Monday, October 6, 2014

Horse-Less Carriage?

why do people behave like they are not animals on a planet?

Being a rant about the misuse of machinery.

motorized locomotion.

I only understand the situation in the United States, so i will write about that country. The possession and frequent use of certain machines bring the American to real full citizenship. Those machines are the firearm, the motorized vehicle, and the cell phone. It is interesting that 2 of these machines operate by burning an extremely toxic material into the atmosphere. Even though the flammable material is purchased by the 'citizen', neither the citizen or her culture will acknowledge the material once it is burned. This denial is a smaller cause of the disconnected behavior, but this is a behavioral rant rather than an ecological one.

I am not excusing myself from this suite of behavioral problems. In fact, I would say that my life and well being are ruled by them. I have been an avid gun owner, but had to give them up to get the super - imposed targets off of every person or creature that appeared in my visual field. You did not read incorrectly. I am stating that while I carried a gun, every living thing had a target painted on him or her or it. I would suggest that that is how weapons work. If you are able to completely forget that you bear the arm, then you do not really have it with you. Good dogs see targets on peoples faces where they will lick. Bad dogs see the location on each neck where their teeth will rend. After the teeth fall out, even the bad dog feels differently.

When I got my first firearm, I was amazed that from that moment on, I had the ability to quickly kill about 30 deer or people or tin cans. That feeling wore off, and for the next decades I felt a vague sense of security, and a certain pride that I could be trusted with this instrument. At around the age of 52, I realized that the firearms were preventing me from making an important step in my life. I reluctantly began to sell these flingers of lead. Sure enough, the targets began to disappear, and my ability to empathise with people and animals increased dramatically. Some readers are smirking now, and thinking 'what a fool to pull his own "teeth" out'! Others are happy that another individual had joined the ranks of actual humans.

This is also not a gun rant. It is about the mental changes that a human feels when they make frequent use of a device. I am glad that I went through this 'military' stage, and would not change my history to that of a life-long pacifist. I live in a culture that is violent, and extremely stratified. I know that i am here to learn and grow, rather than to ignore my surroundings, stare at my own navel, and be super happy no matter what is happening around me. For example, 12 years ago i obtained a job with Haliburton. If i had to pay taxes that would be used to maim people who had never harmed me personally, i felt more comfortable being on the maiming end of the stick. I would explore for oil in Iraq, and help my culture to steal the resources of another land. Iraq's surviving inhabitants would shell my living and work areas, and try to capture me and remove my head in front of a camera. I chickened out 2 blocks from the Hallibuton shop where i would begin training. I am not sure where I would be now had i continued on that strange and forceful path.

Now, we are moving on to the horseless carriage, or the motorized vehicle. Our paths are nearly all paved in the United States. We sit in long lines of idling cars, often on the same 'ground' where our for-bearers struggled slowly along on muddy and rutted wagon tracks. We cross rivers effortlessly on massive bridges near where those stalwart persons swam across with their teams. And, we have substituted diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes for horse farts. It seems that we are way, way better off; right?

That is an interesting question, and, since i switch back and forth from motorized to human powered transportation methods, i can begin to see the changes in my own mind. When i am pedaling around, the vehicles seem noisy and smelly and faintly evil. The people inside of the shiny metal shells seem obese and forceful and faintly evil. When I drive, the other cars are my tribe, and i compete with them in a friendly way to get safely where I 'need' to go. The bicycles are a pretty bad annoyance, and I resent them for getting in my way. I compete with them in an unfair and unfriendly way, and will scare them to assert my 'rights'. They are the crappy poor people that can not be troubled to invest in a great car, and a lake full of fossil fuel. I am 'getting things done', while they are just getting in the way. I resent the smirky smile of pleasure that they display simply because they are operating a fuel-less form of horseless carriage.

