Thursday, June 21, 2012

Anna Karenina and The Nostalgic English Major's Online Book Club

 "I think... if it is true that
there are as many minds as there
are heads, then there are as many
kinds of love as there are hearts."
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I'm not a movie buff, yet I find myself drooling over the 
newly-released trailer for Anna Karenina
scheduled to hit theaters this November.

This isn't the first adaptation of Anna Karenina. 
It seems that every generation of Hollywood 
big-shots has tackled this epic love story.  
This version stars Kiera Knightley and Jude Law!  
With a screenplay written by the great Tom Stoppard
this adaptation should live up to the hopes and expectations 
of even the most discerning Tolstoy (Tolstoi!) fan. 

Greta Garbo as Anna Karenina in 1935
Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in 1948
Tatiana Samoilova as Anna Karenina in 1967

Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina (also, Anna Karenin), 
is one of the great 19th century Russian novels. 
Tolstoy also wrote War and Peace, that 
1200-ish page epic that folks mention but never read.
Anna Karenina is shorter (less than 800 pages),
and thus, more approachable.

Dostoevsky deemed it to be "flawless as a work of art". 
Faulkner said it was the best novel ever written. 

At the Curious Book Shop we struggle to keep
this 134-year-old classic on the shelves.
 Anna Karenina and Tolstoy's stream-of-consciousness style 
influenced countless 20th century writers, including Virginia Woolf, 
Vladimir Nabokov, George Bernard Shaw... and Nicholas Sparks.

And what's not to like?

Imperial Russia's aristocratic society whirls around 
in a dizzying display of decadence, 
setting the stage for this tragic romance. 
Anna, trapped a loveless marriage to a distant Count, 
meets a young officer who turns her life upside-down. 

In classic Tolstoy style, this dark novel is full of tragic 
twists and rife with social and political commentary.

A young Leo Tolstoy, a few years before Anna Karenina.

What excites me most is the extravagant costuming 
and beautiful sets glimpsed in the trailer. 
It seems that young Mother Russia will play the grandest role of all. 

France, Russia and England personified in 1914.

 Marianne, Mother Russia and Britannia
are represented in this Russian propaganda poster 
of the "Triple Entente" allies of World War I. 
Lovely ladies have been used as powerful revolutionary icons 
for centuries, like America's Lady Liberty.

Russian literature and history scholars will NOT be pleased 
by historical inadequacies and inaccuracies, which occur 
in every period film based upon a literary masterpiece.
This is the Great Struggle of an Academic. 
These poor, intelligent creatures should be pitied, not mocked.
An uncommonly vast amount of knowledge can 
make it difficult to enjoy cinematic eye-candy.

I've never read Anna Karenina, but I've always wanted to. 
Reading a Tolstoy novel is a commitment. 
The book is thick! It certainly won't fit into my purse. 
If dropped, it could break my toes clean off. 
The simple fact that it is Russian gives it a Moby Dick-esque quality, 
as though it may be inscrutable without appropriate 
historical references and some Wikipedia research. 

I'm taking this opportunity to tackle one of the 
most intimidating books on my To Be Read list. 
I'll take it slowly, a few chapters at a time, 
with plenty of time to mull things over.
I have a few suckers friends who will come aboard, 
ready to be transported to 1870s Russia. 
If you're up for a rewarding challenge, read this with us!

If I have time, I'd like to take a close look
at Elif Batuman's recent bibliophile book,

Consider this to be the beginnings of 
 The Nostalgic English Major's Online Book Club.

And for the record, I would prefer to
read Anna Karenina over Les Miserables,
even with the new Les Mis movie in the pipeline.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rabbit and Garden Update

I've been putting this post off for a couple of days,
but it's time to bite the bunny bullet and share some sad news.

There are no baby bunnies.

I was thrilled to announce the arrival of baby New Zealand rabbits at our community garden, earlier this month. It was the first litter, and we were all pretty geeked. The buck and doe are fine, but those poor little baby rabbits died soon after birth.We were shocked, and felt awful. It's been over a week, but I have been avoiding this blog post.

