…

Unheralded Success Stories

For whatever reason, it has become easier over the years to appreciate success stories of various kinds, such as books, personal behavior under stress, music, independent thinking, etc.

But what is most astounding about these success stories is how quiet and unheralded they are. (And why should that be?)

For instance I usually fail to stay interested in reading geology books. And what a shame!, when a fellow spends so much time around land that exudes geology.

Currently I am reading a popular geology book by Richard Fortey called "Earth." Many times I have marveled at what an interesting writer he is. 
_____________________________________

I have always deplored how uxorious the average American male is, resulting in women who are spoiled beyond reason. My only experience outside America was in Mexico, where the non-slavishness of Mexican men towards their women made a favorable impression on me.

Perhaps that is why it has seemed like a small miracle to watch a character in the o…

(Revised) Starting the New Year as a "Dear Abby" Columnist

Once a friend told me that she/he never quite knew what I would blog on, next week. I considered that a fine compliment --the kind that all bloggers should aim for. Very well then, a new year is starting, so let's start off in a new direction: giving "personal" advice.

But first let's dismiss the reader's objection that my credentials are not in order, when it comes to being a relationship columnist. Since when are credentials an issue on the internet? I thought that was half the reason for having an internet. If bloggers only blogged about subjects they actually knew something about, of what use would semi-unlimited data limits be on the internet?

Since my friends don't even know have I have a blog, let alone read it; and since I don't blabbermouth names or places on the internet, I should be able to discuss their "case" without invading their privacy.

I listened to he/she discuss the personality and behavior defects of their other half. Thank goo…

Family Values in Utah

Towards the end of a mountain bike ride, when I am feeling my best, I saw this family enjoying a ride together in Utah. I don't think a vision of a family ever seemed more appealing.


The boy was even wilder and more spirited than the border collie. His parents were wise to let him go first so he wouldn't always be struggling to keep up with them, and becoming discouraged. The bike was too large for him, but no doubt he was looking forward to growing into it -- and as soon as possible!

Mixed Feelings on Donating to Houston

What do people think when they get an appeal to donate to Houston hurricane victims? Retrogrouches (like me) should respond positively to an appeal for voluntary help. It's about as 'retro' as it gets; after all, in modern America everything is either mandatory or illegal.

Then too, many people see the pulling together of humanity as one of its more admirable qualities.

So why didn't I donate? A seditious thought immediately came to mind: how could a society that has unlimited money for fighting foreign wars or inflating various financial bubbles, not be able to take care of hurricane victims in Houston, through government aid? 

How many people had this reaction to the appeals for aid? I am not arguing that it is the best reaction.

A Statistical Approach to People

An extreme illustration occurred today. A woman went from 'no luck' to superb luck in just a couple minutes, as we went to find her an open campsite. Based on actual experience, most people would have been delighted with her luck.

But the woman kept dragging her feet, finding something wrong with the postcard-perfect campsites we found. What was she looking for?

Since I have taken other people to these campsites, it was easy to laugh off the woman's quirks by rolling my eyes and thinking how sorry I was for her boyfriend, husband, or sons. What is worse than a woman who is impossible to please?

The difference is between a statistical (or 'diversified') approach to a person and being trapped in an 'all your eggs in one basket' situation.

As society has 'progressed', we have devolved from well-balanced and diversified situations to over-concentrated, tense, worrisome situations:

1. Imagine a folk dance in olden times compared to a couple waltzing 50 years …

"Handicaps" for Conversationalists

Tonight my sleeping pill will be the movie "Seabiscuit." The reader may have seen the movie. If not, I highly recommend it. 

Now, I'm not one of those bookish types who thinks that movies based on a book are supposed to be identical to the book. But after the movie I read the book, and appreciated the importance of handicaps to the sport of horse racing. (The movie made Seabiscuit into a Rocky-for-horses.)

Golf tournaments use handicaps, don't they? The NFL draft has the same function as handicapping. But in fact, handicapping could be used in more than just sports. It could be used in just about any endeavor in which unequal "contestants" would produce a dull contest. 

Conversation could be seen as a sport that uses handicaps. That is what I am discovering as a campground host. I have better luck than I normally do in face-to-face conversation with strangers. 

But I won't kid myself. It is not because I have suddenly become charming. Rather, it is because …

How to Handle a Deplorable on the Trail

Oh yea, I can hear it, a ways off. It is a Saturday after all. There is a 50% chance that it will head away from me, rather than towards me. But no, it wouldn't do that. They never do. That hateful sound kept getting closer and closer.

At a bend in the dirt road, a smallish ATV suddenly appeared. "Thanks for stopping and not running me over," was my initial thought. The driver was so velocitized that it took some effort for him to stop that idiot-machine of his.

