150 and Counting

leaf dropletsI just posted my 150th Drop.  When I started writing these little guys three years ago, I didn’t know how long I’d carry on.  I was too ambitious at first, trying to post them too often, then lost interest and motivation for a while, before picking up again and finding a good rhythm in posting one every week or two.  I had to remember that as well as being productive, and creating something worth reading, this project, this blog, is supposed to be fun too.  And it has been.  And I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future since the ideas don’t seem to be running out.

Anyway, it’s cool to see people all over the world reading them, and always rewarding when they mention one or say they enjoyed one in particular.  OK, I’ll stop blabbing now.  I’ll just link a selection from the last 50 Drops posted below.  See what you missed, or read them again.

Till next time, with love and an ongoing stream of very short fiction,

E.M.

116: Lunch

119: Cup of Tea

124: Leopard

106: Moth

138: CAB

140: Cough

143: Pressure

147: Invitation

 

Another Hong Kong

tunnel visionWhen people think of Hong Kong they think modernity and money. They see skyline; they see lights. And yes, there’s plenty of that around. The sound of construction is ubiquitous here. It’s always more and faster, newer and better – go go go! Development is a galloping beast.

But we’ve seen the big buildings, we’ve absorbed the clean lines. They only offer what the world already knows. Below I have documented a different Hong Kong. One that lies in ruin. One that was left behind. The photos are from 2 locations: an abandoned TV studio and a deserted farming village.

We speak here of places and objects that once were, but still cling to the now in ways that are no longer whole, but still show a soul. There is beauty in this ruin, in this dirt and loss, often more so than in the neat arrangements and bright lights of the rushing, thriving city. We might find some greater, more giving truth in this callous advance, this slow decay.

Perhaps we relate cause we are also broken down, or breaking down in some way. And then, eventually we will all lose the battle with time, no matter how stubbornly we persist. In the meantime, we meet what is still here – capture it again with camera, with memories, with love and fear. What was useful becomes useful now in different ways. And we find beauty anew.

a long shot

all seeing eye

beach day

blue

cave paintingsgoing nowhere

Framed

leveled

LC

no smokin

rabbit

Slim

splitting dark

to a system

turquoise scene

x_bound to be

x_power lunch

x_indrawer shot

All pics by EM Vireo

 

Not Concrete

Most who haven’t been to Hong Kong think the city is all skyscrapers. Only concrete, metal and glass. Not so. I had the chance to go out into its further reaches the other day. I took some photos:

no smog

These boats were only buckets now:

perspective

leaf water

I was quite alone, but of course I had many friends to keep me company:

magpie perch

white eye

family

The butterflies, moths and dragonflies were out in force, and particularly lovely:

color at rest

pairs

hangin on

Some, however, had not reached their destination:

gotcha

But could anything be lovelier than the lilies I encountered?

shades of black

reflections

store now open

I found the idyllic lily ponds hard to leave.

up and round

But eventually did, by way of this peaceful path:

way through

And onwards, out towards the rigid buildings and business of humankind. But not before one final visitor landed on my wrist (band), resting a while, as if to bid me farewell:

skinny visitor

And now I bid farewell to you.

E.M. Vireo

It’s Time

Things are changing. You can see it, feel it, right? We don’t have much time.

No time anymore to be angry, hold grudges, spend hours with those who don’t inspire in any way, or think that a bunch won’t inspire in at least some way; no time to think we are so great, or forget we are full of potential. It’s no time to be lazy but to be efficient and ambitious. No more time to mess up for the fifth and tenth time, treat people poorly, speak meanly, love too little, not take chances. No time to worry about death, care inordinately about longevity, vanity, inanity, or give in to shame and regret and all those possible problems swimming around us. They might seem big as whales, but most whales eat krill, so you can rest easy. There’s no time to feel so damn down. If you zoom out, you will no doubt see, it’s actually ok, if not spectacular.

Things are changing, for us, and those to come, but we are here, now, as Ram Dass said; we’ve had loads of life to mess up, to scrunch into a ball and burn, and now, it’s time to stop worrying, bickering, being upset when the dish you wanted is sold out.

