Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Joy of Field Rations: Bread of the Poilu, Part I

The Joy of Field Rations: Bread of the Poilu, Part I: Bread of the Poilu, Part I: The Bread Ration Poilu   I have returned after a rather protracted absence while experiencing what we use...

Lost Rail: By the Shores of 16 Mile Creek

Lost Rail: By the Shores of 16 Mile Creek: Further east than the Yellowstone and more imposing than the Missouri, the Milwaukee started its journey west along the shores of a vast la...

Blogatopia

Wow, darned near every blog I follow here (visible on the links on the side) has updated in the past couple of days, including two excellent ones that rarely update.

Good to see, but all at once!

The Internet and the Dumbing Down of Culture



The great, partially realized, promise of the Internet has been the global instant access to knowledge by all.

The terrible, fully realized, reality of the Internet has been the instant voice to the mean-spirited dishonest ignorant.  As a result, debate and knowledge, in reality, has become dumber, more simplistic, and often subject to massive error.

This has been pretty obvious to everyone for quite a while, but it's become really obvious lately in watching a couple of debates.

The problem is that the Internet gives equal voice to people of harsh views, who can view them without fear of any sort of negative impact to themselves, and it also gives free rein to those who would simply choose to lie about a topic and their relationship to it.  It also gives a voice to those with free time and low knowledge.  So we see people who are true extremist who spend time shouting down any opposition, or we see people whose views are skewed and limited make representations based on claimed personal experience, or finally we seem somebody shout out opposition with a dimwitted view that would have formerly taken effort to express.

Now there's plenty of intelligent commentary on the net (and I dare say, on this moderated blog, the commentary is excellent, but then it is moderates so that the occasionally really hostile or stupid random post, which always come from somebody who has never posted before, doesn't see the light of day), but to take on the flood of bad commentary takes the dedicated effort of the knowledgeable, who often do not have the time for such efforts.  So, at the end of the day, people who claim to be observational experts on, let's say, the viewpoints of a Russian minority in Kiev might really be chronically unemployed men in their parents basement in Newark.

I'd note that what got me rolling in this particular day, however, is a comment I saw on the Atlantic's photo essay on World War One.  One commenter, which hitting his profile reveals is a frequent commenter, commented to the photo essay "All war is stupid."

Well, that's a stupid comment.

Do reduce warfare to that level of commentary would deserve a dunce hat and a three week silent sitting in the corner.  On the net, however it doesn't.

Well, that comment is stupid.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Eh? There can't be a decline why?

The state statistic's branch has announced that they city's population has hit an all time high of 60,000 souls.

Well, actually I recall it being widely regarded as higher than that in the late 1970s, but apparently that doesn't count for some reason.  Anyhow, according to the state, the population is (back) up to 60,000 due to oil and gas activity.

Perhaps I heard it incorrectly, but when reported on the news the reporter seemed to say that officials had stated that the slow down would not impact the town, as the slow down has happened everywhere in the oil and gas industry.

What?

That would suggest that oil and gas workers are captives to their employment or something, and won't go elsewhere into something else.

Odd logic.

Fame, Turning on Fame, Ignorance, and Double Standards

As anyone who has followed my occasional frustrated comments on television here knows, I was not a fan of the Duggars show, Nineteen Kids and Counting.

Indeed, for reasons that I have a hard time defining, there was something about the Duggars that made me uncomfortable.  A lot of people are going to be saying that now, so that's a little late to be claiming that, but it's true.  I couldn't quite define it then, and I can't quite now, but what I think it is, is that to a certain ill informed audience they defined "Christianity", or perhaps "Conservative  Christianity".  They don't.  And I don't think they claimed to, but rather they were sort of presented that way.

In reality, without delving into it too far, theologically they're a member of a minority offshoot of a certain branch of Protestantism, and from their they're actually part of a patriarchal movement within that minority offshoot, which makes them a minority within a minority.  That was probably obvious to anyone who studies such matters, which means that it's not obvious to most people.  Given that, however, it would be no more fair to even state that the Duggars represented the view of Conservative Protestants than it would be to say the Old Believers represent the views of most Russian Orthodox, or that the members of the SSPX represent the views of most Catholics.  Indeed, those statements, although erroneous, would probably be slightly closer to being true, maybe. And because they hold a minority Protestant view, within a minority Protestant view, their views fall very far from the views of many "mainline" Protestants and certainly quite far from the Catholics and the Orthodox.  Now, the Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, etc., know that, but because television is so ignorant, it doesn't necessarily know that.  Therefore, when we hear things like "the Duggar's conservative Christian views", we're really hearing something that's way, way, far off the mark.

Indeed, again, I doubt the Duggar's themselves would disagree with that, and in fact they would seem to fit into a demographic that would question the Christianity of at least certain other Christian Faiths.  I don't know that for sure, but I do note that they engage in missionary work in Central American, which at least raises some questions as that's a field already plowed by prior Christian missionaries, although they're all Catholic.  Usually when a group does that, they tend to do it because they don't regard the other Christian group as valid, although here again I'm supposing.  I've known some Protestant missionaries (and Catholic ones) who were true missionaries, and they spent their lives in some really wild parts of the world, indeed, in some areas that were downright dangerous for somebody of their occupation, which seems real missionary work to me.

Anyhow, all that's a long winded way of saying that part of what has made me uncomfortable about the Duggar's is the way that they've come to represent something that maybe they don't.  I'm a pretty conservative Christian (okay, on some things I'm a pretty liberal Christian . . . and on others I'm a pretty neither liberal or conservative Christian), but I don't feel my daughter has to dress in a peasant dress and I'm a pretty big fan of education.

Indeed, on that latter item, one thing that's bothered me for some time is that the girls in this show, which has massive female following, seem so limited in their options.  They seem pretty smart, but they line them up with potential spouses who just don't seem to quite mach their intellect.  Maybe they do, but they don't seem to.  Indeed, that would seem to be the case for whomever Josh is married to as well, but again I could well be wrong.  It all seems sort of odd.

So, anyhow, one thing that's bothered me is the way their identified as something they really aren't.

And by extension, now people who hate them because they re identified that way, are going to be ripping them apart.

Traditional Christians in recent years have come to regard themselves as under the gun.  Well, actually, some branches of Christianity have felt that way for a long time.  And for good reason, they really are.  It's become unsafe in the public sphere to simply hold certain traditional Christian beliefs, or certain beliefs that are consistent with certain Faiths. That's a shame, but its true.  It's also become safe to attack certain religious beliefs as the PC view of the media holds those beliefs to be out of sync with the times.

In truth, Christianity is always out of sync with the times, and if a person reads the Acts of the Apostles, that's clear. The Apostles knew they were out of sync with the times, and the Fathers of the Church were pretty darned plain that they knew that as well.  So that's not new.  What is a bummer, however, is to see some group, here the Duggars, get tarred and feathered by haters because they are seen to represent something they don't, while in turn the rest of us get tarred and feathered because of what the Duggar patriarchy apparently did, which isn't fair to the rest of us by any means.  Ignorance at work.  It's like being a member of one of those rare Middle Eastern religious minorities who get attacked because nobody knows what they actually believe, but they might believe what some other group believes.

Going from that, however, it's also interesting how chicken television and the media really are.  Everything is played so safe.  The Duggars were pulled from the air, which they should have been, but a certain other family which recently had a baby baptized in the Armenian Orthodox Church, a very conservative religions, lives a lifestyle that seems out of sync with that (or not, I'm not sure) and has a family member who is changing genders.   That's being celebrated on television.  Now, in this era, that's in sync with the general liberal view of the media, so the media is not going to take on the very un settled and difficult psychological aspects of that in a way that's controversial. That is, we're not going to hear any press on whether that's wrong in a psychological or metaphysical sense, but maybe we should.  But we won't, as that would be too controversial in the context of the times.

