Friday, October 28, 2011

Rigid Thinking


The wife and I have been making a lot of changes recently. Some of these changes have been referenced in many of my recent blogs. These changes have been difficult, but overall they are proving to be very beneficial.

This was highlighted in a meeting that I facilitated this week. We had some downtime during the meeting and I was conversing with some of the other people in the room about my experiences of building geodesic domes at the Burning Man Festival. They seemed fascinated about this and the concept of how the domes were built.

One of the attendees at the meeting questioned how I would section off the interior of a dome into rooms, since the structure is basically round. I looked at her somewhat comically and realized that she was totally rigid in her thinking based on a lifetime of ‘literally’ living inside a box.

I explained to her that if you take the time to lay out the design of the dome and construct it, the cost of making a second or third dome becomes one half to one quarter of the first. So instead of thinking in terms of rooms within the dome, she should think of multiple domes that are connected. Each dome is its own self contained room.

This got me thinking about how we as a culture are marketed to think that we need more than we do.

Last week, we owned three vehicles (four if you count my Segway). We had a small Lexus, a mid-sized Dodge Dakota pickup truck and my Lotus Esprit. My wife and I were thinking about replacing the Lexus with something that was more efficient, since she has a long commute each day. So we were looking into getting a Chevrolet Volt (that uses no gas).

But early last week the wife and I had a little pow-wow on our front porch and we both told each other ‘wait a minute’. What do we plan to be DOING in the next 5 years, as opposed to what are we DOING right now.

We plan on retiring, moving away, building a home in a remote location, taking our large dogs on trips to the vet and dog park and building a lot of large scale projects. How is the Volt going to benefit us in these scenarios? Add to this, that I don’t drive to work and we rarely used the pickup truck, except on weekends to go to Home Depot.

The end result is that we sold both the Lexus and the pickup and got one brand new big-ass full size quad-cab 4X4 pickup truck with a long bed. It gets awful gas mileage and is basically a road going tank that can tow four tons and haul 3/4 of a ton. So as a commuter vehicle for my wife, it isn’t ideal, but it is a great motivator for her to find another job closer to downtown where we live so she doesn’t HAVE to commute so much before we retire.

In retrospect, one new car is actually much cheaper than owning two used ones. Again, thinking outside the box. More cars do not make us happier, they are a burden. (but I still kept the Lotus, hell it is paid for)

Following up on this basic concept of less is actually more, the experiment of disconnecting our home from the phone / internet / mass media has actually worked out rather well. Sure, the first two weeks or so were sort of uncomfortable. Like someone giving up cigarettes. We lost the ability to check our e-mail and Facebook every 5 minutes, and didn’t know what the anxiety story of the day was on the local news, but this faded after a while.

We now find ourselves watching a lot more movies from our extensive video collection and making even better use of Netflix. The internet is free at the library and I read my e-mail at the office. The interesting side affect is, both my wife and I are much more relaxed. The world continues on without us knowing how many fatalities, or debt crisis and tsunamis are out there. We really don’t care anymore. We are looking toward a different future. Not the one that all those advertisement and local news bobble-heads were steering us toward.

What we have learned from all this, is that the media marketing of the American Dream is all a lie. To have something just ‘in case’ you might need it, only applies to insulin or a cell phone to dial 911. We don’t need a Hummer just in case a dam breaks somewhere upstream and we have to quickly scale a mountain to escape the flood waters. We don’t need 99 channels of forced media entertainment to know where the storms are, or god forbid, to know what Paris Hilton is doing. The burden of owning all these things far outweighs their value.

Cigarettes and Alcohol aren’t the only legal things that are addictive in this society. So is debt and anxiety. If you learn to do without and think outside the box, life is actually much better. But like the old saying goes, “We linger so long in Hell, because we know the names of the streets.” Find a different road map folks and don’t be afraid to make some changes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Love

I’m A Mormon

I am a little concerned about something. Despite my wife and I watching less television, we noticed something of late that is really odd. I am curious if this is going on in the rest of the country or if this is a regional thing.

Now I am not trying to bash religion in this post. I have stated before that we all have the right to believe and worship however and whoever we want. But there has been an ad campaign smothering the airwaves where we live (American Southwest) that I find disturbing for its political undertones.

“I’m A Mormon” commercials have been popping up during Primetime here for the past three weeks. They are so slick and well done, that at first I didn’t really understand what they were.

They are comprised of two back-to-back 30 seconds spots, showing a run of the mill average guy, housewife, artist or teacher talking about their life, and gosh darn it they seem awfully happy and normal in a real neighbourly sort of way. Then at the end of each spot comes the tag line, “I’m [insert name here] and I’m a Mormon”.

I don’t ever recall seeing religious organizations ‘advertise’ for worshipers, but in effect, that is what this church is doing.

Alright, so be it. Lawyers didn’t use to advertise, but their law firms are plastered on the sides of buses in our town now. Doctors never used to advertise, but they have billboards touting their surgical prowess all over the place as well.