There are numerous possible contributing factors to the kit loss, each as likely as the next. There is no official cause of death, but here are some possibilities:

1. We were not prepared for the litter. It's possible that the nest box was the wrong size. It's possible that we didn't provide enough of the right kind of bedding, which may have resulted in the kits getting too cold at night. The hutches we have are great for housing mature rabbits, but not litters. The doe gave birth two weeks earlier than we expected, which left us scrambling a bit. New cage construction is already under way!

2. The mother rabbit was not prepared for the litter.  Very young mothers, especially those under six months of age, may not "understand" what has happened. Our doe is just about 6 months old, and this was her first litter. Nervous and young mothers sometimes abandon their young, and there's not much that can be done through human intervention. Apparently, it is common for a young mother to lose her first litter.

 The majority of this information was provided by Sean, who is becoming a rabbit master. He's being guided by a friend who just happens to be a veterinary medicine student who specializes in rabbits. He tells us that we're doing things correctly, so that's comforting. He also inspected the doe and gave us the go-ahead to rebreed her.

Death can be a terribly sad thing, especially when it arrives as the shadow of so much life and optimism. Of course we were unhappy and angry that we lost our first litter.  Still, we are a rational bunch of folks who understand that life isn't a Disney movie, and that nature works in mysterious ways. I'd be lying if I told you that a cloud of gloomth has hovered over Poppin' Fresh. We've all dealt with it, and are looking ahead to a rabbit-filled future.  

We've learned from this experience, and we've moved on.  Rabbit death is going to happen, one way or another. Many breeding resources recommend that if you loose a litter, to rebreed immediately, and in 31 more days you'll have more bunnies! We decided to give our momma rabbit a bit of a break, and won't be rebreeding her until later this month.
By then we will all be better prepared!

So, there you have it.

When one thing dies, many more flourish.

 Last week Sean and I participated in some garden outreach, during which we walked around and met most of the neighbors. We invited everyone we met to come over and check out the garden, and promised many tomatoes to friendly folks.

The garden is looking SO GOOD. Now that we've been working the same plot for over a year we feel more confident in our own skills, and we're much more "settled in" in the neighborhood. I've been focusing on beautification, as silly as it sounds, and we have flowers coming up all over the garden. Soon we'll be extending our fence to surround the new lot we acquired, and then Sean will build a few much-needed gates.

Our young fruit trees are doing well, the Jerusalem Artichokes are getting HUGE, and tomatoes, corn and potatoes were planted  our new lot this week. We've been eating fresh snap peas, spinach and lettuce. Squash and pumpkin seedlings will go into the ground soon, and maybe a small crop of hops. We're feeling proud and optimistic with so much tasty food ripe for the taking.

It has been horribly dry in the Lansing area, but we're ready and waiting for a good rainstorm. We've added to our daisy-chain of rain barrels, tripling our water-storage capacity. We have many more barrels set aside, so once we add taps to them we'll be in good shape. Rain barrels are so simple to make, and are absolutely invaluable. Soon I will post an easy how-to rain-barrel demo, so you can make some for your own garden. If  you don't want to wait, do a quick internet search and get started this weekend!

If you want to join us for a work party, keep an eye on the Learning Leaves Community Gardens Facebook Page, where we post schedules for all three of our gardens, on the east side of Lansing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"An End to Freedom" by Jean Baudrillard

Let me share something with you, here.

It's an essay, and it's about you.
And it's about me.
It's about everyone, really.

The following is worth reading, but only if you give it
your undivided attention.  It might seem long,
and there might be a few unfamiliar words.
Be patient with the writer and with yourself.
Put down the phone. Close the Facebook tab.
Choose to engage yourself for the next few minutes.
Put on your critical-thinking cap.

I first came across the works of Jean Baudrillard last year, in a book shop. I assumed he was just another New Age nut with an agenda to push. I was wrong. Baudrillard was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. He died in 2007, but I hope that his insights into our political system, society and place in the world will continue to be shared.

