Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bromfield's "Apologia"

Because I'm self-obsessed, I was looking this blog's viewer statistics. I love to see the trails which lead people to me. Today, I noticed that some stranger out there was looking for Louis Bromfield's "Apologia," the introduction from his shockingly under-celebrated book, A Few Brass Tacks.

In an earlier post about green/environmentalism books I promised to eventually upload some of Bromfield's "Apologia." Today is the day!

The following is the entirety of Louis Bromfield's "Apologia," transcribed by me from a 1946 first edition copy of A Few Brass Tacks, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers. As I'm typing this up myself with semi-frozen fingers in my basement, please excuse any typos. Let me know if you spot any. There may be a copy of this on Google somewhere, but... well, I don't always take the easy way out.

Italicized words are Bromfield's own.

If you'd prefer a printable file that's easier to read, skip to the bottom of this post.

This book is no more than the thinking aloud of one man who makes no pretension at being a specialist in economics nor at solving the problems of the world, the nation or even of the township in which he lives. It is simply the record of the intellectual processes of one individual trying to find his way, indeed at times to force his way, out of the jungle and morass of man's troubled life in this Age of Irritation in which man, caught in the maze of his own selfishness, stupidity, ambition, greed and intricate mechanical ingenuity, lives in a perpetual state of nerves with his neighbors, with fellow men on the other side of earth whom he has never seen, indeed with his own wife and children. It is a record born out of experience of one politically-minded citizen who happens to like the human race, without regard for race, religion, creed or color, and who has lived closely and intimately with inflations and booms and depressions, wars and invasions and revolutions, and the oppression and exploitation of his fellow men, not only in his home country but in many others. Out of this experience he has come to regard with some cynicism the term 'civilized man' and to arrive at the conclusion that the bases of man's wretchedness and bewilderment are far more of economic than of political or social or racial or national origins. He is almost persuaded that the violent political differences, the social unrest, the racial hatreds are largely only manifestations of economic inequalities, maladjustments and injustices, and that, if the economic ills of this badly managed, complex, industrialized world could be adjusted, many of these evils would presently disappear and we should make a great advance in civilization itself, which in the end is the only real justification for man's existence.

The author has seen the sense of co-operation, of neighborliness, of patriotism (which may or may not be a bad thing, according to its manifestation) disappear from the village, from the great city, from the nation and from the rapidly intensifying interrelationship among nations until the average man has come to live perpetually in a state of pessimism, accepting dully a conviction that wars are inevitable, that economic depression and misery and starvation are simply the common lot of mankind and that the only course for the individual is to look out for the interests of himself and those immediately dependent upon him. such a despair, such a disillusionment and cynicism were largely responsible for the disintegration and defeat of a great nation like France. Her forty million people ceased to be a united nation; they became simply forty million individuals each looking out for himself.
[end page 2]

It would be well for other Western nations to regard France as a barometer, for being the most civilized of nations (and I am not speaking in terms of plumbing and country clubs but of true civilization) and the leader of Western civilization which has kept alive the fire of Greece, of Rome and of the Renaissance, she serves well and accurately as a gauge of the social and political weather which lies ahead just beyond the horizon. The signs of national disintegration are present in every country in Europe, in every modern empire, even in these United States, standing apparently at the very peak of her power and wealth.

As man looks about him today for leadership or a solution of the demoralizing perplexities which surround him, he finds himself confronted by hordes of soothsayers and midget messiahs, gigantic humbugs (no less humbugs for all their sincerity and sentimentality), by demagogues ranging from Hitler and Mussolini to the politicians of the democratic states, all talking loudly and intimately of 'the people' and promising them the millennium. And the man in the Western world is an easy victim of all this rabble rousing and superficiality since he seeks pitifully for some leader or some faith that will clarify his confusion and east the pain of his bewilderment and despair.

Man is not naturally a cynic; he wants pitifully to believe, in himself, in his future, in his community and in the nation in which he is a part. Hitler was
[end page 3]born of the despair of the German people. As history has already shown, he was neither a great man nor a great leader, but only a windy demagogue who promised the German people salvation and an end to their misery, spiritual as well as economic. The end, as with all leadership by demagogues, was tragedy and disaster, not only for the people of Germany but for the whole of the world. The Hitler story might well serve as a symbol of caution to the rest of us, warning of the inefficacy of short-cuts, of intolerance, of economic panaceas, of loose and visionary thinking. And it should never be forgotten that both Hitler and Mussolini began their careers as radicals, promising 'the people' everything.

Largely speaking, salvation in these times is held forth to troubled mankind either by the demagogues and the superficial, ecstatic visionaries wallowing in self-conscious reflection upon their own virtues and superiority, or by the reactionaries who would have man betray himself by turning backward into his own dark and painful past. These are the elements which, without reason or profundity or balance, scream at each other the shrill and meaningless epithets of 'Red' and 'Fascist,' 'Bolshevik' and 'Reactionary.'

