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Showing posts from 2010

Worth Quoting

If we are to have a democracy at all, it seems obvious that we must have a State populated not by anonymous economic units, but by men and women who can know, and be known by, one another.  The anonymous man is in a sense no man at all.  --Willis Fisher, "Small-Town Middle-Westerner" from Who Owns America?

A Farewell to Fresh (for a season)

I love autumn.  Inevitably, when September cools down my thoughts turn to Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Puritans.  The colorful chlorophyll withdrawal, the migrations, the difference in the smell of the air: all of these contribute to my favorite season, capped off by the high holy day of Thanksgiving. 
The one drawback (that I can think of) to fall, in Michigan anyway, is the shuttering of farmers' markets.  The growing season comes to near standstill in Michigan by late December, but the markets have been closed since the beginning of the month (I believe Ann Arbor's is open through December) and that means the end of humanely slaughtered meats free of hormones and other Big Ag commodities.  No more fresh lettuce, peppers, squash, and apples.  No more diversity in size, taste, smell, and shape of the same kinds of produce.  Even though I might be able to find "organic" produce in grocery stores, it just isn't the same.  The majori…


There's a scene in City Slickers where Billy Crystal's character bemoans middle age as having hair where you don't want it and not having hair where you do.  I can relate as I view myself in the mirror these days.  The bottom of my crowning glory is changing.  What had been a perpetual autumn on my chin is stalked by winter.  The copper and chestnut (and occasional stray blond and brunette strand) is changing one by one to a pigment-less white.  While my temples have a spot of gray or white--I can't tell which--that doesn't bother me.  But after having adjusted (sort of) to the trauma of losing my hair ( I did experience my teens in the metal years after all) my beard/goatee was all that was left to me in terms of Samsonesque glory.  Now, even that is fading.  Oh, Cruel Age, with every swipe of your sickle you turn a red hair white.  You even violate the hair on my chest.  Four white intruders have appeared.  Is there no way to avoid your swinging, inevitable blade…

Before our demands of cheap TVs...

From "America and Foreign Trade" by James Muir Waller from Who Owns America? published 1936.

The idea that foreign trade is necessary or even desirable for our political and economic well-being should be abandoned.  We should look solely to the domestic market, the world's largest and richest, for a place to sell the products of our fields and factories.  We should move quickly toward creating a completely self-contained national economy as the best cornerstone on which to build a safe and permanent American prosperity, untouched by the political and economic turmoil of the outside world.  The best method to bring about self-sufficiency would be to devise immediately a program of protection for all manufactured articles and raw commodities that can be produced in the United States, even if the cost here is very much greater than abroad.  These higher costs may result from unfavorable natural factors such as soil, climate, and mineral resources, as well as from higher wage…

An alternative Triviuum

The classical (and Medieval) learning methodology of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric is still sound (not that I know it well enough to comment on it competently) but I'd like to offer a scaled-down version that I think can be worked in into anyone's life--child or not.  I propose that possessing a love of reading, an active imagination, and a love for and time spent outdoors will aid any student in any endeavor.
It isn't enough to read, because the majority of Americans can do so.  The trouble is that skill is not exercised enough, is not cultivated, is not turned into a tawdry love affair.  So you can read--BFD!  The more important question is: Do You?
Reading and reading regularly (of a variety of books, by the way) leads into and is supported by my next necessity: imagination.  This is a quality that everyone possesses, unlike literacy, but too many have one stunted by TV.  Now, TV in small quantities (how much is small?  Good question) will not stunt an imagination--it ma…


All right, so you don't want to take the ecology challenge.  Maybe you'll read a poem.  This was written, I dunno, a year or two ago.

Bag of Bones
It was an opossum,  now it’s only a pile                                  of gore  on the hundred and eight  degree pavement of Six                                         Mile. Bloody tire track impressed  in the carcass, splintering  bones and squeezing the life  out of organs.                          We drive on past, not giving it a second thought. Paying more heed to the  heat than the decay.
How long are the dead remembered? Who besides the paid groundskeeper Trims around the stone fifty years hence? Who prays for the opossum’s soul?