The modern car is quite inside, and can easily be heated or cooled to a comfortable temperature. Even in city traffic, it insulates the driver from their surroundings. It can convert the Homo sapien into something slightly different. Do you feel it when you get into your wonderful space ship? It is safe to behave very impolitely, and do things that would not seem that great outside of the ship. Similar to ones internet personality, ones driving personality is thought to be a separate entity, subject to different rules of behavior. Outside of a bullet or an collision, there is no way that other motorists can provide useful feedback on vehicular behavior. the abysmal behavior is free to bleed over into the other portions of ones life.

Many vehicles are used in large cities. Even though city dwellers often imagine that their form of life is low stress, and far more fruitful and fulfilling than rural life, this does not seem to [in fact] be the case. At least from the rural perspective, these city dwellers seem to sacrificing their quality of life [and their safety] for cash. As in the climate change disaster, city dwellers will fight tooth and nail to deny this. They are living in the best possible place, with it's mix of great jobs and advanced schools and important events. So what if traffic sounds and sirens have to replace silence. No big deal if the cops that they see have their hand on the butt of a gun rather than the brim of their cap. Likewise with crimes. Sure, their car is vandalized sometimes, and their home is sometimes broken into. Some city folk even seem proud of the amount of crime and stress that they have experienced while remaining a totally awesome person.

My point is: That they are being affected by the stress. Each person has a way to bleed it off. Some have attack dogs and guns. Some misbehave in their car or on the internet. Some try to do it by hating gay people or democrats or women who have abortions. Some transfer the stress directly to family members or friends. All of these stress reduction methods have one thing in common: Personal stress is transferred to society at large.  It is clearly an endless cycle. Just like love, meanness does not really go away once it is shared. It is a bit like the folks that you see blowing the same leaves or dust back and forth between their yards. The leaves do not really go away permanently, but there is a feeling of 'gettin her done'.

What can a person do to avoid becoming this frankenstein monster, who constantly causes harm and pain to others with their cell phone and car and gun? I will make some suggestions, even though every one of them will make some people angry. I suggest that people try being alone in very quite surroundings. I am thinking wilderness trail rather than sensory deprivation tank. Birds and trees will help more than barking dogs and people chatting into cell phones. Once in a while, get onto a bike if you able to balance and pedal. Experiment with solar energy, and make some changes to reduce the amount of harm that you do to the planet. Make some attempt to see the godlike qualities that are contained in people that are quite different than you. It is not possible to hate random people without harming yourself and your loved ones. You do not have to bear your throat to a desperate person, or give someone in need the contents of your wallet. Things might just start to mushroom in a good direction if you just changed a few middle fingers to waves, or let a few cars by rather than cutting in impolitely.

I am suggesting real behavior changes because the mechanism that i often see is the signing of petitions, and the donation of guilt money to 'non profit' companies. One can retake the US government from the corporations by clicking things on the internet. Nor can one advance by pressuring ones facebook friends to buy some 'green' product. Each person can change a tiny bit themselves, wasting no effort on these fruitless methods of assuaging guilt. Personally, I take a bicycle when i need a go a litte ways, and a train when the trip is long. I have divested of any fossil fuel connections that i am aware of. I no longer stock explosive cartridges intended to drive lead into living flesh. Much as I once loved guns and fast cars and huge, scary dogs, i have given up on them. If you are a normal person, you are now thinking up reasons why none of this baloney applies to you. Perhaps, you have kids, and will do anything, no matter how harmful to you or others, to advantage them. More blowing leaves back and forth. I do not have kids, but it seems that we can not make the world awesome by locking up a certain percentage of the drug addicts, or beating up enough gay persons, or depriving people of reproductive or other rights based on some pecking order that you perceive.

On the other hand, people are accustomed to terrible behavior nowadays, and they will be amazed when you smile at them, or give them a quick hand with something. If you have kids, they will see this, and start to think that this generous and awesome behavior is normal. There may be some mental tricks that will come in handy. Religion and family ties and love of country are intended to block out the normal love that we would feel for others, and to deprive them of full human status that normally prevents one from causing them harm. It might be possible to extend your 'family' so that more people become full humans. If you can include enough people, there will be less pain to pass around. Less pain will come back. Let us do away with this ritualized abuse that we heap upon each other, and deal only with the real problems of aging, disease, nutrition, education, etc.

