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“The lost and wondrous wreckage of America. The ceaseless road to nowhere. Yeah, that’s my home.”
That’s how John Mulhouse introduces visitors to his blog, City Of Dust. His blog (A term I can never bring myself to like) documents in words and photographs places abandoned, crumbling, stuck in the middle of nowhere, and to be blunt places few people have the intellect to appreciate. His work resonated with me as it is much like what Robert Clark and I do.
in the day
Every odyssey has to begin someplace, and in this case it was Washington D.C. on June 16, 1967 at a special hearing of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty, the most prominent members of which were its chairman, Sen. Joseph S. Clark, and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
I ‘d read a New York Times news story that this committee would be hearing from a team of doctors who had traveled though parts of Appalachia, Georgia, Alabama and, most notably, Mississippi, and returned to report on conditions in the South amounting to actual starvation.
Like an amoeba, Rayonier is splitting, but not in the interest of promoting organic existence. Rather, the real transformative and productive endeavors, which informed the operations of the original corporation to convert trees into paper and other useful products, is being left behind, as the new moniker, Rayonier Advanced Materials, Inc., is clearly designed to disguise, in the interest of promoting speculation in Real Estate development. I suppose we could say it’s a matter of separating the doers from the seers.
scary 1950s stuff
Scary Stuff From the 1950s: I’ll take adventure in the wilderness over television shows any day. One great disappointment today is how little there is to watch on TV despite there being more channels than ever. Was just the opposite when I was a child of the 1950s. We had few channels but plenty good shows to watch and some shows scared us pretty good. Horror shows and science fiction series gave me a jolt. What kid of the 1950s doesn’t remember quicksand.
the idea of memory
I want to tell you about Floyd, but I think I might be able to best do it by first contrasting him with Walt Whitman and then by comparing him with Jim Corder, a university scholar who gave us a new appreciation in the 1980s and 1990s of language and the power of rhetoric.
In one of his own anonymous reviews of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman described himself as “one of the roughs” with a “face not refined or intellectual, but calm and wholesome — a face of an unaffected animal — a face that absorbs the sunshine and meets savage or gentleman on equal terms.”
The theater long ago was laid waste by the gods of big entertainment. Now, when we think of acting, we think Hollywood, celebrities, an HBO series. When we think of the stage, it’s Broadway musicals, or if “serious” theater, it’s usually the work of famous dead playwrights being produced for the umpteenth time for high-priced tickets that put you in the upper seats.
Kerri Koczen and Danielle Roos had another idea.
You don’t want to mess with Ginger at Georgia Gwinnett College. She’s well known to students, a bright and affable female chocolate Labrador three year old dog, and an integral part of the Department of Public Safety at the college, the only substance sniffing K-9 staff member.
Ginger is hard working, and has chalked up an impressive list of accomplishments in the more than two years she’s been at the college. She has assisted in several dozen arrests for substances the students should not have at the college: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine…
educator's lament: part 1
“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” – James Madison
Education is the cornerstone of democracy. The writings of both Madison and Jefferson are chock full of admonitions that only a generally enlightened public can hold at bay the forces of tyranny.
I walk my pit bull ‘Dro (short for Pedro), on or near the beach nearly every morning. We usually access the beach at an inn whose parking lot, full these days, is to me something of an amusement park, what with all the bumper/window stickers and out-of-state license plates to be seen there: New York, Tennessee, Maryland, Ontario, Virginia, Texas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina.
One Maryland license plate was especially evocative; it said simply RIPTREV. Love to know the story behind that one.
perfume of memory
This morning as I read Linda Pastan’s poem The Months in The Writer’s Almanac, I was once again reminded to live in the moment, not to think too much about upcoming calendars or events planned days, weeks, or months from now. She begins her thoughts with an allusion to the German Romantic-era poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s haunting poem Der Erlkönig or The Elf King, an image of Death pursuing a child held by his father as they both race forward on horseback. When I first read the poem eons ago in a second-year German class…
sunday, june 1
A cable and online network called Pivot will be televising a condensed, impressionistic version of the May 19 Peabody Awards ceremony on Sunday, June 1, at 9 p.m. Less almost certainly will be more.