The word 'liberal' once had a real meaning which implied reason, dignity, intelligence, balance and tolerance. That meaning is lost. The 'liberal' of our times has become all too often little more than a sentimentalist
[end page 4] 'with both feet planted firmly in mid-air' or a vicious name caller in the school playground at recess time.
Economic prosperity and the privileges of growth and development which accompany it, are not achieved by short-cuts and fanciful and visionary theories, but by work and experience and faith and wisdom. The whole of the history of man's long struggle upward out of the steaming ooze is evidence of this irrefutable fact. In his capacity for work and in his faith in himself and the ideals by which he lives, modern man in the twentieth century is tragically deficient. More and more he looks wearily toward the easy way out, toward something for nothing, toward doles and subsidies, toward the political leader who promises utopia overnight. But the grim truth is that there are no short-cuts and panaceas.

On the other hand, unhappy, bewildered, modern man finds those who would lead him backward into the dark world of the nineteenth century - a brutal, sentimental world of extremes in luxury and poverty, of incredible opportunity for the unscrupulous exploiter as well as for the genius, a world which can reappear only as a prelude to the anarchy of a demoralized and disintegrated Western world. The leaders of this philosophy of the return to the 'good old days' are themselves the very symbols of decay and despair, and offer no hope whatever of man's advance but only of his [end page 5] retrogression toward the hazy blessings of a sentimentalized world which no longer exists and never did exist save in the experience of the gifted, the fortunate and the unscrupulous. Out of the reality of that nineteenth century world were born much of the evil and most of the perplexities that torment us today.

In most of the panaceas offered either from the extreme Left or from the extreme Right, one element seems to have been almost wholly overlooked and that is consideration for the nature of man - that he is a creature which must move upward toward a greater realization of his capacity and his dignity as an individual, that he must have gods in which to believe and results which justify, regardless of illusion, his faith in these gods, that there is in any man, save for the physiologically handicapped and debased, a desire to work and to create which is the foundation of his neighbor's respect for him, and what is more important, his respect for himself.

In our modern world these things, which are the very foundations of man's rise in the world of animals, are too much lacking both in himself and in his community as well as in the community of nations. One thing is certain - that he cannot go backward either into the world of Fascism or of Marxian Communism without losing his liberty of action and the freedom and dignity which are his right as an individual man who walks erect and thinks.
[end page 6]

It is sad that so many of the soothsayers offer him economic security and even a state-supported indolence at the price of his independence, his dignity, his freedom and his very soul. The short-cuts, the panaceas are, at best, but the Devil's bargain - which dangle a short-time paradise in the scales of civilization as a balance against retrogression and eternal damnation, political, social, spiritual and even economic on this earth.

No less puzzled and confused by the cynicism and evangelical visions, the irritations, the pressures of his day, the author felt long ago - indeed years ago while living in the midst of a European civilization already in the process of disintegration - a passionate desire to cut his way somehow through the jungle of disillusionment and false gods back to fundamentals, to those things and beliefs and thoughts by which man can and has, at certain epochs of his existence, lived well and sanely, however briefly. The impulse of escape took the form of a driving desire to return to his own roots, to find some base, solid and eternal, even perhaps primitive, upon which to build the structure of his own thought, uncontaminated either by the propaganda of those who would turn backward or those who with hosannas would rush forward into the treacherous mirages of what is too frequently no more than man's hunger for a paradise for which he is not yet prepared, a mirage of wishful thinking which sails serenely over
[end page 7] all the realities of nature and of the nature of man himself.

It was inevitable that in the search for some base in truth and reality, the author should have turned to the earth, to the soil and to agriculture. There were two very strong reasons for this (1) that he came of an ancestry and background which for generations had been rural rather than urban and that by interest as well as by experience, he had faith in the philosophy and in the character of things rural and small town rather than urban; (2) that he found out of daily living and a widespread experience that the farmers and gardeners of the world, however poor or prosperous, whatever their nationality or race or faith, possessed a common basic philosophy which proved a bulwark against the uncertainty of existence and the periods of crisis which the men who lived in great cities lacked conspicuously and immeasurably.
The farmer, the gardener, is inevitably a pragmatist who believes in what works. This is so because he lives nearer to the basic and eternal laws of nature than any other element of society. These laws are a part of his daily life. He lives with them and in a sense by them. The rain, the sun, the ice and snow, the soil, the breeding of his animals, are constant and eternal reminders of the laws by which man must live whether he chooses to or not, those laws which, if ignored or tampered with, only encompass his own disintegration and destruction.
[end page 8] The farm, the earth, appeared to be the sound base from which a man, especially one who was weary and disillusioned through too much experience in the modern, complex, industrial, imperialist world, could re-examine his own significance, if any, and that of the confused and confusing period in which he lived.