This same logic would apply, even more so, to "Sister Wives", a show that pretty much promotes plural marriage and which appears on the same network as Nineteen Kids".  Here we have a sort of irony that TLC promotes, though the show, the concept that the Duggars are Christian traditionalist, which they really are not, and that the very non traditional view (in the larger societal sense) of the Kody Brown group, should be tolerated.  It's a strangely mixed message, neither of which is very deep in its analysis.

Nor really very interesting, I guess, to the male half of the population.  Both shows really cater towards domestic blandness, which is the basis, oddly, and ironically, of their appeal.  Peculiarly, noting really is going to look at the domestic lives of the millions of other conservative Christian women that are actually part of the culture.  That would just be too normal.

And if we're going to look at really unusual groups, to Americans, maybe we should look at really interesting ones we know aren't part of the larger demographic and obviously are not. Why not, for example, look at Orthodox Jews?  There are a lot of them in the US, but TLC isn't following them around.  Or Moslems (in fairness, there was a show that looked at them, but for a group that has to be unpleasant to be a member of right now, why not look at their lives).  Or, Old Believers.  There are Old Believers in Alaska, why not give them a look?

Finally, stories like this become feeding frenzies in a shark like fashion.  I can't help but recall how, after the very weird Michael Jackson died, the press turned on him.  It seems fame can turn to blistering contempt in an instant.  

That's always been the case.  The people and press elevate people to fame, and then when things go wrong for them, they rip them apart.  Oddly, they create an Idol and then destroy it, and always have.  An odd aspect of human nature.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Speaking for the people. . . and not.

It's interesting to watch debates and commentary on debates of a big national character.

Without going into specifics, I've been watching one that continually claims to represent a major cultural shift in a certain country.  I'm not so sure.  I think it represents a shift, but the claims are so overdone.

But for that matter, many "shifts" are quite temporary in nature.  The Baby Boom generation of the 60s did shift things, but in the long term they turned out to be more conservative than they started out to be, so the shift wasn't quite as dramatic as it was supposed it would be.  That's pretty common.  Lots of things that seem to have been overthrown, in fact, are just temporarily ignored.

The Big Speech: The St. Crispian's Day Speech from Henry V.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

King:  What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin's day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Monday at the Bar: Courthouses of the West: Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Court

Courthouses of the West: Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Court:





This is the Wind River Indian Reservation Tribal Court, which also houses various other law related facilities. The court is located in Ft. Washakie, the seat of government for the Wind River Indian Reservation, and serves the Shoshone and Arapahoe tribes on the reservation.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Some Gave All: Highland Cemetary, Casper Wyoming

Some Gave All: Highland Cemetary, Casper Wyoming: This Spanish American War era artillery piece is in a portion of Casper Wyoming's Highland Cemetery that has several features dedica...
I can't help but note how, in this town cemetery, for a town that wasn't founded until 1889, wars of the past have a long reach.  Veteran's tombstone markers note quite a few instances of Civil War service, from the eastern states which these men originally called home, and a few instances of frontier service as well.  And the early introduction of military aircraft, and the late disappearance of the horse also show up.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Corpus Christi, Newcastle Wyoming

Churches of the West: Corpus Christi, Newcastle Wyoming:








Saturday, May 23, 2015

Movies In History: The Longest Day

This is Memorial Day weekend, and that means that some movie channels will be running war pictures all weekend long.  I've noticed that this film is getting a real running this year.

This movie is one of my all time favorite films, and it has been since I was a child.  I recall that for many years the movie was played on a Denver television channel on New Years Day, without interruption, sponsored by Lloyd's Furs.  What the movie has to do with New Years I have not a clue, and I doubt that it has anything to do with it at all, but the fact that this was a type of big deal says something about how well respected the film was, and is.

The Longest Day is the movie version of the book by Cornelius Ryan.  The Irish born Ryan was a war correspondent during World War Two and turned towards writing a series of histories of the war thereafter.  He wrote a total of three books on the war, all of which are truly excellent, and all of which are written in the same style which primarily focus on first person recollections by the participants. 

The movie treatment of his 1959 book came out in 1962 and featured a huge star studded cast, which it would almost have to have, given that it is, after all, a series of recollections.  Filmed in black and white so that it had the appearance of a newsreel to some degree, and using a small bit of original footage, the movie excellent portrays the events of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 from both the Allied and the German prospective.  It's a great film.

So nothing to complaint about, right?

Well, sadly no.

As great as this film is, it suffers in one significant manner, particularly post Saving Private Ryan.  Material details are somewhat lacking, mostly in the category of uniforms. 

That may seem like a minor matter, and it is, but this film really blows it in terms of American uniforms.  It's way off.  Part of this was likely because it was being filmed in black and white, and all military uniforms have a drab appearance.  My guess is that another reason was that the sheer size of the caste deterred the filmmakers form having that many period uniforms recreated where they could avoid it.  Indeed, that they knew in part that they were getting them wrong is oddly demonstrated by the uniforms of a few key characters where parts of the uniform details were obviously detailed to try to get a correct appearance. 

Almost all the US soldiers in the film are wearing field uniforms that are correct for when the movie was made, in 1962.  Not for when the film is set, 1944.  In a few odd instances 1962 period jackets have been somewhat reworked to try to look like the paratrooper uniform of that period, but it's pretty obvious that's what's been done.  More oddly still, however, US troops are shown wearing khaki shirts of various patterns under their field jackets, which is completely incorrect.

Not that this should be hugely problematic for most people watching the film.  But for those detail oriented, it is a bit frustrating.  It's still a great film, however.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Taking on ISIL

18879r.jpg 
 Bedouin in Palmyra, early 1940s

ISIL has taken Palmyra, a Syrian city with spectacular Roman ruins from the first century.  The global fear is that what time and weather have not done, which is to erase Palmyra from the face of the earth, ISIL, under its extreme interpretation of the tenants of Islam.  So extreme, in fact, that some time ago it issued a disapproval of important Islamic features in Mecca.

No ruin is worth human lives, but there is a bigger question at work here.  And what that is, is this. Should we (the Western World) take on ISIL?

I think we have to.

The reason I think we have to, is that it is taking on us, and what we have to determine is how much ground we're prepared to lose before we can't tolerate losing any more.

I think there's been a very widespread assumption in the West that ISIL is so nutty that it will fail on its own accord. That might be true, long term, and it probably is true, but we have to ask, as part of that, how much damage are we willing to endure in the meantime. And as part of that we have to acknowledge that really nutty ideologies can be hugely attractive, even if nutty. Nazism was both evil and full blown whacky, and I think a lot in the developed world assumed that such an evil, nutty, ideology would fail in such a civilized nation as Germany. It probably would have, but left unchecked that probably would have taken decades. Communism provides another example. Soviet Communism never made any sense at all, but it did manage to make a 70 year run in the Russian Empire, killing millions in the process.

