Thursday, April 20, 2006

If I give you a box of Lego’s and ask you to make me a sandwich with them, what result could I reasonably expect? Would it be rational for me to expect something edible, delicious, and nutritious?

Of course not.

But in life we encounter a similar situation every moment of the day. Our efforts to communicate with one another are made with very crude tools. We have words (which have all sorts of different connotations and meanings) and choose how to use them based on our own experiences and upbringing. Some of us use gestures in an effort to clarify words. We may also stress certain syllables and use various intonations to add depth and meaning to words.

Ultimately however, the message that is actually conveyed to the receiver will invariably differ from the message that was intended.

Telling someone you love them is like handing them a Lego sandwich.

But love is the common denominator in interpersonal communication. The desire to communicate with another is an outgrowth of love, because love is the common ground of living things, it is the soil in which we are planted.

Even hate therefore, and disgust, and fear, are all manifestations of love. Though not necessarily the love of one for another, these feelings exist because of the innate conflict between the need to be understood and relate with others (the outgrowth of love), and the complications that result from being unable to truly communicate.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that "there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it." In other words, the language you speak, with its rules and structure, shape the way you interact with the world. I believe this to be true. If you speak English and you only know one word for "sunset", you will experience the sunset differently from a Navajo, who if I'm not mistaken has several words for that time of day when the sun sets. Words are handles we use to grip reality. Different handles mean different interaction with reality.

If you have read this far, you're probably wondering what this spontaneous outburst of dime-store philosophy is all about. It is certainly a departure from my usual potty-mouthed rambling.

I don't know the answer. I was thinking about how the people I love are also the people I argue with most often. I was thinking about how the more intimate a relationship becomes, the greater the capacity for loneliness. Rainer Maria Rilke said that at bottom we are "completely and unutterably alone." Is it possible that the constructs of language are to blame for this?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I had an interesting experience on an overnight trip to Chicago this week. As everybody knows, security since 9/11 is much tighter, particularly at airports. Leaving Salt Lake International, I was obliged to remove my shoes and belt, and to empty the contents of my pockets. I also had to take my laptop out of my bag. No big deal. It’s all in the name of safety. I don’t mind the inconvenience.

Then they searched one of my bags, which was just a piece of medical equipment called a CPAP machine. No big deal. So I snore so badly that it requires mechanical intervention—I’m not ashamed of it. I don’t know what they thought the machine was for, but it’s not perverted or nefarious, so who cares right?

On the way home, carrying exactly the same bags, I removed the same articles of clothing and followed the same protocol. Not surprisingly, they called for a bag check. I thought it was the CPAP machine again, but no. This time something in the other bag raised an alarm.

They searched very carefully, but I had no idea what they were looking for. The bag is a messenger bag that is always with me. It carries my iBook, some papers that have never been attended to, a bicycle tire patch kit, a bottle of generic excederin, pens, bank deposit slips, etc. What I had forgotten, and what the security personnel had spotted on the x-ray was a smail lockback knife in a nylon case embroidered with the name “fighter plus.”

Oops! Suddenly, and for the second time in one day, I was reminded of the time as a youth that I tried to smuggle in some switchblades from Tijuana and got caught. (The first reminder came in the meeting when a switchblade was pulled to make a point. Yes the scooter industry is that rough.)

A knife like the “fighter plus” really isn’t that dangerous. I mostly used it to clean my toenails. As a weapon it would be pretty harmless, but so are boxcutters. So I was a little nervous when security pulled it out of my bag.

Then the really scary thing about it set in. Security in Salt Lake hadn’t even seen it. They were more concerned with my Snore-No-More and my belt buckle.

So I surrendered the knife and made my way to the gate without further incident. But now I guess I need to buy a proper set of nail clippers. Then again, switchblades are pretty cool. Maybe I should get one of those. Then I could sneak up on my toes like a real thug.

Friday, April 07, 2006

I'm going to tell a story about my childhood:

As a kid I never heard country music until my parents split up. My mom began listening to Anne Murray. Around the same time two of my aunts got divorces and we all lived together with my grandparents and I was exposed to John Denver and Conway Twitty. (Incidentally, it was during this time that I first heard the name Adolf Hitler. My aunt Dawn said that I combed my hair like him.) When my mom remarried I was exposed to Austin City Limits, The Grand Ole Opry, and Waylon and Willie. My new stepdad (himself previously divorced) had a serious love affair with old country LP's. He still does. His collection is enviable.

All of this led to my theory that country music and divorce were somehow interrelated. In fact to this day I think there's some truth to it.

Another thing about that time in my life is that I was reading and watching "Little House On The Prairie" every day. I read the whole series by the end of second grade. So basically I was Hitler's bedwetting six-year-old doppelganger and had a serious crush on Melissa Gilbert. I cut out a noxema ad with her picture in it from my cousins Mademoiselle magazine and stuck it under my pillow and everything. I was not a normal kid.

Right now I'm listening to Rilo Kiley. I'm not sure what that says about me. Normally if you were to come to The Scooter Lounge you would hear tunes from The Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Killers, U2, or something else non-sucky.

So why am I listening to this folky, semi-twangy Rilo Kiley stuff? I don't know, but I like it. I hope that doesn't mean my marriage is in trouble. I better ask my wife.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Broadband is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

A couple of months ago my wife and I signed up for the city's high-speed fiber optic network at home. I now use my iBook anywhere in the house and download songs and shows on iTunes at lightning speed. I also found a widget that lets me watch TV online. I have a Gizmo account with which I can make phone calls anywhere in the world using the computers built in microphone and speakers.

Truly we live in an amazing age. When I get home from work I can combine my three favorite pastimes into a few blissful moments of solitude.

That's right, I can watch TV, on the Internet, on the toilet.

I find it funny though, because if you think about it, the things we are doing with computers today that seem to be so revolutionary and exciting are really nothing new. The only thing that's new is that we do them with computers now. We already had TV's, VCR's, Telephones, and Walkmans-- and those things worked fine. But now we do it all on the computer. We have been sold the same experience in a different package. That's all it is, but I love it anyway. Maybe Apple could make an iToilet. That would be a good idea. I could make some serious downloads.

Gotta go. Time to flush.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Geely has announced that they will enter the US automobile market in 2008. Industry analysts have not expressed the kind of scepticism I expected. I guess they aren't familiar with Geely's scooters.
This is troubling news to me. After seeing the wonderful scooters Geely has produced over the past couple of years, I fear that we may soon see cars for sale at Pep-Boys and WalMart at ridiculously low prices. And American rednecks will buy them by the ton. "Hell Cletus, even you can afford this car!"

Actually though, this may not be such a bad thing. If we've learned anything from Geely's scooters, we have learned that they are extremely dangerous and incredibly shoddy. Bear with me here: What this boils down to is, anybody who buys a Geely car is likely to eliminate themselves from the gene pool, thereby improving the human genome. In a collective sense, Geely is working to build a better America.

And who could argue with their ad copy? "MR(Sedan) brings you elegant and brisk life. With wings of dreams, we climb to the top of mountains or gallop on plains, chasing the rising sun and the gentle breeze. Sweetness and fragrance floating in the air makes you relaxed and refreshed."

I can't wait to buy one. It sounds like it would make a good douche.