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Radically Inept
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
  Explaining everything

Note: 1706 hrs. I started this post at 6am this morning. I could not save the draft, nor publish the post by 1030 hrs, and basically gave up. I had errands to run, and our HP printer has decided it no longer likes the XP operating system, though we (the Wife and I, have spent somewhere around an accumulative 8 hrs trying to get it to work. It worked for two years. Anyway, I'm out the Door. I would normally link to all kinds of things, but now lack time. I also, normally would clean this post up, and at least do a spell check, but agin, time is no longer available. On the other hand, I did want to post something today, as I feel like I'm letting people down if I don't atleast publish something. The post below does not really count, as it's more of a link than a post. I will come back to this post tomorrow, or even possibly tonight, and clean it up. You might prefer to wait. I will be meeting Bruce from the River tonight at Manuel's, and it will be the first time I've met a fellow blogger, so I'm a little excited to share experiences. Again, I apoligize for the state of the post, but computers suck. If cars were as dependable as computers, there would be a huge market for horses.

This post may ramble somewhat, but I find the subject difficult to organize. It will hopefully be the post that I have been promising. We'll see.

So, where to start? Well, first of lot me confess here to seemingly always arriving to the party late. On my behalf, I get there with out knowing the address, location or having a map. For instance, I have been quuzzling over the society we live in, and have found that someone else has come to the same conclusions I have come to, but they did it in 1967. They also wrote down, and wrote it better than I probably could have.

I am specifically referring to "The Society of the Spectacle
by Guy-Ernest Debord"
. On the other hand, I may be able to present many of the same ideas here in a largely non-academic fashion, which may make for lighter reading. But first, with your indulgence, a little digression may be helpful in setting up the direction; sort of following the shaft of the arrow to the the point of the tip.

I remember growing up in North Carolina that a lot of my friends and neighbors would take the time and spend the money to make their cars and motorcycles louder. When I would ask what the purpose of this was, they would tell me it was a demonstration of 'power'. The idea supposedly was that louder was more powerful. But, these cars could not out perform the Mercedez Benz 450 SLs, or various Porches that I had seen around, and these cars were 'quiet'. The loud motorcycles did not out perform the BMWs, and late the Hondas, which were far quieter. But that didn't seem to matter, they'd pay the money and buy glass packed thrusters or other device just to increase the volume with no appeciable increase in performance - louder was cool. I thought it was stupid, noisy, and a waste of time and money, but I seemed to be the only one.

Then there was this time that I was playing football in middle school in Alabama. I had played youth league before, and liked playing. On the night of the first game, before the game even started, we had a team prayer. I was by then already an atheist, but the idea that both sides would ask god to help them win a stupid middle school football game bizaare. You would ask an omnipotent being to help you win a stupid game?! And, if both sides are doing it, do you actually expect this being to take sides? Well here was a stupidty level that really lowered my opinion of these adults in charge as teachers and coaches.

Then, we were losing, and at half time, one of the other players started crying and yelling at everybody, and appeared to be act like his life was at stake. And hell, for him it may have been. For all I know his dad beat him when he got home because we didn't win. Adults take children's sports pretty damn seriously down here. Too seriously for my tastes; it wasn't like I was getting paid, or that my family would go to prison if we lost or anything of serious consequence, at least to my mind. Besides, I had no dream of ever playing pro, so I knew I couldn't put up with this crap for four more year. That was my last football game.

The next thing that seems, somehow relevent, is when I was a brand spankin' new Butter Bar (2nd Lieutenant), and was given $1200 credit at the local post exchange. I bought some top of the line stereo speakers, Bose 901s stereo speakers, which at the time, set me back almost $1000. I was never happy with them, really. I should have saved myself $600 or $700 dollars and bought cheaper speakers. As it turns out, my hearing isn't good enough to be worth spending that kind of money on speakers. So the lesson I learned here was that spending top dollar, doesn't necessarily make you happy.