It’s time for music, time to dance, and dance some more; to share and walk with what moves you; to accept and give affection, pleasure, beauty, newness and comfort, and not to steal them when they haven’t been offered. It’s time to be intimate; to kiss and touch and fuck; time to care and listen and show you are human. It’s time to make the effort for the things, the pastimes and the people you love, and find them if none come to mind.

It’s time to stop being so fucking selfish; time to be stronger than you were, and than they can be, and ask nothing back. It’s time for accountability, to be the one that takes responsibility, that makes it happen; time for lovely things you haven’t even thought of, and for conflicts, as caterpillars, to morph into enormous blue tropical butterflies (don’t be fooled by their dull brown wings at rest). It’s time to be with nature.

It is time, you all, all of me, the lot of us, to claim power over time, with an act, many acts, a community of action, our will, wiry and stubborn, clawing through a field of generic thorns to find place at this flowing, eccentric, endless, colorful table that still holds so much fruit. It’s time to row to the limits of our potential and put it all out there; and it’s serious, sure, but no one asked us to stop laughing. Enjoy the struggle to simply get it right, get it wrong, and get it right twice more. Powerful. Optional. Essential.

It’s time – come on, you got this. We got this. I know we do.

EM Vireo. Not quite over, not quite out.

South Africa, from Mountain to Ocean

Road to the mountainsSouth Africa: where I am originally from; where I left long ago. Long enough to lose an accent and for people to ask me my nationality when I walk around the cities I used to live in. I was there in December for two weeks, for a wedding, for Christmas, and as always, for the nature. In its endless richness, I always feel I belong. This time it was the Free State bush, the Drakensberg mountains, and the coastal scrub of the Western Cape. The city of Cape Town is pretty special too. I took some pictures; find them below, with some sparse commentary.

Of course, I took a bunch of shots of birds, so here are a couple of those. This guy found himself a perfect perch:

Yellow-fronted Canary

Yellow-fronted Canary

And this little fellow posed nicely for a close-up:

Cape Batis

Cape Batis

But it was about the landscapes too. I was there in the summer for a change and it all looked so stunning. South Africa is a great country for a road trip. The sheer number of places and landscapes you can cover within a few hundred miles, be it beach or mountain or African bush. The roads are excellent and the drivers skilled and courteous and there’s plenty accommodation along the way, from lovely little guest houses to game reserve chalets, to top notch hotels. And as I already mentioned, the scenery is stunning, framed under crisp blue skies and pleasing clouds.

On the road

On the road

But while we’re on the subject, there are few places more scenic than the Drakensberg (Dragon mountains) on the east of the country. Here’s some evidence:

Drakensberg sunset

Drakensberg sunset

We spent a few days there in the Golden Gate Highlands Park, where bearded vultures cruise the cliffs, and Springbok roam the grassy plains.

Mountain dam

Mountain dam

This classic scene was particularly tasty:

Solitude

Solitude

But I’m sure The Cape doesn’t want the Drakensberg grabbing all the attention. Here are a couple of very different landscapes from The West Coast National Park, near Cape Town:

Multi-colored salt marsh

Multi-colored salt marsh

And this was right next door, facing the other way. Check out the flamingoes, just chilling:

Flamingoes in the lagoon

Flamingoes in the lagoon

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a picture of the gorgeous city, embracing the slopes of Table Mountain, itself. Here she is at dusk:

Cape Town

Cape Town

What a funky city. I hadn’t been there in 18 years. Geographically, it’s spectacular; I mean: you’re next to the mountains and the sea, but besides that, there’s just a cool and interesting vibe. I have to say, the mix of black and white feels pretty special here. Interactions are lively and pleasurable. They were too, on route, when we stopped to buy things or have a cold drink, but here, in the city, it was more pronounced, with everyone just getting on with it, being busy, doing their thing, working, selling stuff, being creative, vibing off each other. The word multicultural is used so quickly and broadly nowadays, and often takes on a clichéd quality but here, the mix of cultures really does seem fresh and full of potential. South Africa really does seem to shout: ‘Yeah, with our incredible and diverse resources: our people, we really have a good thing going forward.’