What follows is the essay 
"An End to Freedom" 
by Jean Baudrillard, 
from his book Impossible Exchanges
published by Verso in 2001.

An End to Freedom

Two spectres haunt the subject: the spectre of Will and the spectre of Freedom. The pressure everywhere is for the subject to claim the full use of one and the boundless exercise of the other. Today it is illegal to give up one's own will, or not to wish to be free.

The 'liberated' man becomes fully responsible for the objective conditions of his existence. This is, to say the least, an ambiguous destiny. In this way, the 'liberated' worker, for example, falls prey to the objective conditions of the labour market.

At the same time as it forms part of a movement of liberation (of energy, sex, mores and work), modernity also involves the transference of everything which had to do with the imagination, dreams, the ideal and utopia into a technical, operational reality: the materialization of all desires, the realization of all possibilities. Everything is accomplished unconditionally; there is no transcendence any more, no alienation. Fulfilled individuals, but fulfilled only virtually, of course. It is the virtual which renders reality total by absorbing any imaginary alternative. The individual at last becomes identical with himself; the promise of the ego has been fulfilled. The prophecy which was that of the whole of modern history, from Hegel and Marx to Stirner and the Situationists - the prophecy of the appropriation of self and the end of alienation - has been fulfilled. Not for better, but for worse. We have passed from the Other to the Same, from alienation to identification (similarly, the Nietzschean prophecy of the transvaluation of values has been fulfilled for the worse - not in our passing beyond Good and Evil, but in our falling back this side of Good and Evil).

This indivisible individual is the achieved utopia of the subject: the perfect subject, the subject without other. Without inner alterity, he is doomed to an endless identity. Self-identity of the individual, the subject, the nation, the race. Self-identity of the world, now technically and absolutely real - now 'become what it is'. No more metaphors, no more metamorphoses. All that remains is the indefinite metastasis of identity.

Identity is a dream that is pathetically absurd. You dream of being yourself when you have nothing better to do. You dream of being yourself and gaining recognition when you have lost all singularity. Today we no longer fight for sovereignty or for glory, but for identity. Sovereignty was a mastery; identity is merely a reference. Sovereignty was adventurous; identity is linked to security (and also to the systems of verification which identify you). Identity is this obsession with appropriation of the liberated being, but a being liberated in sterile conditions, no longer knowing what he is. It is a label of existence without qualities. Now, all energies - the energies of minorities and entire peoples, the energies of individuals - are concentrated today on that derisory affirmation, that prideless assertion: I am! I exist! I'm alive, I'm called so-and-so, I'm European! A hopeless affirmation, in fact, since when you need to prove the obvious, it is by no means obvious.

The process of liberation is never innocent. It starts out from an ideology and an idealist movement in history. It tends always towards a reduction of the fundamental ambivalence of Good and Evil. Good or bad, the fact of being 'liberated' absolves us of an original evil. There is an element of simplification and transparency, of the elimination of the dark continent, the dark side, the accursed share, and the coming of the reign of value: all these things are present in the Rousseauist concept of a happy destiny, a natural vocation, a 'liberation'.

Not to be free is immoral, and liberation is both baptism and salvation, the true democratic sacrament.

Now, this is a utopian model. You cannot liberate Good without liberating Evil, and the ambivalence is definitive. The historical advance of the forces of Evil undoubtedly proceeds even more rapidly than that of the forces of Good. Another problematic consequence: as soon as they are liberated, things begin to float - money in speculation, sex in the lack of defined sexual boundaries, production in senseless overproduction, time in the undecidable calculation of origins. Once they are liberated, things take both an uncertain and an exponential turn. An uncontrollable ratcheting-up (e.g. nuclear power) and, at the same time, the beginning of the countdown: as soon as there is accounting, a calculation of value and accumulation, there is the prospect of exhaustion. Liberation leads always to a critical threshold beyond which its effects are reversed.

