Pre-Posturous Humanity

peacock

Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?

Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.

The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.

Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.

Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.

Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.

But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.

Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.

But that, to the world, is preposterous…

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Advice From a Bus Driver

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It’s been a long week. One of those weeks that have put a few more gray hairs into my beard. I started my bus route this week. Most of the kids are well behaved, they get on the bus, they sit down, they don’t yell and terrorize each other. But one school… oh… wow…

Here’s what I would say to them if I could sit them all down in a room, with no traffic or schedules to distract us:

Dear middle-schoolers:

First off, I’m not here to be a guru or to be your parent or your coach. I’m just here to drive you home safely and efficiently.

I am not mad. I am concerned, really. I care about you, and not just your safety on the bus. I care about your character, I care about your potential, I care about your future. It’s not a cliche to say you are the future of this world. You literally are the future.

To the ring leader. The Boy Scout. The one who will probably have a referral by Wednesday of next week. I was there once. I know the dirty jokes, stupid dares, and pranks that happen in camps and meetings all across the country when you think the adults aren’t paying attention. You are young and naive and you will do every thing you can to test the boundaries around you. But you are also trying to impress your friends. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sudden quietness and semi-respectfulness when certain peers get off the bus. Here is some advice: if you have to act like an asshat to impress your friends, they are not the kind of friends you should have.

To the ones of you calling me old and “that white guy”, I’m probably younger than a lot of your parents. This gray hair is a result of stress and anxiety of raising five kids your age and younger. I’m not old, I’m learn-ed. And why does it matter one lick what color I am? I don’t look at you and take note of your skin tone, I couldn’t care less. But I do look at you and notice your behavior. Young and ignorant behavior has no color bias. Stop making a big deal out of race and I guarantee you will go further in life.

Now about your respect of others, I can’t wash your mouths out with soap. I can’t change your language in the short time I have with you every day. To be honest, I don’t care if you are loud or use “adult” words (do you kiss your mother with that mouth?). I have five kids, I know noise. I’ve learned to tune out the nonsense and key in on emergencies. Or in your case the insults, the disrespect, the meanness. You’re at a competitive age. You compete for attention, good or bad. You believe that tearing down others is the best way to climb to the top. Again, I get it. I was your age once. I said some horrible things to others.

Want to climb to the top? Have some respect for others. And yourself. You disrespect yourself when you tear down others. Be better than those around you, and bring them up with you. Out-do each other in awesomeness, not cruelty. That way you all succeed, or at least none of you are destroyed before you have a chance to get up.

Most of all, dear children, I have this advice: sit down, seatbelts on, windows up.

Safety is first on this bus.

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Dailyish Thoughts #101

Well, plans change. And then change again. I go from worrying if I can afford to go “home” for Christmas to making plans while I am up there. I go from trying to take a nap to being told to come in and drive in half an hour. My 5:30 AM wake up is now a 3:30 wake up. Did I mention that I plan to travel all night after my work day tomorrow?

So here I am in bed at 7, one beer, one Tylenol PM and a warm shower lulling me off to sleep. Pray for me people, I have never driven in the dark before.

One more day, then a break. Hopefully I can get some stuff posted on here. Hang on for it, folks!

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Dailyish Thoughts #100

100. Yep. It’s been slow going, but I have arrived. I couldn’t make it 100 days straight (forgive me readers, it’s been ten days since my last post) but I have at least made 100 of these in total.

So what are today’s thoughts? Not a whole lot. Life has been work, work, and more work. With sleep and food stuffed in between. Is it worth it? I think so. I have seen some progress. I am now officially licensed to drive a school bus (watch out world!), but I am still without a route. So it’s monitoring the special needs bus and then doing a ton of deliveries for me. I’ll probably have to wait until after the Christmas break for a route.

I have been ruminating on some blog post thoughts lately. I know I mentioned this before in some post. It probably just looks like I am stalling, right? Well, maybe a little. Honestly I just haven’t had the time to sit and write, or even voice type. Perhaps this week or over the holidays I’ll get a few interesting posts put up. In fact, I might just go start a few right now…

Dailyish Thoughts #99

Almost 100 of these things…

Life is made up of experiences. There are some experiences I never thought I would have. Frequently those are the experiences that I realize everyone should have, but then I realize that not everyone can handle them.

Many people are silly and cruel and petty. They hide it well, but sometimes in unguarded moments you see them as they are. Other people hold up fervently, they are genuinely kind and decent people, outwardly, and never allow themselves unguarded moments. These people bottle up a lot and should probably let it out sometimes. You know who you are.

It’s always fun being the new guy fresh out of training. Watching different people do the job you have just been trained in gives deep perspective on just how much stress the job entails and how quickly people can wear out in it. Of course some are more resilient than others.But If But If But hkwb But all of them cut corners. All of them take risks and all have little bad habits that they will never unlearn. Of course, training is frequently impractical, what you are supposed to do is more often than not what you can do. Many rules are set out in training only to have many more exceptions laid out in practice.