ISIL may look minor in comparison with either of those, but I'm not so sure it really is. It's proven that it actually can exhibit state craft, perhaps at least as effectively as the actual sovereigns in the region in some instances. It's gone from being a radical Islamic militia to an actual army that's not terribly badly equipped, in the regional context. That army seems to be able to hold its own and even defeat the Iraqi army, and to hold its own and occasionally defeat the Syrian army. It's administering a government in the areas that it's captured, and right now it probably controls more ground that the governments in Baghdad and Damascus do. We don't notice it much here, but it's ideology seems to having a real impact in the Islamic regions of the former USSR where there's an ongoing problem of young men being drawn into it and leaving to fight in Iraq and Syria. It's pretty clear that immigrant Islamic populations in Europe have some people who go back and forth into it, and its hardcore Islamic message has proven attractive enough to some in the Western world that there are converts who are drawn into it. In some ways, what we're seeing is sort of analogous to Communism in the 20s and 30s, when it was really attractive to certain groups and during which it seemed to be expanding.

I don't think we can ignore it in the West, therefore, as I think there is a real risk that it'll win in both Iraq and Syria. If it does, it's not going to be content with that and we'll have to deal with an incredibly violent, aggressive, rich, regime that would be hugely problematic to the entire region, and which would sponsor some violence well beyond its borders. The questions is, I guess, what to do.

And as part of that problem, we have to acknowledge that this is a religious war. We don't want it to be, but because our opponents conceive of it that way, it is.

I'm sure I don't have the solution, but what I think we probably have to concede is that this might be a long one. But we probably also have to strangle ISIL in the cradle of Iraq and Syria right now in the hopes that kills it off. The Iraqi army appears completely worthless, and the only fighting force worth its salt seems to be the Kurds. I don't think any Western nation, ourselves included, are willing to put boots on the ground. The only regional one that clearly is, is Iran, and that presents its own problems.

Pretty grim situation.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

My annual spring cold has arrived. . .

and I feel miserable.

Most people associate colds with winter.  But I'll go years with no wintertime cold.  Not so spring, I get a spring cold every darned year.  Must be something about the unpredictable weather or something.

From the phenominally bad idea department: M J Wright: Chickenosaurus lives

Chickenosaurus lives!

I'd note that there are a lot of bad ideas that seem to float around in the genetic modification department now days, everything from this step back towards dinosaurs to trying to revive mammoths.  Studying this stuff is fine, but we seem to have utterly no restraint on implementing whatever bad ideas we come up with.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: St. Matthews Church, Gillette Wyoming

Churches of the West: St. Matthews Church, Gillette Wyoming:

Friday, May 15, 2015

The paused that refreshed.


Fountain for horses, downtown Denver. These were placed by the National Humane Alliance, an organization that put the up for urban horses all over United States.  They were concerned about the conditions that working horses worked in.  The draft horses are, largely, gone, but the fountains remain.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

(Over)acclimating to technology

One of the things that gets cataloged here a lot are technological changes.  How technology, specifically computer technology, has worked a change in my own daily life became abundantly clear to me this pat week. Frankly, I don't think all of the changes are universally good either, which may seem surprising for somebody who is running a blog.

 Amishman, 1940s.  The Amish are a well known North American religious group (Anabaptist) that have restricted their use of technology. Widely misunderstood, the religious concept at work has to do with the use of things that would reduce a human's humbleness and therefore their focus on devotion.  As we become more and more technological, the more a person has to wonder if the Amish don't really have it right on at least recognizing that technology may offer, at some point, as many dangers as it does benefits.

For one thing, this is a new computer.  This computer came about as I recently went from a Pentax K-x to a Pentax K-3.  It's a great camera, but I'm frankly still learning how to use all of its features, and as it's a fairly complicated camera, I probably never will.  Be that as it may, I like it.  And part of the liking it is that not only can you take really good pictures with it, but you aren't leased to film, the way we were with earlier film cameras.

However, because of certain new features in it, it wouldn't work with my old computer, which was truly ancient.  It was in the category of PC's that had an operating system that was supposed to be updated some time back, as it was no longer supported by Microsoft, but as it was working, and as computers are expensive, I didn't do it.  Well, I finally had to as the software for the K-3 was not supported by the old operating system. So one technology lead to another.

That meant, for a variety of reasons, that I was without a home computer for about a week.  That should have been no big deal, but it was oddly unsettling.  This was, in no small part, because I've grown used to checking the computer early in the morning, when most of this stuff is written, and also checking it sometimes in the evening as well.  In other words, I've become habituated to that, and anything you are habituated to you do in place of something else.

Indeed, anything that you are habituated to, you are dependent upon to some degree.  I could easily live in a house with no television, and I only listen to the radio while in a car (although now I frequently listen to podcasts, which is another habituation) but the computer I really noticed not being here.  Not good, in some ways.

Taking this further, last weekend I was in Denver.  I'm not really keen on Denver, but I was there with my family and we went to REI, the big outdoor sports store.  REI has a great store, and a great catalog.  I first became acquainted with both through a college friend, who was a big outdoorsman (and still is).  We went down to Denver, probably in 1983 or 84, and went to REI, which we did frequently thereafter.

At that time, REI was in one of the neighboring towns around Denver, not Denver proper, although where one begins and the other stops is questionable.  Most people would have said we were in Denver.  At any rate, it was in what had been built as a grocery store at the time, but it was amazing, or perceived that way in any event.

Now, REI is in Denver, in a trendy nice area near the aquarium, and it's new bigger store is in a building that had been built as a power plant a century ago.  It's a nice store, but visiting it just doesn't have hte same excitement it once did.  There may be a variety of reasons for that, including that I"m just older, but while there I texted (technology again) my old friend and noted that I was there, and that it just wasn't as exciting as it had been back when.  He texted back that "the internet has ruined the experience".

 Spacious interior of the current REI outlet in Denver.

I hadn't thought of that, but I really think he's right.  It has.  Not completely, but partially.

Now, when you want something, there's none of the sense of scarcity of the item  or the wonderment in finding it.  In a way, of course, that's good.  But at the same time, there was something sweet about finding what you wanted, or even what you liked but didn't know you wanted, and which was difficult to get.  The effort, or just the surprise, meant something.  Now, that's all gone.  In its place, we look up everything on the net and know its whereabouts right away.  Again, that's not universally bad by any means, but it has given us a false sense of super abundance that makes us less appreciative of anything we have or seek to acquire.  That would include, I feel, even the acquisition of knowledge, as now we just "Google it".

While in Denver, as I have several times recently, we made frequent use of the Google Maps navigation feature which allows for voice directions.  This is a nifty feature, but I've found its had a direct impact on my sense of place and direction, both of which have always been very good.

I've always been able to navigate my way around any place, including any city, simply by looking at maps and mentally planning a route.  Now, because of Google Maps, I frequently don't, just having my Iphone do the work.  I've found that this has actually messed significantly with my sense of place and direction, as when I depart from it, I don't have a real good sense of where I am.  Usually, if I go to a place once, I know how to get there, but now it would seem this is less certain.  I don't like it.

Fortunately I can get back to normal simply by not using it, but it was disturbing to see how very quickly I'd become acclimated to it. This is particularly disturbing as I feel that this is one of the many technological things that has the impact of taking us a bit further from the natural world, really, which as I noted the other day has the impact of creating a world that's contrary to our natures.

All in all, while technology definitely has its benefits,  I do question if we can reach the point where it's overall detrimental to us.  Indeed, I think we may have already done that.  We don't have a really good history of self restraint.  Most of us will not take the view of the Amishmen, and it risks making us less in tune with where we are, or even who we are.  Indeed, an entire younger generations doesn't notice where they are or who they are with at any one time, as their heads are buried in their phones.  This trend is not only negative, but to paraphrase from Pogo, we have met the enemy, and its our technology.  Not completely, yet, but partially.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lex Anteinternet: Wyoming Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, and why that'...