Backyard Ecology Challenge

Wendell Berry once wrote something to the effect that the beginning of stewardship is to know what is there.  Many of us talk a good game about caring for the Earth, but what does that mean?  Do you even know what inhabits the ecosystem of your backyard?  It is difficult, at least for me, to care for abstractions.  If you can concretely know what is around you, you might be more inclined to care for whatever is around you.  Here is my challenge: Clearly identify six to ten different species of plants and animals (and even rocks) that spend some time in your yard (your front yard counts too.)  You should include
at least two plant speciestwo insect species and two mammal or bird species.  You may not count
pets plants that you planted yourself (or someone in your family)anything you can't identifySo, for instance, I have a shagbark hickory, an American beech, three American elms, two mulberries, and a couple of red oaks all in various stages of growth in my yard.  Additionally, I se…

Blah, blah bleech!

The more time I spend on the internet (which is too much if you ask my wife, and she's right) the more misanthropic I become.  If it isn't reactionary responses filled with scatological language, it's vapidity on vulgar display.  Then there are those posts, blogs, snippets, etc, that call evil good and good evil.  I've a mind to dump my CPU in the Rouge.  But then. . . how would I know what teenagers are bored because they've announced it on Facebook?

Cai 1.3

Let a son come forth from your loins fashioned by God; first a sphere for his head; let his hair remind one of fresh-cut straw.  Let his eyebrows resemble caterpillars lightly treading his brow and a ghostly-pale path separate their twin arches.  Let his nose be straight, of moderate length, a button for perfection, with a smear of freckles across it and under his eyes.  Let his eyes, those watch-fires of his brow be cool with grey-light, or the steely calm of the barrel of a gun.  Let his countenance emulate joy: not innocence nor yet bliss but at once both.  Let his mouth be bright, small in shape--as it were, a half-circle.  Let his lips be thin like worms, yet eager to reveal a snowy, toothy smile.  Rounded like cobble let the Designer fashion his chin.  Let his neck be a small column supporting the inchoate mind inside the head expressing boyish charm.  Let his shoulders foreshadow the man to be, perfectly proportioned for his size--able to support the burdens of a boy.  Let…

Why do I read this stuff?

I'm reading Gary Holthaus' (mostly) excellent From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know About Agriculture and find myself burning with anger at stuff I already kinda sorta knew.  "Studies show that each year of rising agricultural exports has shown a corresponding net decline in U.S and Canadian farm prosperity" and "The traders and the corporations make more from it [farming] than the farmer does" (128-29).

That, of course, is only the beginning, he goes in to treatment of migrant workers, GMOs, and the joke that is NAFTA, WTO, and other puppet master organizations.  "Of all the grain that goes down the Mississippi on barges from the Midwest, only a tiny fraction goes to least developed countries, where hunger is the greatest...These grains are shipped to those who can best afford them, not to those most in need" (158).

"What can a layperson make of all this?  At least this: as farmers or consumers, we have to take with a g…

Snark back at ya

From David Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion:
In 2007, a number of scientists gathered in a conference entitled "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival" in order to attack religious thought and congratulate one another on their fearlessness in so doing.  The physicist Steven Weinberg delivered an address.  As one of the authors of the theory of electroweak unification, the work for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize, he is a figure of great stature.  "Religion," he affirmed, "is an insult to human dignity.  With or without it you would have good people doing good thins and evil people doing evil things.  But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion" (italics added [by author]).
      In speaking thus, Weinberg was warmly applauded, not one member of his audience asking the question one might have thought pertinent: Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in …