The wisdom of the good farmer is an eternal wisdom and indestructible. As Liberty Hyde Bailey once wrote and as history has testified so many times, 'The farmer is the first man and he will be the last man.' The good farmer, working with soil and plants and animals, living in peace and co-operation with his neighbors, outwitting the weather or profiting by it but never ignoring it, is far nearer to the eternal truths and laws of our existence, by which we must live and within which we must find our salvation, than the workers of the industrial age, fitting similar nuts onto similar bolts eight hours a day five days a week throughout the whole of his life. When all industry lies in ruins and the industrial worker has died either in riots or against a wall in the war of brother against brother or by starvation, the farmer will still be there, tilling his bit of earth - in China, in Russia, in Germany, in the United States, everywhere.

Few thinkers would disagree with the premise that much of our cynicism and discontent, most of our ills, a great part of our perplexities and irritation, much of our ill-health and insanity, are the results of the rapid industrialization [end page 9] of the modern world. We have not had time to adjust ourselves to this monstrous change and the staggering increases of population which have accompanied it nor to fit industry itself into the pattern of a wise and balanced economy or existence. No change in the history of the world has ever come so rapidly or with such devastating effects as the brief industrial revolution with steam power, the telephone, the telegraph, the railway, the automobile, the airplane, the radio and countless other developments which have shrunken the world and made neighbors, however unhappy or perilous, of all of us. this headlong change has led us, especially in America, to confuse plumbing and automobiles, which have to do only with the body, with civilization, which has to do with the mind, the spirit, the soul and with man's relation to his fellow men. It has led man into a conceit in his own ingenuity which may in the end achieve only his destruction. It has immensely enhanced the growth of his baser side by encouraging his faith in the material and the mechanical and by these things he certainly cannot live alone, safe in eventual brutishness and misery. The atomic bomb, the Bofors gun, the jet plane, a hundred other examples of man's material ingenuity, all become symbols of a materialism by which the best efforts of scientists and inventors, which should be directed toward civilization, are in an utterly material and badly adjusted world instead aimed only at the destruction of civilization and eventually of man himself.
[end page 10]

This modern world, this Age of Irritation is not one in which man can take pride. This is so, I think, because man himself has established false values and false gods, often in defiance of his own nature and certainly of natural law. He is in the process of selling his great birthright of aspiration, of achievement, of growth and advance for a mess of pottage composed of selfishness, materialism, indolence, confusion, pride and despair.

The problem is not to do away with mechanics, with industry and scientific discovery. These things are with us and of inestimable value, if they can be used by man instead of using man. the problem is how to live with these things, how to adjust the daily life of man, of cities and of nations to the vast and complicated problems which machines, industry and scientific discovery have themselves created. In all of history there has never been such a hot potato as the atomic bomb. It is indeed so hot a potato that there is, despite all the highfalutin talk, no solution but for men and nations to learn the lesson of living together in peace.

We shall never learn by turning backward and we shall never find the answer by following the soothsayers and demagogues who promise paradise overnight or those whose panaceas are all founded upon money or the manipulation of money. Man's problems are not and have never been solely material problems, nor can they be solved by inflations and deflations or the manipulation of currencies. When they become so, as they threaten to do in our trying times, civilization
[end page 11] dies to be revived again only when man through misery and defeat and disillusionment touches bottom and begins again. For civilized man, for those leaders who have influenced the long journey upward of mankind, money or rewards in material were not the great and ultimately desired rewards. When they become so, man dies spiritually and his civilization dies with him.

The author, in the thinking aloud recorded here, is aware that he will probably be accused of many things - as many indeed as there are soothsayers and reactionaries, as many as there are panaceas and economic short-cuts. The whole science of economics (and the belief of the author is that it is a science as well as an art and a philosophic exercise) is a difficult and complex one which in the end may be justified perhaps only in the farmer's pragmatic way - that it works. In our age and especially in our own country, we have been treated during the past few years to such an appalling array of unorthodox and experimental economics, that the sound rules which the experience of the world has proven workable, have tended to become unorthodox. In other words, orthodoxy has become unorthodoxy and vice versa. To put forward some new and interesting short-cuts, some fresh panacea which is 'good for man, child or beast' has become orthodox or conventional procedure. Few if any of these panaceas have produced noticeable results; few if any have worked by solving any of the complex problems which confront us.
[end page 12] Many of them have only done harm by further confusing the desperately important problems involved and by adding further to man's perplexities.

