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savannah river site
Savannah River Site, the bomb plant, sprawls across the land near Aiken—a 61-mile drive from where I grew up. When I was a boy I discovered the woman next door, Miss Ann, made the 120-plus-mile round-trip five days a week. A peacekeeper of sorts, she’d gotten on at the bomb plant. For a long time I knew little about this nuclear reservation.
Years passed. One July day in 1986, a self-assigned writing project took me to Savannah River Site…
The University of Georgia media collection features a handful of town films. The one about Athens, Georgia is the most complete in the sense of presenting the whole community, on the ground and from the air. The description accompanying the offering on the web page is somewhat inaccurate:
Because of its business and housing content, we believe this 16mm color amateur film of scenes in and around Athens was made by Joel A. Weir who was, at that time, Executive Director of the Athens Housing Authority as well as Director of the Athens Chamber of Commerce (1931-1949). This short clip (14 mins.) is excerpted from the full film (approx. 45 mins.) and is silent.
who/what do you read?
A fellow writer asked me yesterday: What do you read? Which writers do you value? Who influences your style? This knocked me for six. It’s a Big Question. I have a long history in libraries and five bookcases stacked with a lifetime’s paperbacks (cheapskate) and short of trawling the shelves for authors’ names which often escape me, I didn’t think I had time to respond. IRS accounts waiting on my dining table reproach me every time I walk past doing something more interesting. But this intriguing question slipped into my mind’s cogs as they surreptitiously rotated.
act of cultural vandalism
An open letter to my elected, so-called representatives: This present Australian Government is trotting dog-like down the path to destruction behind its conservative counterparts in the US and elsewhere, bent on transforming us into a society where the environment, the economy and the national social conscience are left to the tender mercies of the free market and corporate “self-regulation”.
The feeling of your tires losing traction on an icy road is hard to label. You’d think it might feel like falling, a sudden stop or start, a gut-twisting vertigo as the ground drops away, but it’s not that dramatic. Instead of physics slapping you with your own momentum, you feel, perhaps, like the road has just started lying to you. The motions of your hands and feet, something you’ve felt so very confident in for years, aren’t following through on their promise. You’re clearly steering in one direction, applying just so much pressure to the pedals, but the road is picking motions at random.
When they were small my husband used to say, “With a mother like you, Columbus would never have discovered America.” I knew I was over-anxious and didn’t want to burden them; I could barely contain my anxiety when small boys walked along a pier by the sea peering down at the fish (I couldn’t swim) or stood on a cliff’s edge (I suffer from vertigo) but I could keep quiet about my night vigils when they were growing up.
union rights are civil rights
Chip Wells, 43, an 11-year veteran at the 5,200-worker Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, says the recent bad news coming out of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, did nothing to deter him and fellow pro-union Nissan workers from their campaign to join the United Auto Workers. “People think that derailed us,” says Wells, who works in Nissan’s paint department, “but we think it made us stronger.”
what crawled up your drawers?
Oh, I love it and I hate it,
Every now and then berate it,
The sweet and sunny south where I was born.
— Gina Forsyth
Image in my head: a tour bus arriving in the republic of Biblestan, disgorging a file of daytrippers, like poverty tourists in a Rio slum, at some ramshackle barbecue joint, hiply-shod, fanny-pack-wearing gawkers shocked at the absence of recycling bins by the dumpsters, saying “Gee whilikers!” and “You betcha!”, having their barbecue not too spicy! then waddling off to the Gift Shop for some outrageous corncob art.
don’t delete the expletives
When my boys were growing up they learned rude words from their classmates (school is an education) and naturally I tried to filter out the most offensive. When a four letter word slipped out of their mouths I would always say “Please don’t say that.” After I explained that their meaning was offensive, and if it became their familiar vocabulary it would inevitably slip out when they didn’t want it to (like in front of a teacher), they were pretty accommodating. Their father however replied to my request not to swear in front of the children (without prevarication) “I’ll effing well swear if I want to!”…
message of every ad
“Forfeit your sense of awe and the world becomes a market place.” — Rabbi Abraham Heschel
“A culture is a people enacting a story,” wrote Daniel Quinn in Ishmael. So Americans, what’s our collective story? Pose this question to virtually anyone and you’re likely to get a blank stare in response. Most of us pay no heed to our mythology. It’s the water we swim in, and we take it completely for granted. Or worse, we discount whatever smells of mythology.