Please comment on this if you have a mind to. I will delete a comment that is all abuse and curses, but will leave any intelligent comment that is not hurtful or abusive to me personally. It can be the opposite viewpoint, so long as you phrase it as if i were a member of your family who has gone astray.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

click here to end climate change and see God.

It is time for me [Alf] to solve all of the worlds problems. The first that I would like to address is capital punishment. The entire world has been watching us torture people to death, because we seem to be too dumb to kill them properly. It seems that no drug company really wants to have their potions used for murder. It makes us seem worse than the Nazis. If we don't watch out, the rest of the world will have to fight us, and it looks like we can count on Israel as our only ally. We would loose either way if that happened.

Is there a solution? Of course, and a very obvious one. We seize lots of drugs here. In fact, it is the major thing that cops seem to do; seize drugs and money. Some of that must be heroine. One always hears about how easy it is to overdose on that drug. And those folks are trying to take just the right amount, and avoid death. If we insist on using chemistry to do away with these law breakers, why not Heroine? It is a little ironic that US prisons have been caught smuggling drugs into their elegant institutions, only to smuggle the wrong ones! They are using a ridiculous mix of pain killers and other drugs that leaves the inmate writhing and choking and moaning for up to 2 hours.

I am sure that even the convicted person would prefer to drift off into the opium cloud, never to return. Before you start shouting about the legality or illegality of the substance, just think about it for a few minutes. It might be prudent to let them be as high as they want during their stay at the death row hilton. One less thing for the taxpayer to pay for in an already burdensome system.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On carbon guilt

i was disturbed by a recent article that I read about anti tar sands protests in Canada. Some people were going to 'get mobile', and travel around in a gasoline powered vehicle to protest this form of energy production in many different locations. Why would some form of protest, that I basically agree with, be disturbing?

Those folks do not think that their own behavior matters. They will each purchase hundreds of gallons of the very product that they pretend to disdain. Driving a motor vehicle to distant hydrocarbon protest events gives the exact wrong and hypocritical message . It says: "produce lots more oil, in any way that you can. Even our feeble protests require lots of your awesome juice!"

And they are indeed feeble efforts, if they require no physical effort or change of consumption habits on the part of the 'protesters' It is so obvious to everyone that these folks are guilty about their own carbon footprint, but unwilling to change it.

My advice: Do not worry about this fuel intensive form of hand waving. You can converse with energy companies at your local pump. Forgoing an optional trip, or replacing a combustion engine with an electric one says 'produce less oil'. Driving to a fuel protest might make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it says to the drillers 'We need more'.

Are you thinking "What I do makes so little difference!", then you are playing right into their hands. If you create the need, then someone will step up to the plate and bring your harmful material to the surface. You might be able to block it's production from your immediate area, causing an upward spike in its production elsewhere.

It is funny to me how we Americans surround our homes with tall fences, and drive huge military looking vehicles, and waste lots of energy to assuage our own guilt. It seems that we are 'helping our children' when we try to climb to the top of the heap on our neighbors backs.

So, i will beg you. Waste not your time clicking your mouse on petitions, searching for fuel spills to whine about, and driving over to protests. Change your behavior. Even if you cant afford it, put some solar panels up. Even if you cant really stand to wait for it to charge, add an electric car to your household. Make a lot of your own energy, and help your neighbors to do this too. More guns and bullets can not save you and your children. The state of War and climate collapse are like a huge slider switch. You can actually nudge this switch with your own actions!

Friday, August 2, 2013

art walk 2013

Come by the MARC in the evening for some snacks and art.

the images themselves
a few of the panoramic images that you will see printed on locally made paper

I started taking black and white photos in the 1970s. I loved to freeze a moment of time in sharp, contrasty tones of grey. Darkroom work was a big part of it, with stinky chemicals in dim red light.

My first show was a collection of snapshots of New York street people. poster sized black and whites hung in the local library when I was 15.