But he was a good kid, and apologized. And I did my best to smile at the little motor-crazed monster.

As my dog and I kept plugging away on that road, the damned kid seemed to be playing "tag" with us. I had an obligation to both of us not to let this bother me. But the harder I tried to ignore it, the more resentful I became. It was a classic example of the medieval tale of a fairy telling the guy she will grant him his fondest wish if only he wouldn't think of a pink elephant for the next ten minutes…

Cognitive Dissonance at Christmas

While flying for the first time in 20 years, I certainly saw the convenience of smartphones, compared to the clumsy laptop I was dragging around. It was a good example of 'cognitive dissonance.' But this Christmas I experienced an extreme example of cognitive dissonance. 

Let's shift a little bit first: I congratulate anybody who makes it through life without having to clean up the ghastly mess left by a relative who has died recently. So much of the mess was avoidable. But we all tend to ignore our own mortality, so a bit of orderliness doesn't get a chance.

The cognitive dissonance comes in when the relative's death occurs near Christmas. Look at all the maniac shoppers driving around, stressed out of their minds, crashing into each other in the parking lots. Yesterday I actually saw a pickup truck turn a road's shoulder into a driving lane by jumping his right-hand wheels over the curb, and up onto a sidewalk.

It would never occur to these shoppers that their p…

Democracy and Football: the Gods that Failed

An optimist would say that it can only get better from now on: that America has hit absolute bottom in this year's election. For my part, I feel pretty good about ignoring the long primaries season. Just think how much cultural pollution my mind was spared, because of that. Besides, thinking about politics just makes a person sour and angry.

I still think the best way to handle this frustration is to channel it into reading history. Look at the two candidates America has chosen to run for president, and ask yourself if you were brainwashed in school about how democracy really works, and why it was so great.

Perhaps I should read the book, "Democracy: The God that Failed." But I am afraid the book may be academic and full of abstruse libertarian theology.
_______________________________________

The older you get, the easier it is to be content with small accomplishments. I am feeling pleased with myself for ignoring the NFL professional football season, so far. Actually it ma…

A Single Man Finally Tastes Legitimacy

I started noticing something strange during my couple weeks as a campground host. Quite unrelated to this, a mountain biker dropped by yesterday. We ended up having a conversation unlike any I've had before. Its conclusionprobably explains what I was noticing as a campground host.

People were treating me in a more friendly manner than what I was used to. Had I suddenly become four times better-looking or developed irresistible charm?

He mentioned that he avoids talking to people in public situations. He attributed this to his socially-marginal status as a single (heterosexual) male, without a wife, recent girlfriend, or children. He routinely senses hostility from the wives of male buddies.

Well, that is easy enough to explain: at the very least, wives don't want their husbands to come under the baleful influence of unmarried male friends, the sort of irresponsible, self-centered, spoiled clowns who are used to spending their own time and money on exactly what theyplease. She has…

American Civilization Finally Bottoms Out

There is something to be said for hitting rock bottom. You've survived the worst the world can give you. It's all 'up' from now on, you could say.

The other day I was at the library of a small town in New Mexico. On the way to the men's restroom, I saw a funny sign on the "women's" restroom. It was just a simple black-and-white line drawing of... what the heck is this? It was an explanatory diagram that clarified what female anatomy looked like. I hadn't known that there was any confusion about this. But then I remembered the President's transgender diktat was making the news.

I went away thinking, 'Has it really come to this?'
_________________________________

Recently I went to the men's restroom at a Walmart. I'm sure you've noticed how gigantic stores will sometimes only have a single stall, which is big enough to handle all the motorized wheelchairs that 1/3 of the customers require.

I was in a bit of a hurry, so Murphy'…

Nature Lovers and Long Dead Philosophers

If there ever were a time to invoke the old adage that 'practical men are just the slaves of some long-dead philosopher,' the time is now, after I've just read one of the most important (and juicy) books in years. The book is "Rousseau and Romanticism," by Irving Babbitt.

Only a chapter or two is about Rousseau's effect on how his followers perceived nature. But it is the chance in front of my face, especially during summer camping holidays. It seemed that my neighbors belonged to three tribes of "nature lovers."

Tribe #1. A couple women were car camping close to me. I complimented them on the sunniness of the campsite they chose. The car was a Subaru. (eyes rolling.) One of them had flown down from Oregon for the holiday.

Unfortunately many of the nearby spruce trees were dead, a la Colorado. I probably shouldn't have pointed that out. She ignored my un-compliment of the forest, and said that the trees were "beautiful." Really? Do yo…

Economics 101 When a Town Barely Has a Pulse

It's been a long time since I took an economics course. All I remember about it is that they don't call it the "dismal science" for nuttin'. Let me suggest another approach to the subject. Forget about the hectic noise of the big city, the stop-and-go traffic, and the endless running around to buy crap, most of which is superfluous.