Back when I posted this item:
Lex Anteinternet: Wyoming Adopts the Uniform Bar Exam, and why that'...:     Wyoming Supreme Court in  Cheyenne. Students of legal minutia know that the phrase "to pass the bar", or "to be ca...
I noted a widely held concern that the adoption of the UBE would be detrimental to the practice of law in Wyoming in a number of ways.  So far, at least one of the concerns, the increased exportation of the legal practice in this state to big out of state cities, accompanied by a decrease in practitioners who actually know Wyoming's law, has been coming true.  Now, I work with a lot of really good out of state counsel, and this isn't a universal slam.  Certainly quite a few of those lawyers are really good lawyers, but there a lot of lawyers residing in Wyoming who are equally good.  The concern, however, was well placed and long term, this is not a good trend for Wyoming at all, as all the fine really good local counsel risk being forgotten simply because they aren't in a large city, in spite of their trial records.

Now I've read that New York is adopting the UBE with the expressed purpose of allowing transferability of its licenses.

This may seem irrelevant to Wyoming, but far from it.  I don't know how many New York lawyers there may be, but it wouldn't surprise me if the number exceeds the number of residents that reside in any one of Wyoming's larger cities.

On a plus side, however, this will impact the same out of state bars that are presently poaching in Wyoming. So, now we can expect to see Colorado and Montana firms that have been practicing across state lines complain about the same thing we're experiencing, and they certainly will experience it.  And it won't be good for the practices in their states.

I'm not going to cry about that, but we can shed a tear for one group, the legal consumer.  An irony of the practice is that practitioners in small states are often highly experienced in the courtroom, with far more trial practice than some trial lawyers in big states.  Quite often, a local litigant is better off with a lawyer from their home state, which is becoming less common, and stands to become even less and less the case as we move on.

Nothing every prevented a Colorado lawyer from taking the Wyoming exam, or a New York lawyer taking the Colorado exam.  If they took it, and passed, we knew they were qualified.  With the UBE, we don't know that.

Monday at the Bar: Courthouses of the West: Weston County Courthouse, Newcastle Wyoming

Courthouses of the West: Weston County Courthouse, Newcastle Wyoming:








This is the Weston County Courthouse in Newcastle, Weston County, Wyoming. If this well preserved courthouse is not the oldest operating courthouse in the state, it must be very close to the oldest one still in use. The courthouse houses a courtroom of the 6th Judicial District, which also has a courthouse in Gillette, Wyoming.

(Note, the text here is the original from the original Courthouses of the West entry.  Since that time, I've learned that there is in fact an older courthouse still in use in the state, in Evanston Wyoming.).

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Press interpreting the news

The Press is frequently criticized, as we all know, for interpreting the news it reports.  Having had a few newsworthy cases over the years, I have to say that I've found that they are often inaccurate, often innocently, and sometimes because the reporter has a view he's focusing on.

This past week, however, I've seen two items that really show why the press lines up for criticism in this area.  One story was local, and the other international.  It's been interesting.

The local story involved an accusation of a minor assault following a city council meeting.  I'm not going to get too far into it, as I don't know what happened, but it basically seems to have involved a contact with some papers.  As assault is defined as rude and threatening contact, basically, a very minor assault is fairly easy to have happen.  It doesn't mean you got hit or anything.

Anyhow, whatever happened, the Tribune reported that the assailant was a local religious figure, or words to that effect.  That's quite the news.  The on line Oil City News, which has a much different spin on this incident (and which frankly right now seems more accurate on it) said no such thing.  When the name was reported, I looked the guy up.

Shoot, he's on the board of directors for his synagogue.  That doesn't make him a religious figure at all.  The Tribune is reporting this like he's a minister.  Boo hiss Tribune, that doesn't seem supported at all.  He's not the rabbi.  Heck, I'm on the Parish Council for my church, and that doesn't make me a Priest or Deacon.

Frankly, were I Jewish, who seem to be the most picked on people on earth, I'd be super offended.

The second story was an article, perhaps an op ed, by the New York Times claiming that following this election we have a divided United Kingdom.

Oh really NYT?  Maybe what we have is the Conservative party gaining and Labour collapsing.  Sure, the Scots Separatist gained seats, but this isn't new.  What it really looks like is a massive validation of the middle right path of the Conservatives, something a seemingly increasingly left wing NYT probably doesn't like.

The Press is long on its concept that it's a protector of the public.  If it is, it ought to be a bit more careful on occasion to not appear to be partisan.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Urban Sheep?

Granted, my lawn is a little long right now (okay a lot long) as we've been getting rain and I haven't had a chance to mow it, but. . . .

Urban Sheep?

Ummm. . . .

I can't see that working.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Did they listen to that song?

This morning, while getting ready for work, the television was on, and an advertisement which was playing Janice Joplin's "Heartbreaker" was playing.

Now, I'm a fan of Janice Joplin.*  I really like her music. Sure, she was before my time, and my parents hated her music, but I love it.  It may figure, as I'm a fan of Jimi Hendrix as well, so I have a taste for the blues and blues influenced music. 

Anyhow, as the ad was playing, I stopped to watch it.  It was a Dior perfume advertisement.

My gosh, that's weird.  Janice was one messed up woman, but I seriously doubt she'd approve of any of her music being used for perfume.  Perfume wearing is sort of basically anti-Janice.  Man.

Beyond that, the whole theme of the ad is weird, in relation to the music, which makes me wonder if anyone really ever listens to the lyrics of any song, ever.

In the ad, a bride at a wedding has a crisis, and fleas the groom, strips off her wedding dress, is lifted up into a helicopter, kisses the man therein, and flies off, presumably to a life of adventure.

In the song, an anguished singer cries out her love for a man who is mistreating her, professing her desperate undying love no matter what, in spite of the vast pain that man is causing the singer.

Boo hiss, Dior.

___________________________________________________________________________________

*In spite of her death years ago, Janice Joplin is so familiar to our household that everyone had no problems in immediately recognizing the reference when I named a stray female cat in the neighborhood Janice. She's small, has long haired, and extremely disheveled.  She's also desperately in love with our disinterested male cat and she hangs around trying to sing screechy songs to him in a very loud voice.

Lex Anteinternet: Vikings, maybe not so much after all.

I've recently posted this item about Vikings:
Lex Anteinternet: Vikings, maybe not so much after all.: One of the most interesting introductions into the field of history in recent years has been the study of DNA.  The populations of various ...
And then there's that television show, "Vikings".

Ack.

First a disclaimer.  I'm going to run down Vikings.  That will eventually somebody who reads this entry, sooner or later. But I'm entitled.  I'm partially entitled because anyone is entitled to argue historical truth.  I'm also entitled as I can claim Viking ancestry.  Anglo Norman, actually, on my mother's side, with those Anglo Normans ending up in Ireland.  But any Norman was, by descent, a Norseman.  More specifically, part of that group of Vikings who ended up with Rollo in France, his having secured Normandy for a residence for his band.

Rollo, who was baptised (a not uncommon thing in the second half of the Viking era) takes the hand of Gisela in marriage, which may or may not have actually happened.  He probably didn't look quite so pacific and mild in real life.  He's buried at the Cathedral in Rouen.

So, some of my ancestors having boarded long boats in Norway and having followed Rollo to France, I'm entitled.  I'm slamming my own distant ancestors.

Well, actually I'm not, I'm just being honest.

The Vikings are really interesting, which is why they're featured in a television series right now.  But they were bad.  Really bad.

Extremely bad.