Liberty has succumbed to its perverse effect: liberation. In its accepted philosophical sense, liberty is an idea and, by fulfilling it, we have lost it. More or less the same thing happened with desire which faded as an ideal at the same time. Thus liberty, by its own logic, died a natural death, abolished in our profoundest imagination. But it still has to die an unnatural, ignoble one, dragged in effigy through all the discourses which stand in for it - including the discourse of human rights, and more generally all the forms which have replaced existence with the right to existence, difference with the right to difference, desire with the right to desire - and, finally, liberty with the right to be what one is and to want what one wants, which is its derisory form. Liberty thus shares the fate of all these defunct values, exhumed and resuscitated by the work of mourning - nostalgic and melancholic values which the system puts back in circulation as additional 'moral dimension'.

One can understand why the individual wants one thing only: to be rid of it. 'Being nothing is intoxicating, and the will is a bucket you knocked over in the yard, with a lazy flick of the foot, as you went by' (Pessoa).

This paradoxical movement may extend as far as the rejection of this unconditional liberty. The utopia of liberty, once realized, is no longer a utopia, and it is earlier forms, past forms, enslaved forms, which gradually became once again a utopia.

Omar Khayyam: 'Rather one freeman bind with chains of love / Than set a thousand prisoned captives free.'

Let us be clear about this: we are not speaking of the utopia of a historically defunct form of master and slave, but that of a linkage, a concatenation of forms, of a subjection to the cycle of becoming, to the rule of metamorphoses. Not a personal subjection of the slave, but the subjection of words one to another in language. The necessity of a form is of this order: words are not 'free', and it is certainly not the task of writing to 'liberate' them. On the contrary, writing binds them together, links them in 'chains', but they are linked together with 'chains of love'. The only thing they are to be liberated from is, possibly, their meaning -  so that they may form a secret concatentation.

The Hero does not 'liberate' events or historical forces, nor does he construct a history. He connects, concatenates the figures of myth and legend; this is why neither Revolution nor Democracy needs heroes. The Poet does not 'liberate' words according to their meaning. He binds them together in accordance with the figures of the language; this is why the Republic has no need of poets. The Madman and the Idiot do not 'liberate' drives or lift repression. They rediscover the secret concatenation of the figures of madness - which is closer to an archaic metamorphosis or an otherworldly curse than to desire and the unconscious.

More generally, forms are not liberated; only forces are liberated. The world of forces, of values, and even of ideas - the entire world of liberation - is the world of progress and competitive striving. Forms, for their part, do not surpass each other: there is movement from one form to another ,and this play of forms is tragic and sacrificial; whereas relations of force, conflicts of values and ideology, are merely dramatic and conflictual. All the figures of modernity, of liberation, are utopian: theirs is a dream of an ideal non-place. Forms, for their part - the forms of art, for example - are not inspired by utopianism: they do not dream of surpassing themselves towards some other end; they are, in themselves, the non-place.

In any case, to be liberated you have first to have been a slave. And to have been a slave, you have to have not been sacrificed (only the prisoners who were not sacrificed become slaves). Something of this exemption from sacrifice and something of the consequent servility persists in 'liberated' man, particularly in today's servility - not the servility which precedes liberation, but the servility which succeeds it. Servility of the second kind: servility without a master.

In ancient society, there was a master and the slave. Later came the lord and the serf. Later still, the capitalist and the wage-labourer. There is a servitude particularly to each of these stages: you know who is the master, who the slave. It is all different now. The master has disappeared. Only the serfs and servility remain. Now, what is a slave without a master? A person who has devoured his master and internalized him, to the point of becoming his own master. He has not killed him in order to become master (that is Revolution); he has absorbed him while remaining a slave - indeed, more slavish than a slave, more servile than a serf; his own serf. The final stage of his servility which, from one regression to another, eventually reaches back to the point of sacrifice. Except that no one any longer does him the honour of sacrificing him, and he is forced, in despair, to sacrifice himself to himself and his own will. Our service-based society is a serf-based society, a society of individuals rendered servile for their own use, slaves to their own functions and performance - perfectly emancipated, perfectly servile.

If the problem of freedom can no longer be posed, then we have to think up an original way of not posing it - or of going beyond it. What is there beyond freedom? The same alternative faces us here as when we ask about the end: what is there beyond the end?