I began to frequent the Colorado Plateau in the early 80s. After backpacking across the continent a few times, this area really called out to me. Not least of it's attractions are the tall, straight cracks That split it's Wingate Sandstone.

I discovered panoramic photography, which joins contiguous images into a single tall or wide image with a large angle of view. The desert seems to beg for this wide view.

A series of overlapping digital images are shot while sweeping a camera across the scene. They are stitched into a single digital image on a computer. The digital file is printed onto a long roll of paper.

I hope to do them really large, transforming rooms into desert valleys.

I deploy the Nikon V1 camera [photo by Joseph Dawson}

I deploy some rock climbing protection [photo by Garret Grove]

Monday, April 22, 2013

The 'posse' in modern climbing

Originally, a group of people (especially in the Old West) banded together for purposes of law enforcement (and harassing Indians). From 'posse comitatus', Latin for "power of the county". Posse Comitatus is also the name of various white supremacist organizations that have appeared in the US over the years.
He's got the posse after him because he killed a man.

your crew, your hommies, a group of friends, people who may or may not have your back.
me an' my posse gonna hang tonite.

Among climbers, a posse is a group of friends that climb together. The large, forceful posses that you see are almost always from a place [like Boulder] that has far more climbers than climbs. It appears to be a sort of gang structure that assists it's members.

Sadly, the climbing posse almost always injures non members.. What we see at the cliff, and at the camping area, is aggressive pack behavior, with little regard for smaller, weaker groups. There are late night parties after every other camper is asleep, and the seizure ['locking down'] of entire cliffs and camping areas. While the individual members act civil, or even downright friendly, the posse acts to drive off others and seize territory. Sometimes aggressive dogs or dog packs are involved.

The mean dog thing does not seem to be consciously examined by the posse members themselves. I have been told that a given dog does not like men with hats, or that a given dog is a shrewd judge of character, and is just doing his or her job! The pets have picked up on the aggressive, proprietary attitude of the owners, and efforts to quiet them really serve to drive them to new heights of aggression. They do not actually speak English, and respond to the owners irritated tones rather than the false content of the shouted sentences.

It is fitting to compare a posse to an urban gang. Both are designed to control a precious resource that is desired by all. The gang 'locks down' a profitable crime method like drug sales, and provides personal protection for the individual members. The resource for a climbing posse is access to busy cliffs during peak hours. The analogue of personal protection is protection and enhancement of ones reputation. A friendly interpretation is that membership in the posse helps the world to realize that the members are some of the strongest, most skilled and multiply talented humans on earth. A cynical interpretation is that posse members drive off competitors so that they can lie to the outside world about their routine accomplishments. Many of us have seen the resulting cycle of tantrums leading to forgiveness and contrition. Every failed lead or bouldering attempt must be presented as an error by God, where a ridiculously talented individual is cheated of his or her rightful place in the athletic world.

Strong posses in an area make membership almost mandatory. In addition to access to the cliffs, they control scarce potential mates, the mechanisms of climbing notoriety, and thus, access to 'free' climbing gear and sponsorship money. [I used the word 'thus', to make my infantile argument seem scholarly!] Climbing magazines are published in places where the posse system is strongest, so members are richly represented. A climber who has decided to become famous will be rewarded by moving to Boulder, and joining a strong posse. There is a curious side affect that I have noticed. A small minority in these areas resist posse membership. These are strong individuals, that are driven from within themselves, and require no assistance to obtain mates or fame or support. This is what is really required to be a climber, so there is this spin off of renaissance individuals who are forged and driven off by the posse system. It is a treat to meet and climb with them, even though they hail from the legendary areas of climbing fame.

We are left with the question: Is there any alternative to this system of aggressive posses? It can seem pretty hopeless, when you arrive at a climbing venue to find the resources controlled by the largest and least friendly groups. They are amazingly disturbing, and can not easily be disturbed. For instance, a large posse can show up late at night to an area of dispersed camping, and push in between any 2 small parties. There is no way for sleeping individuals to discourage them. Likewise at the cliff. A huge posse can show up late in the morning, totally hung over from their night of disturbing quieter campers, and dominate the cliff until it gets dark once more. As individuals, they would be fairly pliable, but as a group they do not behave like humans at all. Their behavior is forged in a painful crucible, where a dramatic scene that is uncomfortable for an individual climber is entertaining to their group.