Too many of the panaceas, sometimes through the necessity of emergency, have been improvised, superficial or based upon money and the manipulation of money, while overlooking completely the fundamental causes of the crises involved. Reforms in terms of money and of the manipulation of currencies are not signs of wisdom nor of deep thinking nor of statesmanship but rather symptoms of the chronic weakness of a nation or a world or a civilization, symptoms of shallow makeshift thinking, of shiftlessness, of demagoguery, of ear and of desperation. In this realm of action the San Francisco and Bretton Woods conferences, despite all the good will of their most enthusiastic supporters, stand somehow as symbols of the superficiality and the futility of these methods. In the one case a vague and powerless political structure was erected and in the other arrangements for the manipulations of international exchange were established, while the fundamental causes of war, of economic depressions, of misery, of hunger - the access and distribution on a fair basis of raw materials, food and markets - were passed over with averted gaze. It was as if both conferences had been thrown out cynically as a sop to those who hope passionately and tragically for a better world without ever understanding how to achieve one. Already the results of both conferences
[end page 13] show the pallid signs of futility, because the nations of the world or the leaders who represent them are either not yet able to save themselves or are unwilling to do so. Surely there must have been among the distinguished men assembled at San Francisco and Bretton Woods some who knew in their hearts that they were only making gestures and solving nothing at all. Is it that there are no more great leaders in the world or only that the problems of this modern industrial imperialist world have become so vast and so complex as to dwarf all men however great?

This is not a book written for the economist closeted behind a desk in some college or university. Humbly it attempts to reveal the mental processes of an ordinary layman trying to understand something of the increasingly complex world in which he lives and to fight his way to fairly simple fundamentals, despite the confusion created by the aggregate opinions of the professional economists. The author in his reading of and conversation with the economists is led to believe that all too often many of these gentlemen suffer from multiple vision and cannot discern very clearly either the forest or even a single tree. The immense diversity of their opinions and theories and the spectacle of their intense animosity toward each other, both fail to encourage a belief in their infallibility, either singly or as a whole. The truth is that probably no one man, or even a school of men, thinking together, has either [end page 14] sufficient learning or sufficient experience to permit a complete understanding of the immensely complex economic problems of our times.

In any case the author has put his thoughts and conclusions on paper with the primary purpose of clarifying his own thinking. If they serve to stimulate either discussion or abuse or are of any value whatever to others, so much the better.

This is merely the book's introduction! I'm going to print out a copy to highlight and scribble upon. Even though Bromfield is long-winded in some places, "Apologia" is a fascinating piece to read while living the life of a Midwesterner in the new millennium.

It took me about two hours type this up, and I've not yet begun to reread it and fix typos. If you found this useful, please tell me! It'd be nice to know that someone else finds Bromfield's musings interesting and engaging more than 60 years after publication!

Contact me if you'd like a Word document file of "Apologia" without the info links, and with better formatting. Indentations and appropriate spacing, oh my! I'll gladly share it with you.

If you'd like your own copy of this underrated classic, please check your local used book shops. You could also try my personal favorite, The Curious Book Shop. Or, if all else fails, you have a friend in Bookfinder.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Countering Yesterday's Entry - Slutty Spies

I spy on my neighbors.

Not always.

I do like to be aware, though.

In a times of great fear people grow anxious and suspicious - often distrustful of neighbors and strangers, family and friends. Our guards go up, our sense heighten (sometimes by far too much), and we start watching for clues and hints of what is to come. Propaganda posters fueled it during the war. America experienced it during the Red Scare. Countless gossips and high school girls leap to wild conclusions (or lies) at the drop of a hat.

Err... I'm rambling, and poorly.

I mean for this to be an expansion on yesterday's post, but for some reason my writing is all twisted.

I've acquired a review copy of Carol K. Carr's India Black: A Madam of Espionage Mystery, which comes out in January. The cover design speaks volumes. A sepia background shows a generic cobblestone street in Victorian London. The cover's lone figure, a woman in scarlet and black lace, holds a fan. Her head is cropped above the nose, but her bosom is on full display.* After a brief inspection of the blurbs (Vicki Lane calls it a "cheeky romp") I've surmised that what I hold in my hands is, in fact, a...


I'd be rather pleased if Prostitute-Spies grew in popularity. Truly, I would. These small-business owner/operators (heh heh.) were the working women of Victorian London. Sure, it may not be the healthiest and most agreeable line of work, but these women are smart, savvy, and sneaky! Plus, they are secret-keepers for some of society's seediest: politicians. Add secret espionage, and you've got a mastermind problem-solver who isn't afraid of using her feminine wiles in order to win.

Perhaps these women of vice will triumph with their own version of what constitutes right and wrong in this world. Or maybe they'll further ruin the hope and change that so many real-life feminists of the 20th century fought so valiantly for.