Oh, and a quick note about the wine. It’s damn good and cheap, which is always a bonus. It just seemed to me that you could buy loads of stuff for 5 bucks that drank like you would have paid 30 or 40 bucks somewhere else. Inky and chocolatey Pinotage and Shiraz. Crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Those cats know what they’re doing.
But back to the countryside, and animals. We didn’t get to the big game parks this time, so no lion and elephant, but we did spot tis interesting scene during a quick visit to a game reserve set up beside, or rather, as part of the grounds of a large nuclear power station. How’s this for juxtaposition:
Zebra lines under power lines

Zebra lines under power lines

By the way, joining the zebras in this picture are Eland, the second largest antelope in the world (its cousin, the Giant Eland being the biggest), and South Africa’s national animal, the Springbok. Leopard tortoises were common here too.

So, I’ve circled back to nature and wildlife: what a surprise! But honestly, I’ve been to loads of places, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and they are incredible in their own right, but I just think the best nature in the world is in South Africa. Maybe I’m biased, cause that’s where I found it first and where it first moved me, so when I go back, it’s like a return to the source. I instantly feel different, excited, keen. And there is so much habitat variation – desert, mountain, savannah, riverine bush – whatever you’re in the mood for. The landscapes are stirring, the coastline long and alive, the sky immense and soaked in stars.

So, in honor of SA’s great nature, here are a few more shots of the creatures one find’s there. Since we didn’t do the big game thing, these are all going to be birds.

'Yes, I'll have 2 grams of cured mayfly larvae and four of your juiciest termites. Having guests over for dinner.' (Black-chested prinia)

‘Yes, I’ll have some cured mayfly larvae and your 3 juiciest termites. Having guests over for dinner.’  (Black-chested Prinia)

And always a treat to see an owl in the wild.

'Oh, I see you there.' - Spotted Eagle Owl, roosting on the ground

‘Yeah, I see you there.’ – Spotted Eagle Owl, roosting on the ground

Seat of thorns - Masked weaver

Seat of thorns – Masked weaver

Some good photos, I think, but one is missing; in fact, on this trip, I missed possibly the best photo I might have taken to date: perfect set up in the Drakensberg: I was on the right side of the flawless light – soft late afternoon sun showing mild pinks and oranges, perfect subject: 2 Rameron pigeons – a large, impressive densely purple pigeon of the Southern African mountains with white spots and bright yellow bill, feet and eye ring, close and motionless on a rugged rock. Only problem was, I didn’t have the camera on me. Doh! Look, I’m no pro and I don’t make pics the priority. My equipment is amateur: 100-300 mm zoom, which any nature photographer will tell you is just not good enough, but I’m happy with snapping what’s close enough – what presents, cause there’s a lot on offer, even with limited gear. A lot of it is just being in the right place and making a bit of effort to record what’s there. You just have to have your camera handy. But this time, I didn’t. We’ll have to leave those gorgeous birds to memory and imagination. That’ll do too.

Hope you liked and got a taste. Back to the Dropping Board now. Till next time, be well, travel safe, and look both ways when you jaywalk.

All pics, taken and missed, by EM Vireo

Made it to 100 – Happy Holidays

Into the FlowerThis last stretch since Drop #75 has been a battle, but I’ve made it to Drop #100 – that’s a hundred small pieces of fiction, conceptualized on some street corner, in some dimly lit bar, watching a bad movie on TV, or lying in bed before sleep; translated from this embryonic idea into something with structure; written with care and effort; edited with all the detail and objectivity a solo venture can carry, and posted for the world (well,  some of it, at least) to read – make a part of your life, if only for a fraction of a day, a whisper on a crowded platform.

Hey, I’ll take it!

I hope you have enjoyed them so far, as well as the Ramblings, which have branched into essay and photography. I also experimented in the fiction with form and genre. I’ll keep pushing, adding to the space we inhabit in ways I hope it hasn’t seen too much of. To those of you following, it’s good to know you are out there; to the rest, I’d love to see more of you.

