Monday, March 29, 2010

Categorizing people

As humans, one thing we do is place people in categories. It's not something we can choose not to do; it's part of our cognitive makeup. Indeed, if we don't categorize, we don't perceive. But the old categories aren't any good any more. Can't use color (not because it's non-PC to use color), but because any color distinctions aren't reliable. Can't use any other ethnicity, either, for the same reason. Can't use things like body art. One of the sweetest, loveliest, kindest people on this earth has a shoulder arm liberally tattooed. Dress? It is to laugh. Again, I know a person whose dress screams "TART," but who is anything but.
So, how do we classify people? I offer the following methods:
1. How does this person treat his/her partner? Affection? Love? Tenderness? Sarcasm? Cruelty? Indifference?
2. How does this person treat his/her children? Children require infinite patience.
3. How does this person treat casual contacts? (Waitresses, bus drivers, sales clerks)
4. How does this person treat strangers?
Notice a thread here?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pack Ratting

My Dad saved stuff. All sorts of stuff. Not stuff like string or stamps, but stuff like nuts and bolts, old two by fours, chunks of metal, used spark plugs, wire, rope, cable, pipe, and, of course, every tool known to humankind. I have an old anvil/vise that was his. It weighs more than I do, and is solid iron decorated in rust and grease. It has seen probably 80 years of hard use, and is ready to go for another 80.
We used to say, apropos of Dad's penchant for keeping things, "He was raised during the depression." And that's true; he was 18 when Wall Street took the big one. We also said, "It's because of his upbringing." And that was true too. He came from a Kansas farming family that couldn't quite make a go of it.
Both those things, surely, will move a person toward saving and making do.
Today I started cleaning out my garage. Only one side, mind you. I who was raised amidst enough if not plenty, who am not a farmer and am not anywhere near a depression, have more stuff in the right side of my garage than my Dad ever did on his best day. In his best year. I have a set of delicate metal tubes that are extensions for my canoe seat -- except that I don't have that canoe any more. However, you never can tell when you might need a canoe-seat extension. I have enough tent pegs and tie downs for 16 and a fraction tents. I have three extra sets of automobile floor mats. I have enough towels, rags, and polishers to the polish the Eiffel Tower and still have enough to clean up the drips. After all, you never can tell.
So, I'm thinking that amassing piles of useless junk isn't a function of training or life experiences. It's genetic, pure and simple. I have inherited a junk gene. My first wife had a neat-freak gene.
If you are the partner of a neat freak, it's not their fault. If you're the partner of a junk junkie, it's not their fault either. Live and let live, and whatever you do, don't try to change them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sleaze will out

The local paper is full of the news. A bigshot in the state legislature has resigned. Seems that some years ago he talked a 15-year old into spending some time with him in a hot tub -- without clothes. He says there was no touching; she says there was.
Whom do we believe? He paid her $150 grand to keep her mouth shut; she talked anyway (This played out over about 15 years). He's upright and moral (except that he gets nekkid with 15-year-old girls); she has a history of drink, drugs, and strange behavior (even then).
I'm thinking that we ought to believe her. This for three reasons: first, she has no reason to lie, since just being in the tub with her is bad enough. Second, no sane man talks someone into getting into a hot tub naked with nothing more than companionship in mind. Third, who cares? Here's a guy who is not only highly churched, but an elected official. To do something as downright, upright, forthright, and birthright stupid as he did means that hanging is too good for him.
The girl, by the way, claims that finally coming clean (the $150K gone) has turned her life around. Given her history, or what I read of it, I have to be a little skeptical. It's not as if a grown man inveigled an innocent babe out of her clothes. I have a sneaking suspicion that she was willing.
The picture is, as most pictures of morality, sin, excess, and redemption are, murky tones of gray. No black and white here.
None of which is too important. The screamingly salient fact is that he was grown up; she wasn't. That makes all the difference. There's the black and white for you.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Darwin (my hero) suggested that language evolved from "rhythmic chants." I'm not too sure that I agree with him on this, but recent developments lend this idea some credibility. For instance, one might ask what the absolute essential ingredient to music is. Well, rap music (for purposes of this discussion, I will consider it music) has pared music down to two ingredients: rhythm and lyrics, and since I can't understand the lyrics (nor have any wish to), that leaves rhythm, which my musician son tells me can actually be quite sophisticated.
So, one could make a case that the one thing music has to have is rhythm. What next, then? I'm thinking melody. Then harmony? Then lyrics?
There are of course counterexamples to much of this. Gregorian chants, for instance, have lyrics but only the most basic melody and rhythms, and no harmony at all.
Which leads me to nonsense songs: those popular songs in which the lyrics are either silly ("Yummy, yummy, yummy; I've got love in my tummy"), or literally without sense (Does anybody remember the song -- spelling approximate -- "Hut sut rawl sittin' on a rilliraw"?). In these songs, what ever pleasure we get from them comes largely from the melody and rhythm.
Other songs might include "Purple People Eater," "Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," "Mairzy Doats," and almost any camp song you can think of.
Certainly we get pleasure from the combination of rhythm and melody. If, though, we consider such things as sporting event cheers (rhythm and lyrics but no melody), and much of poetry (ditto rhythm, lyrics, no melody), we see that the one constant thread is rhythm.
Son of a gun. Maybe Darwin had it right all along.