Menu

The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

July 28, 2011

Before and After Workout Exhibit

The website My Modern Met showcased an interesting art exhibit earlier this week by French photog Sacha Goldberger.

One half of the layout shows pictures of joggers that have just completed a brisk workout. The second half of the layout shows the same joggers in professional attire, posing in the same light, and manner as they had the week before.

According to Goldberger, the photos are intended:

"To show the difference between our natural and brute side versus how we represent ourselves to society," Goldberger tells us. "The difference was very surprising."

[Link]

Here's an example of Goldberger's work, courtesy of My Modern Met.

Joggingseries3

Goldberger's premise isn't terribly insightful. Everyone presents an image of self to the world around us. But the exhibit is dramatic in that it underscores just how highly constructed the image we present to society actually is. Think about how much of our day is spent maintaining the image we wish to present.

Your morning shower. A, hopefully, daily ritual to evince good hygiene, and keep one's bodily odors at bay. Why? So that you and your co-workers can co-exist in relative, cubical harmony.

The clothes you wear. As one fashion blog put it, the entire fashion industry exists for the sole purpose of producing 'wearable art.' I kid you not. They really said that. By this logic, you choose to wear clothes that make an artistic statement about you to the rest of the world. My t-shirt and jeans, for example, probably say to the rest of the world, "I hate you."

The car you drive. Chevy struck advertising gold in the early 2000s in its effort to persuade Americans that you are what you drive. While trying to hawk its massive, and over-priced Silverado pick-up trucks, Chevy cleverly implemented the tagline "Like a rock." Alas, this would be the last clever thing Chevy ever did.

The point of the "like a rock" campaign was that "you may be a bit soft about the gut, but by God if you drive a Chevy you're just like a rock all the same." According to the Wall Street Journal, the "like a rock" campaign was so successful among middle-age men, Chevy just might bring it back. The point, of course, is that the vehicle you drive says something about you to society.

For example, one good friend, who shall remain nameless, drives a Kia Spectra circa. 2004. His choice of car says to society, "Please, don't hit me. But if you must hit me, I have lots of insurance." Yes, my good friend is an attorney. My own, battered Chevy Colorado says, "I decided to start law school in the desert west before the economy tanked, and moved here from a major city where I didn't need a car. This is all I could afford."

The accessories you carry to work. Being but a lowly student, I don't have a real job per se. But since I am a student, I've given considerable thought to the kind of backpack I carry. I think my Timbuk 2 bag tells society, "I could be a hipster, in a real city." And once society believes what the bag tells them, it says, "I kid, I kid! The limeade racing stripe was supposed to let you in on the joke."

Etc.

I suppose I've quite belabored the point by now. But the exhibit really is interesting in that it underscores how nearly the entirety of our waking existence is spent shrouding the image on the left in the trappings of the image on the right. Naturally, this doesn't address the real question.

Exactly why do we care so much about what other people think of us?

Share:

July 27, 2011

Best Political Use of a Country Music Song

The typically all-business, conservative website Hot Air threw me a bit of a curveball as I perused yesterday's headlines.

In a nondescript article, mulling the Presidential aspirations of Gov. Rick Perry and his, admittedly impressive, record of job creation in Texas, Hot Air titled its piece:

Why All Your Exes May Live in Texas

[Link]

The urbane and sophisticated among us would probably miss the reference - as might anyone who did not feverishly listen to country music during the middle 1980s. Being neither urbane, nor sophisticated, it just so happens that yours truly did in fact grow up during the middle 1980s, feverishly listening to country music - or as I like to call it, the music of angels.

Purely for your edification, I can say with conviction that the headline above is a riff on the Billboard No. 1 Country Music song from 1987, All My Ex's Live in Texas, performed by none other than country music legend, George Strait.

Given Hot Air's readership, I might very well be the only person in these United States to recognize the schtick. Regardless, well played Ed Morrissey. Well played.

Of course, it's not nearly as clever as the UPN sitcom Eve, which ran a 2004 episode in season two titled, All My Exes Havin Sexes. We all have our betters, I suppose.

Share:

July 13, 2011

Bike Ride Along the Rillito River

I suppose in a perfect world, a river bike path, would run along side an actual river with water in it. But this is Tucson, and things are seldom perfect in the desert. Truth is, calling our Rillito River a "river" is a bit misleading. In reality, it's a dry sandbar where a perennial river once flowed.

By way of introduction, history, and hydrological erudition, centuries of groundwater pumping, coupled with a population explosion in the last decade, all but drained the water table of Tucson's alluvial plain, leaving the rivers in the area dry.

Oops.

Even though the river long ago ran dry, the City of Tucson nonetheless opted to invest heavily in the river's infrastructure, creating a bike path that has expanded to more or less to run the entire length of the Rillito River within the Tucson City Limits - making lemonade out of lemons if you will.

