I’m late because I had to go to Arizona to collect some rent yesterday. On the way, I started seeing double, and the faster I drove, that is, the faster my field of vision slipped past me, the worse it got. No way that’s a problem at 80 mph, is it? Something to do with sinus congestion, I believe. Swiftly may it pass.
Besides contemplating language in general, I’ve also been thinking about ways to be genuine. Successful artists of any stripe are those who are simply true to themselves whatever else happens. Which makes me think: what am I, then?
Well, I have never had what most people would call a “real” problem in my life. I had pneumonia once, M, M, and R. Hepatitis A, Pertussis, and a bunch of broken bones, all of which cause problems, but only the temporary sort that go away with care and time. If you look at that list, you’ll see that I was born before the vaccines for those diseases became available. Why anyone would want to contract one of those when one doesn’t have to is beyond me, but I digress. Those have been my problems. Well, that and the fact that mom was too cheap to let me buy the briefcase I wanted in elementary school. Or the pool table I wanted for Christmas (I told Santa he could set it up in the basement, for cat’s sake!) I wrote a song about this situation, I call it the I Ain’t Got No Troubles Blues. I sang it as part of a stand-up bit, and it worked.
I’ve always been led to believe that the best artists suffer, either for the art, or their art arises out of their suffering. Which means that a guy like me, a man of great privilege, probably can’t be a good artist of any sort. I’m more of a Nero type, maybe, but not really an artist.
Or am I?
Well, you tell me. It’s as existential as I can get, given my fortunate upbringing. I am, I must admit, fascinated as to where this line of thought will ultimately lead. Stay tuned, dear readers (you know, both of you.) We’ll find out together.
There’s nothing special in the frame; it’s just a view of the hotel’s (Marriott Northwest in Smyrna) tent like ballroom on the left, and rear parking area and driveways on the right. The rain, however, is the subject. During our time in Atlanta they received something on the order of 3 inches of rain. This led to our choosing a whole lot of indoor activities. Only the final day, the one where we left town in the evening, was sunny part of the time. That’s when we went to the zoo.
What to do indoors in Metro Atlanta? Well, the first afternoon we were confused, as one gets, by the long trip, so we went to a movie. We saw the live-action Cinderella from Disney, which is in fact a very good movie, but that’s about all we accomplished, other than that I watched Letterman through the Top Ten for probably the last time. (I fall asleep too early on the West Coast.
The next day we were out and about. Ah, yes. To wit, here is a photograph we had taken of ourselves with a familiar advertising icon:
Almost shockingly, our hotel featured Pepsi, but that was the only Pepsi I saw for sale during our stay in Atlanta. Tami kept asking at restaurants whether they had Pepsi or Coke. I don’t drink a lot of soda pop , but I wouldn’t have bothered. Coca Cola is a huge presence in Atlanta. We were just ahead of a large group of school kids in getting to see that bear, for example. The World of Coca Cola is a major draw, with busses cramming the streets surrounding the place. It’s worth a visit, even if you, however unlikely it seems, prefer Pepsi. (Some people must.)
They have a room full of memorabilia from the past century and a half, a movie that is guaranteed to make a turnip feel good, then you can meet the bear, and finally you’re free to roam exhibits including a slow bottling line (from which they give you a bottle as you exit) and a place where you can design your own Coke bottle. Yes, really. Here’s mine:
*** By the way, all of the photos on this post were taken with a Droid Maxx. Apple, as usual, lies by omission. It isn’t so much the camera as how you process the image afterwards that makes it good or bad. ***
I barely got that photo taken because somebody else sat down as I stood up, but I got it. There is a room where they screen ads from all over the world (kind of a yawner after a couple of minutes, to be honest) and at the end a tasting room where you can sample any of their products from anywhere. The best were a couple of apple-flavoured sodas (from places where they spell that way) and the worst, by miles, was a bitter drink from Italy. It took several hits of other beverages, finishing up with a Sprite and a Coke, to get that awful taste out of my mouth. I never saw the stuff when we were in Italy. If I ever do, I won’t buy it. Yoiks!
Sharing a plaza with World of Coca Cola is the Civil Rights Center (not included in our Atlanta City Pass so I haven’t seen it) and the Atlanta Aquarium. It’s a nice aquarium, but the screeching of the small kids got to us in the end and we ran away. Tami took all of the pictures there, but it was the usual stuff: sharks, rays, colorful fish, river displays, you know, aquarium stuff.
That evening we ate at a place called Sugar Cakes Patisserie in Marietta. I’ve never tasted better bread. The rest of the food is also excellent. If you’re ever in that area, I highly recommend the place. It’s right on Marietta Square, same side as the theater.
Saturday Tami gave an all-day workshop and I wrote. We ate at an Italian place in Smyrna, the name of which I’ve forgotten, but it was good, and authentic.
Next day we found the art museum. It’s a nice museum, formally called the High Museum of Art. It seemed fitting, somehow, that the most prominent temporary exhibit was devoted to the 100th anniversary of the first iconic Coke bottle. Yep, more Coca Cola. (Kudos to the person who sold our hotel on Pepsi.) Here are several of the things we saw there, by no means all.
They have a large collection of mid-century items, some of them simply furniture, but all of them lovely. They have some contemporary art that is interesting, as well as some of those items that look as if the artist is just screwing around trying to see if he can get people to pay for trash. DuChamp could get away with that, people. You need to come up with something fresh!
Monday was the day we came home, but not until 8 pm. Prior to that we visited the zoo, It’s a nice little zoo, not too big. Took us a couple of hours to see it all. Animals, you know. Here’s a photo of a pensive one:
We’ll never know, I suppose. He held that pose for quite a while. The cutest things were their pandas, including two young ones born in 2013.