I leave you with a wish of love and beauty, for this holiday season, and extend it to all those close to you. I wish you inspiration and gratification in all you do. And as usual, I leave you, below, with a selection from the last 25 Drops to dig into. Read or re-read them; take them with you into the night:

Drop #76: Echo

Drop #78: Dream 

Drop #84: Cutting the Fat 

Drop #88: At the Club  

Drop #92: Business

Drop #99: Nonsense

Warmly yours, E.M. Vireo

Nature Portraits from Panama

Some pictures I took in Panama, for now. Drop 100 is coming soon, so look out for that.

buff throated slatator

buff throated saltator

sucking nectar

sucking nectar

collared aracari

collared aracari

howler monkey

howler monkey

crimson backed tanager

crimson backed tanager

three toed sloth

three toed sloth

broad billed motmot

broad billed motmot

southern bentbill

southern bentbill

coati

coati

golden hooded tanager

golden hooded tanager

blue chested hummer

blue chested hummer

summer tanager

summer tanager

all pics by E.M Vireo

The Evolution of Pleasure (2)

Find Part 1 here

I am reminded of an anecdote I once heard: Harry visits a tropical island where he meets Jay, a local fisherman. Jay tells Harry how he spends his days: he wakes up early, goes fishing in his wooden canoe, comes back after two or three hours with his catch, which his wife cooks for lunch and dinner with the yams grown in the garden. And the rest of the day he relaxes in his hammock, makes love to his wife, and plays with his son. Harry says, Ok, but why don’t you get a few more boats, and hire a few more men to go fishing for you. You can give them a cut and sell the fish at market, and with the profits, you can buy more boats and hire more fishermen. Soon, you’ll be self-sufficient and apart from managing your employees for a few hours a day, and paying them once a week, you’ll be free to relax in your hammock, make love to your wife, and play with your son.

We often get to the same place, but spend a lot of effort on roundabout ways to get there. More work is done but mostly it is the work created to keep track of all the new work: accounting, shipping, tracking, checking, regulation, mapping. We invent meet, update, mediate, recap, delegate, and set things in motion. As companies and individuals, we hire people to tell us how to be efficient, giving them all our time so we fall behind on the things that need doing. Bureaucracy and administration absorb time and effort like thirsty sponges. We standardize, orchestrate, streamline and list, but what does it all bring us besides busyness? We end up with malls that look similar after months of reconstruction, and small sushi joints replacing other small sushi joints every six months. Maybe, we are addicted to the process, and not the result. We thrive on the business of busyness, rather than consequence.

This is the basis of our economy: the system we have adopted as a means to exist well enough on this planet and go about our days. And in perpetuating and perfecting this system, we have begun to exist in relation to the periphery of things, their outer shell, rather than their core. We have become so specific in our design, manufacture, marketing and purchasing of stereos, cameras, swimming goggles, luggage, tennis shoes, optics, (insert anything), that we deal mostly with the thin film surrounding the main event, rather than the actual thing itself. We have moved so far from the functionality of technologies like TVs or phones, focusing almost entirely on the accessories that come with them. They have become main event. When we buy a TV, for instance, it’s about width, flatness, HD, color resolution, and so forth. Three TV’s will play the same show, but the price jump is exponential based on tweaks in the accessories. It’s not whether, it’s how. A different way to get there. But you’re still getting there with a cheap, simple set. You can buy a decent tennis racquet for a reasonable price, but if you want a racquet that’s 10% better, you’ll probably pay 50% or even 100% more. Buy a plenty good DSLR camera or lens and the next model up will set you back triple the cost. Because everything – time, money, effort – is invested in the details now.

Our economy runs on getting things from 90% to 95% because that costs more than getting from 60 to 90. It runs on better things, not good things, and you’re never sure if the old system of valuation still makes sense, of what is ultimately necessary, and of when you are being tricked. Have we reached a limit? Even though everything is better, and more accessible, and easier, are we running on fumes?

OK, so I’ve enjoyed meandering down this tangential slope, but and I want to get back to my original, much simpler question now, even though this is all kind of related: how does our current ability to enjoy stuff compare to that of the past? With all our progress, technological and otherwise, can we beat the simple, timeless pleasures of a spring breeze, a swim in a summer lake, or warming beside a winter fireplace? Sure, we can fly further afield to chase particular geographic delights, but on a root level, do we enjoy things more?

