Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Radiant Glow of the Redneck Subculture

Subcultures arise from their primary host cultures either by forced marginalization or by shared interests that deviate from the cultural mainstream. When I was growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, the only obvious American subcultures were defined by ethnicity, religion or economic status. However, when I entered college in the late 60’s, the vibrant hippie subculture emerged.

Defined by music, art, fashion, drug experimentation and a philosophy of peace, it came to be identified as a “counterculture,” because it was in direct opposition to the mainstream of the time. This opposition let to a politicizing of the movement, which fractured it, and the pieces scattered to the winds like dandelion seeds. Who would guess that those seeds would germinate decades later?

Today there is a drug subculture, a wide variety of art, fashion and music subcultures, and philosophies are a dime a dozen. The vast, impartial presence of the Internet has enabled subcultures to flourish like never before. I’m constantly amazed by the odd groups people form that seem to have little appeal.

This week we visited my brother-in-law for Thanksgiving. He’s a classic redneck, with two RVs parked in his full-acre back yard. One runs, the other functions as a clubhouse for his sons, where they can play violent Xbox games and listen to loud, offensive music in air-conditioned comfort free from parental supervision. The boys also like to tear around on ATVs – yet another odd subculture. I understand dirt bikes, but 4-wheelers? I don’t get it at all.


My brother-in-law’s property is full of citrus trees, like this grapefruit tree groaning under the weight of ripe fruit.


Nobody in his house eats grapefruit, so we were encouraged to take all we could carry. My nephew helped with the harvest.


At the far end of the back yard there is a burn pit, and my brother-in-law throws every piece of wood and brush onto it until it gets too big.


Then, usually when there is company in the house, he waits until dark and burns it. The pile goes up in an intense, towering column of fire, and my brother-in-law runs around it with a hose, trying to keep it from spreading.



We stood around sipping cold drinks and looking at the stars, and then a totally new subculture was revealed to me.

It seems that my sister-in-law has discovered something called “glow parties,” where people get together to exercise in the dark, using various types of gear that are illuminated by LEDs. One type is something called Poi Balls, which are swung around in rhythmic patterns.


It’s hypnotic to watch, because the persistence of vision effect renders the balls as swooping, multicolored loops in the air.

Another example is the LED hula-hoop, which my sister-in-law demonstrated.



While people were playing with the hula-hoop and the Poi Balls, I found myself wishing that such technology had been available back in the late 60s. It would have been well-received, I think.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Can't Talk About It

You may have noticed a long period during which I haven’t blogged. In part, this was due to my recovery from Shingles, a process that is far from complete. I didn’t feel like writing.

But lots of things have happened that are worth writing about. The problem is, I can’t write about them.

This is because the events of the past month or so are related to experiences at work. Yes, I have a real job. And it’s a real job in an industry that takes itself very seriously. The kind of industry that fires people for writing about their job experiences.

Trust me, there have been events of high drama and outrageous humor. Events involving people who hold elevated corporate positions and would not like to read about themselves. It is killing me to not write about it.

Instead, I have to content myself with the comparatively mundane events that take place outside of work, and those events just don’t seem to measure up. It’s hard to feel inspired by my silly, predictable life when I go to work and it’s like watching Clash of the Titans.

So here are a couple of quotes from my lunkhead brother (I’ll call him Albert).

ALBERT: “Hey Tim. Do you ever go online and check the value of your house? My house is worth less than I paid for it! I’m getting screwed!”

Apparently, Albert has been living under a rock.

ALBERT: “Hey Tim. A message keeps appearing on my computer saying that there’s something wrong with Internet Explorer. What the hell is Internet Explorer?”

TIM: “It’s a program you use to go on the Internet.”

ALBERT: “No, I use AOL.”

Yep, under a rock.