To state matters simply, Tucson's basic approach is that if you can't have a bike path along a real river, well, why not have a nice bike path all the same? And that's more or less what the City has accomplished with the Rillito River Park.

My route along the path begins where I would normally take Mountain Avenue to head south toward the U of A campus. But instead of heading south, I continue eastward toward Craycroft Road. You can see the entire route here - I'll spare you the embedded video as an act of good faith.

I've posted pictures of where I catch the River Path before. But the photo below shows an unexpected problem I've had in bike riding the past few weeks. We are entering the rainy season here in the Sonoran Desert, and the annual monsoon rains usually arrive in the late afternoon, and early evenings. This makes riding to my wife, who gets off work at 4:30pm, a bit tricky.

Photo Jul 12 4 03 38 PM  HDR

Anyway, after catching the River path, rather than taking the bike and pedestrian bridge toward Mountain Ave., my journey yesterday went eastward for about six miles.

Photo Jul 12 4 05 25 PM  HDR

On balance, the path is made of extremely high-quality, rubberized asphalt. This makes the ride remarkably smooth, and allows riders to enjoy the quite of the desert. And, in truth, this is how the path runs for the vast majority of its length.

Photo Jul 12 4 13 05 PM  HDR

If there is one portion of the River Path that deserves a word of criticism, it's where the path swings away from the river, as it nears Dodge Boulevard. You'll notice in the photo below, the only marker for two-wheelers is a faded, green bike box, and a minuscule sign alerting motorists to a bike crossing. It's not exactly an encouraging investment in bicycle safety.

I'm sure money is an issue in developing this portion of the path. When is money ever not an issue? But it would make a lot of sense, both in terms of liability lawsuits and infrastructure costs, just to continue the path eastward, underneath Dodge Boulevard. The City does this at Campbell Ave, Alvernon Way, and Swan Ave. Taking the path underneath Dodge too, would insulate it from city traffic entirely, allowing the route to be even more family/bicycle/pedestrian friendly.

On the off chance a City of Tucson acolyte stumbles across this post, consider this paragraph a formal Planning and Development request. You can name it the "Pax Plena, Rillito River Family/Bike/Pedestrian Underpass." No royalties necesary.

Photo Jul 12 4 20 51 PM  HDR

Shortly after Dodge, but before Swan, the path descends into the riverbed itself. Most of the path runs along the erstwhile bank of the river, so riding in the actual riverbed is an interesting experience. It's a bit like taking a trek through the wilderness, armed with knowledge that the wilderness has a fixed end point in less than a mile. Photo Jul 12 4 22 50 PM  HDR

Once the path descends, portions of the route, roughly 75 yards or so, look like this.

Photo Jul 12 4 27 21 PM  HDR

To state the obvious, the road is almost entirely covered with silt, carried along by the annual monsoons rains that create a sporadic water flow in the river during the summer months. Even this section of the route really isn't that bad. My road bike navigated this part of the path just fine, but it can look deceptively treacherous on the first bike ride or two.

Soon, the path climbs out of the riverbed, as you approach Craycroft. I was excited to see some storm clouds in the distance.

Photo Jul 12 4 28 28 PM  HDR

Shortly, my excitement waned, as the clouds darkened, making me regret that I had both left my rain slicker at home, and that I didn't spring for tire fenders on my trusty steed. Naturally, I didn't like my odds in a race against the weather. Photo Jul 12 4 32 10 PM My fears were unfounded though. My wife works at Tucson Medical Center, and by the time I pulled up from the River Path at Craycroft, there was an inexplicable break in the clouds. Photo Jul 12 4 39 36 PM I sidled up to my favorite bench, just as the wife got off of work, and picked me up. Photo Jul 12 4 40 24 PM  HDR

In all, the River Bike Path struck me as an excellent way for new riders to get used to riding in the city. It's not a very taxing route spare a couple of steep, paved inclines.

Lest anyone be fooled, not all of Tucson's streets, are as accommodating as the River Path. But what makes it good for new riders is that it's a nice, mostly safe way to get used to biking in general without having to worry about the odd motorist and their temperament on any given day. It also boasts some great views of the city.

Share:

July 4, 2011

Why I Love America

American flagA prominent Native American law blog I follow posted a tongue-in-cheek message to Americans celebrating the Fourth of July. The headline declared:

Happy Fourth from the Merciless Indian Savages

[Link]

For the confused, the headlined referenced a brief passage from the Declaration of Independence, listing the offenses of King George III. The excerpt appears in full below:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It's true that the United States has had a violent relationship with American Indians. From an abject policy of destruction and relocation hailing from the early years of the Jackson Administration, to a policy of systemic termination of tribal governments, I suppose if any group in America has a grievance against the government we celebrate today, it would be my people, the Native Americans.

The point is not to measure effronteries, but I can understand the purpose in the making the statement. The simple fact is that America is neither a perfect angel, nor an evil villain as the social extremes would suggest.