The equivalent in the register of freedom of what occurs in jokes or poetic language (in which words are not free to be exchanged for others, nor exchanged for their meaning, but exchanged as they have, in themselves, been changed by the grace of language) is that people, above and beyond their own wills, are what they are; are the direct coming-to-pass of what they are and what they do - at least in their 'poetic' moments, when they are not representing anything - especially not themselves as subjects. The rest - the rhetoric of will, responsibility and freedom, the image-playback of our whole moral philosophy - is all very well for the disenchanted consciousness of the alienated subject, the subject who is 'liberated' because they no longer know what [to] do with him as a slave, he himself not knowing \what to do with his freedom.

It is, in fact, a highly relative freedom, this freedom to become responsible, as a subject, for the objective conditions of one's own life. As long as I am subject to objective conditions, I am still an object, I am not wholly free - I have to be freed from that freedom itself. And this is possible only in play, in that more subtle freedom of play, the arbitrary rules of which paradoxically free me, whereas in reality I am kept in chains by my own will.

So. What do you think?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Adversaria 2

Ad`ver*sa"ri*a\, n. pl. [L. adversaria (sc. scripta)]  
A miscellaneous collection of notes, remarks, or selections;  
a commonplace book; also, commentaries or notes.

The following is a passage from the end of "renowned patriot" Senator Jack B. Tenney's "Mind-Washing in America: A Conspiracy against Liberty". This slim booklet was first published in 1953 and distributed by the Christian Nationalist Crusade. Tenney argues that "villainous lobbying is being done" in the American political system, resulting in Big Money being spent in inappropriate ways. Tenney blames a collection of wealthy Jewish evil-doers working together, an invisible hand guiding the American government. I abhor Tenney's fear-fueled anti-Semitic message. However, the following two paragraphs are gems.

"Under ordinary circumstances the efforts of a small, almost infinitesimal fraction of society to "brain wash" the overwhelming majority of its fellow citizens or build insane asylums for them would be incredible and fantastically funny. But these are not ordinary circumstances nor ordinary times. We are in the Age of Great Delusion - when black appears white, and white appears black - when the sane are made to appear insane and the insane act as the world's psychiatrists; where, in a world of folly it is folly to be wise; - where, in the land of the blind, clear vision is a handicap.

It can happen, but it won't - because the age of delusion passes away. Things that are not what they appear become what they are and children are capable of brushing the scales from the eyes of their elders by pointing out the nakedness of the Emperor and the fraud of his non-existing suit of miraculous cloth. Clear vision must inevitably out-wit the instincts of the blind and those who dared be wise in a time of folly will be honored for the folly of having been wise."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Russell Means, Lakota Leader, on the Alex Jones InfoWars Show

A recent 15-minute clip from InfoWars, 
featuring Russell Means and his insights on 
America's debt crisis, our love of convenience, 
constitutional history, the impending economic collapse 
and how Americans have lost their critical thinking skills.

Where exactly is the line between fear mongering 
and speaking the truth, or speaking from the heart?

It's easier to keep chugging along, 
to ignore those outspoken activists who
frighten us with their personal truths. 

Doing what was easiest won't help you a lick 
if things do continue to fall apart.

I haven't watched this yet,
but here's a link to Means's documentary,
Welcome to the Reservation.
Streaming free, on YouTube!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Community Gardening and Rabbit Keeping FAQ

About a year ago, a friend told us about a new community garden forming a few blocks from our house, funded by the Lansing Land Bank and The Garden Project. We jumped on board, and haven't looked back.

We now help maintain two community gardens where everyone works together. Poppin' Fresh is one of those gardens - and it has exploded in size, in more ways than one!

Our footprint has doubled. Last month we got approval to annex the newly-cleared lot next door. We're slowly gaining new members, which are desperately needed to eat all of the tasty things we're harvesting, year-round.

We're happy for more space, but the most exciting thing to happen at Poppin' this month is the arrival of baby bunnies!