Hardly more subtantial than a shadow

I had looked forward to reading Ron Hansen's The Shadowmaker as I've enjoyed two of his novels. This short book was different though, it was written for children. It concerns a short man who arrives in town "where nearly everyone was happy." He soon finds a way to sell something to a people who "have everything" and are completely happy. Hmmm...seems interesting doesn't it. Shades of the Faustian bargain, Needful Things or Melville's Confidence Man. And it is good--until about halfway through. Two orphans take over the business of the shadowmaker, who has convinced the townspeople to buy new shadows for themselves. There isn't much menace to the children, there isn't a comeuppance for the gullible townsfolk, and the Shadowmaker essentially franchises out his shadow business to the brother and sister into a repair shop for shadows. I wonder if Hansen thought the book was taking too dark a turn and decided to open the curtains. Whate…

Narcissism and publishing

The two go hand in hand don't they? If you're not already sick of this piece (because it was first posted by me on FaceBook) here it is again:

For some reason I can't make this link "live."

Climate Kookery

In pulling up a dandelion next to my back cement steps yesterday, I uncovered a healthy-sized june bug in all its chestnut-colored glory. A june bug, I say, in MAY! This does not bode well.

The Thinking Man's Grease Monkey

I recently finished Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. He articulates some things that I've been feeling for sometime: namely, that the "information revolution" isn't all it's lauded to be. In fact, he asserts that much "knowledge work" isn't much removed from factory drudgery. Part of the problem has been the way we approach education. He writes, Today in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into "college prep" and "vocational ed" is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one's life is determined. In college, by contrast, many students don't learn anything of particular application; college is the ticket to an open future. Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new …

Access problems

I haven't posted anything here in almost a month, not because I'm avoiding the blog, but because I CAN'T ACCESS THE THNG! Something's going on with the home computer.
That was a terrible update. I'll write about the toads trilling on Good Friday evening, on the croaking sandhill cranes at our new little piece of good, gifted earth in Lima Township, about my slow, but steady, crawl to Constantinople, about the Festival of Faith and Writing from whence I type, about my children growing, my marriage strengthening, my upcoming 41st year, anything but a lame, flat, update about computer problems.
Life is good, but computers suck.

"Great Americans eat red meat."

So says a Michigan legislator in response to Governor Granholm's Michigan Meat-Out Day proposed for March 20th. The idea was to promote vegetarianism as a good alternative to the usual American diet. The PR for the campaign was clumsy, written by either journalists or political hacks--who wouldn't know a good metaphor even if one foamed at the mouth, bit and transmitted rabies to them. It's "fun" to be vegetarian, the boilerplate read. Fun with Jennifer Granholm is like sitting on the beach at Sleeper State Park during the third week of January. Better yet, fun with these pols is like watching TV in an RV all week at Wilderness State Park during a run of fantastic weather in July.
Anyway, this titanic stink arose from this proclamation. How dare anyone suggest (notice it's not a law) that we take a one-day break from eating meat. Got apoplexia? According to MUCC (Michigan's hunting rights group) this whole idea was spawned by two animal rights gro…

Through a Glass, Lightly

Through a Glass, Lightly
Originally uploaded by IAmnotHamlet The last we've seen of winter weather?

Why I Don't Want Nice Children

It starts like this: the word comes from the Latin nescius meaning ignorant and came to English via Old French essentially meaning stupid. By the time the mid-eighteenth century comes to be the meaning has been changed to pleasant or agreeable. Nice moved from insulting to innocuous.
So tell me, should I have stupid or pleasant children? I say neither. The former meaning should be obvious as to why nice should be avoided. The latter? Do you truly want your children to be pleasant? That’s unremarkable, blah, and mediocre. I want them to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful and reflective, and concerned about and willing to work for justice. Nice, in any form, just doesn’t do that. Hey, nice outfit, by the way.


Originally uploaded by IAmnotHamlet Taken during the "Naked Trees and Cold Feet" class.

A seed

A seed
Originally uploaded by IAmnotHamlet Testing connection to blog from Flickr.