So it sort of makes sense for cash-strapped tax-free organizations to seek out and recruit more followers willing to tithe 10% of their income. Hey, if it floats your boat and makes you feel good, become a Mormon.

Only, we are entering the political campaign season and the leading Republican front runner is a …………….Mormon. Hmmmmmmm.

Is it just me, or are the lines of segregation between church and state becoming a little blurry these days?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

For Those That Dream

....this is what it is like

An exceptional short film on Burning Man 2011 - Rites of Passage. If you want to know what it is like to attend the event, this pretty much sums it up in 6 minutes.

Go to the Burning Man Website for more information.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Essential Cinema - 52

The T.A.M.I. Show

The Barbarians
The Beach Boys
Chuck Berry
James Brown and The Famous Flames
Marvin Gaye (with backing vocals by The Blossoms)
Gerry & the Pacemakers
Lesley Gore
Jan and Dean
Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas
Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
The Rolling Stones
The Supremes

Directed by Steve Binder

Produced by Bill Sargent

From T.A.M.I. Show

Possibly the best Rock and Roll film ever made.

From T.A.M.I. Show

When you see the original Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger barely into his 20s, it really hits home that my generation is getting old. Comparing Kanye West and Lady Gaga to these performances, it becomes painfully obvious that newer is not always better. Here are the roots of rock and roll before they branched out into a million different genres. The pure stuff. The gold.

From T.A.M.I. Show

In their song "When The World Is Running Down", The Police mention this film in the lyrics. That was my first knowledge that it ever existed. I have heard about it since but had never seen it. So when I was updating my Netflix cue a few months ago, I found it and had the DVD delivered to our home last week.

I watched this with my wife and we were both blown away on several levels.

From T.A.M.I. Show

First of all there is the talent. This is raw stuff by very gifted young performers who were just entering their own or were already legends. There is no dubbing, there is very little editing and it is all performed live.

There are 48 songs performed in a little under two hours, with one act following the other on stage, and often times performing together. You can't get performers to do this sort of thing any more, either contractually or talent-wise.

From T.A.M.I. Show

Second is the technical expertise with which the performances were shot. Considering this was a live show and shot with modified television cameras, the sound and the imagery are exceptional.

Finally there are the songs. You know almost everyone one of them if you are over 40, and my wife was amazed to actually 'see' the performers that sang the songs that she listened to as a kid.

To get a glimpse of why this film is so astounding, watch the clip of James Brown that is linked above, or click on the title to go to the Wikipedia page for more details about film.

From T.A.M.I. Show

As for cons, there aren't any. Just watch the film to find out why.

For those that can't get hold of the DVD, go to You Tube to see clips of the show, there are many of them, but get ready to spend a whole afternoon watching them, they are that addictive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

The only things I would change in this post from 2008, would be to make it all in CAPITALS and BOLD it. Nothing has changed. If anything, it has only gotten worse.

A Nation Of Victims

First Posted July 2, 2008

Its All A Game

I have seen a growing trend over the years that has really been bugging me. With each new 'crisis' or 'disaster' that befalls mankind it just seems to get worse. It is a crisis of perspective and expectation. We have become a nation of victims and no one seems to be questioning it. I surmise that this is because there is more money to be made from victims than from people that can just 'suck it up' and deal with it.

A few of the long running list of examples that cause me to think this way.

The numerous people I known through the years that always blame someone else for something going wrong.

If they hit a tree with their is the trees faults, or better yet the property owner that owns the tree...he should have put reflectors on that thing.

The drunken person that stumbles on the curb and knocks his teeth is the cities fault for making the curb too high....or Budweiser's fault for not putting a large warning label on the beer.

The folks wailing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because they didn't have anyplace to is the governments fault for not being able to hold back the ocean. (Hello? You live in a city that is below sea level....)

The folks that are railing about high gas prices....but thought nothing of it when they bought that Ford Expedition 2 years ago, assuming gas would never get more expensive (have gas prices EVER gone down?).

And always there are the attorneys waiting in the wings ready to help you get what you are "entitled" to for a small fee. Because you can't collect anything if you aren't a victim.

We now live in a society of 'entitlements' where we all feel we are "owed" something and if we don't get it, we will kick and scream until we DO get it.

I guess THE memo sort of got lost somewhere along the way, but in case some of us didn't get around to reading it;

1. It is a dangerous world, if you don't pay attention, you are going to get hurt. If you get hurt...learn from it.

2. If you don't understand it, stay away from it until you do.

3. Floods, fires, lightening, hurricanes, tornado, earthquakes....they happen, be prepared. (Better to pay your insurance premiums before the accident than pay a lawyer afterwards, or worse yet rely on the government)

4. If you figure things out on your own, you learn and grow. If you pester others to do it for you or pay folks to get it done, it won't get done right and they will be enabling you to fail.

5. We don't all get a trophy just for putting on the uniform and sitting on the bench. Failure is a part of life, it is supposed to motivate us to do better. That is the way nature intended it and it isn't nice to fool with mother nature. I could never trust someone that has not learned from failure. It is what determines character.