Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cultural Influences

It's odd that I haven't written in this blog in almost 7 years and the thing I want to write about is almost a contradiction to my last blog...

The portrayal of single women in our culture is bothering me. I'm sure that is nothing unusual, it probably bothers lots of people. But I'm not sure if it is for the same reasons.

American culture in the last 100 years has been strongly shaped by our media. Hollywood started out with the "Dickensian" portrayal of women (no offense to Charles Dickens, who I am a big fan of... but I read him with an understanding of the times he was living in) - that women are either perfect saints to be put on a pedestal or evil whores to be dealt with (Mother Mary vs Mary Magdalene). That's not my beef (it should obviously bother everyone).

My beef is the portrayal of single women as desperate to find a man. It could almost be said that the portrayal of any single person seems to depend on them being desperate to find a mate - but that is not generally true when men are portrayed as single.

Hollywood movies do not seem to have caught up with the phenomena of people living happy as single people. Medical surveys come out all the time telling us how much longer people live and how much happier they are when they are married. I have to wonder if they are only surveying an older generation who was brought up to believe that being married was a necessity.

I recently watched the movie "bridesmaids" and while I thought it was hilarious, I am still disturbed by the portrayal of the single woman as an object of pity. Having been a single woman for the last 26 years, I can state categorically that I much prefer it to the hell I spent married for 5 years. Now I realize that was a pathological relationship and cannot really be used to justify anything - but it did expose me to the negative extreme of marriage which I can recognize immediately in other relationships and quash. A useful tool.

It seems that television is actually much further ahead in the "single" portrayal. There have been many TV shows in which women are single and happy - but really I can only think of Murphy Brown and Golden Girls from older days where the women were not desperate to get married. A new batch of TV shows - and I don't watch commercial TV if I can help it, so all my information is a few years old (I watch the TV shows later on Netflix or the internet) - seems to have emerged in which the single women are actually not desperate to find a man - namely Bones, Castle, Sanctuary and In Plain Sight. These are some of the shows I am currently watching and I am a few years behind of the current season, so my information could be out of date.

I guess my main disappointment with Hollywood is that even a movie like "bridesmaids" - which given the premise of the movie really shouldn't surprise me - that was written by 2 obviously talented women should fall into the same "single woman" trap. I have nothing against marriage if that's what someone wants to do, but it should not be assumed that everyone wants it.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Jackson Browne

I drove over 400 miles to go to a concert this weekend (one way). The whole trip was a kind of solitary retreat. Friends and family don't really seem to understand why I would drive that far or go to a concert alone. I'm not real sure why I would go to a concert with other people. Well ok, I can see that having other people there is not all bad.

But on the drive back I began to try to explain to myself why I was doing this. The concert was thoroughly enjoyable to me. It was a benefit that essentially kept me outdoors from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.. The weather was magnificent - cool and stormy but not raining. The first two acts were absolutely wonderful. The venue was relaxed. When the headline act (Jackson Browne, of course) started though, the obnoxious people in the audience surged forward and it was no longer possible to see anything without standing up. Jackson Browne was doing an acoustical set with no band. He was incredibly charming and entertaining in as intimate setting as you can get with 5000 people attending.

But I have been to concerts before where as the band was excellent and I was still wondering what possesed me to go to concerts in the first place. Why didn't I just buy the CD or watch a video, instead of crowding into a huge concert area which was generally not all that comfortable. For this concert, the question did not arise until the drive home. But this time the answer was easy.

This concert was just for me. A good performer will make you feel special - as if they are speaking directly to you or as if the performance you are seeing is unique. Perhaps because I admire Jackson Browne so much, he is analogus to a prince charming to me. And his concerts are like a Cinderella ball - where I get to go to be with prince charming. But when it's over, I go back to my life. And that's ok, because as it turns out - I'm not Cinderella. My life is actually pretty darn good and I don't need to be rescued from it. In fact if I were the type of person who were going to sit around waiting to be rescued from a miserable life, I'd probably be the same kind of person who would end up as a slovenly toad being waited on hand and foot after I was rescued. But I still like the romantic ball.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Yin and The Yang...

Not actually being a student of Chinese philosophy, but more in the camp of "enough information to make me dangerous", I'd like to espouse some thoughts on yin and yang.

To wit: every good idea has its bad side and every bad idea has its good side. From the politically charged atmosphere of left and right some examples:

Welfare: a good idea to help out people in short term need. Welfare allows people to become dependant when they don't really care to work to help themselves out of a bad situation.