I do have an answer. In my decades of observation, i have noted that the very strongest climbers, [possessing internal reservoirs of personal integrity and sportsmanship], are not part of this less evolved system. It is always the weak that band together to use force of numbers and questionable tactics to replace inner strength. If your goal is to 'recreate' yourself in the outdoors, then aggressive pets, posse membership, and name dropping will obscure your goal. Physical strength, and admirable fortitude comes from within a quiet, non-aggressive person who can feel the earth. It can never be taken by force. Rock climbing is a dance, rather than a battle. Despite faked victories, climbing 'warriors' will fail, and 'dancers' will eventually succeed.

It is worthwhile to leave your own barking dog at home, and go out of your way to climb with other dancers. Refusing to defend some fragment of public land, join no posse, and worship not their names. It takes some effort to climbing talk and name dropping around the campfire. But, it is REALLY not necessary to spend the night securing climbing partners and specific climbs.  One can use the time to explore the [often] surprising mental equipment of one's camp-mates. At the crag, An emperor with no clothes requires a lot of very loyal subjects. A well behaved climber can appear alone with whatever is in their pack, and no planning of any kind!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why is Beauty beautiful?

I was wondering about this the other day, while hiking in the high desert. What makes a particular scene or vista look better than another? I did not know where to start. I have read about human beauty, which is tied into reproductive success. Evolution has trained People [and other animals]  to seek a mate that could produce excellent offspring. Lacking x ray vision, creatures are left with their rather limited senses to detect their perfect mate. The tricky human mind thus turns even features and accurate left and right symmetry into sexual desire.

How does evolution prepare us to choose a good looking outdoor setting? I am a strange case, because I have spent my whole adult life running away from populated areas. Motor vehicles, roads and buildings have always looked very evil and dangerous to me. There are loud noises, and bad odors, and unpleasant straight lines. I have never had a feeling of safety in numbers, and no temptation to hide in the middle of a large herd of monkeys.

 For me then, beauty is a total lack of human artifacts. I tend to see Native American relics and ancient cave paintings as more human trash. I love water and flat ground, like any monkey, but have come to associate these things with roads and cars and an overabundance of people. I realize that people are not inherently bad, but they do tend to cluster up in settlements that harm the earth extremely. They push out other species, seeking to populate the entire surface to the planet with more people [the same color as them], cattle [what they think is healthy food], and dogs [the predator that they imagine is the best pet].

Were the earth really empty of upland primates, and needing more for balance, I imagine that I would be filled with a natural need to reproduce. I would probably seek out water and settlements and potential mates that are very symmetrical. What I actually see is the opposite. Every flat, low spot is already chuck full of people in huge wasteful structures. They appear to be involved in a frenzy of fossil fuel use. This is very loud, smells very bad, and makes life less fulfilling.

Thus, I have been trained by circumstance to seek out areas with not one trace of habitation, no roads, and a huge view in every direction. I particularly like walking ridge lines, where I can look into several different valleys. My soul can be allowed to expand into these surroundings, providing a feeling of well being. This expansion of the soul is very likely another evolutionary relic, that is meant to create a safe zone around my body that is free of predators.

I live in a land that is geographically isolated from most of the world. It is a place where freedom and liberty are highly valued. Lately, raw materials have become scarce, so my land has begun to seize resources from other locations at gun point. This makes me very sad, and strangely guilty. It is difficult to use resources, eat food or pay taxes. I have tried to do science, but that puts good human energy into bad works. Art works well, because I am able to milk little bits of beauty and serenity from an environment that my kind is busy degrading.

I have fled from science to the more fulfilling practice of art, just like I have fled from populated area and relationships. I can find no frontier, where I can build something fruitful in cooperation with the environment. I already live in one of the most empty areas of the most empty continent on earth. I am moving away from machines, loud sounds, and large groups of people. Perhaps this seeking of beauty, and going away from pain is its own valid activity.