With the arrival of bunnies have come questions from alarmed relatives and curious friends. The best way to learn about what we're doing is to come and see for yourself. Until you make it over to the Garden, allow me to answer some of the questions we hear most often.

Why are you doing this?

We're doing this to learn, plain and simple.

My childhood in the suburbs did not offer much hands-on experience with farming and animal husbandry. Sean and I first got involved in the community garden because it sounded like a good opportunity to get our hands dirty and learn the basics of gardening from knowledgeable people, for free.

Our biggest expenditure has been time, and it is time well spent. We're still learning, but we're also teaching new gardeners what we know. We have fun at the Garden, and the time flies when we're there. It's a nice break from the daily grind. The good people and delicious free food are nice perks, too.

The long-term goal is to strike out on our own, get some land and have our own garden with its associated trappings. Until then, we're making the most of what we have and learning lots along the way.

Okay, so, why rabbits?

Rabbits are so cute! They're cuddly, quiet little buggers with twitchy noses and lucky feet. What's not to like? 

There are other benefits, of course...
  • Rabbits produce good fertilizer. And when I say good, I mean really good. Please don't be squeamish - it's just nature! Rabbit manure is one of the very best fertilizers available. Fresh manure from large animals (horses, sheep) is harsh stuff that can kill your plants if applied too soon. It needs to be composted for months before adding it to your soil. Rabbit pellets, which are considered "cold" compost, can be used immediately without killing your plants. It's not as smelly, either.
  •  Rabbit pellets fix our soil, and we need it! Before Poppin' Fresh came into existence our land was occupied by a few abandoned houses in a flood plain. We've found more than our fair share of rocks, old asphalt and broken glass while putting in garden beds.  The quality of the food you grow is directly determined by the quality of your soil. Building good soil takes time, but amending it regularly helps! Rabbit pellets are chock-full of good nutrients . They drastically improve the soil's structure and porosity, too. You can find out more about the wonders of rabbit pellets by reading Chris McLaughlin's blog post, Rabbit Manure in the Garden.
  • Rabbits eat our weeds! Dandelions and many other weeds are a delicacy in the rabbit world. In a matter of weeks our rabbits ate up every dandelion at Poppin' Fresh, which has left us with nicer grass and happier neighbors.
  • Rabbits really are cute!  Adding the rabbits to Poppin' Fresh has strengthened our garden community. Regular gardeners, off-and-on gardeners, newcomers and neighbors all think that the rabbits are pretty darn cool. They've become a nice attraction of the Garden.
  •  We're learning livestock maintenance. Rabbits are a cheap, relatively easy introduction to the care and keeping of farm animals. We want chickens, just like most of our gardening peers. Chickens required more than our fledgling garden was willing to provide at that point in time. Rabbits have been a great trial-run for us, and we now feel far more confident about our future ability to keep other kinds of rabbits, chickens, quail, bees, a herd of fainting pygmy goats... or whatever comes along.
So, how do you do it?

 Like many things at Poppin' Fresh, the rabbits just sort of... happened. They were premeditated, but we acquired them far earlier than we expected. It was a mad scramble to prepare for spring, but everything worked out wonderfully.

Our original breeding pair (a buck and a doe) of New Zealand rabbits came from a local breeder. New Zealand rabbits are bred as meat rabbits, not pets. Ours came with small cages, food and water dishes. Though they would have been alright in those little metal cages, Sean built two hutches out of re-purposed desks. They're much happier in their rabbit palaces, within the "Hoppin' Fresh" enclosure.

We cross each bridge when we come to it. As novice rabbit keepers, we didn't know exactly when our doe would give birth, but estimated her due date to be mid-June. We expected a litter of 3 or 4 bunnies. We were wrong. Our doe gave birth to 8 or 9 baby bunnies two weeks sooner than we expected! The Big Hutch Building Party is scheduled for this weekend. If you're available and want to play with power tools while building a better future for some cute rabbits, please join us!