I’d like to invite a couple of old, well-known witnesses, namely food and sex, to the stand now.

With all the advances in cooking, like molecular gastronomy, and fusion cuisine, does food in general taste better? Do we enjoy wine more now that we can readily drink Austrian and Argentinean varietals? Or are we again, just shifting the measurement of value to the busyness surrounding the core event of pleasure? Shifting our attention to the dining experience, the story of the winemaker, the branding?

So often, we recreate the past in the present, working hard to reclaim a sense of simplicity all our modern sensibilities have struggled to improve on. There is a return to local ingredients cooked simply to emphasize the natural flavors, to rustic settings, to young, drinkable wines. (Also in fashion, art and film, there is a return to the past, as always – the most pertinent recent example being the movie The Artist, which won the Oscar with a direct return to the silent, black and white era.) There is a circularity to our enjoyment, and perhaps, its limits are not dictated by era, but by how able any individual is, at any particular time, to be open to, and absorb pleasure.

Is sex better today than it was in the past? Do we have better orgasms now that porn is so accessible and we can watch it in high-definition? Or are we just trying to keep up with an instinctive sexual standard as life becomes more complicated, and we constantly have to navigate new social and psychological hurdles? We need shrinks to tell us how to get back to feeling ok about something as simple and inherent as sex. The longer we live, as a species and as individuals, the more rules we make up about how we do things, and when we are talking about stuff like sex and food, which have been core part of our lives since we developed consciousness, we have engineered a very curvy road to navigate.

I mean – do you think we get more out of eating and drinking and fucking than the ancient Romans or Greeks did? And don’t older traditions and experiences still fill us with the most joy: Thanksgiving turkey, outdoor barbecue, beer, fresh oysters, feasts? What about a first kiss, great sex, or falling in love?

But let’s get back to life beyond food and sex. Do you enjoy TV more nowadays? What about music, or a game of tennis? Is sleeping on a fancy mattress better than napping under a tree? What about intoxicants? As I mentioned there are thousands of brands of booze on the shelf nowadays, but do you really think the average consumer enjoys their drink more than the average guy in 1963?  Or even 1925? Same for drugs. Go designer all you want, but the indigenous peoples of South America and Africa and everywhere else were taking hallucinogens hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Do people in 3D theatres really enjoy a movie more than people did in the 30’s, when crowds ate chicken and talked throughout the show? And do people get more from watching sports in high-definition on massive TVs than people did, listening to the radio in the 20s?

Of course, there is no clear answer, but I venture to say that in each era, people have reached maximum enjoyment with the tools at their disposal. Not knowing there was anything better, they were fully invested in what was available. People would be frustrated today, with yesterday’s technology, sure, but that doesn’t mean they have it better. Of course there are obvious examples in which this is untrue, like medicine, but plenty else has respectively done the exact same thing in a different time: get the human experience to a particular, often high level.

I’ll tell you, I’ve loved every stereo I’ve ever had, mostly cause it afforded me… MUSIC! I loved the small crappy ones and the bigger ones. I loved my walkman, and now I love my iPod. The world evolves and pushes, and there’s no need to fight it, but do try to remember sometimes that it’s relative and probably good enough. A sunrise, sandwich, or game of cards: they’re still as good as they always were. Stuff will still cook in regular pots, shoes will still protect your feet without gel insoles, and shirts will cover your body.

And so, my own tangential journey comes to an end. I started with Sebald, and traveled through time to discuss pleasure and aesthetics with the business of busyness in mind, asking open-ended questions about our species, the way we enjoy things, and how globalization affects this.

In many ways, Sebald’s book is a commentary on globalization, a modern-day catchword, but obviously, a force that has always shaped our nomadic species. We can describe the book too as one of its products. I bought this copy of The Rings of Saturn in Vancouver, and read it mainly in Spain and Hong Kong (still not finished). It was originally written in German, translated into English and published in England after being printed in the USA. This one object, hence, is a perfect physical example of the trends outlined so poetically in its pages.

Anyway, read the book, it’s well worth it, and feel free to share your opinion below on any of this by adding a comment.