Iraq War: a bad idea to stablilize and control the oil reserves in Iraq. The Iraq war has brought home to many Americans what the rest of the world thinks about America. Despite assertions from some anti-Bush groups, Bush did not make the rest of the world hate us - he just fed the fire. But Americans only want hear how much the rest of the world loves us, refusing to admit the bad things that we have done in the name of capitalism. We are now forced to see that the world is not in love with Americans and capitalism.

These are of course simplified examples of very complex situations, but it gives the general idea. The whole "balance" idea seems to work even when we humans try to throw stuff out of balance. Problem is, we may not always like what happens to bring things back into balance.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Try something new

Believing that life is something to be experienced and not just something to get through, it seems that new experiences can be some of the best experiences. With this in mind, I've always been curious about certain kinds of drugs. The fear of addictive drugs was drilled into my brain in public school and I was never really impressed with pot. But hallucinogenic material like "magic mushrooms" sparked my curiousity. LSD seemed like it might be too harsh and therefore scary, but mushrooms...

So I tried it. Since these mushrooms are illegal, I won't say where when or how. I laughed for about six hours straight - sometimes almost hysterically, sometimes just chuckling. It was an interesting experience, although not one I'm likely to repeat. It seemed to be an amplification of life and I thought it was hilarious that although I now "got it", there was actually nothing to get. The hallucinations came only when I closed my eyes, but the laughter was almost uncontrollable.

Not sure why people expect enlightenment or to be "saved" from a single experience (like Superman or prince charming or Jesus), but it certainly doesn't seem to work that way in my life. Being happy takes a continuous monitor on what kind of lies I might be deluding myself with. The truth may not be easier to live with but it makes life more live-able.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What the...

I've been reading over some of the blogger literature and come to the conclusion that this medium is not what I thought. The idea that a person could leave some deep insightful comments on life seems to be negated by the small space given to leave the message. Brevity seems to rule the internet blog as well as the headlines.

Oreo Cookie Philosopy might actually work here - it is the idea that the universe can be analogously explained by anything i.e. you can explain how the universe works using an oreo cookie. The idea was fabricated while in college and there was an explanation of the universe using an orea cookie - only I can't remember what the explanation was. Which is just as well since the philosophy says you can use anything - it doesn't matter what it was, the explanation will change almost immediately anyway.

I used to think this ability was a blessing - a way of rationalizing anything "Always look at the bright side of life." With the antics of the current Bush administration, the curses of this ablility are becoming evident. Being able to find the good in something inherently bad was no doubt a skill useful to many Nazis.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

It's a Passing Lane, Not a Lifestyle Choice

Driving is a constant American pass time - sometimes of necessity and sometimes out of choice. Since we spend so much time on the road and have to interact with a large number of people we know nothing about - we naturally become somewhat opinionated on the subject.

I have had the pleasure and misfortune of making the freeway trek from Albuquerque to Los Angeles by car many times and usually alone. The trips are usually during warm weather and I am driving my 1989 Honda whose cruise control and air conditioner has given out and whose antennae broke off long ago. With the open windows roaring in my ears, there is not much for me to do during these trips but drive. Consequently I pay close attention to what is happening on the road around me.

Because New Mexico is sparsely populated and has lots of open road, I have grown up avoiding driving in crowds whenever possible. On a long distance trip, I don't like to drive in a pack of cars. But every encounter with another car is another opportunity for observation. Long distance trips give ample time for reflection and the forming of opinions.

My philosophy when driving on long road trips is to do what the truckers do. Truckers spend a significant amount of time on the road and seem to have developed a style that makes driving the most efficient. There is one simple rule you can garner from watching truckers: DRIVE IN THE RIGHT-HAND LANE EXCEPT TO PASS. I have found that following this rule religiously will make traffic flow. Breaking this rule will cause a traffic jam on an otherwise deserted stretch of highway.

If or how people follow the single simple trucker rule seems to be telling of their character. There seem to be a few categories of human beings driving the roads. I've broken up the driving public into four types of drivers, and the truckers.

The slow lane driver type is a curious mix of contradictions. The slow lane driver will drive almost exclusively in the right-hand lane - bothering no one and pretty much in their own world. They tend to be the older drivers in large luxury cars driving with their cruise control set from 5 to 20 mph below the speed limit. They also tend to be the ubiquitous RVs with their inevitable tow vehicle behind.

Because slow lane drivers are in their own world, they can be dangerous. Slow lane drivers seem to be not so much driving as they are sitting in a large vehicle and making minor corrections if it's about to drive off the road. Other vehicles will occasionally awaken them to reality for short periods. The slow lane driver might follow another car closely for many miles without passing - passing being too much like driving.