Their raids on the British Anglo Saxon and European coasts were horrific, featuring murder and the worst sort of perverted actions imaginable.  They not only exhibited a thirst for gold, but for blood and just simple debased and gross violence. They were most young men, and they were as bad as any criminal gang made up of young men. The television show that currently debates them as rough, pretty, people has it wrong. They were way beyond rough. Some of them may have been pretty. But at least at first, they weren't farmers looking for homesteads.  They came to attack and attack they did.   When they were met with serious armies, as for example those of Northumbria, they didn't do that well, after all, they were just floating gang members, really.  Later on, when they were real armies, the story was different.  But evolving from street gangs into armies, like the NASDP did in Germany in its day, does not credit the effort.

Then something happened to them. Something I doubt we'll see in the television show.

In their later years their adventures became bigger and more advanced.  They evolved from sort of a seagoing street gang (or rather gangs) into what we can sort of regard as Mafia families.  Much more skilled and advanced, and larger.  Then they did in fact begin to settle in other lands (although we now know in the case of England, they never swamped the existing population.  

And they became Catholic.

On another blog, I suppose, might say they "became Christian", but we try to present full accuracy here, and they became Catholic.  The entire Christian world at the time was Catholic, Catholicism and Christianity being the same thing.  They became, largely, Latin Rite Catholics, although I suppose, as some were hired out to the Byzantine Empire, and others, the Rus, located in the Slavic nation now named for them, became Eastern Catholics.  Indeed, a few in the late stages of their conversion became well recognized saints who are still recognized in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

And they took to it more completely, and indeed rapidly (keeping in mind that everything moved slowly in prior times) than movies and whatnot would credit.

In our modern era, television, which basically has a thing against conventional Christianity, likes to portray troubled and disenginuine Christians struggling against rustic but sincere pagans.  But that's not the way it happened.  Violent enemies of the Church at first, for economic reasons, once exposed to it, they converted pretty quickly and sincerely, keeping in mind that they lived in remote locations and that in that era, 300 years (which is about the length of the Viking era), wasn't really a long time. 

Iceland, a Viking island, but incorporating a fair number of Irish Catholic slaves within it, converted by vote, with the deciding vote cast by a pagan priest. The other Scandinavian lands were exposed to the Faith by raids which seemed to be particularly influential amongst their leadership, and also by missionary activity. By the later stage of the Viking era, Scandinavian Christian monarchs, such as St. Olaf, who had been a Viking, appeared.  Really tough men, they brought the faith to their lands, which remained pretty rough places.

This isn't to say that the Faith came instantly or perfectly to these places.  It didn't.  It took quite awhile, as we reckon time today, before the old beliefs were abandoned, and there was a period of imperfection where behavior was somewhat mixed.  King Cnut, the Dane, and King of England, for example, had two wives, even though he was a Catholic.  But it did come, and pretty completely.

What's the point?  Well, basically, the Vikings are really interesting.  A forgotten northern pagan people whose population exploded during a period of dramatically warming climate, their displaced young struck Europe with a barbarous fury, during which they raided as far as North Africa, and into the heat of what is now Russia.  In the end, they evolved into a military people and then a Christian one, which in its final stages gave us three Norman political entities, one in Normandy, one in England and Ireland, and one in Sicily, that were vibrant and hugely significant.  Over time, they became the peoples they are today, who are not at all associated with the acts of their fierce forebearers, and they left a record of their presence throughout Europe and even extending to North America   That's a much more interesting story than the one television is giving us.

But its one today that television won't give us.  A barbaric people whose first exposure to Europe included acts so vile that even modern television, which dwells pretty much in the sewer, can't touch it, and who in the end become a Christian people with values that television would rather lampoon than feature.  History more interesting than anything TV will offer us, and which has a message that television, which operates as sort of a modern early Viking culture amongst our own, wouldn't want to touch.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Boxing. My how things have changed.




Photograph from:  Holscher's Hub: C Club Fights, Natrona County High School, April 1...:    It seems hard to believe it now, but Natrona...

My goodness, the attitude towards boxing and its popularity have changed during my own lifetime.  It's really noticeable.  It was such a big deal when I was young. As can be seen from above, it was even done in our high school, something which can't even be imagined now.

Watching a big boxing match on television was a big sporting deal.  A really big match was advertised for weeks in advance.  Everyone watched them.  Photos of boxers getting hit were a staple of sports columns and magazines, with the high speed 35 mm photos depicting sweat coming off a boxer's face due to the blows.

Now, in contrast, people hardly follow it.  People who follow other sports yawn at boxing, and a fair number of people really disapprove of it.  What happened?

Well, I suppose part of it might have been watching our favorite boxers get punchy or develop terrible neurological conditions as a result of the sport.  That's hard to ignore.  And the same thing, I'd note, is happening in regards to football now.

And the actions of promoters in the sport, when it was huge, acted to make the fights seem less big. Title disputes and splits, and the like, lead to a situation in which there wasn't an undisputed champion in some weight classes, which made the whole thing less interesting.  Now, with big gaps in significant fights, the big interest is over, and I don't think its every coming back.

But, from about 1900 until about 1980, boxing was king.

On the other hand

With all these recent legal journal items about "work life balance" and lawyer mental health, maybe it'd be a good idea to take a look at the other side of this, if it is the other side.

That is, all of these article would lead a person to suggest that almost all lawyers must have the blues, big time, all the time.  Indeed, a friend of mine mentioned to me the other day, upon learning of a lawyers death, that lawyers "didn't seem happy".

But is that right?

I don't know, but I wonder.  What I wonder is if all these articles and the statistics in them are skewed. Clearly some people aren't happy in the profession, but then I suppose that's probably true of any profession.

In making a personal observation, I think I've only ever known one lawyer that seemed to me to be truly unhappy. But I also think that it was something with his character.  Maybe his profession was making him unhappy.  That seemed to be the case. But maybe that's because he was prone to that anyhow, and the choice of profession was a bad one. Indeed, that's been the point of my recent comments.  I don't think the view that the is driving everyone in it into despair is correct, so much as I think that it doesn't suit every personality.  If that's the case, the field should look at who is entering it and why, and people entering it should likewise try to see if they think the field matches their makeup. That's about the end of my point.

Having said that, in looking around at the hundreds of lawyers I've known, most don't seem to be unhappy.  Maybe the lawyers in Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah I run into are just exceptions, but I doubt it.  They mostly seem happy within their professions.

And there are reasons that the profession would suit people too, beyond the usual slop that people put out about "challenging" and all that rot.  It does entail, at least in the litigation end, an endless variety of interesting situations.  Most lawyers are polymaths really, and there are very few professions that truly offer an endless variety of interesting scenarios.  And there are lot of interesting people that lawyers get to work with as well.  It'd be hard to be bored, I think, being a lawyer, or at least being a litigator.

And for people who like to write, there's a lot of writing.  Not all of the writing is of the mystery thriller type, of course, but there are people who just like to write.  I do.  For those people, just getting to write is fun.  I love writing, which is probably obvious, and writing a brief for me is fun.  I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

All things being equal, therefore, I guess this takes me back to two points. I don't really trust statistics very much and what's important is that a person find out if a career is right for them.  There aren't any perfect ones, and they're all very individual.  A person who loves one thing might not another, and the concept that some careers are good ones because of what they pay is misguided, if it goes no further than that.

Contrary to our natures



When this blog was started several years ago, the purpose of it was to explore historical topics, often the routine day to day type stuff, from the period of roughly a century ago.  It started off as a means of researching things, for a guy too busy to really research, for a historical novel.

It didn't start off as a general commentary on the world type of deal, nor did it start off as a "self help" type of blog either.  Over time, however, the switch to this blog for commentary, away from the blog that generally hosts photographs, has caused a huge expansion here of commentary of all types, including in this category and, frankly, in every other.