The eagerness that South Carolina’s Haley Administration showed in seeking federal disaster assistance during this month’s Great Ice Storm makes one wonder whether there is any sense to what kind of federal money is OK to take and what isn’t.
You’ll recall that as hundreds of thousands of people lost power and sat in dark homes growing ever colder, Gov. Nikki Haley rightfully said South Carolina was in a state of emergency and requested the federal government to officially designate it as an emergency.
In my outings around town I often see people in their thirties socializing. They run in packs and hop from bar to bar like fleas. They cluster up at festivals watching passersby, pointing, and laughing at others. They run together as couples and they break into male and female packs seeking adventure sure to banish boredom. This phenomenon is not new. We did it when we were in our thirties. Some of you did too. It’s been happening as long as men and women itch to escape the same old same old.
the power to corrupt
James Holland has dug into his archives from his days as the Altamaha River Keeper (ARK) to remind us that it’s not just North Carolina that’s got a coal waste problem.
The Duke Energy coal ash spill in North Carolina has been in the news a lot, as of late. This tragedy on the Dan River in North Carolina started me to thinking about how one of Georgia’s main rivers and lakes may be quite vulnerable to a coal ash spill at Milledgeville, Georgia. The lake is Lake Sinclair and the river that is dammed to create Lake Sinclair is the Oconee River in the Altamaha River watershed.
contrast british and american
“Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”—Auden
There is a distinct British sense of humor, often wry, dry and irreverent. It doesn’t rely on smut to be effective, although we’re amused by suggestion. We like the casual delivery, so leave your eyebrows out of it. Half the fun is subtlety. Brits like me enjoy the unexpected outcome, the double entendre, observations on human nature and misunderstandings; slapstick not so much.
The phenomenon of elderly people fixed with rapt and adoring attention on The Lawrence Welk Show used to totally baffle me. Everything about it seemed transparently fake – fake smiles, fake dialogue, fake music. The bubbles might have been real. It was like the glaring opposite of hip. But hip can be fake too, more like the opposite of authentic, or maybe anti-real. It’s not much of a leap from Lawrence Welk to Ronald Reagan.
He always held his pencil differently from the rest of us. While we philistines labored to be little Norman Rockwells desperately trying to make the faces we sketched look at least human, he glided over the paper with an ease none of us could ever duplicate. His faces were human, but they were in a Picasso-like abstract style. The noses were there but they sometimes overlapped the mouth and eyes and were out of proportion. Our teacher in middle school was not in the least amused and totally disinterested in how his mind was able to see the assignment in such a different way. All she could tell him was to quit “wasting time” and …
When his obituary appeared prematurely in the press, Mark Twain remarked: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In the last weeks a number of deaths of celebrities have been falsely reported. Nothing but fame seems to connect the individuals whose erroneously reported demise has set the twittering classes tweeting. First I read on the internet that Michael Moore had died. I was dismayed at the loss of this useful member of society and great campaigner, and relieved next day when I discovered the report was false…
in the south
I step out to a gray afternoon; queerly, white flakes fall from the Atlanta skies. It’s been snowing about an hour. The black roofs are now speckled grey and slowly turning white, yet dark streaks run their length telling of their poor insulation. Over the lawn, a thin blanket of snow leads to my car, a couple frozen blades still stick out. I look back at my footsteps; they only sink about a half inch. A smile of childhood emerges, as I recall how I loved to go sledding.
'til death do you part
Among the survivors, obituaries usually mention the spouse whether the “devoted wife,” “adoring husband,” “the loyal husband” or the “love of his/her life.” Occasionally, though, careful obituary readers will find poignant “valentines” or little love stories almost buried in the litany of jobs, accomplishments and hobbies.
It’s always fun to happen upon these as they definitely help to paint a more complete picture of how a relationship began or how a couple bonded and flourished over the years. Even just a hint of romance or intrigue or courtship that is revealed adds a little sweet perspective to a departure.
saved his life
Al is a crusty New Yorker who moved to our very waspy Republican stronghold here in Central Florida about 10 years ago to open a small cabinetry and carpentry shop. My wife and I own a small cafe here that we opened one month after President Obama was elected. Our very risky venture – on opening day I think we had $100 to our name – was fueled in part by our enthusiasm for what we saw as a turning point in American history. Now it’s five years later and we’re still open, we’re crowded almost every day and everyone in the county knows about us. We can’t claim to any profits yet…
gave gouthern boys a fine ski
Back in the 1960s when I hung out at Georgia’s Elijah Clark State Park, the cool guys were into water skiing. I got into it too and learned to slalom. That was a big deal. Learning to take off from shore standing on one leg was an even bigger deal, and I did that despite my most ordinary ski’s limitations. No matter how well you skied though, not having a big name ski rubbed a lot of luster off your accomplishment. A Dick Pope Jr. ski, however, carried cachet. A cheap ski? It might as well be a plank.
we were soldiers once and young
Of all the distinctive experiences in my life, there have been only two that have totally brought me to a halt, changing my landscape to the point that the line before and after are dark and broad strips as though made with a blunt and heavy magic marker. There is no ambiguity that the line is one of separation. One was my tour of duty in Vietnam from 1968-69. The other was the death of my late wife, Lilian.