Keeping rabbits as a part of your garden is not as outlandish as you might think. They're worth the work, as long as you don't let them "free range" and eat all of your veggies. That book I continuously mention, The Urban Homestead, was how Sean and I first learned about keeping rabbits as part of homesteading. It seemed bizarre at first. There are some urban gardeners who swear by it, and their results speak well!

The internet is full of helpful information about keeping and benefiting from rabbits, as is the library. We just acquired a copy of the eighth edition of Rabbit Production, by McNitt, Patton, Lukefahr and Cheeke. The MSU Extension is a helpful resource, too. EVERY Michigan county has an Extension office that provides free materials in the hopes of helping people improve their own lives, and their knowledge goes far beyond rabbits and gardening.

What will you do with all those bunnies?

Our main goal is to provide these rabbits with a safe, healthy living environment.

We shelter them, protect them from danger and provide a healthy diet of dry rabbit food and greens from the garden. Once weened, we'll keep the new bunnies in separate cages to control their population... and we'll go from there!

Though we make a lot of jokes about Rabbit Stew, I can't predict the future. All I know is that we'll continue to learn from these rabbits.

((Check back soon for video of baby rabbits!))

Find out more about raising meat rabbits on a small-scale urban farm (and SO MUCH MORE!) by watching this video, produced by Dan Shifrin. He's an urban homesteader in Florida.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adversaria 1

Ad`ver*sa"ri*a\, n. pl. [L. adversaria (sc. scripta)]  
A miscellaneous collection of notes, remarks, or selections;  
a commonplace book; also, commentaries or notes.

"The deepest thing writing taught me 
was that there was nothing to hold on to. 
Thoughts moved quickly. 
As a writer, I worked hard to grasp them 
as they flooded through me, 
but thoughts moved faster than my hand. 
And thoughts changed. 
I made up reality as I went along. 
Nothing was frozen."
Natalie Goldberg
Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America (31)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Can't Play Croquet with a Tree on the Course!

We're having a little b-day celebration for a friend tonight.
Last night, a neighbor's box elder came down into our yard.
You can't play croquet with a tree on the course,
so the guys our out there hacking away at it with chainsaws.

If I knew where my camera charger was I'd show you
just how much came down, including some of our fence.
Suffice it to say that there's a lot to deal with.

No time to write, as I need to clean everything.

Here's a cool article about what you should and should not buy used, and another with guidelines for thrifting.

And here are some videos have recently caught my attention.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Think On This: Friday Edition

Buzzfeed has published their list of 40 of the Most Powerful Photographs, and it's a doozy of a list. Some of these photos are so familiar that I am a bit jaded by them - or was, until today. In this era of heightened information sharing, we're constantly bombarded with pictures of all kinds, from all sides. These images have held their value without need of fancy filters and followers on Instagram. I wonder - are they still worth 1000 words each? We've come a long way, folks.

I made it to #10 before I had to grab a towel (not a tissue!) to mop up tears. What a way to start a Friday, eh?

And now, for a bit of societal observation...

I take pleasure in guessing what the next big trends will be in pop culture. I've been right and I've been wrong. Pirates, who all look like Johnny Depp, were quickly overpowered by vampires. ("Vampirates" will always have a special place in my heart).

Fig. 1. What "sexy" has been lately, soon to be replaced!
Fig. 2. Different sort of vampire, obscurely hip in some circles.
I saw the zombie madness from a mile away, as Sean came down with a case of early-onset apocalyptia. People like stories where the characters are so overcome by horror, they lose their way of life (and oftentimes their moral compass). We like The Walking Dead because it pits "normal" people against against other formerly-normal people, and only a few survive. Plus, we're being conditioned to like gore and respond to it in a positive manner - and that's screwed up!

Fig. 3. Zombified Occupants
 Fortunately, the "Next Big Thing" is coming - and it's not Sexy Bankers. (Sorry, Dad.)

Fig. 4. What a "Sexy Banker" might look like.
For months I've been running my mouth, talking about the great Western Americana resurgence. America's identity and belief that it is exceptional largely reflects the romance and independence of The West. With Western Americana comes the idealization of guns, guitars, loose morals, deserts, tribal life, dust, extreme conditions, horses, hard work, ranches, rugged independence and ingenuity, cowboys, fringe, leather, mustaches, big hats, whores, gambling and a determined irreverence for the system. What's not to like? I was certain that the resurgence of the West was nigh.

