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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Non-conformist Blues

On the R

When we're walking the cables, most people passing by completely ignore us, or at least pretend to. Of the few people who smile or seem to watch with interest, I'd say more than half of them are obviously not Kiwis, which says something when you consider most of the people who pass us by are Kiwis. The third category of response comes exclusively from Kiwis, and this is some phrase or another yelled at us from a passing car window, or across the street from a pedestrian, and though I rarely catch the exact words, it usually sounds disapproving in one form or another.

Today I was walking the cables alone. One Indian woman in a car smiled as she drove by. A Kiwi bloke in a large SUV yelled something in a disapproving tone ending in "cable". And a middle-aged Kiwi woman said something loudly to me from across the street as she walked by, and though I heard her correctly I couldn't quite believe my ears so I said "pardon me?" and she repeated "you don't have to do that, do you?"


For lack of a better response, I said "you're kidding, right?" And she said "no, you're going to break it. It would be very sad if you broke it." At which point I realized the guy earlier must have said "you're going to break the cable". All I could respond, given that the cable in question could probably lift a house, was "you're kidding, right?" She never did break stride, and by then I had fallen out of her window of concern.

Now, I could be optimistic and assume they were concerned about the fasteners that hold the cable to the posts. In fact, one of them is missing (since before we arrived), no doubt rusted off, and so the cable is held in place there by a couple of large nails pounded into the post and bent upward. Even those nails have held our weight just fine--often two of us at once. The fasteners by comparison are thick steel. And if one is rusted through, probably better we break it off now and save somebody's tail-bone later anyway.

But I digress. I have no interest in breaking anything and I can appreciate people's concern about this. I just wish they weren't so stupid about it. And I wish they showed even just a little appreciation for creative uses. One point in favor of the Kiwis, two points against.

Another subtler issue I run into everywhere is the long hair thing. (Just ask Hunter how the Kiwis feel about long hair on men.) When and why did it become fashionable for men to keep short hair in the first place? Is it a side-effect of the military? Or perhaps simply of the industrial age, due to the hazards of long hair and machinery? Here is North Korea's opinion on the matter:

NORTH Korea has launched an intensive media assault on its latest enemy - long hair.

A campaign exhorting men to get a short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run television.

The series is entitled Let us Trim our Hair in Accordance with Socialist Lifestyle.

While the campaign has been carried out primarily on television, reports have appeared in North Korean press and radio, urging tidy hairstyles and proper attire.


It stressed the "negative effects" of long hair on "human intelligence development", noting that long hair "consumes a great deal of nutrition" and could thus rob the brain of energy.

And ties, no doubt, help keep the nutrients from falling out of your brain and into your feet. At last, I understand.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com