Thursday, October 09, 2008

On priorities,

Environment, in the broadest sense of the word, tends to dominate my psyche. While this is perhaps a truism in that pertains to everyone with five functioning senses, my surroundings can hold sway over my mood and thoughts in a nearly Obsessive-Compulsive sort of way. My medium matters. Aesthetics, for me, has consequences. Not surprisingly, this has broad-ranging effects, from where I choose to study (window table in a coffee shop vs. the school library with its sterility and florescent lighting) to how I vote. One of the outworkings of this obsession is a sensitive appreciation for (infatuation with?) the natural environment, honed both by said psyche and growing up in a region that did not take much effort to love. And so it follows, of course, that my political priorities will be (admittedly, potentially unduly) dominated by questions of how best to preserve and protect what little pristine environment remains. It also means that there is a values disconnect between myself and those who do not share the same appreciation. It is one thing to talk about taking care of the environment from some detached, platonic, I-know-we-ought-to sort of standpoint. It is another to feel the value of wilderness in one's soul.

This is part of the reason why I do not trust those who say that drilling in ANWR will do little to harm that environment. I do not sense, in the pro-drilling articles I have read, that there is any sort of remorse or reluctance involved. There is no sign that those who wish to drill there wish that they did not have to. Rather, I get the distinct sense that there is little qualitative difference, for them, between wilderness and a thinned forest cut through with logging roads and torn up by bulldozers. That ANWR will be essentially unchanged in essence by the drilling process. Put simply, I believe that the issue here centers on a sharp disjunction in values rather than simply the means of attaining what are supposedly shared values.

For those who are interested, Patagonia's website has this helpful section to help with voting decisions. They also posted this video for thought:

And just for fun, also from Patagonia, here's Sonnie Trotter taking some fine whippers onto trad gear on Rhapsody, a 5.14c in Scotland (click on Begin, head into the Tin Shed, and then click on the climber photo).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Here's Some Political Commentary, For Your Entertainment

I know this has been floating around for nearly a month now, but a few too many people haven't seen it yet. So here's some political fun to start the week . . .

Thursday, September 04, 2008

On Bulldogs

Although I've had access to television of late (a rarity), I didn't watch much of either the Republican or Democratic convention, mainly because watching politics doesn't give me much motivation to care about politics. It's easier (and less maddening) to skim the newspaper, pick up Newsweek, or look at the views of the candidates online. Party conventions are a little too propagandizing, a little too reminiscent of watching those black and white clips of a Hitler Youth Rally. That said, I did see a bit of Obama's speech last week, and last night I caught the end of Giuliani's tirade, as well as most of Palin's acceptance speech.

Obama's speech, as might be expected, was hopeful (yep). I'm not into the political thing enough to feel like I can give an intelligent assessment of whether this is just fluffy idealism (as the Republican contingent incessantly points out). Likewise, I'm not really able to give anything more than a superficial critique of either candidates' respective policies. This is not a pretext for political laziness. Rather, the ability to make intelligent argument about political policy is, unfortunately enough, beyond the reach of most Americans (regardless of their intellect). As with any field of knowledge, the ability to have an informed opinion about politics comes only with a significant amount of combined scholarship and real-life experience in the field. This is, in most cases, available only to those who have chosen to make it a career (i.e., politicians, lobbyists, scholars, etc.). The rest of us, when attempting to speak confidently about such complex issues, are mainly just talking out our asses.

With that, however, I think I have a couple valid avenues of criticism (at least in regard to my personal values). Take, for example, the general concept of valuing the earth, from keeping the environment we humans live in both healthy (for us) and beautiful to the concept that the relatively little wilderness that remains ought to be preserved. I am not attempting to argue the validity of this broader value. I know there are many who would repudiate it as an ideal, yet for what it's worth both parties at least claim to have (somewhat) of an environmental ideal (I even heard FOX news try to claim Palin was an environmentalist before her nomination was announced last week). My concern is the vagueness of that ideal as it is expressed from the Republican party. While on the one hand it is recognized that we ought to protect the environment, value wilderness, etc., there is, as far as I can see, no active effort to do so from the McCain campaign (the Bush administration, of course, being beside the point on this issue). The vitriolic chants of "drill baby, drill" while Giuliani was speaking didn't convince me that there was going to be one, either. Even if one were convinced that drilling in ANWR were a necessity for our nation's well-being, I would expect some sense of remorse in doing so from anyone that actually understood the value of wilderness. The same point could be made about the health care system. I'm not convinced of any one solution to our health care woes, but as one who's at least spent a little time working in the system, I know it's broken, and that changes need to be made. So while the Obama plan may or may not be the best solution to the problem, I think it's highly problematic that there's not really much recognition that there even is a problem from McCain and the Republican Party.