Later, when I left active duty, I gave away pretty much everything I owned. I'd gotten used to the idea that if it didn't fit in a duffle bag, it probably wasn't really worth having. In fact the more stuff I had accumulated, the more space I had to have to put it, and then I'd have to keep it clean; even if all it did was sit there, it got dirty. It was about a year later that I learned that there was a term for people like me - 'minimalist'. It had never occurred to me that there would be a term for people who just didn't like 'stuff'.

Then came another revelation. If memory serves, it was the year after the Atlanta Braves took the world series, that the baseball players went on strike. Now I had grown up a moderate baseball fan, but I had been caught up in the hype of the past two seasons, so when the strike occurred, I paid attention to the rhetoric more than I would have in the past. And it was when Tom Glavine, then the players' rep, made the statement that pro baseball was not a game but a business, that I pretty much gave up on baseball. But this was followed by a two year fling with fantasy football leagues. But that ended when I realized that I had to buy magazines every year to figure out who was on what team. There was no stability; players and even coaches changed so often, that it dawned on me that all the fans were rooting for was a jersy colour. It couldn't be rooting for the team, if almost the entire roster was different each season. But the revelation I referred too above, came when I put the two experiences together. Pro sports is a business, and why am I watching other people work. I don't pay UPS $30 dollars to watch them load trucks, and I wouldn't pay to watch a shift a Dell assemble computers, why would I pay to watch a business?

Well the answer I get when I ask people this question is 'entertainment'. Which at first seems like a fair answer, but when I delve deeper, it doesn't hold water for me. Why should I pay a fortune to be entertained? Besides, this is passive entertainment. It's fleeting, and it acheives nothing. Better to go out and play the game yourself, than sit around watching someone else play. Then I'm told that I don't adequately appreciate the beauty of the game heightened by the quality of the play and players. Well, you got me. I don't. It still seems like pointless, passive entertainment, and I don't see any reason for me to part with my time or money in it's pursuit. Especially if it's a 'business'.

Now interestingly, I think there does exist a 'strange' business/social reason for it. This is derived purely by the fact that so many other people devote so much of their lives to learning the game, memorizing statistics, specific plays of spcific games, and will spend so much of their time discussing it. If you haven't been paying attention to the specific sport in question, you are pretty much excluded from that discussion, and often, that can hurt your chances, or at least not aide your chances, of getting hired or making good business contacts. So this is how society pressures the individual into wasting their lives watching and spending money on passive entertainment; on an industry that really provides nothing of substantial value to society or the individual. Please feel free to disagree with me, many people do.

I even carry this arguement to most of the movies, music, programming put out by the entertainment industry. The exceptions I would make here are limited to that programming or music that does more than just entertain; if you actually learn something either factual, or about yourself, or it it gives you new ideas. But I believe that information, self exploration and ideas have value.

And this brings us to the topic of value - what is it? To be honest, I don't think I know, or possibly better stated, I know what I value, but I don't know that I can objectify it to the point where I can provide an adequate, defensible definition.

Yet another digression, with no promises as to its brevity. When I attended Auburn University for a year in the INDUSTRIAL DESIGN department, I learned a lot. I didn't to all that well, but I learned and retained a great deal of the information and concepts I was taught. I had a teacher named Professor Walter Schaer whose teachings have had a huge influence on me.

An example: I built this desk out of a single tree.

How much information is actually contained in that sentence? Really, not very much, and yet a great deal. For instance you know what a desk is. The concept of desk is clear to you, but you have no idea what kind of desk it is i.e., a stupid school style desk, a role top desk, a miniture desk for a doll house...But, the concept of desk is there none the less. The same information and lack there of, applies to the tree. Was it a palm tree, or an oak or pine? Was it a sapling? And of course, 'built' conceptually is easy, but I'd have to provide a lot more info for you to know whether I used clue, rope or screws, or whether I carved each of the pieces...There alot of other things I learned from him, but this is one that is applicable here for our purposes.

Back on track. So, what is value? I don't know, but a lot has been written about it, but I'm not sure how adequte the explanations are, but for now, let's operate under the simple definition that "something's value is directly in proportion to the effort I am willing to put into acquiring it." Let's add to this, that you may value something to a different degree than I value it - higher or lower.  
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