 
The pondering professor of our Holscher's Laws of History thread.

Readers of this blog (of which there are extraordinarily few) know that I've made a series of comments in the "career" category recently that touch on lawyers and mental health. They also know that I was working on a case (actually, two cases) in which an opposing lawyer, without warning or indication, killed himself.  That's bothered me a great deal thereafter.  It isn't as if we could have done anything, but that it occurred bothers me.  And, as noted in the synchronicity threads, I've been reading a lot of comments in lawyer related journals and blogs on this topic as well.  Perhaps they were always there and I hadn't bothered taking note of them, or perhaps that's synchronicity again.

In that category, I stumbled upon a piece written by a fellow who runs a very well liked blog, and who is a lawyer, but whom has never practiced.  I very rarely check that blog, The Art of Manliness, but it's entertaining to read (or probably aggravating to read for some) and I was spending some early morning time in a hotel room waiting for a deposition to start and stopped in there for the first time in eons.  Sure enough, there's an article by a lawyer on the topic of mental health.  Specifically, there was an article on depression, which is the same thing that a lot of these lawyer journals are writing on.  Having somewhat read some of the others, and being surprised to find this one, I read it. Turns out there's an entire series of them and I didn't read them all, but in the one I did read, I was struck by this quote:
If depression is partly caused by a mismatch between how our bodies and minds got used to living for thousands of years, and how we now live in the modern world, then a fundamental step in closing this gap isn’t just moving our bodies, but getting those bodies outside.
I think there's a whole lot to that.
 
The "office" your DNA views as suitable. . . and suitable alone.

Indeed, I think a drove of current social and psychological ills, not just depression by any means, stem from the fact that we've built a massively artificial world that most of us don't really like living in.  It's a true paradox, as I think that same effort lies at a simple root, the human desire to be free from true want.  I.e., starvation.  Fear of starvation lead us to farming to hedge against it, and that lead to civilization.  Paradoxically, the more we strive for "an easy life", the further we take ourselves away from our origins, which is really where we still dwell, deep in our minds.

Okay, at this point I'm trailing into true esoteric philosophy and into psychology, but I think I may be more qualified than many to do just that.  Indeed, I was an adherent of the field of evolutionary biology long before that field came to be called that, and my background may explain why.  So just a tad on that.

Some background

 
With my father, at the fish hatchery, as a little boy.

When I was growing up, I was basically outdoors all the time, and I came from a very "outdoorsy" group of people. And in the Western sense.  People who hunted and fished, garden and who were close to agriculture by heritage.    They were also all well educated.  There was no real separation in any one aspect of our lives.  Life, play, church, were all one thing, much as I wrote about conceptually the other day.

When I went to go to college, post high school, I really didn't know what I wanted to do and decided on being a game warden, which reflects my views at the time, and shows my mindset in some ways now, set on rural topics as it is.  However, my father worried about that and gently suggested that career openings in that field were pretty limited.  He rarely gave any advice of that type, so I heeded his suggestion (showing I guess how much I respected his advice), and majored in geology, and outdoor field.

As a geology student, we studied the natural world, but the whole natural world back into vast antiquity.  Part of that was studying the fossil record and the adaptive nature of species over vast time.  It was fascinating. But having a polymath personality, I also took a lot of classes in everything else, and when I completed my degree at the University of Wyoming, I was only a few credits away from a degree in history as well.

Trilobites on display in a store window in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now extinct, trilobites occurred in a large number of species and, a this fossil bed demonstrates, there were a lot of them.

That start on an accidental history degree lead me ultimately to a law degree, as it was one of my Casper College professors, Jon Brady, who first suggested it to me.  I later learned that another lawyer colleague of mine ended up a lawyer via a suggestion from the same professor.  Brady was a lawyer, but he was teaching as a history professor.  I know he'd practiced as a Navy JAG officer, but I don't know if he otherwise did.  If lawyer/history professor seems odd, one of the principal history professors at the University of Wyoming today is a lawyer as well, and the archivist at Casper College is a lawyer.  I totally disagree with the law school suggestion that "you can do a lot with a law degree" other than practice law, but these gentlemen's careers would suggest otherwise.

Anyhow, at the time the suggestion was made I had little actual thought of entering law school and actually was somewhat bewildered by the suggestion.  I was a geology student and I was having the time of my life.  I was always done with school by late afternoon, and had plenty of time to hunt during the hunting season nearly every day, which is exactly what I did.  By 1983, however, the bloom was coming off the petroleum industry's rose and it was becoming increasingly obvious that finding employment was going to be difficult.  Given that, the suggestion of a career in the law began to be something I took somewhat more seriously. By the time I graduated from UW in 1986, a full blown oilfield depression was going on and the law appeared to be a more promising option than going on to an advance degree in geology.  I did ponder trying to switch to wildlife management at that point, but it appeared to be a bad bet at that stage.


Casper College Geomorphology Class, 1983.  Odd to think of, but in those days, in the summer, I wore t-shirts.  I hardly ever do that now when out in the sticks. This photos was taken in the badlands of South Dakota.

So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, like more than one lawyer I actually know, what that means is that I started out with an outdoor career with outdoor interests combined with an academic study of the same, and then switched to a career which, at least according to Jon Brady, favored "analytical thinking" (which he thought I had, and which is the reason he mentioned the possibility to me).  And then there's the interest in nature and history to add to it.

Our artificial environment

So, as part of all of that, I've watched people and animals in the natural and the unnatural environment. And I don't really think that most people do the unnatural environment all that well.  In other words, I know why the caged tiger paces.

People who live with and around nature are flat out different than those who do not. There's no real getting around it.  People who live outdoors and around nature, and by that I mean real nature, not the kind of nature that some guy who gets out once a year with a full supply of the latest products from REI thinks he experiences, are different. They are happier and healthier.  Generally they seem to have a much more balanced approach to big topics, including the Divine, life and death.  They don't spend a lot of time with the latest pseudo philosophical quackery.  You won't find vegans out there. You also won't find men who are as thin as pipe rails sporting haircuts that suggest they want to be little girls.  Nor will you find, for that matter, real thugs.

You won't find a lot of people who are down, either.  

Indeed the blog author noted above noted that, and quotes from Jack London, the famous author, to the effect  and then goes on to conclude:
If depression is partly caused by a mismatch between how our bodies and minds got used to living for thousands of years, and how we now live in the modern world, then a fundamental step in closing this gap isn’t just moving our bodies, but getting those bodies outside.
I think he's correct there. And to take it one step further, I think the degree to which people retain a desire to be closer to nature reflects itself back in so many ways we can barely appreciate it.

Truth be known, we've lived in the world we've crated for only a very brief time.  All peoples, even "civilized people", lived very close to a nature for a very long time. We can take, as people often do, the example of hunter gatherers, which all of us were at one time, but even as that evolved in to agricultural communities, for a very long time, people were very "outdoors" even when indoors.

Ruin at Bandalier National Monument.  The culture that built these dwellings still lives nearby, in one of the various pueblos of New Mexico. These people were living in stone buildings and growing corn, but they were pretty clearly close to nature, unlike the many urbanites today who live in brick buildings in a society that depends on corn, but where few actually grow it.  The modern pueblos continue to live in their own communities, sometimes baffling European Americans.  I've heard it declared more than once that "some have university educations but they still go back to the reservation."