My days are starting to run together. My thoughts are even less coherent than usual…

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Dailyish Thoughts #98

I’m not usually a fan of Christmas season. Too much chaos and noise and materialism. Not to mention the obnoxious darkness of winter. But I am trying. I miss my family “up north” something awful with all these ups and downs lately. The tree will be coming out tomorrow, I’m determined!

Today’s down and up was turning on the van only to have it rev up and down and idling at 15 mph. Then it would accelerate on its own. Good times. I managed to get it to the auto parts store for a code read and then home, in neutral most of the way! Thankfully I was able to clean the part and get it running again instead of buying a new one for $90. I can’t afford that! I am very grateful.

I get to start riding the bus as a monitor tomorrow. Not sure what that actually means, but I have to be there at 0600. Woo. It’s nice to get the extra hours and I need to get used to early mornings anyway, so I suppose I can say I’m happy about it.

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Dailyish Thoughts #97

It’s Friday night, which means I don’t have to get up and drive a big yellow monster tomorrow! Nah, it’s not bad. But it is nice to get a break and maybe focus on some other stuff.

I won’t lie and say life is great. It’s kinda crappy right now actually. Lots of busyness without much reward. But such is life right now.

There is no shortage of topics right now bouncing around in this brain of mine. Maybe at some point I will get a chance to put them all down. I have a few new money making things, a ton of cultural commentary, and maybe a few music critiques. It’s been sparse around here, but not in my brain!

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No-stalgia

My carefree childhood, I was such a dork…

What is it about the past that we think was so much better? Why is it so easy to sit in a current rough patch and think “I wish I was back in such and such a time”? Was the past really that great?

I watched the CNN produced documentary “The Nineties” on Netflix last week. Despite living up to the “Clinton News Network” nickname (that man could do no wrong in CNN’s eyes), it did make me miss some of thatdecade’s better features.

The thing I miss the most is the popular music. I’m not up to date on the latest pop music, everything modern I listen to now is “weird” to most people. Most people meaning my wife, her opinion is the only one that matters. The rare time I do get to hear current hits I gag a little. At least in the nineties the mainstream was trying to be creative and make something people had not heard before. Now it’s just repackaged garbage from some other time and place. Just because that time was often the nineties doesn’t mean they do it well though.

Other features of the decade? Was it really that great of a time? I started high school in the final year of the decade, so my memories are a jumbled heap of childhood memories and silliness. Comparisons are easy to make though, one doesn’t need precise memories of events to remember that some stuff just plain sucked back in the day.

I definitely don’t miss dial-up internet. Yes, kids, there was a day when the internet wasn’t “on” all the time. You had to pay by the minute, and those minutes did not produce much more than a page or two of TEXT. Pictures? Come back after you have gone to the kitchen for a Surge and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I remember the first time I heard of Ethernet, it was a mind blowing concept.you meqn the internet is always connected? You can watch movie clips on it?!

Cell phones? As a kid i only knew one person with a cell phone and it was corded and attached to a bag. You could not watch movies on it or play Candy Crush”. The only cool feature on a cell phone back then was “Centipede” which could be played on a black and green screen. You could play it for days though without charging the phone. My memory could be a bit skewed but I swear those phone batteries lasted for-ev-errrr (if you don’t get that reference, you’re killing me, Smalls).

The movies were better then. I mean, they actually had to try. CGI was limited to Star Wars (and it was bad), so Hollywood actually had to build sets and scale models. And aside from the epic that was Titanic, not every movie was a three hour highly involved action sequence. You could watch an hour and a half movie and then go about your day. After you returned the video cassette to Blockbuster of course. If you were kind you would rewind. If you were a jerk… Well…

You didn’t have to commit hours to sitting around binging on TV shows either. What was on TV was what was on, you didn’t get to pick, and you definitely didn’t get to skip commercials.

For some of us TV was called “Cable” which despite being roughly the same technology as today, was nothing like it’s current counterpart. There were no DVRs and no easy index channel which could take you directly to the channel of your liking. You had to wait for the preview channel to scroll through allof the channels and then manually get yourself to the show you wanted.

Most people had a VCR, which, if you had a degree in engineering (or nursing, as did my mom), you could program it to record something. But.It had to be on the right channel. It was largely just used for playing movies, not recording them.

If you didn’t have cable you had to stick to the old rabbit ears and a non-digital *gasp* signal. Which meant you got like six channels. You missed out on Nickelodeon, the beginnings of the Cartoon Network, and all the major 24/7 news channels.

Which reminds me:

The politics haven’t changed.

The 90’s was full of political scandals. But they seemed to move a lot slower than current scandals. Even with 24/7 news networks coming onto the scene the slower pace of information streaming (well, it was dial up, there was no “streaming” as we know it) meant that you could watch the news and not be suffocated in useless data. There was only so much new stuff to report so you could watch an hour and pretty much get it all.