The best description we can give America is that we are a wonderful, complicated, dysfunctional family.

Think about our family tree. We have Bible-beating aunts from the midwest. We have uncles that drink too much from the south. We have mothers and fathers who don't speak to each other anymore (but refuse to divorce for tax reasons) in the northeast. And we have lazy cousins who would rather be professional students than get a real job from the west.

But even the most dysfunctional of families has to come together every now and again.

So, we have an annual probate meeting to discuss the estate of our late Uncle Sam. Each family sends its delegates to the meeting down in Washington, D.C. where they take in the sights, and pretend to be very busy. Being a family meeting, however, you can imagine how little they actually get done. In fact, they spend most of their time yelling at each other, drinking, and having the odd sex scandal. The end result is the occasional bastard child, and the need for years of therapy.

But sometimes we really do come together, and get important, things, done. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen on occasion. And when it does happen, we're a stronger family for it. That is until the next time Uncle John gets drunk watching Nascar, and mocks Cousin James for his vegan lifestyle in San Francisco. Then we have a family World War III and Grandma and Grandpa have to step in and settle things down.

And that's why I love America really. We behave just like a family, only on a bigger scale. And even while we may loathe our cousins for being self-righteous, at the end of the day, we would miss them if they weren't around anymore.

America's greatness isn't the moral high-ground we sometimes claim. And our weakness isn't that we drive trucks instead of hybrids. America's greatness is that we manage, somehow, to get along. Mostly.

Share:

July 2, 2011

Remembering Hemingway: Fifty Years Later

ErnestHemingwayFifty years ago today, legendary author Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in a quiet, central-Idaho hamlet. The incident marked an all but perfunctory end to a most remarkable life.

Hemingway's memoirs from Paris, for example, published posthumously in 1964, present tales of a poor, American ex-pat living in the City of Light, calling upon historical luminaries such as Gertrude Stein (p.11), Sylvia Beach (p.35), and F. Scott Fitzgerald (p.179).

Assuming elbow rubbing with people of consequence is not enough to actually make one interesting, Hemingway also fought in both world wars, fished for Marlin in the Caribbean, and hunted grizzly bear in Wyoming. He famously survived one plane crash, three divorces, and still managed to produce seven novels during his lifetime.

Suffice it to say, Hemingway's life was enough to make the Dos Equis man look passé. Stay thirsty my friends.

But the most compelling thing about Hemingway's memories of Paris, and indeed of his writing generally, was his ability to recount the mundane. At the end of A Movable Feast, Hemingway paid a final tribute to his favorite city. What follows is the final paragraph of the book in full:

There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy. (p.211)

To observe the anniversary of Hemingway's death, Wired.com ran a piece by author Marty Beckerman, exploring what Hemingway would think of our digital age.

Unsurprisingly, Beckerman's take is that Hemingway would not think much of the world we've created.

Today, many of us have become rich in the currency of cowardice. We have so many things and so few experiences. We are desperate to live as long as possible, not as large as possible. We are so afraid to say goodbye to the world that we never say hello.

We are numbed in our high-def, Wi-Fi cocoons, eager for materialistic possessions — the newest, fastest, shiniest gadgets — instead of a fitting end to a life well-lived. If Papa hadn’t killed himself out of despair in 1961, he would kill himself out of disgust today.

[Link]

The article is intentionally jarring, and outlandishly funny. But it's also true.

Whether due to our technological prowess, or our penchant for comfort, mankind as a lot really isn't as interesting as our forbearers. Beckerman mocks our affinity for Twitter, and Facebook, but it's a sad fact that much of my day is spent checking both sites and wondering who is doing the same of mine.

Beckerman's solution is to power down the gadgets and get back to the serious business of life - such as stalking prey across the Serengeti, and having real affairs as opposed to digital ones (here's looking at you Anthony Weiner).

Aside from the affairs, I'm not sure Beckerman is all that off in his prescription. Life is worth living because of the experiences we create. Given its brevity, there really isn't anything to be gained by playing it safe at every turn.

And so, in honor of a man who truly lived, here's a broad bit of encouragement: do it your way.

Ask your crush to coffee. Go for the job with the corner office. Finish the novel. Go back to school. Take the vacation you've been planning. Email your long-lost friend. Adopt a Pit Bull. Spring for the nice bottle of Scotch.

And, above all, never, ever drink cheap wine.

Hemingway wouldn't have it any other way.

Share:

Welcome!

Organic, free-range thought courtesy of your average, coffee-addicted, American Indian, academic. Program Manager @IGPatUA.


The thoughts here are mine alone and should not be attributed to my employers, colleagues, or any other sentient being.

Me

Recent Posts

Latest Comments

Blog Archive

Copyright © Pax Plena | Powered by Blogger

Design by Anders Norén | Blogger Theme by NewBloggerThemes.com