Woodworking and Politics

Pretty much every day I think of something like what you will read below, and pretty much every day I file those thoughts into the "Forever to be Forgotten Folder." Today is somehow different.
One of the irritating things about travel, especially to places that see a lot of tourists, is the number of scams set up to try and set you free from your money in less than legitimate ways. There was the "oops I dropped my shoe shine brush" in Istanbul, the "let me take you to my shop" in Syria, well, all over the Middle East…and India as well, actually. And in Egypt, our favourite was this.
Walking to the Egyptian Museum, you know, the big one with all of Egypt's past (well, most of Egypt's past, that hadn't been looted by other museums around the world) locked inside. The museum that was open every day of the week, and for many hours at a time. A museum that could be open 24 hours a day, and still have hundreds of people inside at all times. As we approached along the other side of busy Meret Basha, a little north of Tahrir Square, a man rushed past us. Then he turned, looked concerned, and ran back. "Are you going to the museum?" Yes we are. "Oh, please be very careful crossing the street." And off he goes. Then stops, then turns back to us. "I forget, the museum is closed to tourists today, until 1:00. But if you like, I can take you to a government shop." Idiot me started to follow him (apprehensively, I might add), but Jonas and Laura started laughing out loud. They showed me the guide book section on Cairo scams, and it was as though this guy was using this section as his teaching tool. Word for word. He was not impressed with our level of preparedness (well, Laura and Jonas's, at any rate), so he walked off in a huff.
We chatted a bit about the nerve of some people as we carried on, looking for a safe place to cross the street, when another fellow sidled up and said, "Not all Egyptians are trying to cheat tourists, you know." Of course not, we said. He was well dressed and well fed, with a comfortable paunch that settled in assuredly under (and a little bit over) the strength of his thick belt, his unbuttoned blazer completing his air of casual authority. He proceeded to chat us up about a couple things before asking us where we were going. "Oh, but the museum is closed for siesta right now. If you like, I can take you to a government bazaar with fixed prices."
I wasn't sure if I should admire his tenacity, or punch him in the nose. We stood there, the four of us, with our mouths wide open for a good two seconds, then we all broke down laughing. Blazer man was not impressed, so he too walked off in a bit of a huff.
Today I am reminded of this story after seeing a web ad on a site I visit regularly. The ad was for shed plans, and since I would like to build a shed but I'm not sure exactly what I want to do, I thought this might be interesting. I click, and am taken to a site advertising Ryan's Shed Plans, 14,000 shed plans for one low price. Now, no one in their right mind needs 14,000 shed plans, especially if they actually want to build a shed. Who has time to look at even 1000 different plans?
Since the site had a certain infomercial flair to it, I thought it best to do what I often do now, check to see reviews or scam alerts. And sure enough, there are many for Ryan's Shed Plans, not least of which says, "Who on earth needs 14,000 shed plans?" After reading google's synopsis of several review sites, I click on one, that seems to do a fairly lengthy take down of Mr. Ryan Shed. They give the product a "very low rating," but offer a link to buy if you're still interested.
What caught my attention though, was the next line: "Instead, I recommend you buy Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can click], which includes some decent shed plans (plus much more)."
They show some lovely photos, and then follow them up with this:
"I'll skip to the chase. Ryan's shed plans isn't a very good product. It's not totally useless, because there are some decent plans, but overall it's not great.
In fact, you're MUCH better off buying Ted's Woodworking Plans [a link you can again click] which includes a good number of decent plans."
And guess how many plans you get with Ted?
16,000.
This is beautiful, I thought to myself. It's like the internet's version of the Egyptian museum scam played out right on my computer screen.
After five more minutes of investigation, I found all kinds of youtube videos from all kinds of different people claiming that Ted's Woodworking Plans was a great deal for them, and they all liked it very much. And everyone's video was different in that they all looked and sounded different. Some were kind of polished, looking a bit like a poor man's Bob Vila, while others looked and sounded like nervous telemarketers trying to scam their very first victim, with their instructor (probably Ted himself) looking on. But most remarkable is that everyone's video is also very much alike. A guy sitting at his computer telling you how good something is without actually saying anything at all, like he was reading from a Kazakhstani phrasebook, and hoping he'd be understood, because he really doesn't have any idea what he's saying himself.
Now I'm thinking, this is amazing. It's as if there is this whole industry out there based on the selling of thousands and thousands of shed plans. What's fascinating (to me, at least) in amongst all this other weirdness and trickery, is that what appears to be a real review (woodgears.ca/ted) shows Ted to be full of shit. Most plans are just ripped off from the internet, freely available elsewhere. Apparently, in their package, they also offer "150 premium woodworking videos" that are links to videos on youtube and vimeo, all publicly available, and some of the links are broken.
This all makes me think that there is some kind of seminar people go to, to learn how you can make $10,000 a day from the comfort of your own home. They fork over money to the seminar people, find out they just got shafted, then go out and try and shaft anybody else so that they can make their money back. This is exactly what these videos look like.
And finally it hits me. Donald Trump is Ted. Every part of Trump oozes this kind of nonsense. There is a phoniness to everything he says, even when he is talking about something that people are interested in. Of course I want to be safe. Absolutely I'd like politicians to tell the truth for a change. And sure, if I were completely heartless, I'd love to capitalize on people's needs and make money selling worthless degrees from a phoney university.
And that's what is going on here. Even in the remotest of remote chances that Donald Trump isn't Ted, he is still Ted. He's a guy selling someone else's ideas as his own, but doesn't even bother to check and see if they are actually good ideas. And like any group of 16,000 anything, there is bound to be one or two good whatevers in there. So people who are desperate cling to the two in 16000, and ignore the rest. They ignore the racism, the hatred, the ignorance, the stupidity, and cling to the one thing. "I want to feel safe." Yes, the thing that some people cling to is absurd, as most thinking people know, like, "We will build a wall and keep them out," or, "We won't let anyone from Religion X into our country."
But it doesn't matter. For millions of people, one in 16,000 is good enough. As long as he's on "my team." And if you follow sports at all, we've sort of been conditioned to think this way. Every team has a guy that you hate. Until he gets traded to your team. Then you tolerate his back-stabbing, his cheap shots, his mealy-mouthed excuses, his biting of opponents, his racial taunts, the showboating, the domestic violence, the assault charges, the endless DUIs. It's all part of the society that has been growing up around us. Growing up with us.
It's our team, or their team, and you are either with us or against us. Polarity ensues.
And if that's the way they want it, that's what they will get.
So my fellow living organisms, the choice is clear. Do you want to develop distinctly anterior traits, or distinctly posterior traits? Do we want to look forward, or do we wish to look backward to the glory days of Robber Barons and slavery? Do we want to be inclusive, and share the world and all of our great ideas with everyone, or do we want water wars and chaos, border conflicts and corporate profiteering at the expense of everyone's health? Do we want our lives to be based on love, honesty, and truth (including those pesky facts), or do we want to be ruled by someone else's ideology that commands hatred, fabrication, and rage? An ideology that considers a search for truth to be a liability?
There's a great Cherokee legend that goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Simply put, you cannot fight the posterior with more posterior.That is what is going on today. It's been going on for years, and will continue for many years to come. But we can start to change all that with love, honesty, truth, and reason. And every time we choose those things, we make a change right now. Be the change you want to see in the world, as they say.
The fight between good and evil begins within, not without.
So tell Ted you don't want his plans, no matter how many he has up his sleeve.

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