I haven't begun to read India Black yet, but I think it'll help fill the void left by Lauren Willig's astonishing Pink Carnation series.

Fun Facts:
Release Date: January 4, 2011. ($14.00)
India Black is Carol K. Carr's debut novel.
Tag line: "India Black answers to no man, no matter how attractive he might be..."
Summary from Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin:
Set in 1876, the beautiful young madam India Black is occupied with her usual tasks: keeping the tarts in line, avoiding the police, and tolerating clergymen determined to convert the girls she's in charge of. But when Sir Archibald Latham of the War Office dies suddenly of a heart attack while visiting her London brothel, India is unexpectedly trust into a deadly dispute between Russian and British agents who are seeking the military secrets Latham had carried.

The summary goes on to suggest a romantic entanglement with a handsome French/British spy and some angry Russians. It is unclear if the Russians are also romantic. Fingers crossed.

To strengthen my Hooker-Spies theory, here is a Google-like spewing of spy-related things in my head: the Russian spy ring that made headlines last month, James Bond, the many detective mystery novels I priced at work this morning, Spy vs. Spy, Sherlock Holmes, the spy/hooker who shagged Eliot Spitzer out of office...

... does Monica Lewinski count even though she didn't effectively use her information-gathering opportunities?

*The cover shown above is not quite the same as the final product. I don't know why, but somewhere between cover design and printing, the upper half of the model's face was cropped and discarded. I like it more without the eyes (although she is undeniably lovely).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sherlock will save us all.

This Article is where it began, for me.

I've never read the Sherlock Holmes stories. It's been especially hard to ignore them at work. Shame floods over me every time Doyle and his creation are mentioned. I should read those! I should have read them, already! How did I miss this?!

My knowledge of Sherlock consists of what I've gleaned from the general media, studying other Victorian writers, Disney's The Great Mouse Detective, and the second half of that recent Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. That's not much, and not canon at all.

While I don't know much about Mr. Holmes, I do know a fair amount about the world and society in which he lived and died. Granted, it comes mostly from reading historical romance novels, but some of them are quite reputable! (See: Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series.) It was a fascinating place and time quickly coming back into fashion. The increasing popularity of Victoriana is apparent in fashion, the rise of Steampunk (See: Off The Beaten Path Books, in Farmington.), a growing fear and distrust of modern and futuristic technologies, and nostalgia we feel for a time long before our own. Well, not so long...

Maybe our next craze won't be about wizards or werewolves or zombies or the Chinese. Maybe we'll look back on history, rather than buy into myths, superstitions and fear. Maybe we'll make shining examples of strong-willed, intelligent, independent thinkers who helped to shape a better world. Whether they be characters like Mr. Holmes or "real" (our perceptions of) people Queen Victoria bothers me not. ( I've also noticed an influx of books, new and reissued, about Victoria. Here, here, and here. You're welcome.)

So, I shall wait and see what happens. Maybe I'm not the only one realizing that we could be so much better, if only we tried. Until then, I'll do my part. Does anyone have a copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works I could borrow?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giving Away Victoria's Secret

I just removed myself from the Victoria's Secret daily email listing.

And it feels good.

Haley G. Hoover has begun a new project-blog, Presence. She started things off with a bang, taking a stab at Cosmopolitan while calling out to all girls and women who are aware of the Cosmo problem, as well as the countless others unaware of the daily barrage of media-created stereotype expectations that surround life as a female in America.

While Hayley is far from the first person to come to this realization, she is one of YouTube's most respected vlogging celebrities. I've spent a lot of time getting to know Hayley as one of the Five Awesome Girls over the last three years, and admire and respect her as a personality and a person. We're of the same generation and mindset, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with!

In college I majored in both English and American history, with a focus on the 20th century. It was pretty awesome. My thesis for English was all about the American Girl book and doll franchise. For my bachelors in history I studied the lifestyle and stereotypes of a young woman living in the late 1960s, taking a close look at Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and publications like 'Teen, Co-Ed and Ms. Magazine, as well as the 1970 presidential commission report on the lives of women of all classes and creeds.

A happy side effect of so much focus on the lives of girls and young women was a much greater understanding of all of the bullshit that we put up with as Americans. I could go the route of complaining about the barrage of makeup advertisements and the Hollywood obsession, etc. The problem, however, goes much deeper than what's between the pages of Cosmo.

It's too much to go into at the moment.
Think about it. But don't think about it.
See what you come up with.
And remind me to tell you about my brilliant solution to those annoying ads that run before and after YouTube videos and TV commericals, and the like. It's pretty good.