Imagine taking it all away. Simplicity, bliss? Not so fast. Your first couple hours in a really small town pound it into you how difficult it is to get anything done. What if you have something as trivial as a flat tire? Will you have to call your towing service and get towed 200 miles to Phoenix or Albuquerque?

Are any of their stores serious about doing business? Maybe they are just tax write-offs. Except that the place doesn't look high-income-enough to need tax write-offs.

Can you find a business that is open the same hours two days in a row? I actually bring a pen and clipboard to write down the complex schedule of hours when th…

Hitting the Jackpot with the Service Economy

So this is what it feels like to hit the jackpot! Despite the cliché that 'America has a service economy', an experienced traveler knows how difficult it is to get a dog groomed or a car fixed. Even more frustrating is the search for a seamstress. It would be easier to schedule brain surgery than to get a zipper replaced, when you're on the road.

That is why I hit the jackpot in Silver City when I threw myself on the mercy of a dry cleaning place, the same place where I had been saved a half dozen years ago, when this same winter parka had suffered 'wardrobe malfunction'. The way things go these days, perhaps I shouldn't complain about the new metal zipper surviving heavy use for that long. (It was twice as long as the original nylon Delrin zipper.}

Back then I remember the disappointment of the best winter parka of my life failing so prematurely, and fearing that it would now be put in the dumpster. It's funny how that works: we never remember the pretty sce…

Retro-Grouch at the Laundromat

I thought it was a bad idea whose time had come...and passed. But there it was, staring at me, once again.



Quarters aren't accepted by an ultra-modern laundromat, like this one. Now you must waste money to buy a plastic card even before putting a balance on the card that lets you do laundry. Yea, like that is really advantageous for the traveler who is only going to be there once.

Of course there were complex instructions for paying for the card itself, then putting a balance on the card, then inserting it into the washing machine (once chance in four of getting it right), and then pulling it out at the right speed so it actually begins working. I have seen a poor attendant have to help every other customer with these damn things!

I actually groaned out-loud when I walked into thisbusiness and saw the bad news. I was traveling with a European friend for a week. Recognizing all the telltale signs of an incipient rant, they started looking for a fire extinguisher to spray me down.

This …

Progress in Popular Culture

In one sense, everything was normal at the gasoline pump the other day. It is no longer unusual for a loudspeaker to blare out advertisements at you, usually for a car wash or junk food. You can't blame the ad-world for making progress in this direction. After all, television viewers mute out the commercials, and internet eye-ballers use Ad-Block.

But there was something new today. My ears were regaled with a country-western version of rap music. This was a new cultural low for me. A radio listener probably doesn't consider this news at  all.

I've lived too long. Maybe I should be dead by now. Lately I have been contrasting the popular culture of my childhood with that of today. Will an old person always prefer the past because they are "conservative" and narrow-minded? Actually, it is young people who are narrow-minded -- they only know one side of the question. 

Real Life Showing Itself in the Do-it-Yourself Syndrome

I don't know where you come down on the Do-It-Yourself question: whether it is a trap, a moral sickness, or a great part of life? Depends on the situation.  

Consider the long overdue improvements I've been making to my mountain bike, as the season cranks up again. 'Cool' mountain bikers never put a bag on the handlebar. They also spend $4000 on a bike that only holds one water bottle. Then they load up their back with a hot, sweaty Camelbak pack. No way! I have had every brand of front handlebar bag made. Last autumn in Moab I went over the handlebar, broke the plastic bracket of the bag, and got scratched up.

This has been going on for decades! Handlebar bags are expensive, protrude too far in front, rotate (fall) downwards, and make your bike harder to store. Or they are cheap, floppy things. And they can't hold something as simple as a jacket regardless of price. 

It seems like you should be able to dig through the toy box, find an old fanny pack, and then loop it…

Turning Election Ugliness into Intellectual Pleasure

It is hard to settle on an attitude toward these ghastly presidential elections that satisfies me. The easy thing is to say, "Just ignore it. Why make yourself depressed or angry when you don't have to be?"

But this approach is too facile. We do, after all, live under a system of self-government. Something better than mere avoidance is called for. But don't worry: I'm not about to give you a pep talk that belongs in school civics class.

Rather, I want to be candid about how hopeless the USA is, and face up to the fact that we are looking into an abyss. Don't avert your eyes from it. Wallow in it a bit -- not for the mere sake of misery of course, but for the sake of moving on to something better.




For instance, lately I have been on a streak of books about Muslim history. Think how narrow public discourse is about Muslims as 'terrorists'. Does anyone ever define what a terrorist is? Isn't it just an example of asymmetrical warfare? Does anyone ever di…