The Peabodys, based at UGA’s Grady journalism school, have been on TV before, broadcast by PBS and A&E respectively, most recently in 2003. But in those instances, what viewers saw on their home screens was the full event, a parade of previously announced winners making acceptance speeches.
pluff mud slinging
If it’s hard, their solution is to just not do it. Maybe it’s only Republicans in Georgia that react that way. Jack Kingston, who’s now seeking a seat in the United States Senate, the gentleman’s club, complained bitterly when the Democractic Speaker of the House decreed that that body would be in session five days a week. More recently, Kingston has been joined by Judson Turner, the Director of the state’s Environmental Protection Division, who determined that protecting the marshes from pollution and sediment intrusion was just too hard and just wrote the whole thing off.
In the past several decades, a major force has entered the American political arena under an explicitly Christian banner. I’m talking about the Christian Right, which has aligned itself with the Republican Party. Has this alliance advanced the values that Jesus taught?
Jesus advocated for the poor and the outcast, and castigated mostly the privileged and the mighty. Today’s vociferous Christian political force supports the party that cuts programs to feed the hungry and to lift up the downtrodden, while protecting the interests of the fabulously wealthy.
life in the wild
The awful thud against the window in the sunroom made Jody jump up and rush outside where she found the small Downy Woodpecker on the deck. As she has done previously, she picked him up gently and held him in her warm hands as he shivered from the collision. At first we didn’t think he was going to make it, but he was able to move his head which told us our little dive bomber had not broken his neck. Living amidst the wooded hills of far eastern West Virginia with the Shenandoah Valley just over the ridge line of the Great North Mountain, we are daily observers of life in the wild.
Following an engineering degree and a stint in the Air Force, I taught high-school mathematics for three years, before eventually becoming a university mathematics professor. Why the change of direction, and why math? Nearly four decades after that sudden tack, a young woman came to my office requesting a letter of recommendation and answered these questions better than I could have. “Why do you want to teach math?” I asked…
off season football
I haven’t exactly been an avid watcher of Super Bowls. But I did make it through some of this year’s, and thought I saw clearly one phase of football giving way to another. Maybe Denver just had a bad game, but those two teams play five times, I don’t like Denver’s chances in any of the five. Peyton Manning, in the right landscape, was a great quarterback. He hasn’t changed, but the landscape has: some new element has come into the game. The athleticism — the pace and nature of the game — have jumped to a higher level, college and pro. Football evolves like everything else.
Fact: Sherman’s middle name came from the Shawnee war chief Tecumseh.
Fun Fact: Initially, Sherman’s mother named him after the Ottawa war chief Pontiac, but then realized it made her son sound too much like an automobile.
Fact: Sherman was mentally ill shortly before the Civil War.
Fun Fact: Sherman was depressed because he didn’t know what to do with his life. The firing on Fort Sumter fixed all that.
computer blues - part II
Just like my neighbor Carlos’ ferocious, man-eating cocker spaniel — or my Sixth Grade nun — Internet password strength checkers can smell fear on a man: Gotta’ get by me first punk, before you can do anything,” each one of them barks. But again, I’m getting ahead of myself…
“What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?” The statement is made by the head of the Credit Card Fraud Department of my current bank and former longtime employer. His cramped office is located in the bowels of the bank headquarters building in midtown Atlanta…
see the evil
In today’s Washington Post, there’s an excellent op/ed about a threat to the integrity of our nation’s judicial system. That is, the piece is excellent but for one glaring omission.
Entitled “Keep politics out of the courthouse,” it is written by retired Chief Justices of two of our states’ Supreme Courts, Ruth McGregor of Arizona and Robert D. Orr of Indiana. McGregor and Orr give three examples of how altogether inappropriate kinds of political pressure have lately been brought to bear upon our “independent” judiciary.
My son has gone to England on an extended business trip. His two sons in Virginia keep in touch with him most days by Skype. Jake (8) has a tablet and Connor (11) an iPad. Jake has a 6th grade reading age. His brother Connor is similarly advanced. When we talk we never dumb down vocabulary, although I sometimes check their understanding.
When his father was three, I was reading a book about Paddington Bear to him, his twin and his four year old brother. “ ‘And Paddington’s hat blew off and fell into the river. Paddington was upset because it was a family heirloom.’ Do you know what an heirloom is?” I asked, knowing they didn’t.
stay open, forever
When I recently stumbled onto a scene complete with cap and gown at James Madison University with students practicing for their upcoming graduation ceremony, I thought them all so young and unprepared for the world they will now become more a part of. Despite my inner congratulation to them, I was also reminded of a story from Isaac Bashevis Singer about how the Jews in the Polish shtetls he wrote of rarely admitted good fortune. And if they did, they would quickly add “kinahora”–let the evil eye not see.