Check out Ms. Hoover's most recent video on the birth of Presence:

Presence [noun]
1. The state or fact of being present, as with others in a place.
2. A person or thing that exists in a place but is not seen.
2. The ability to project a sense of ease, poise, or self-assurance.
(Thanks, dictionary.com!)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ponies and Balloons

Do me a favor, and read this. It's not long. I want to show you a few YouTube videos about what's going on in the Gulf.

Disclaimer: I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'm not an expert, I'm just a person. I'm just another guilty consumer. Also, I don't fully agree with everything said and shown in the following videos.

Did you hear about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, 65 days ago? It happened on April 20th, and made for some rather spectacular footage on the news. While flipping through the channels I'd catch a glimpse of the CNN coverage. It was interesting to see how technology could chart the future progression of the oil gushing from the well, into the gulf and beyond. It made for a good conversation topic in the first few weeks, and gave everyone a new national enemy to rally against.

After two weeks, I sort of forgot about it. I mean, I knew it was still going on, and I knew it was bad news for the Gulf, but I had my own life to focus on here in Michigan. It was finally spring, here!

I was screwing around on YouTube this morning, watching funny videos. I'm not sure how I stumbled upon the first of the four videos posted below, but I'm sure glad it happened.

I don't really have the words to effectively express how awful the situation is in America. Please excuse this primitive post. I'm just getting it out there.

This is heartbreaking. I know Michigan feels like it's a world away from the oil spill. You're wrong. We're all wrong. We've been wrong for a long time, and it's time to right ourselves. It's been MONTHS, now. And what are we hearing about on the news? Michael Jackson's demise, one year later (and the G-20 Summit, and whether or not it's still relevant).

The videos below are of REAL PEOPLE. They're like us, but they happen to live along the Gulf, rather than amidst the Great Lakes. Just watch these videos, and think. That's all I ask. Use that powerful mind of yours. It'll take you 20 minutes, if you actually take the time.

Kinda Arnesen is the daughter and wife of Louisiana fishermen. From what I understand, BP invited her in to go behind the scenes of their ongoing recovery effort. I don't know how or why she was chosen. Posted just two days ago, this is a video of Kindra telling (what I assume to be) her neighbors about her experiences.

Here's an interesting perspective, that of the activists fighting not just for their own lives and lifestyles on the coast, but also for the countless animals suffering.

It's literally raining oil in Louisiana...

... and the surf on Pensacola Beach is BOILING with acid.

Here's a timeline of the spill, if you're interested. Here's another, by Newsweek.

I hope you're angry. I sure am. And horrified. And embarrassed.

It's not on the news, and it's certainly not on the front page of today's Lansing State Journal.

Being aware is better than nothing, which is what most of us are doing, right now. The silver lining of this horrible disaster is that maybe, finally, we'll begin the transition to a safer world. An economy not focused on greed and gain.

(Parts of this post have been revised for clarity. I'm awfully sorry if you were one of the first to read my jumbled thoughts!)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Talking at People

I've been trying to strike up conversations about this environmental "kick" that I'm on. No, I don't personally see it as a "phase" that I'll soon be over. My friends, however, aren't really enlightened when it comes to the current information and literature available about the Earth and where it's taking us. To be honest, most of the guys don't even READ. I feel relatively safe bloggin' about my woes, since these fellas mainly use the interweb for illegal downloaded music and movies. Probably porn, too. Forget blogs, news sites, or even informational YouTube videos. To my "crew," the internet is just one big, mysterious entertainment provider.

I've tested the waters in a few different ways. Some of these cautious toe-dips were successful... and others were not.

- The husband and I started a family garden at my aunt's house. So far, two of the guys (Z and R) have shown slight interest. R came to see it, on the way to or from somewhere with the husband and me. Z heard the two of us talking about our SuperRadishes last week, and thinks it's cool that we're growing some of our own food. We said he should come over with us to work on the garden sometime, and that we'd give him some veggies in return. He said yes, but we'll see if it happens.

- M, a good friend who's about to move from Mid-Michigan to Arizona, has been a victim of my numerous tirades about the scarcity of water in our near future. We come from a land of plenty, the heart of North America, the Great Lakes State. Even I don't fully understand how fortunate we are to be surrounded by fresh water. After showing him a few charts and graphs from The Great Lakes Water Wars, my hope is that he's truly started to think about what Phoenix will be like in 15 years. Or ten. Or five. Heck, I hope he's at least looking into the current average temps and rainfall, to date.

- The husband and I have devised a semi-longterm life plan. We're going to stay in the area for the next five or so years. Grad school is on the menu, and we need to save money. Once we're able, we'd like to head into the northern part of the lower peninsula and truly settle down. I've never been to the UP, so I'm leery of signing on to the rest of my life as a UPper. Anyways, we want to find a home somewhere in town and live a semi-sustainable life until we move on to greener pastures. Ideally, I'd like to have a long-term rental house that we could maintain, landscape, and update on our own. It'd be better to own our home outright, but I'm afraid of getting stuck. I'll put my feelers out, maybe post on Craigslist.