By E.M. Vireo

The Evolution and Globalization of Pleasure

I am currently reading The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. I don’t read much nowadays, since I’m always writing; in fact, I haven’t read a book in almost a year. I’m not done with this one yet either, but I’m impressed. It’s an interesting combination of memoir, travel writing, anecdote and nonfiction, narrated (though much of the book is handed over, in direct quotes, or excerpts from original texts, to the personalities he is discussing) by a man walking the coastline of England, telling stories about the places and things he sees on route, stripping each down into its historical, social and economical nuts and bolts. He recounts its origin and initial purpose, often following the timeline back for centuries, getting into the tiny details that have been lost to the general public about an event, object, organization, institution, or time period.

As an example, from chapter to chapter, we move effortlessly between the opium wars in China in the 1800’s, the Croatian death camps at Jasenovac in the 1940’s,and King Leopold’s unprecedented exploitation of the Congo in the late 19th century, with an account of the natural history of the herring added somewhere in-between.

Though the narrator walks the coast of England, the subject matter is very much global, as a painting hanging here today will have been painted there years ago, and an enormous exotic tree in a city park speaks to the colonization of its native country, having been brought from its distant shores as a seedling. As Sebald digs, broadens and links, we are invited to witness a compelling interrelation between all things human, and each thread is, in its way, a precursor to the rapid globalization we are witnessing today.

The book is a collection of tangential tales, based on thorough research, about the world as it was, and is; what has been lost, destroyed, taken and built; the wars that have been fought over its resources, the riches made and atrocities enacted to claim them, all delivered with a personal touch, often with the addition a reserved opinion or other postulation. Sebald has a definite bent for curiosity and coincidence, and a talent to uncover the fascinating trivia each (often apparently benign) thing in the world will reveal if probed into, and the web of occurrences it is linked to. In fact, much of what he describes is no longer visible, for example: the sparsely inhabited beach town of Dunwich, which used to be one of Middle Age Europe’s biggest trading ports, but now lies underwater, literally taken by the sea.

Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about the book; I want to talk about the idea it put in my head. Since the narrator often hazards an educated guess about what the historical characters he is describing might have experienced and felt, disliked and liked (for instance: a twenty-one year old, seafaring Joseph Conrad, spending time in Lowestoft, England, who Sebald imagines walking back home one evening from a pier while a brass band plays and a sea breeze blows), I started thinking about the aesthetics, tastes, and gratifications of the past, compared to those of the present. What humans found and find pleasure in; what satisfies and excites them, and the constant drive to evolve these elements as time passes. Yes, I know it’s a tangent, but I feel it is apt, as Sebald relies so heavily on this technique in his book: following a thread to arrive at further questions, eventually reaching somewhere new.

So, here’s the thought: how do today’s experiences, its aesthetic and sensory pleasures relate to those of the past? How do they stack up? As we have evolved, has our capacity to enjoy done so too? What have modernity, accumulated knowledge and cutting-edge technology afforded us, and what does it say about us as a species? (I know: I just cracked it right open.) What is our real motivation? Is it to improve the product, act or pastime, or are we merely trying to stay busy? Are we just following an invisible wave, the push of a trend, the silent shove of evolution, whether truly useful or not?

Let me get to examples. There is no doubt there have been incredible advances in technology, for example, in sound delivery, with ever better headphones, speakers, amps, and mixers etc. And, sure, they will deliver a better quality of sound, overall (though some argue vinyl still sounds better than a anything since, much as many will tell you that images captured on film remain better than those captured digitally). Anyway, that’s not the point, or question I am asking; this is: do you really get more from this evolved mechanism of sound delivery than you did from, say, your walkman and shitty headphones, or small tape player, back in the day?

I don’t want to focus on what is better in a head to head comparison, but on a comparing our appreciation in different time periods, what technology has made available at different times, and then, look into what that might tell us about our habits and expectations, motivations and the trends we subscribe to.

