Aug 09 2016

Pokémon NO! A Defense of UNaugmented Reality
by Farwell Forrest

Sunrise with Seamonsters

Speaking from personal experience, I can readily affirm that being half‑blind has its advantages. For one thing, I can no longer see much of the plastic trash that litters local trails and waters. And that’s not the only upside. The Turneresque fog through which I now view the world also obscures the recent clearcuts scarring many Adirondack forests. These clearcuts aren’t limited to privately owned and managed timberlands, either. In recent years, New York has itself chosen to turn a half‑blind eye to the “forever wild” clause in the state constitution, the better to construct a network of snowmobile superhighways (aka Class II Community Connector Trails) through the heart of the Adirondack Park. The local Chambers of Commerce hope that the resulting swarms of lead‑footed “sledders” will leave drifts of dollars in their wake, drifts deep enough to gladden the heart of every convenience store operator and tavern owner in the mountains. But are these bullish expectations likely to be realized? There’s good reason to be skeptical. At a time when snowless winters bid fair to become the Adirondack norm, the state’s decision to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to build raceways for snow machines seems little better than a reckless gamble.

In any case, this latest orgy of state‑sponsored tree‑felling and road‑building in notionally “protected” forests is just one small manifestation of a much larger and more pervasive phenomenon: the unchallenged dominance of mass consumerism in the economies of the developed world. And nothing better exemplifies our enslavement to the ethos of perpetual consumption than the Pokémon GO craze. Who would have thought that sane adults would devote their free time to the pursuit of imaginary — but reassuringly cuddly — monsters, creatures conjured up out of nothing and then plopped down among the suburbs, strip malls, and office towers that characterize the 21st century’s built environment? Not I.

Still, my failure to anticipate the newest new big thing is easily explained… Read more…


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Aug 09 2016

Wild Swimmers Take the Plunge — Managing Risk

Taking the Plunge

As I noted last month, paddling and swimming are natural complements. What could be more refreshing than a cool dip after a hot day on the water? But “wild swimming” — swimming in natural waters far from the benign supervision of lifeguards — is not without its risks, and I outlined them in my earlier column. Still, there’s no delight without some danger, is there? And it’s important to keep things in perspective. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can kill you, and the family car will speed one in every 124 Americans into an untimely grave.* The risks to wild swimmers are as nothing by comparison.

That said, it’s smart to do what you can to keep the odds on your side. So this time around, I’m going to suggest ways to make wild swimming as safe as it is joyous… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Aug 09 2016

Kayaking for the Fun of It: Readers Speak Out

Messing About in Boats

Canoeing has long been seen as everyman’s — pace, sisters — sport, a “Grandpa takes the kids fishing on Golden Pond” sort of thing. Kayaking, on the other hand, is often depicted as a never‑ending adrenaline high. In countless freesheets and local papers, canoeists are pictured drifting lazily on sunset‑reddened waters, while kayakers are almost invariably snapped in action, frequently poised in mid‑air, halfway down a 20‑foot drop.

The obvious conclusion? You’re either an old duffer — in which case a canoe is the boat for you — or you’re a young athlete, and therefore a natural kayaker. This neat, binary ordering has all the attractions of simplicity, but like many other obvious things, it’s wildly inaccurate. Any paddler who actually looks around her while she’s spending a lazy summer day on Golden Pond will notice a lot of kayakers on the water, few of whom fit the “adrenaline junkie” stereotype. And a quick, informal survey at the local Mallmart will likely reveal plenty of activity around the colorful displays of kayaks and sit‑on‑tops. (I’m not sure if a SOT is a kayak without a deck or decked boat that you sit on, rather than in, but whichever way you look at it, SOTs would appear to be closer to kayaks than canoes.)

The bottom line? Kayaks have shed their extreme sport image and paddled their way into the mainstream of American consciousness. And as I’ve already had occasion to note, this is a very good thing:

Kayaking could be a sport for Everyman (and Everywoman). It ticks all the boxes. It’s inexpensive, quick to learn, and a great deal of fun. … [So d]on’t stand on the sidelines looking on enviously while others have a splashing good time. Take paddle in hand and join the party. It’s never too late to set off on a voyage of discovery.

When I wrote this, I had no idea that it would generate much mail. But it did, and with the permission of the readers whose letters I’ll be quoting, I’m going to pass along a representative sample, beginning at the beginning, with a note on becoming a kayaker… Read more…


Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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