Even in our own culture, those who lived rural lives were very much part of the life of the greater nation as a whole, than they are now.  Now most people probably don't know a farmer or a rancher, and have no real idea of what rural life consists of.  Only a few decades back this was not the case.  Indeed, if a person reads obituaries, which are of course miniature biographies of a person, you'll find that for people in their 80s or so, many, many, had rural origins, and it's common to read something like "Bob was born on his families' farm in Haystack County and graduated from Haystack High School in 1945.  He went to college and after graduating from high school worked on the farm for a time before . . . ."

Melrose, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. One of the old French mulatto colony near the John Henry cotton plantation. Uncle Joe Rocque, about eighty-six years old (see general caption)
 Louisiana farmer, 1940s.  Part of the community, not apart from it.

Now, however this is rarely the case.  Indeed, we can only imagine how unimaginably dull future obits will be, for the generation entering the work force now.  "Bob's parents met at their employer Giant Dull Corp where they worked in the cubicle farm. Bob graduated from Public School No 117 and went to college majoring in Obsolete Computers, where upon he obtained a job at Even Bigger Dull Corp. . . "

No wonder things seem to be somewhat messed up with many people.

Indeed, people instinctively know that, and they often try to compensate for it one way or another.  Some, no matter how urban they are, resist the trend and continue to participate in the things people are evolved to do. They'll hunt, they fish, and they garden. They get out on the trails and in the woods and they participate in nature in spite of it all.

Others try to create little imaginary natures in their urban walls.  I can't recount how many steel and glass buildings I've been in that have framed paintings or photographs of highly rural scenes.  Many offices seem to be screaming out for the 19th Century farm scape in their office decor.  It's bizarre. A building may be located on 16th Street in Denver, but inside, it's 1845 in New Hampshire.   That says a lot about what people actually value.

Others, however, sink into illness, including depression.  Unable to really fully adjust to an environment that equates with the zoo for the tiger, they become despondent.  Indeed, they're sort of like the gorilla at the zoo, that spends all day pushing a car tire while looking bored and upset.  No wonder.  People just aren't meant to live that way.

Others yet will do what people have always done when confronted with a personal inability to live according to the dictates of nature, they rebel against it.  From time immemorial people have done this, and created philosophies and ideas that hate the idea of people itself and try to create a new world from their despair.  Vegans, radical vegetarians, animal rights, etc., or any other variety of Neo Pagans fit this mold.  Men who starve themselves and adopt girly haircuts and and wear tight tight jeans so as to look as feminine as possible, and thereby react against their own impulses. The list goes on and on.  And it will get worse as we continue to hurl towards more and more of this.

But we really need not do so.  So why are we?

"It's inevitable".  No it isn't.  Nothing is, except our own ends.  We are going this way as it suits some, and the ones it principally suits are those who hold the highest economic cards in this system, and don't therefore live in the cubicle farm themselves.  We don't have to do anything of this sort, we just are, as we believe that we have to, or that we haven't thought it out.

So, what can we do

First of all, we ought to acknowledge our natures and quit attempting to suppress them .  Suppressing them just makes us miserable and or somewhat odd.  To heck with that.

The ills of careerism.

Careerism, the concept that the end all be all of a person's existence is their career, has been around for a long time, but as the majority demographic has moved from farming and labor to white collar and service jobs, it's become much worse. At some point, and I'd say some point post 1945, the concept of "career" became incredibly dominant.  In the 1970s, when feminism was in high swing, it received an additional massive boost as women were sold on careerism.

How people view their work is a somewhat difficult topic to address in part because everyone views their work as they view it.  And not all demographics in a society view work the same way. But there is sort of a majority society wide view that predominates.

In our society, and for a very long time, there's been a very strong societal model which holds that the key to self worth is a career.  Students, starting at the junior high level, are taught that in order to be happy in the future they need to go to a "good university" so they can obtain an education which leads to "a high paying career".  For decades the classic careers were "doctor and lawyer", and you still hear some of that, but the bloom may be off the rose a bit with the career of lawyer, frankly, in which case it's really retuning to its American historical norm.

Anyhow, this had driven a section of the American demographic towards a view that economics and careers matter more than anything else.  More than family, more than location, more than anything.  People leave their homes upon graduating from high school to pursue that brass ring in education. They go on to graduate schools from there, and then they engage in a lifetime of slow nomadic behavior, dumping town after town for their career, and in the process certainly dumping their friends in those towns, and quite often their family at home or even their immediate families.

The payoff for that is money, but that's it.  Nothing else.

The downside is that these careerist nomads abandon a close connection with anything else. They aren't close to the localities of their birth, they aren't close to a state they call "home" and they grow distant from the people they were once closest too.

What's that have to do with this topic?

Well, quite a lot.

People who do not know, in the strongest sense of that word know, anyone or anyplace come to be internal exiles, and that's not good.  Having no close connection to anyone place they become only concerned with the economic advantage that place holds for them. When they move into a place they can often be downright destructive at that, seeking the newest and the biggest in keeping with their career status, which often times was agricultural or wild land just recently.  And not being in anyone place long enough to know it, they never get out into it.

That's not all of course.  Vagabonds without attachment, they severe themselves from the human connection that forms part of our instinctual sense of place.  We were meant to be part of a community, and those who have lived a long time in a place know that they'll be incorporated into that community even against their expressed desires.  In a stable society, money matters, but so does community and relationship.  For those with no real community, only money ends up mattering.

There's something really sad about this entire situation, and its easy to observe.  There are now at least two entire generations of careerist who have gone through their lives this way, retiring in the end in a "retirement community" that's also new to them.  At that stage, they often seek to rebuild lives connected to the community they are then in, but what sort of community is that?  One probably made up of people their own age and much like themselves.  Not really a good situation.

Now, am I saying don't have a career?  No, I'm not. But I am saying that the argument that you need to base your career decisions on what society deems to be a "good job" with a "good income" is basing it on a pretty thin argument. At the end of the day, you remain that Cro Magnon really, whose sense of place and well being weren't based on money, but on nature and a place in the tribe.  Deep down, that's really still who you are.  If you sense a unique calling, or even sort of a calling, the more power to you.  But if you view your place in the world as a series of ladders in place and income, it's sad.

As long as we have a philosophy that career="personal fulfillment" and that equates with Career Uber Alles, we're going to be in trouble in every imaginable way.  This doesn't mean that what a person does for a living doesn't matter, but other things matter more, and if a person puts their career above everything else, in the end, they're likely to be unhappy and they're additionally likely to make everyone else unhappy. This may seem to cut against what I noted in the post on life work balance the other day, but it really doesn't, it's part of the same thing.

Indeed, just he other day my very senior partner came in my office and was asking about members of my family who live around here.  Quite a few live right here in the town, more live here in the state, and those who have left have often stayed in the region. The few that have moved a long ways away have retained close connection, but formed new stable ones, long term, in their new communities.  He noted that; "this is our home".  That says a lot.

Get out there.

 Public (Federal) fishing landing in Natrona County, Wyoming. When we hear of our local politicians wanting to "take back" the Federal lands, those of us who get out imagine things like this decreasing considerably in number. We shouldn't let that happen, and beyond that, we should avail ourselves of these sites.

And our nature is to get out there in the dirt.

Go hunting, go fishing, go hiking or go mountain bike riding.  Whatever you excuse is for staying in your artificial walls, get over it and get out.

 

That means, fwiw, that we also have to quit taking snark shots at others in the dirt, if we do it.  That's part of human nature as well, and humans are very bad about it.  I've seen flyfishermen be snots to bait fisherman (you guys are all just fisherman, angler dudes and dudessses, and knock off the goofy crap about catching and releasing everything.. . you catch fish as we like to catch fish because nature endowed us with the concept that fish are tasty).   Some fisherman will take shots at hunters; "I don't hunt, . . . but I fish (i.e., fishing hunting.  Some "non consumptive (i.e., consumptive in another manner) outdoors types take shots at hunters and fisherman; "I don't hunt, but I ride a mountain bike (that's made of mined stuffed and shipped in a means that killed wildlife just the same)".