When are we satisfied (or happy? Have those two words become synonymous? Is relief the same as pleasure?) Is it about what is sufficient/good enough, about whether you are getting a good deal based on what’s available, or about the actual product or experience? Can things exist irrelevant to others, and the past? Is there any concrete value to anything? Are we just primed to want and expect more, to exchange what was good enough for what has just become so – to expect a result in relation to a certain advanced set of priorities and systems – or is the experience, now, really better?

Let me present an example from my past. When I was a wee lad, I used to catch critters for fun. I caught bumblebees in jars (jarring the flower too, to the horror of my mother), crabs on the rocks at the beach, storing them in buckets, and lizards in the grass. In each case, I always let them go unharmed, though lizards would sometimes sacrifice their tails (we all know they grow back, right!). I just liked catching and interacting with them. Anyway, I did it in my garden too. We had a large fish pond and I’d catch the goldfish, keep them in bowls and then release them again, and here we get back to advances in technology and how we perceive them. I started with a bowl alone, trying to scoop them up, then quickly moved on to a plastic colander, then a bigger, better sieve with a handle, and finally, a net. I’d store my catch in a bucket till I poured its contents back into the pond at the end of the day. The point is, once an improved tool came about, the prior one became obsolete. Now, there’s no doubt the net was more efficient than the bowl, but was the pastime: the act of catching the goldfish, seeing them swimming in the bowl, and letting them go more enjoyable? I don’t think so. Perhaps, even less so, since it took less time and presented less of a challenge. Still, once I’d progressed to the net, I couldn’t go back.

Look, some of the advances in technology are amazing and very useful. It’s pretty cool to go to the outdoor gear store and buy a six-inch rag with which you can dry your whole body, or tiny headlamp with a battery that lasts for 200 hours and can light up half the sky, and incredible to have the option of a kidney or heart transplant, but nobody even questions anymore whether they actually need the new version of the iPhone or iPad they already own, happily camping outside nights before its release, unable to wait a day when they were so into its predecessor the whole past year (how fast is that shift? Too fast?), and how many advances can there really be in sneaker, sunglass or pillow technology? I mean: there are literally teams of engineers working years to update razors, giving you an even closer shave, (seriously, – how much smoother can a shave get?) while I’m pretty sure they did it quite well with a straight razor back in the day. The new technology is instantly adopted so we can all see everything in high-definition and 3D, relieved to know there’s nothing better out yet.

And this is directly related to consumerism. We need things to buy, to build, to work on. Keeping busy drives the economy and the way we measure pleasure is ever more standardized by the accessibility of global brands and advertising’s relentless encouragement to base gratification on possessing them. And so, we approach a globalized aesthetic principle.

But things become distorted: we go to a shop to buy something and come back with ten times more, of a much higher grade, because we suddenly found out it was available and felt we had to then have it. I like to walk around the woods and look at birds and animals, and yes, I have binoculars, but I’ve noticed that nowadays, most people who walk around looking at birds are decked out in fifty shades of khaki (sorry, couldn’t resist), or camouflage, with special pants, shirts, hiking boots, hats, water bottles, backpacks and such, and special straps and adapters for them all: honestly, they look quite silly. Some of the stuff is useful and effective in certain climates and landscapes, but it seems pretty obvious that we have fallen past the point of practicality and that these outfits are based on plain consumerism. The hobby and gear are no longer separate; finding birds in the forest is just not possible anymore without looking like that. The focus is on stuff – getting stuff – even it doesn’t enhance the pastime. It’s about selling and buying stuff, and for both producer and consumer, having something to preoccupy oneself with and soon upgrade. How much is necessary and how much is better? Some of it, for sure, but how much, really?

Parenting goes back as far as we do, and just look at the baby industry of today with its clothes and toys and learning games and cots. How many types of strollers need to exist and how advanced can prams really get? Pulling a 180: have you been in a liquor store lately? There are a thousand brands of vodkas and scotches and every other liquor on the shelf but how necessary is such variety?We need to find new things, different ways to do things, and we never stop. We need to keep busy, but how much of the work has any value?

To be concluded in part 2 – let me know your thoughts so far. 

Seen from the bedroom

and another, just hanging around, cause seriously, can you ever get enough of monkeys?

check out the nuts on this guy!

yeah- this was from the bedroom – you have got to love Panama.