After the Zoo we went to the Atlanta History Center. Apparently, I took no photos. I did have an excellent sandwich in the Swan Carriage House restaurant. There are two historic houses, one built on site, the other a relocated farm built in the 1860s. The museum houses various exhibits, the most moving of which is about the Civil War, particularly how it affected Atlanta and the rest of the South. Like all wars, it’s more sad than anything, but of course Atlanta is famous for having been utterly destroyed by Sherman. They did rebuild, though, so no worries these days. It is, in fact, a beautiful city and well worth a visit. I expect that you’ll like it better, though, if you decide to drink Coke. 😉
I don’t mean the John C. Calhoun who was a Confederate advocate prior to the Civil War. I mean the John C. Calhoun who was anÂ adviserÂ to President Nixon on issues of mental health. My John C. Calhoun was essentially a biologist specializing in mammalian behavior. Okay, in how mammals act and why.
Assuming they have any, you can still buy a copy of his Space and the Strategy of Life. It’s way out of print. I got a copy for free from the man himself because somebody clued me into the secret method of getting one. That was, write him a postcard by hand asking for it. Now that, if you will, is sort of odd. But it was fitting, given what his research uncovered. My copy is just a photocopied reprint of a manuscript, I imagine you get covers and everything with the book.
Calhoun determined that any group of mammals has an optimum size. For different species the optimum number is different. For rabbits, it’s a lot. Really a lot. For humans, it’s eighteen. The optimum number seems to relate to how much food can be gathered and distributed, how much space the individuals need for their activities and things like that. For any mammal, when the number of group members gets close to twice the optimum, the group splits in two, hey no hard feelings, and now there are two optimum groups. Lucky groups, I suppose you could call them, keep splitting off and splitting off. Of course, sooner or later, if a species is really successful, it runs out of room to keep splitting in two.
In most cases, if that happens, then some groups just have to go. As in get killed off by other groups. Humans sometimes indulge in that solution, but mostly we don’t. Instead, we add a layer of complexity to our social lives so that we only meet roughly the same number of people we’d meet in an optimally sized group. That’s where social class comes from. After a while, not even that is sufficient, so we add layers of layers. By using these artificial seeming social dividers, we humans can endure population numbers that would be inconceivable to many species.
This relates to politics because, if you think about it, something has to give every time the population of a group of humans reaches eighteen times a power of two. At 36 (18 x 2) you either split, or come up with a class system. At 72 (18 x 4) you can so that again. Before you know it, you’ve got separate villages, a principality, a kingdom, an empire, each adding a layer and keeping individuals only meeting a manageable number of other people. How do you live in a city? You ignore the people you meet on the street unless you have actual business with them, or they are friends in another context. Sure, you’re all in New York or whatever, and you may be a heckuva bunch, but you keep out of each others’ business, because you have to to survive.
So, say your population is approaching 2,359,293, which is 18 times 2 raised to the 17th power. Go ahead and add it up, if you wish. Like say you live in the Las Vegas area, which population recently topped the 2 million mark. Hey, we’re getting close. It would be reasonable to expect that some tensions are developing, right? Well, some are. The City of North Las Vegas is in financial trouble and so is now using the County Jail to hold suspects for trial or whatever. There is talk of consolidating Fire Departments, also. As Calhoun points out, England and Scotland became the United Kingdom when their population was right, although that’s not obvious in a historical reading. In the same manner, Southern Nevada is having a crisis of government, where consolidation seems like the key to saving money all around. It is (gasp) another layer of government, but it also is being, mostly, welcomed. In the business world, all of us are eagerly awaiting the full consolidation of licensing. It isn’t fun paying a fee here, a fee there, another one over somewhere. What is being put together is a method to pay all license fees at the same time, and to one entity. Whee-doggie. Dang, biological destiny at work!
And, what if your population has recently exceeded 301,989,888? Like, say, the population of the United States of America did in recent years? Would you expect that things might be up in the air? Maybe a fairly significant number of people wouldn’t be happy with the way things are going? Maybe even that some people would simply go into denial about what’s happening and, oh I don’t know, say that they want to “Take Back The Country?” Why yes, you would expect that. And so, here we are. The problem for the super-conservative crowd is that there is no going back. They can learn to accept what the country has become, or they can fade into historical insignificance. That, friends, is why “Current Politics” is in the title. The question now isn’t whether we let all the immigrants vote or whatever, the question is whether we use their skills to keep America great. That’s what we’ve always done during past similar crises, and I’m pretty sure that is what we will do this time. Of course, I have been wrong before, but I’m pretty confident that we’ll come through the current crisis (which may get worse before it gets better) just fine.
*****Aside about creativity.*****
I said that getting an article from John C. Calhoun involved a hand-written postcard. That’s because he also discovered that people who move through a group quickly interact with a lot more other people during the day, while people who move through a group slowly interact with a lot fewer other people during the day. And, further, that “high velocity” people, meeting lots of other people, tend to be influential but not creative, whereas “low velocity” people, much more solitary (in general) tend to be creative but not influential. (This is Â true in most species, not just humans.) Calhoun chose to be creative, which is why only an old-fashioned slow means of communication worked. Today, if any form of art is done by committee, no matter how much brainstorming and cross-checking they do, it’s going to more or less suck. Real art is the result of real creativity, and that, my friends, requires a passle of alone time. Which explains why nerdy folks like Jobs, Gates, and Zukerberg stomped all over corporate giants like Xerox and IBM in building the modern Internet. Bottom line: if you want to construct something that basically is a known quality, like a skyscraper or city hall, form a committee. If you want good art and innovation, be alone, be very alone.