While I am not necessarily hopeful (sorry Barack) that many (or any) of these problems will be solved if Obama and Biden win in November, there is at least some comfort in knowing they'll at least be issues that are still on the table of discussion.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Back, again.

Having made the transition into year four of medical school, taken and comfortably passed Step II of the board exam, and wrapped up a couple of the harder rotations scheduled for this academic year (yep, and it's only August), things are slowing down finally, and with that I thought I'd revisit the blogging world. Appropriately enough (in the context of previous posts), I've been rereading David James Duncan's The River Why for the past month or so. I'd wanted something comfortable, familiar, and hopeful given the scarcity of free time available to me over the past few months, and The River Why perfectly fits that bill. So I thought I'd throw in a quote from the book . . . both because it is pertinent to my current thoughts on life and how to live it, and because it somehow seems appropriate that a return to this blog should begin with a return to Mr. Duncan.

". . . Now, who do you suppose made you from a configuration of molecules into the living fisherman you are today?"
"I wish I knew," I said.
"Excellent!" said Titus. "And who controls your destiny, decides whether you shall be happy or miserable, long-lived or short, infamous or famous, erudite or acrimonious and so on and so forth?"
"Wish I knew that, too."
Very good!" he exclaimed. "And who will decide when your body has become an unfit habitation for that which enlivens it and will one day consign it to a crematorium, river bottom, or wormy grave?"
"Wish I knew that, too," I said, "but why do you holler 'excellent!' and 'very good!' when I say I wished I knew? Don't you expect me to say 'God does it' or 'My soul does it'?"
Titus looked aghast. "Gus! I'm a philosopher, not an
evangelist! It's the 'wish I knew' that's crucial. To say 'God does it' and leave it at that is to abandon the search before it's begun. To really want the truth, to long for it desperately, is to reject every formulation and theory and dogma and opinion right up to the time you see and touch and unite with the Being or Thing itself! Nobody ever discovers truth by barfing up sunday-school answers to questions . . . but where were we?" (181)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Not that anybody (including me) ever checks this blog, but . . .

. . . if you stumble upon it check out Dean Potter taking slacklining to the next level (and with help from the New York Times, climbing publicity--or at least notoriety--up a notch as well). Looks more fun than school, anyhow. The article can be read here (but it's not as fun as just watching the film).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Also, Here's My Favorite Music from 2007 (For those who don't frequent Facebook)

Fifteen Terrific Albums From 2007, In Order of Increasing Degree of Terrificness:
15. From Here We Go Sublime (The Field)
14. Wincing the Night Away (The Shins)
13. Cassadega (Bright Eyes)
12. The Stage Names (Okkervil River)
11. Person Pitch (Panda Bear)
10. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer (Of Montreal)
9. Cease to Begin (Band of Horses)
8. Writer's Block (Peter Bjorn and John)
7. Challengers (The New Pornographers)
6. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Modest Mouse)
5. Friend and Foe (Menomena)
4. The Shepherd's Dog (Iron and Wine)
3. In Rainbows (Radiohead)
2. Neon Bible (Arcade Fire)
1. Boxer (The National)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Little Something to Keep You Going If You're in the Hospital All The Time

Pretty self-explanatory. Especially worth noting is the tumble taken around 2:40.

That said, yeah I'm back in school until I (presumably) become a doctor in May of 2009, and yeah it's been a bit of an adjustment and no there probably won't be all that many blog posts for the next few months. In the meantime I dream of mountains with lots of snow . . .