Saturday, March 06, 2010
Are Useful Tools Ever Out of Date?
I got a letter from AARP the other day.
They wanted me to join. I am 50.
I wanted to scrawl on the envelope, NOT DEAD YET!
When I turn on the radio, the songs of my youth (such as Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad) are now on "the Oldies" station."
Now to be clear I listen to new music -- a lot of it. And I will also venture that we have more great musicians alive right now than we have ever had in the history of the world.
But "new" does not always mean better. Sometimes it does, but not always. I am pretty sure the work of Little Wayne will be forgotten long before that of Mozart, Armstrong, Sinatra, and Springsteen.
Of course, a lot of times, the "NEW" is simply the OLD in a new wrapper.
The kids call this "sampling" which sounds so much better than plagiarism.
And, of course, it is not new is it?
When Leonard Bernstein pitched Westside Story, he pitched it short: "It's Romeo and Juliet with Puerto Ricans in New York."
When Steven Spielberg was trying to raise money for his first real movie, he said: "It's Moby Dick.... but with a shark."
When Francis Ford Coppola pitched "Apocalypse Now" he did not waste a lot of time: "It's Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness ... in Vietnam."
So what am I to make of all these folks claiming to be "new and improved" dog trainers? These are the folks ripping off 80-year old techniques which are derived from 150-year old techniques, which were lifted from stuff stolen from the folks who built the pyramids.
I am all for this "new" stuff. But I am not for tossing out the "old" stuff either. You see, it's all the same thing!
But of course this may come as new information to the fuzzy thinkers and instant experts.
Take the anonymous coward who showed up the other day to say he or she thought Cesar Millan's methods were "outdated."
Eh? What? What are his methods?
And what are his methods to do WHAT?
Does this person think Millan is training dogs? He is not.
Does this person think non-associative habituation is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think operant conditional extinction is outdated? It is not.
Does this person think a leash is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think exercise is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think consequences are outdated? They aren't.
Does this person think walking a dog is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think clarifying the point that dogs are not children is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think showing affection for dogs is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think the notion that a dog trainer has to be calm is outdated? It's not.
Does this person think the idea that a dog trainer has to send clear and well-timed signals is outdated? It's not.
So what is "the method" that is outdated? And what is that method being used for again?
This is a genuine question.
I hear people saying "Millan's methods are outdated" but no one seems to know what that means in the context of what he actually does, which is RE-habilitating dogs.
Instead, what I hear are anonymous cowards who are willing to "fence fighting" but stand as complete punks, ignorants or fools if that fence is removed.
And so they keep the fence up! No names. No email addresses.
When you tell me so little, you tell me so much!
Of course, along with the anonymous cowards, the zombies and the trolls, you have the parrots. These are the folks who repeat whatever they just heard on a board, or who regurgitate whatever they just read in a book, never once subjecting the idea to rationale thought, research, or field experience.
Parrots are the folks who write all-breed books and who read them and believe them.
They may squawk a lot, but their brains are the size of a shelled walnut, and they are incapable of original though or use of tools. Most spend their entire lives never leaving their cage.
And then there are the folks who actually do things. And guess what? The most successful of these use tools, both old and new, as they find them, and as they need them.
And so, in the world of working terriers we use tools and techniques straight out of the Middle Ages.
But we also use electronic locating collars in order to locate the dogs under ground. And we use plastic water bottles and, if the need arises, a veterinary staple gun and antibiotics.
Tools are not completely the same from one place to the next, either.
In the U.K., they do not use posthole diggers as the ground is a bit softer. When a UK terrierman comes over here, however, he figures out he may have a use for this "new" tool!
What? Not all geography is the same? True! But tell no one.
And not all dogs and dog problems are the same either.
But mum's the word. Tell no one.
As for my old tools, I try to keep them well-oiled.
A few years back I realized I could not scrunch down into a hole like I used to, and so now I go to the gym a couple of times a week just to keep things moving.
I have replaced a rivet or two in my shovel heads, I have replaced a few handles on my posthole diggers, I have patched a cracked locator box, swapped out some leather collars, replaced a badly frayed pack, and buried a dog or two.
But I still dig on my dogs the way it has been done for over four hundred years. I am not so vain as to think that because I invented a cheap game snare I invented digging on the dogs.
The world did not begin the day I was born!