Bryan Lindenberger

Résumé, portfolio, published articles and more at BryanBerg.net

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Las Vegas: For the Locals



There's a reason Las Vegas, Nevada is my favorite city in the US and - if I were better traveled - the world.

It's that so many people think it has to be the most shallow place on the planet. From big-suited business leaders to self-professed intellectuals, everyone knows Las Vegas represents the lowest of the low-brow.

Let's crush that fallacy here.
Bonnie springs ranch railroad crossing sign
My first job in Vegas, early 20s, was as a porter. Which meant I'd do anything for a tip. One of the things I was told to do was dig holes and plant plastic palm trees. So cheesy. So lowbrow. How Vegas is that?

Thing is, I wasn't planting fake, non-indigenous trees and soon dressing them in lights for us.

I was planting them for you

Same goes for the gambling, magic shows, all-u-can-eat-buffets, 24/7 alcohol, strip clubs, faux city resorts and landmarks, and the A-to-Z "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" tongue-in-cheek naughty mentality. None of it is done for Vegas resident. It's for you.

Las Vegas is America without the facade of good taste, but that's done for you.

So what's it like living there? What were our off-hours amusements?

The arts. When it comes to film festivals or even independent films shown regularly at the local theater, I've never seen such quantity and variety outside of cities ten times the size of Vegas, including D.C. metro.

The outdoors. Ever ski and sunbathe on the same day? How about hikes that include Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, Painted Desert, and others plus a beach with boating?

Culture. Food, festivals, community, and true diversity - I'm sure there are more truly diverse places somewhere, but I haven't been to any. Certainly not for under $800 rent.

Other recreation. Vegas's neighborhoods are well funded for their price thanks to tourism. I was surprised to find that similarly priced neighborhoods outside of Vegas don't offer a plethora of green zones, biking trails, sports courts, and other funday healthy activities within walking distance of the front door.

Blue collar intellectuals. Yes, you can philosophize with any urban professor about anything. I like people easily just as smart but with callouses. Within a few months of living in Vegas, don't be surprised if you're at a party with a construction worker, entertainer, top-notch chef, taxi-driver, photographer, and software engineer as well-read or better than your favorite college prof...but with a clue.

The tourist experience. Sure, it's fun to head downtown or to the boulevard once in awhile. Even locals like to get silly and behave like one of the more "cultured" outsiders too...eating, gambling, spending and acting the provincial fool. But not that often. It's an occasional thing. No airline tickets are required.

For my part, I found some of the best meals, arts, hiking, company, conversation, diversity, entrepreneurial inspiration, community, neighbors, and work while in Vegas.

I learned how to plant a plastic palm tree to make the tourists feel welcome and not take a whole lot too seriously.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On Chaos and Determinism

Common Buckeye Butterfly

Hero of mine, chaos theory pioneer Edward Lorenz, gifted us with the term “butterfly effect.” Simple idea – the slight atmospheric disturbance created by the flap of a butterfly’s wings could, through a chain of events, result in a typhoon or hurricane 10,000 miles away.

What the meteorologist was attempting to explain was why long-term weather predictions were so infeasible.

Edward Norton Lorenz (wiki)

Popularly used in fiction including time travel stories, this “butterfly effect” has come to be construed as how the smallest thing, a single person, can change the course of history.

My interpretation is not only different, but contrary: deterministic.

The point isn’t that a butterfly’s wings “causes” a hurricane, but rather that conditions are set so that the slightest catalyst will put the wheels in motion. If not the butterfly, then the wave of a child’s hand or the sneeze of a mouse.

This is not to say there is no free will – I won’t argue either way – but the actions of an individual are more akin to tossing a pebble in a pond. It creates some ripples, the ripples spread but are absorbed by time...the pond itself. No one expects that tossing a pebble in a pond will cause a tidal wave.

(Massive forest fires are another example, where a “cause” is always attributed as an object of blame. If it’s not a lightening strike, it’s a poorly doused campfire. Or perhaps an indiscriminate smoker. But the conditions are predetermined; the catalyst is arbitrary.)

Reacquainting myself with events that led to the Great War, I’m struck by what I was taught in school, namely that there were two “causes.” First the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which even my teachers didn’t take all that seriously. He had no legal heir to throne, there was not great uproar over his death. So to add some validity, the second posited cause was “ultra-nationalism” - nationalism being a common pariah among globalists.

Again, rather than a preventable cause, I see something more deterministic. If a vastly growing Russian army had been tolerable to Germany, the Franco-Russo Entente could not have been. Austria-Hungary and the feuding nationalists in the Balkans aside, virtually each day Germany found itself in a position where not to attack in a likely unwinnable war also increased the likelihood of – in the long run – being erased from the map.

Patterns on spider abdomen
To this second point, stunned again to rediscover how hard – in fact, how desperately – royalty among the eventual combatant nations (many of them related by blood or marriage) fought to avoid widespread conflict. For that matter, even the military elite, where you always find doves and hawks, tended to cancel each other out at worst and lean toward limited actions for the most part.

If Ferdinand had not been assassinated in 1914, war was still determined. Perhaps a few years later, but inevitable. Pebbles do not create (or prevent) tidal waves.

More bluntly, Edward Lorenz never argued that killing butterflies would prevent hurricanes.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Art beyond self-absorption?

Has gone on for years, listening to NPR to and from work. An hour each way in Florida, 11 minutes each way in Georgia. Six minutes in Nebraska.
Often some artist on, and always the same. "This is his/her or [most often] MY most deeply personal work."
About their lives, their loves, their loss. But always: "So-and-so's most deeply personal album [book, art exhibit, poetry collection] yet."
By being "personal" we assume the art is more genuine. Self-reflection is deep.
Then I suppose American pop culture would expect the deepest thinker, the truest artist in all time, to be Narcissus.
Wait...what?
The tale of Narcissus has lasted a very long time in popular because there is a truth to it.
One of the better popular phrases to come along since "narcissism" is probably "virtue signaling." No other word or phrase cuts it, and I sure as hell do it too. The US flag in my Facebook moniker, for instance. There's certainly no political divide when it comes to virtue signaling. Or narcissism.
I think we have plenty of "personal" art. Political art too. That's never been an approach I've favored, and we've got a glut of self-absorption in most art, all media, and across the aisle.
If the market is full of something, spilling over the brim, if anyone with merely the means can do it, it's no longer art.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Random Text Jargon Generator - MBA in Marketing Edition

Confound your co-workers!
Astound your friends!
Sound in control despite having no idea what is going on!

Try out the Random Jargon Generator for Business and #Marketing.

Could be a raise in it, if you don't get fired first.

Those Monday morning meetings will never be the same.

Amateur, free, and just for fun. :-)