I took my hike yesterday above the potash mill. I want to make it clear from the start, that this is their deeded land, which they allow us to drive, hike, or peddle through. They do their work very neatly, and there are less threatening signs than the BLM or the forest service place on their property. wiki says this about the material:

Today, potash is produced worldwide at amounts exceeding 30 million tonnes per year, mostly for use in fertilizers. Various types of fertilizer-potash thus comprise the single largest global industrial use of the element potassium. Potassium derives its name from potash, and was first derived by electrolysis of caustic potash, in 1808.

So, we need fertilizer to help fill the planet with more humans and dogs. But, I can not avoid seeing what has been done here. Monkeys have engineered a hell for themselves, and the most sensitive ones will be slightly depressed when they view it. Rather than just whining about this state of affairs, I will search for real ways to make life slightly more worth living. I will avoid methods that make one persons life slightly better, while making a group of people suffer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The rise of predatory climbing groups

What is a predatory climbing group?

    I have been climbing since 1971. Group sizes were small, as there was almost no “climbing scene”. Usually, a group was one to four persons with one or zero pets. There was no such thing as a waiting line for a route. The 'rack' was machine nuts on string, crude nuts, clanking hexs, and a few pins. The rope was not stretchy, and it was belayed around the waist with leather gloves. The shoes were not sticky, and worked no better than tight tennis shoes. Leading was not much safer than soloing, so climbing was a matter of convincing your most suicidal friend to bring the rope up to an anchor.

    Climbers were more like hikers, with small incomes, and old cars. There was no internet, guidebooks, or climbing gyms. In short, no one would understand or care about what climbs you did. That has changed. Climbing is now dominated by office workers with higher incomes and very little time. Climber's habits are formed indoors, or at outdoor venues that are crowded and unpleasant. In this modern pressure cooker, it is advantageous to be aggressive, loud and numerous at the cliff. Dangerous pets also help to 'lock down' a given crag. The same is true at the camping area.

    Thus, the activity has 'evolved'. Good sportsmanship and consideration may be good for ones soul, but a large predatory group gets the finest campsite and the best routes. In the age of climbing blogs and sponsorships, a little 'cheating' is rewarded. There are no impartial judges to decide if a hard route has really been done in good style. So, a gang-like group structure helps it's members to get notoriety and free stuff. It is not so cool to brag about yourself, but it is not uncommon to hear people taking turns bragging about each other around the camp fire.

What can to done to reverse this sad trend?

    There must be a way to reward individuals or groups that are considerate and use great sportsmanship. And, the control should ideally come from within the climbing community. I have decided to attempt a film to address these issues. While British climbing flicks celebrate sportsmanship, bravery, and quiet love of the outdoors, the American variety seem to celebrate the opposite qualities. Watchers learn to have tantrums, yell loudly with each move, and form larger, more aggressive groups. Only the 'best' climbers are showcased, easily doing the very hardest routes. My offering will showcase folks in small, non aggressive groups 'recreating' their bodies and personalities in peaceful settings.

    The success of last year's short film 'A  desert life ' [] gives me hope. It was shot by Austin Sidiak, with me [Alf Randell] as the subject. The eight minute documentary shows a dirty and somewhat pathetic hermit, who camps and climbs in a party of one. I believe that my stoic nature and love of the desert comes through. People watched it in great numbers on line, and many outdoor sites linked to it. A portion of it was shown on national TV.

    The members of predatory groups can be influenced. Even though they were educated in a factory-like system, and live in swarming cities, they will learn to take their exercise in smaller and less aggressive groups. They will begin to value sportsmanship and quiet strength. Climbers will leave their irritating pets at home, tell the truth about their accomplishments, and loose interest in products and sponsored big-names.


About Me

My Photo
I am a fine art photographer and filmmaker. Lately, I have been doing panoramic images of the Canyonlands area, and printing them using archival materials. These large images are placed in work cubicles and homes, and can sometimes briefly transport the viewer to a contemplative location.