the show: 02-05-07
[Intro: a high-speed toboggan ride down a snowy hill ends with four sports racers holding a sign reading "ASS-SLAPIN' AWSOME"]
Good evening sports racers, and congratulations to the quack attack for their 8.99 second run in the national tobaggon championship. I think you've managed to make the phrase ass slapping awesome proud.
This week is a travel week, and I'm in San Francisco which, as you know, is five hours behind every other place in the world. Because of this natural phenomenonon this weeks shows may appear to be late. So, now ya know, but let's play that makes me think of.
So, San Francisco, as you may or may not know, is on the edge of the pacific ocean. Over the weekend I was walking along this edge at a place called Ocean Beach.
In 1908, of course, Ocean Beach won the least creative name for a public space ever contest coming in just ahead of Green Park in London.
On that beach, young children were making things that kind of looked like castles by pushing together tiny grains of silicon dioxide. Annoying parents stood by to tell the children what castles did, and did not, look like. The end product was often intricate with buttresses, ornamental shells, and sharp defined corners.
For a moment the children could step back and say "this is a castle," and very few people would argue with them, but being on the edge of an ocean, beaches also sometimes have waves.
These waves often started somewhere far away, and are the result of many incremental forces. As they approach the shore they have a certain inevitability to them. Waves don't really give a crap what a castle is supposed to look like, and they don't really give a crap about the children that made those castles.
In fact, waves aren't really capable of giving a crap at all. When they're done, the waves leave behind a clump that's soft and rounded that doesn't really look like a castle anymore. It looks like something, but we don't really have a word for it.
On Ocean Beach some people get tired of building sand castles and choose to interact with the waves directly.
Some people just hang out and bob up and down. Other people float on things that are filled with air, but everyone knows it's the surfers that really know what's goin' on. Besides the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is also on the edge of something else.
To the south, in silicon valley, hundreds of thousands of people play on the leading edge of technology.
As they struggle to make a name for themselves on that beach they're also confronted by waves. Waves that started awhile ago and are the result of many incremental forces.
Some people push together a whole bunch of little bits so that they kind of resemble places that we're familiar with. Annoying people stand over their shoulder and tell them what things like community and friendship do, and don't, look like.
If they're lucky, they can step back and for a moment it reminds them of something that they've seen before, but the wave has a certain inevitability to it, and the wave doesn't really give a crap about what you've seen before.
When it retreats they're left with something that doesn't really look like community, and it doesn't really look like friendship. It looks like something but we don't really have a name for it yet.
Other people swim out, and they bob up and down. Sometimes, when people get to the top of a wave, they say "I made this wave, this wave is because of me, and because I'm wearing yellow swimming trunks," and then lots of other people put on yellow swimming trunks and the swim out, but by the time they get there that guys at the bottom and some guy in red trunks is yelling the same thing.
Other people sit on inflated rafts, so even when they're at the bottom their little heads peek out over the top of the waves, but, eventually, a lot of those guys tip over or they run out of people that are willing to blow.
It's the surfers that are the most fun to watch.
They know they didn't start the waves, but they do study them. While they're surfing, they don't congratulate each other for pushing the water closer to the shore. They understand that the wave has a certain inevitability to it, that it doesn't give a crap about them... it just moves.
So, they play on it and explore its natural contours and do tricks. And, by doing that, they give the wave meaning, human meaning.
Sure, they get beaten up quite a bit, but when they get it right they can actually experience what waves can mean to people, and when they come back in, those are the people that get to name those little rounded lumps of sand.
This is Zefrank, hoping that you've got a surfboard.