But if the slow lane driver detects another car coming up behind it at a high rate of speed, that will be the queue to move into the passing lane. It will take the slow lane driver approximately ten minutes to pass another slow lane driver. The slow lane driver will give ten car lengths of space to the other slow lane driver before moving back into the right lane - or the amount of time for you to decide that they are not really going to move back into the right-hand lane and if you want to pass them, you will have to do so on the right-hand side. Any attempt at this will cause the slow lane driver to immediately begin signaling that they are in fact going to move to the right-hand lane within the next five minutes.

It is difficult to determine if the slow lane driver is tying to annoy faster drivers or if they are doing that protective thing. I've seen water buffalo (on the nature channel, of course) do this to their young in a herd - the adult buffalo try to keep the baby buffalo from roaming about and having fun because it's dangerous for them.

It seems like truck drivers would naturally fit into the slow lane driver category - but truck drivers really are a category themselves. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that when a truck driver slows a faster driver down (seemingly on purpose) there is a good chance a cop with a radar gun is somewhere up ahead. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest some truck drivers enjoy annoying smaller vehicles (basically anyone who is not a truck driver). Most truck drivers however, don't really seem to notice there is anyone else on the road except other truck drivers and drive in a fashion which suggests that they are simply trying to get a job done in the most expedient manner.

There is a type of people who never follow the trucker rule. This type drives in the left-hand lane no matter what. These are the people I categorize as the "unawares". Most people, when they hit their teenage years, become painfully aware that there are other people around them. "I am no longer the center of the universe. I must actually consider other people and what they might need." The unawares have apparently never hit this stage in life. They may be very nice people (although I'm not sure how such a contradiction could be explained) - but they have no idea that they exist in a community (the Earth being pretty much full of humans) and that their actions affect other people. They don't notice the frustration caused when their actions create the traffic jam. They simply seem to believe that because they are driving slightly faster than the speed limit, they have a "right" to be in the left-hand lane. Period. End of discussion. The rest of the world can simply adjust to them. This selfish, self-absorbed type of behavior could only be hidden with a lot of effort outside the car.

A closely related type of driver is the driver who is aware of the trucker rule, they just believe they are above it. The are the "fastlane" drivers. I'm not sure if it's because most of my longest trips have been to California or if it's because "Life in the Fast Lane" is a Californian invention. But it seems like most of the people who fit into this category have had Californian license plates. This type still exists however, when there are no Californians around. These are the people who will drive only in the left lane unless someone comes up behind them driving faster and it is convenient for them to move to the right-hand lane.

These drivers will also cause traffic jams in the middle of nowhere if there is a car within a mile up the road on the right-hand side, which is going slower than they are. The fastlane driver should certainly not have to be bothered to slow down for a second for the convenience of someone else behind them. Never mind that fastlane drivers are slowing someone else down - that's just life and fastlane drivers can't really be expected to put any more effort into driving than they already are. Fastlane drivers generally seem to have something more important to do (such as talk on the phone). I've often thought it would be a good idea to have a bumper sticker printed proclaiming "IT'S A PASSING LANE, NOT A LIFESTYLE CHOICE" for these type of drivers.

Curiously enough, I have found in the short periods that I have spent in the southern California, L.A. area - that the left lane is never actually used as a passing lane there. I haven't figured out if it's because the area is so crowded or if a disproportionately large number of Californians are simply fastlane drivers.

The last type of driver to be discussed is the self-righteous driver. I am a member of the self-righteous group and so naturally I consider this type to be some of the best drivers on the road (hence the name). The self-righteous driver drives on the right-hand lane except to pass. This driver travels at the speed limit or above.

This driver will often try to teach the unawares or fastlane drivers the rules of the road by coming up behind them in the left-hand lane and tailgating them for miles even though there is no one in the right-hand lane. The self-righteous driver then becomes impossible to differentiate from the driver they are trying to teach. The self-righteous driver may also sometimes pass the unawares or fastlane driver on the right-hand lane and then quickly move back into the passing lane - cutting off the other driver even though the self-righteous driver is not actually passing anyone either. Again this makes the self-righteous driver indistinguishable from the driver they were attempting to teach.

The best self-righteous drivers will stick to the trucker rule. I tend to be a fanatic about the rule and hence will display driving characteristics which people seem to find baffling. I will move back into the right lane even though no one is behind me and it is quite obvious that I will have to pass another car almost immediately. I will move back into the right lane even when I have been driving very aggressively and it is clearly not to my advantage. This tends to confuse other drivers and they begin to believe that I am either an idiot or playing head games with them. This is a good time to separate myself from these other drivers as quickly as possible by either slowing down, speeding up or finding the first available exit.