Fig. 5. American Cowboy

After seeing the Les Miserables trailer I am rooting for a new fad - Revolutionaries! Some historians (and whoever paid close attention in high school) will knock down your door in a frenzy of nerdy excitement for the chance to talk about the intricacies of the French or Russian revolutions. I've heard the suggestion that the American Revolution (which was driven by markets!) has never ended, or at least carried on until the Civil War. History is blanketed in revolutions. That's what history is: one big, revolving power struggle.

Fig. 6. Tank Man, the peaceful protester in Tienanmen Square

The trouble is that Mass Media will NOT be featuring revolutionaries in a good light. That's what they say, right? "The Revolution Will Not Be Broadcast." They don't want you to see that kind of inspirational, fact-based stuff that might confuse you. They don't want you to see gore, real gore, and realize that it's not appropriate to clap and cheer when someone gets brained. They want guns in the hands of Bad Guys and Keepers of the Peace, not normal people. And they certainly don't want you brushing up on your history. Then you might realize that most revolutions are caused by food shortages, and that we're staring down the barrel of Peak Oil and all of the joys that come with it. You might stop wasting your money on their poisonous crap that belittles and imprisons you, and everyone else. Your family, classmates, friends, neighbors, your boss, even all of the strangers on the street you ignore while staring at your phone.

I'm telling you this because I care about you.
Everything runs out, and the rate we're
consuming things it's gonna be sooner, rather than later.

Don't waste time in a panic, all in a tizzy.
Don't be fearful. Just think.

Do yourself the favor of taking 15 minutes
to learn more about Peak Oil and what's to come.

Or, take 15 minutes and figure out how you're going
to cope with increasingly higher gas prices, food prices and debt.

If you think you'd be happy enough living off of MREs, buy a case.

If stocking up on Kraft Mac and Cheese
(why is it that color?!) and hotdogs
is your fall-back, it's time to go to Costco.

If you really want to help yourself out, though,
plant a few seeds in the dirt and see what happens.

You have you lead yourself to happiness.
You have to teach yourself what you need to know,
if you don't want to be one of the Sheeple
waiting blindly for a cataclysm.

I hope I don't sound insane.
I swear, I'm not.
I'm not on a soap box,
I'm just sharing information with
whoever wants to listen, and think.

In the last few years I have experienced
a gradual lifestyle shift, and I truly think
I'm better off now that I'm off the merry-go-round.

Do a few simple things this weekend to help yourself.

Stop watching so much damn television,
 especially those cable news shows!
Drink more water.
Drink less milk.
(It's for babies. Seriously.)

Don't eat at restaurant chains.
Applebee's is no better than Arby's.
If you don't want to cook for yourself,
then go to an independent restaurant that uses
fresh ingredients, not frozen meat patties and "special" sauces.

If you're already doing these things, good on you!
But don't stop there.

Take a look at what you slather all over
yourself and your stuff every day.
Shampoos, lotions, cleaning products.
What's in them?
Who manufactures them?
And who owns those manufacturers?
Proctor and Gamble, probably.

You could go to the farmer's market and try hand-made soap.
You could try making your own laundry detergent, like we did.
It works great and costs about 20 cents a gallon, if that.
There are various recipes with different ingredients, so take a look.

Buying soap isn't some hoity-toity hipster thing.
Soap is soap. It has been for centuries.
The oddly scented, colorful liquid stuff in bottles
is the new and disturbing option for 1st Worlders.

Once again, I recommend reading
The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living.
It disgusts me to link to Amazon, but it's for the greater good. :P

I'll call it a day, here.
If living better interests you, let me know.
I'm thinking about doing a series of posts
showing what we're doing as an example.

"If  the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered." - Thomas Jefferson

Step away from the screen, now. 
Go outside, rain be damned.