- I'm not sure if this last impromptu discussion was a success, or if it merely solidified A's gut feeling that I'm insane. Maybe that's a good thing. While sipping pricey coffee drinks at Barnes and Noble, and flipping through an architecture book full of ridiculously beautiful and expensive Michigan homes, I brought up cooperative living. It wasn't on purpose. I had nothing prepared - not even a basic explanation of what I mean when I say "cooperative living". All I really know is that I think group living would be neat, and smart. I expressed this to him, and he poked about a dozen holes in my balloon. Instantly deflated. Then, he realized that co-op-ing it was actually my idea and not some crazy scheme of my husband's. He suggested that we try it out. Go visit one of these EcoVillages for a while, and see how we like it.

Now there's an idea!

A hungry little review of Bill McKibben's Eaarth

I've been getting into things, lately. Numerous firsts, and a few seconds, thirds, etc.

I'm dangling off the back of the yoga train, and truly practicing twice a week. Far from my every-day goal, but not the worst possible outcome.

Last night, I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. I finally, sort-of understand how the game works. It was enough to show me that my half-elf bard character won't be enough to keep me challenged and entertained. Sure, it'll allow for a certain amount of mischeviousness, but I want to FIGHT! Kill some monsters, ya know?

Although my reading progesses at a slower pace than normal, I'm thoroughly enjoying Bill McKibben's Eaarth. To call it thought-provoking would be a cliche understatment. It's life changing in a completely new and important way.

"A car is the ultimate expression of individualism." Deep Economy, 152

"{Hyper-individuaism} may be a phase through which humans need to pass before they can figure out its limitations." Deep Economy, 157

I'd quote from Eaarth, but I'd end up typing out the entire book. Let's avoid copyright infringement. Just read it for youself. Weathering the long wait-list at your local library is well worth it. This book is an important piece of the coming (present, really) changes to our individual lives, local communities, states, nations, and society as a whole. Most importantly, it's about how nature has already changed, and it will teach us how to gracefully and sustainably adapt to these changes before it's too late.

I would write more, but my sandwich is ready and I'm famished. Gotta enjoy GRC while I can!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Giving up the Hard Juice

I'm writing to you today from Command Central, the newest technology hub in East Lansing! Alright, so it's technically a glorified computer desk with a television atop the highest shelf. But, hey, at least it's got internet and cable. It boasts cool, below-ground temperatures... in my basement.

Everyone needs to begin somewhere.

Sean and I are embarking on a new challenge. Taking it a week at a time (my caveat), we'll attempt to stop eating out. No big deal, right? Sean's a thrifty, creative and talented cook, so we'll have plenty of meals and leftovers to carry us through. In that respect, the hard work is already done. Still, we spend a lot of time and money "eating out" around town. Dominos is across the street from us. Quality Dairy (which is considered an eating establishment in this experiment) is a block away. I walk to work on a path which parades me past two coffee shops and a myriad of local restaurants and bars. When we're on the other side of town we like to stop at Culver's (*shudder*) or Cracker Barrel.

I don't know if this will work.

I drink a lot of coffee. I'm fine with giving up restaurant eating, especially fast food. It's the loss of COFFEE that I fear will be my downfall. True, we have a good (semi-broken) coffee pot and a sporadic supply of delicious fair trade coffee beans that my dad imports green and roasts at home, from Sweet Maria's. And yes, there's a free supply of coffee at the bookshop, as well. I can manage to get from our home to the shop without visiting any of East Lansing's fine coffee establishments. I think.

I know Ellen from Grand River Coffee better than I know my neighbors. I met Bob Fish, American hero and co-creator of Beaners (Biggby Coffee), and was starstruck. The average large coffee in this town costs $2.00. Two dollars for a cup of life-sustaining juice from magical beans, imported to Mid-Michigan from afar. Sold! Granted, more often than not I find myself clenching a more expensive drink than I expected to buy, but that's marketing! I'm an important part of the local coffee-buying population, and I'm throwing in the towel.

What we're not giving up are the drinking establishments of East Lansing. To the average 24 year old living in one of America's most alcohol-focused college towns, this is good news! I think I'd rather keep coffee and give up the spirits, though. Ah, well. At least I have Boobs and Beer, a Michigan brew blog, to keep me informed.

I made my own coffee this morning, but I'm going out to lunch with a friend this afternoon. Hey, we haven't started, yet!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Less-Trampled Path

So here's the deal. I'm back to blogging again. And once again, I'm serious about it (haha). I think this time it might stick. True, I've said this before. There's truly only one way to find out.