If you haven't tried something, try it, and the more elemental the better.  If you like hiking in the sticks, keep in mind that the reason people like to do that has to do with their elemental natures.  Try an armed hike with a shotgun some time and see if bird hunting might be your thing, or not.  Give it a try.  And so on.

Get elemental

At the end of they day, you are still a hunter-gatherer, you just are being imprisoned in an artificial environment. So get back to it. Try hunting.  Try fishing. Raise a garden.

Unless economics dictate it, there's no good, even justifiable, reason that you aren't providing some of your own food directly. Go kill it or raise it in your dirt.

Indeed, a huge percentage of Americans have a small plot, sometimes as big as those used by subsistence farmers in the third world, which is used for nothing other than growing a completely worthless crop of grass.  Fertilizer and water are wasted on ground that could at least in part be used to grow an eatable crop.  I'm not saying your entire lawn needs to be a truck farm, but you could grow something.  And if you are just going to hang around in the city, you probably should.

The Land Ethic

 Leopold-Murie.jpg
Aldo Leopold and Olaus Murie.  The Muries lived in Wyoming and have a very close connection with Teton County, although probably the majority of Wyomingites do not realize that. This photo was taken at a meeting of The Wilderness Society in 1946. While probably not widely known now, this era saw the beginnings of a lot of conservation organizations.  At this point in time, Leopold was a professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Decades ago writer Aldo Leopold wrote in his classic A Sand Country Almanac about the land ethic.  Leopold is seemingly remembered today by some as sort of a Proto Granola, but he wasn't.  He was a hunter and a wildlife agent who was struck by what he saw and wrote accordingly. Beyond that, he lived what he wrote.

A person can Google (or Yahoo, or whatever) Leopold and the the "land ethic" and get his original writings on the topic.  I"m not going to try to post them there, as the book was published posthumously in 1949, quite some years back. Because it wasn't published until 49, it had obviously been written some time prior to that.  Because of the content of the book, and everything that has happened since, it's too easy therefore to get a sort of Granola or Hippy like view of the text, when in fact all of that sort of thing came after Leopold's untimely death at age 61.  It'd be easy to boil Leopold's writings down to one proposition, that being what's good for the land is good for everything and everyone, and perhaps that wouldn't be taking it too far.

If I've summarized it correctly, and I don't think I'm too far off, we have to take into consideration further that at the time Leopold was writing the country wasn't nearly as densely populated as it is now, but balanced against that is that the country, in no small part due to World War Two, was urbanizing rapidly and there was a legacy of bad farming practices that got rolling, really, in about 1914 and which came home to roost during the Dust Bowl.  In some ways things have improved a lot since Leopold's day, but one thing that hasn't is that in his time the majority of Americans weren't really all that far removed from an agricultural past.  Now, that's very much not the case.  I suspect, further, in Leopold's day depression, and other social ills due to remoteness from nature weren't nearly as big of problem.  Indeed, if I had to guess, I'd guess that the single biggest problem of that type was the result of World War Two, followed by the Great Depression, followed by World War One.

Anyhow, what Leopold warned us about is even a bigger problem now, howeverNot that the wildness of land is not appreciated.  Indeed, it is likely appreciated more now than it was then. But rather we need to be careful about preserving all sorts of rural land, which we are seemingly not doing a terrible good job at.  The more urbanized we make our world, the less we have a world that's a natural habitat for ourselves, and city parks don't change that.  Some thought about what we're doing is likely in order.  As part of that, quite frankly, some acceptance on restrictions on where and how much you can build comes in with it. That will make some people unhappy, no doubt, but the long term is more important than the short term.

It's not inevitable.

The only reason that our current pattern of living has to continue this way is solely because most people will it to do so.  And if that's bad for us, we shouldn't.

There's nothing inevitable about a Walmart parking lot replacing a pasture. Shoot, there's nothing that says a Walmart can't be torn down and turned into a farm. We don't do these things, or allow them to happen, as we're completely sold on the concept that the shareholders in Walmart matter more than our local concerns, or we have so adopted the chamber of commerce type attitude that's what's good for business is good for everyone, that we don't.  Baloney.  We don't exist for business, it exists for us. 

Some thought beyond the acceptance of platitudes is necessary in the realm of economics, which is in some ways what we're discussing with this topic.  Americans of our current age are so accepting of our current economic model that we excuse deficiencies in it as inevitable, and we tend to shout down any suggestion that anything be done, no matter how mild, as "socialism".

The irony of that is that our economic model is corporatist, not really capitalist, in nature.  And a corporatist model requires governmental action to exist.  The confusion that exists which suggests that any government action is "socialism" would mean that our current economic system is socialist, which of course would be absurd.  Real socialism is when the government owns the means of production.  Social Democracy, another thing that people sometimes mean when they discuss "socialism" also features government interaction and intervention in people's affairs, and that's not what we're suggesting here either.

Rather, I guess what we're discussing here is small scale distributism, the name of which scares people fright from the onset as "distribute", in our social discourse, really refers to something that's a feature of "social democracy" and which is an offshoot of socialism.  That's not what we're referencing here at all, but rather the system that is aimed at capitalism with a subsidiarity angle. I.e., a capitalist system that's actually more capitalistic than our corporatist model, as it discourages government participation through the weighting of the economy towards corporations.

It's not impossible

Now, I know that some will read this and think that it's all impossible for where they are, but truth be known it's more possible in some ways now than it has been for city dwellers, save for those with means, for many years.  Certainly in the densely packed tenements of the early 19th  Century getting out to look at anything at all was pretty darned difficult.

Most cities now at least incorporate some green space. A river walk, etc.  And most have some opportunities for things that at least replicate real outdoor sports, and I mean the real outdoor activities, not things like sitting around in a big stadium watching a big team. That's not an outdoor activity but a different type of activity (that I'm not criticizing).  We owe it to ourselves.

Now, clearly, some of what is suggested here is short term, and some long. And this is undoubtedly the most radical post I've ever posted here.  It won't apply equally to everyone.  The more means a person has, if they're a city dweller, the easier for it is for them to get out.  And the more destructive they can be when doing so, as an irony of the active person with means is that the mere presence of their wealth in an activity starts to make it less possible for everyone else.  But for most of us we can get out some at least, and should.

I'm not suggesting here that people should abandon their jobs in the cities and move into a commune.  Indeed, I wouldn't suggest that as that doesn't square with what I"m actually addressing here at all.  But I am suggesting that we ought to think about what we're going, and it doesn't appear we are. We just charge on as if everything must work out this way, which is choosing to let events choose for us, or perhaps letting the few choose for the many. Part of that may be rethinkiing the way we think about careers.  We all know it, but at the end of the day having made yourself rich by way of that nomadic career won't add significantly, if at all, to your lifespan and you'll go on to your eternal reward the same as everyone else, and sooner or later will be part of the collective forgotten mass.  Having been a "success" at business will not buy you a second life to enjoy.

None of this is to say that if you have chosen that high dollar career and love it, that you are wrong.  Nor is this to say that you must become a Granola.  But, given the degree to which we seem to have a modern society we don't quite fit, perhaps we ought to start trying to fit a bit more into who we are, if we have the get up and go to do it, and perhaps we ought to consider that a bit more in our overall societal plans, assuming that there even are any.