It is striking in its unique and haunting simplicity. The concept is most distinctive, and in its own way, reassuring. Just looking at it calms you. The setting is a busy place with traffic rushing nearby, and often, airplanes overhead. It’s difficult to get to during business days, but amazingly simple during weekends. We refer of the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C., the first memorial to 9-11, created to remember and honor those people who perished when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Moments before, I’d accidentally dropped the TV remote. The thing must’ve flopped on the floor at some crazy-ass angle and flipped the channel to something else. I’d been laughing at a Saturday afternoon Three Stooges Marathon. Now, at the very top of the hour, an announcer, Jim McKay tells me I am about to enjoy “…the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
he had soul
Mr. Goff. Not “Tommy Goff” or “Tommy” or some dorky nickname — Mr. Goff didn’t have nicknames. A bandmate once made the mistake of calling him Mr. Goof — nobody ever said that again. No, there was nothing else really conceivable: he was Mr. Goff. He was the best teacher I ever had, and one of the handful of truly extraordinary people I’ve met in life — and a legion of former students scattered over the world would say the same.
life rises from the earth
The day breaks gray, cold, and wet. Rain and mists swirl and shift like apparitions as winds whip them across the highway. Like twin metronomes, my windshield wipers lay down a steady beat … driving north, driving north, driving north. I’m driving to Lancaster, South Carolina, to interview a Catawba potter. To get there I drive up I-77 and peel off on SC Highway 200, a two-lane road running through pine-clad hills. It runs through hard times too.
useless on ice
A dozen years ago, during the early spring, I was visiting my son in Pennsylvania. Among the scheduled activities was an opportunity to see my ten year old grandson play basketball that Saturday at the local YMCA. Upon rising that morning and peering out the bedroom window, I felt a tinge of disappointment. A dusting of snow had come during the night. I walked down to get coffee and expressed my regret to my son. He looked at me with surprise and confusion until he realized what I meant.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
How did it come to this? How did our political life in America get to be so drenched in hostility? While reading an article about how “anti-environmentalists” are spending thousands of dollars to alter their vehicles to increase the smoke they produce, I came across this statement from one of that group, who call themselves “coal rollers”: “If [Obama’s] into the environment, if he’s into this or that, we’re not.” And it’s not just the president they’re hostile to, it’s also those Prius-driving “librels” who, according to the article, might be specially targeted with a blast of smoke and soot. How did “if they’re for it, I’m agi Read on →
The French Impressionists attempted a rendering of what they saw, an "impression" yes, but the interesting aspect is best illustrated by Seurat's Pointillism. Interesting because in the late 1800s there was a shift in emphasis among painters of an adventurous nature, what came to be called the "avant-garde," from the "subject" depicted to the "act" of perception. This shift may have grown out of or been influenced by then current scientific theories of how the eye works, but I believe it was based in an emerging self-awareness. The excitement was not about "how" I see but "that" I see. I Read on →
There were superficial reasons—when he thundered on the political scene at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and then rode on the wave of that thunder to his election in 2008—to compare Barack Obama with Abraham Lincoln. There was the Illinois connection, for instance, and the gifted orator connection, and the “new birth of freedom” connection. Add to these the evident high esteem, even reverence, held by Obama for that towering mentor of his spirit, and it is easy to link the two of them. But what about things deeper than the surface? A sobering intimation arose in me, in the wake of the Read on →
One night about three years ago when Jake was five, I was settling him to sleep with a book about Chicken Licken. I hadn’t met her before but Jake knew her well. When we got to the end of the book and he asked for another story, I was too tired to fetch another book, and didn’t want to disturb his sleepy state, so I made up a variation on this theme. We lay with our eyes closed, imagining. Taking the character’s name in vain, we casually began to invent life situations and adventures for Chicken Licken. “Chicken Licken goes to school” Read on →