I certainly don’t miss the outfits or the hairstyles. Except for the grunge. We can keep the grunge. Bring back flannel already!

What were we thinking? And she’s going to kill me. Also: Epic 90’s album cover material!

I will be happy once modern fashion gets out of its 80’s slump. That is a decade I am too young to be nostalgic for. Except for Reagan, who isn’t nostalgic for Reagan? There I go with the politics again…

I will probably always be sappy and sentimental, it’s just my nature. But closer inspection reveals that the past wasn’t really better than the present. Sure, I was a kid and responsibilities were fewer and stakes were lower. But if I were the me of today living then would I find it better? Probably not. How would I make money? How would I talk to you on this blog? How much smaller was the world back then?

It’s nice to think back on those days, but I’m content to see what the future will bring.

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The Flame Blame

(C) Ed Hall, Not used by permission. I hope he forgives me. Heck, who’s reading this anyway?

“You might like my latest cartoon” came the message from my political cartoonist acquaintance. I’ve been following him for some time and while our politics rarely line up I at least appreciate his passion and willingness to push buttons and boundaries.

But this time he really pushed one of my buttons.

I’ve been standing on the sidelines and avoiding conversations about the wildfires in California. The few places I did comment with my knowledge and opinions didn’t seem to get anywhere. People have decided to look at the whole situation through whatever political worldview they have chosen for themselves. Even the wildland firefighter community on social media has collapsed into bomb lobbing and insult hurling.

Everyone wants to blame someone.

My cartoonist friend (and the environmentalists) want to blame climate change (and the Republicans). Yes, weather does play a major role in the spread of fire, and in the availability and moisture level of fuels. But just like you can’t blame an ice storm for car accidents, you can’t blame the climate for wildfires.

People are the cause of accidents, whether they be car crashes in an ice storm or devastating wildfires in a drought. The ice did not make the driver crash, the driver’s response to the icy road caused his accident. The climate did not create the devastation, the policies and practices of people in response to the climate created the devastation.

When Trump blamed the fires on lack of management he wasn’t entirely wrong. There is horrible management going on in many of the forests around the country. Much of that mismanagement is concentrated in the western states, particularly the three bordering the Pacific ocean.

Environmental groups, loggers, ranchers, and developers have been knocking heads in that part of the country for decades. The lobbyists for these parties have all gone to the Federal government to get their way in the land management game. Full fire suppression, a lack of timber thinning, a lack of controlled burning, and an explosion of building in the wildland interface are all polices and practices tied to these groups and their lobbying one way or another.

But just like you can’t blame the weather, you can’t blame mismanagement. Because mismanagement has a root.

Blame lies squarely on the concept of Federal ownership and management of land. The Federal government was not created to do such a thing and is not capable of doing it effectively.

Better put: land is best managed by the people who own it and live on it. Those are the people with real skin in the game.

When land belongs to everyone it becomes fodder for political ends. Public ownership means that I get to call the shots for land thousands of miles away from me. This is usually land I will probably never see, and ecosystems which I may never study or understand.

But locals know the land. Locals know what happens when you manage the forest one way or another. They live in it and derive their economic well-being from it. They have a vital interest in making the whole thing work. Mismanagement has direct and dire consequences upon them.

Ironically it is often these locals who lobby the Federal government to do what they wish because they don’t get along with the other locals. The ranchers don’t like the loggers, the loggers don’t get along with the recreation special interests, and no one gets along with the environmentalists. And no one gets along with the Fed either, because while trying to please everyone, the Fed enacts and carries out policies which please no one.

So while the ranchers are happy to have cheap (ie Federally subsidized) open range grazing land they are not happy with the fences the environmentalists want put up to protect the watershed. And the loggers are content to log land managed by their Fed friends but they are not happy with the ranchers for burning up timber while trying to improve grazing conditions. The environmentalists are happy to have a giant monopolized force machine to restrict all human action on nature but they are not happy with… well… anyone.

We should get the Federal government out of the business of land management and turn it all over to the locals. Let the local loggers and the local Hippies and the local ranchers sort it out amongst themselves.

At least then when it burns out of control we know who to blame.

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Dailyish Thoughts #96

“Dumpster fire” is a pretty useful phrase. There is not a better term for so much of what’s going on in the world around me. Not that my life is personally a dumpster fire, but the toxicity of the people I have associated with lately can only be described as such.

Dumpster fires have nasty smoke, spew sparks which light other stuff on fire, and stink to high heaven. The opinions and manners of the keyboard warriors I tangle with are also largely nasty, ignite passionate (and ignorant) debates, and…well… stink.

My gluttony for punishment prevents me from abandoning these people unfortunately. I do hope to channel some of my displeasure into intelligent and well thought out posts.

But for now my brain is simply a pinball machine of thoughts.

Thank you wife for listening to me try to sort out this pinball madness and clear up some of the emotional constipation it has caused.

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