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.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

the falacy of insurance

Insurance seems like a good thing under a shallow inspection. One makes small payments over time, to receive a potentially large payment in time of need. Self insuring is close to ideal. The self insured company or individual puts money aside in case they have a car wreck, health problem, or fire. There is freedom to use this single fund for any emergency, and coverage does not cease with a missed payment. Of course, there is the responsibility to put the money aside.

Commercial insurance falls short of idealized self insurance in several ways. The most obvious shortfall is the overhead. Salaries for insurance workers and company profits must come right out of the emergency fund. In the big picture, the insured support a vast community of parasitic workers who do not fix cars or staff hospitals or rebuild houses. Some of these are paid to fight insurance fraud, which does not exist among the self insured. Others are paid to reduce or deny valid payments. The industry is arranged so the house always wins. So, buying insurance instead of putting money aside is like "investing" in lottery tickets or Las Vegas gambling.

Fraud is built into insurance. Insured car repairs and medical procedures cost far more than cash transactions. In some cases, the 'deductible' amount paid by the 'insured' is similar to the cash price for the service. Insurance companies are very good at delaying and reducing payments to providers, forcing them to wildly inflate prices.

Behavior is affected on both sides of the service industry. The insured, having given up part of their responsibility, are less careful. They drive more recklessly, build homes that are likely to be destroyed, and take health risks. Once the damage is done, the insured rebuild their home in the same flood plane, get all kinds of expensive and incorrect medical procedures, and make other foolish choices that they would not make 'with their own money. Insurance fraud is more accepted in our culture than child molestation or murder, so the less scrupulous burn down their own house, give away items that are reported stolen, or cause traffic accidents to defraud insurance companies. This erosion of integrity and responsibility wastes money and weakens us as people.

Insurance companies limit the behaviors of individuals and companies. These limits are rarely good. Absurd medical procedures are done, activities and business ventures are forbidden, and small business is impeded. In the case of mandatory insurance, statisticians are given the effective ability to pass laws. These defacto laws are meant to maximize profit, and often degrade our lives. When a type of insurance is ruled as mandatory, a vast edifice of un-needed overhead and fraud is built. Freedom and choice are further limited, and more of our wealth is traded for a [partly] false sense of security.

As dwindling resources meet population increase, we arrive at the season of re-evaluation. Inefficient structures, including wasteful governments and predatory corporations can be replaced with more efficient entities. Gambling with ones health, safety and life via commercial insurance are likely to be revealed as wasteful and entirely expendable. It is amazing that the different types of insurance are not already classed as deceitful financial products. It is as if We Moderns despise doing real work, preferring to press buttons and fatten like food animals in sterile 'offices', while selling each other worthless documents that promise 'security' and 'safety'.

Real safety is found by accepting risk and responsibility. Rather than paying out almost all of ones income to banking shysters with their loans, insurances and false promises, the responsible person might live entirely within their means, and put aside a reasonable fund for emergencies. All this must be pretty amusing to the folks who know me. What could a destitute hermit know about economics or responsibility? Well, sometimes a system can be studied more objectively from the outside.


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.