Suburban Renewal

Kill yer grass! That's not what Doug Tallamy calls for directly in Bringing Nature Home, but he might as well have. According to his research there exists in the continental U.S. only 3-5% of undisturbed area left. Now, he doesn't quite define what this means (I take it as areas of no permanent human activity), but his point is that we have plowed under most of the habitat that used to exist here. We have plowed it under for farmland and malls, for highways and hospitals, but we've eradicated the majority of space that non-human creatures use as habitat. To make things worse in the place of native plants--which are absolutely necessary to life on this spherical rock (all plants are necessary in their proper place)--we have planted ornamentals that have no enemies here (meaning the U.S.) nothing to check their spread and therefore nothing to feed on them, plants that don't support the life that is supposed to be here.
I've covered Tallamy's doom and gloom sc…

Robert Duvall, scene stealer

Why is it that EVERY movie Robert Duvall acts in, he somehow manages to equal or outshine the leads? He did it again in Crazyheart, an excellent film with Jeff Bridges as a washed-up, broken country singer. Solid performances all around, but in many ways I'd hate to act in a film with Duvall, the audience would forget about me.

Mirror in the Bathroom

Do you have this problem: you check your look in the bathroom before leaving--not bad, you think. You go somewhere, someone takes your picture, you see the picture, you feel wretched. Why was I even allowed to leave the house? What happens to your appearance between this mirror and that lens? Better yet, why do you choose to photograph me as horribly disfigured?
Is this the same as hearing your own voice on a recording? People tell me I have good vocal quality, I believe them, and yet when I hear that horrible nasal sound on some playback device I ask, "WHY? WHY DO YOU FEED ME LIES FROM THE SULPHUROUS PITS OF HELL?"

Economy vs. Ecology

Here's a perfect example of the foolishness of our leaders.
(From today's Detroit Free Press (I couldn't embed the link for some reason))

Asian carp DNA found in Great Lakes

The Army Corps of Engineers announced new DNA findings Tuesday that show Asian carp, a voracious fish that many experts fear could wreck the food chain in the Great Lakes, may already be in Lake Michigan.

DNA tests show the presence of carp at the breakwater of Calumet Harbor in Illinois, be­yond the nearest lock. The breakwater leads to the open waters of Lake Michigan.

The announcement came just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Michigan’s plea to shut down the locks leading to the lake.

Federal officials suggested the DNA could have come from ballast water carried by barges from carp-infested rivers downstream.

“We do not believe that’s plausible,” said Lind­say Chadderton, one of four members of the Uni­versity of Notre Dame who developed the DNA test and have d…

Good reads of 2009

I haven't made a list like this in a while, and I believe I discussed most of these on the blog as I finished them, but I thought I'd make a handy short-hand list for you and me. These are only in the order I read them and do not indicate any preference.

The Open Door * Frederica Mathewes-Green
The Children of Hurin * J.R.R. Tolkien
The Omnivore's Dilemma * Michael Pollan
Agrarianism and the Good Society: Land, Culture, Conflict, and Hope * Eric T. Freyfogle
Wonderful Fool * Shusaku Endo
Up the Rouge: Paddling Detroit's Hidden River * Joel Thurtell and Patricia Beck
Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction: Christianity and the Battle for the Soul of a Nation * Rodney Clapp

(I started the following in December, but I haven't finished them--so far they are excellent: Love and Hate in Jamestown * David A. Price and The Picture of Dorian Gray * Oscar Wilde)

Try one of these--let me know.

That Old House

My family and some friends of ours spent a portion of last evening at Birmingham's First Night celebration. The details of which don't matter, except for one aspect; our second stop at the Allen House. This was a house built in the first third of the 19th century, and has to be the oldest existing house in Oakland County--and it's located in a park in downtown Birmingham.
We were able to walk through the house and talk with the three interpreters who knew most of their "stuff." What's truly fascinating though is we were walking through the 19th century, while outside most people were looking forward to the next year of the 21st century (which unless I'm mistaken still has one more year to go before a new decade starts). The plank floors creaked under us, the dull iron and whitewashed walls caught our eyes, while outside cars rolled by and people spoke on cellular phones. Within the surprisingly quiet confines of the Allen house, we could take a mome…