Sustainability is quite the catch-phrase these days, in this post-millennial, greenified world. First there was Al Gore, then Elphaba. Next, Lady Gaga will premiere her new Lady Gaia costume and become the first (?) international Green Revolution icon. I was a history major. I know all about using the figure of a woman as the symbol of a true revolution. I'm down.

I'm so “down,” in fact, that I'm prepared to put it onto the vast Internetverse. I know that Blogs are rather Old-School. Still, I shall persevere. Given my circumstances, I'd consider this a rather advanced personal technological achievement. Don't mock me. Just keep reading!

In trying to trace the root of this sudden zeal, I realized a few of the doubtless numerous and otherwise unnoticed influences upon my life. My new husband, Sean, is something of a zombie aficionado. What began as a kitchy interest and collection theme has blossomed into a fully fledged state of paranoia regarding the (most definitely real) zombie apocalypse. I'm yet skeptical, but anything is possible. Or, maybe this sprouts from his interest in the spread of diseases and epidemiology.

He's truly not insane, I promise. Or, are we both?

We've both recently graduated. In college, I became very involved in things. I worked at the library and joined a few honors societies, which I had some part in governing. I was a bit of a departmental starlet, although it seems very awkward (yet right) to call myself so. Harlot, sometimes. I studied creative non-fiction under one of the most influential women of my life. I became the aforementioned history major, in addition to majoring in English. I was on the fast-track to a career in retail and freelance, most likely.

Goodness, how true it's become!

I started to make friends with a fascinatingly diverse group of people. I found the most excellent mentors and academics available, there. And even more – they're actually invested in their students as individuals and future colleagues. It was flattering, startling, and emboldening. I'm truly lucky/blessed/______ to have been where I've been.

It goes deeper and deeper, I'm realizing while I write and reminisce. I used to spend my playtime, nearly every day, outside under the Texas sun. My dad's a gardener. Really, each relative I'm fortunate enough to have has influenced me toward this in some way or another. Really, all of you. Thank you.

Ah, I'm rambling. If anyone cares about the rest of the story, comment one day far into the future and I'll tell you more. I don't have time to dawdle!

What's in the Green Bag:
- Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation, by Jason Mattera
- Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben
(I found this through a recent NYTimes review of Eaarth, and am simply stunned by the number of things I do not know, or simply have not paused to consider!)
- The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben
- The Age of Missing Information, by Bill McKibben
- Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely (endorsed by NatGeo)
- Worms Eat My Garbage, by Appelhof (Sean's book, and by a local author!)
- Watershed: The Undamming of America, by Elizabeth Grossman
- Meditations from the Mat, by Gates aand Kenison
- A Few Brass Tacks, by Louis Bromfield
(I just happened upon this at work, and was astounded by the "Apologia" at the beginning. I'll post a version of it soon!)
- The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Communion with Nature, by William R. Jordan III
(Ecological Restoration. Now, why haven't I heard of THIS before?)
- August Celebration: A Molecule of Hope for a Changing World, by Linda Grovner
(Another wildcard find from The Curious Book Shop!)
- The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces of an Active Life

One of my major problems is handling the barrage of information coming down all around me. Learning about so many new things at once is exhilarating and overwhelming. I'm coping with it in the only way I know how - by writing. My journal has become a good commonplace book over the last few weks, but I can recognize a situation which calls for a keyboard and forum.

The time, dear reader, is now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Audrey vs. the Voice Inside

Hey, there.

It's been a while, hasn't it?

I really am sorry. You see, I've been... busy?

Well, no, that's a lie. Most of my abundance of free time has been spent reading, with some scribble-writing on the side.

What's that? Almost a year since graduation?

Oh. Yeah. Well, I've been working on a few things. You know, just in the rough first stages.
What? No, nothing of academic merit.
No, more of a novel.
Well three novel ideas. But nothing solid.
Hmm. No. I thought about expanding my senior thesis, but...

Well, I just didn't do it, okay?
Has it really been a YEAR?

Well, I moved to another town. That counts for something. And I planned and took part in a wedding, so that took up some of my time.

But that ended in October.
But Christmas! That was busy!

And now it's really still just the start of the year. Mid-April.
Good lord, it's almost summer.

I do have plans, you know. We're moving in less than a month. The book shop just did the big show, so we're still recovering from that...

No, you're right. I still only work 20 hours a week. And I spend too much time watching other people's unique and exciting YouTube videos while continually putting off any sort of creative output of my own.

But I got NetFlix.

And I've read 21 books since January 1st. It takes a reader to be a writer, eh?

Maybe this is a new start.
But a guilt-fueled start rarely runs the course.

(x-posted in that other blog I abandoned)