I know what you’re thinking, that the Bacon Bowl is an SEC College Bowl Game that takes place on a hog farm in Arkansas … Nope, it’s the newest advance in American gastronomy.
The Bacon Bowl is a small, plastoid, hat shaped device that you wrap a wad of bacon around. Then you zap the crap out of it in the microwave and remove the remaining, crispy, bowl-shaped bowl-o-bacon. You then fill this “bowl” with a plethora of heart stopping ingredients, such as cheese drenched macaroni and sausage balls, swimmin’ in butter, topped with a fried egg…
ignoring the central battle
Usually, the President of the United States is the leader of the nation. It is a hugely important position, a single person embodying the whole of one of our three branches of government. With hundreds of congresspeople and a hundred senators, the president is the one person whose voice gets heard.It is only the president who has the “bully pulpit.” Particularly at times of national crisis, the president is the person to whom the nation turns for leadership.
computer blues - part 1
The truth was that I’d have ponied up a week’s pay to watch the guy — if it was a guy — roll those two monster truck tires on board that Jet Blue flight to California’, two week’s pay to watch him stuff both the behemoths into the overhead baggage compartment. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
Every time me and my computer get to a place where we finally understand each other, where we get things worked out between us, something goes awry. The honeymoon does not last for long. The threat to happiness ever after often comes from the outside, in the form of a new and ‘even worse than ever before’ computer virus…
I recently got embroiled with a friend over the eternal question of why nations go to war and whether the drive to fight is so embedded in our nature that we cannot avoid war. He shrugged off the question, since he felt it was kind of a silly issue. Of course, mankind will always be at one’s throat for one reason or another. Been that way since cave man days and will go on throughout the future. This response seemed so cavalier to me, a cynic’s view of everyday news…
times are a-changin'
Bob Dylan and The Band kicked off the show like a basketball team on a fast-break. Opening their concert at the Omni with “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” Dylan was, in a sense, establishing his game plan for that evening in Atlanta, just as he had in other cities on his heralded comeback tour. Dylan and The Band had the ball in their court, so to speak.
Anyone who attempts to raise funds for a good cause soon learns that you reach the same goal if many supporters give a little, as if a few people give a lot. Although it may be tempting to fundraisers, it’s a mistake to shoot for many giving a lot. And people don’t respond kindly to shame.
Every time I’m asked to support my local radio station, I respond. It’s an excellent public service broadcaster with interesting programs and good speakers; it’s informative, entertaining and of good quality. I really value our radio. How could I not support them? I send my check for twenty dollars several times a year in this good cause, knowing that others do too, for the benefit of all.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
My high school years unfolded in a time when hanging out at drive-ins and burger joints was all we had. We played 45 RPMs by the Beach Boys and William Jan Berry and Dean Ormsby Torrence. You know them as Jan and Dean of “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” fame. Surf music was the craze back then in the era of steering wheel suicide knobs, but catching a wave in eastern Georgia wasn’t easy. Cars, though, now that was a different matter. Hot, candy-colored cars possessing names like GTO, Chevelle, Firebird, and Thunderbolt mesmerized us. So there we we 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 →
Every human culture, it seems, has had some notion of the sacred, and has placed that notion at the center of its worldview. From this, we can conclude several things: 1) that a sense of the sacred – like other universals, such as language and music – is an inherent part of our humanity; 2) that therefore we can conclude that this sense has served the cause of life of our kind through the eons in which we developed; and 3) that the experience of “the sacred” possesses an important kind of power, that it is not just an inherent part of us b Read on →
Last month I was on assignment in a remote place, the kind of place where you see trucks and tractors but few cars. Farm territory. I parked along a weedy, poorly maintained road and as I stepped from the car I saw a sight from childhood. A tangled thicket of briars with succulent, shiny blackberries glistening like onyx pendants. Red berries, hard and yet to ripen, waited their turn for sunshine to do its magic. Seeing this explosion of blackberries brought back childhood memories. Pickin’ berries was great fun, a tradition. You’d reach into the briars and pluck a big berry, pop Read on →