Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Help Molly Get A Summer Job

Molly is a cool girl who wants a cool job. But Maine chain Bull Moose Music doesn't accept applications; instead, they ask prospective grungegirls to do something creative. Molly speaks:

They want to know that I have a diverse and intense knowledge of music, and that I've had a bit of customer experience. They said they'd had all sorts of stuff: cupcakes, cake, t-shirts, etc. -- I think there's supposed to be a little element of bribery to it.

Won't someone help Molly out by making a suggestion?. I'll even throw in a free gift to anyone who submits the winning (i.e. job-getting) idea.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:56 PM | 0 comments

Blog Naked Ladies

Maybe You Should Blog

First Andre the Giant has a Posse; now Barenaked Ladies joins the ranks of those other famous people with blogs. Clean and uncluttered with entries viewable by band-member, bnlblog.com mostly tells of studio work and guitar-lust, but those hardened enough to think bands are hiring out their blogging these days need not fear -- this band-banter definitely sounds like the canadians we know and love. Today, for example, Steve's entire entry is Shut up, Ed. How cool is that?

Thanks to the recently re/geo/located Michelle for the pass-along.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:45 PM | 0 comments

On Boats, Beaches, And The Air

Spent the last two days in transit, mostly -- about eight hours behind the wheel. Not much to say about driving except it's gotten lonelier since Darcie started riding alongside the baby; on the bright side, I can listen to my music louder, as long as I turn the speakers off in the back. We drove south and east and west and north again in the blue Camry, Darcie spotting cars from the back seat when passing -- the passenger side mirror's still missing from when I cracked it off on my parent's driveway fence over March break. Once a cranky rider, Willow's getting better at entertaining herself, and spent much of our motion laughing at her toes.

As usual, it was the geographically static hours which were noteworthy.

First stop was Mystic Seaport, an an active living history museum with 17 acres of exhibits. We hoisted the baby into her hiking backpack, met up with Darcie's parents and her brother Josh and his long-time girlfriend Clay, and the seven of us spent a frankly lovely morning treading the planks and holds of old whaling boats and trawlers, singing the shanties of the old-time fisherman. Admission was free for Educator's Day, a sly ploy to spark interest in field trips during an otherwise dead start of season at the mostly outdoor boatyards and reconstructed village; with four teachers among us (Patty, Neil, Darcie and I) , it made for a nice family excursion in the unseasonable spring sun.

The town of Mystic (the real, modern town) looked nice, but it was too crowded and narrow for parking; we skipped it, and went another four miles to Stonington, which my mother had recommended as a "nice walking town." Stonington was mostly closed-or-closing antique stores, but a bit off the town and along an ocean pier behind the main buildings was an excellent find, a brunch-serving seafood place with a real live dixieland band. I got woozy off the sun and a pint of Longtrail on the deck while we waited for a table, but managed to enjoy my creamy lobster bisque and an excellent Oscar Benedict (crabmeat, asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise on an english muffin) nonetheless.

Back to switch cars again -- we had condensed from three to two for our lunch excursion. Patty and Neil headed back to Vermont for a Monday at work, but we were off an extra day for midterm break, and after three years or more of Clay-in-the-family despite no other official status than "Josh's girlfriend" were eager to see Clay's house by the sea across the border in Rhode Island. We were surprised to find that the house, three-season residence that rents as a vacation home for $600 a week in the summer tourist boom, had exactly the same layout and dimensions of our own apartment: two bedrooms sidebyside across from a single common room and open kitchenette. Clay, a senior in Oceanographic Geology at University of Rhode Island, had homework to do, so after an excellent late supper at a funky juice bar in nearby Naraganset where they actually put their gorgonzola and sauteed onions in the middle of their burgers, the almost-sunburned baby went to bed with Darcie, and Clay and I sipped some Bailey's Irish Cream on ice (tastes kind of like chocolate-flavored egg nog, for the uninitiated) and hit the hay.

We left early, all of us at once, the next morning. A few chilly minutes on the not-yet-sunwarmed beach down the road and a diner breakfast, the best kind: homemade corned beef hash and eggs over easy, a banana for the baby, in Naraganset again. And then back to Connecticut and Mystic for round two at the Mystic Aquarium. Mystic's Aquarium deserves its excellent reputation, and the website speaks for itself; I will note only here that the soapwhite beluga whales are stunning, the concave sealife viewing portals inspired and immersive, and the baby thrilled to be able to take a few tottering steps at the end of my arms to flat tanks of crabs and lobsters at her own eye level.

Back home, via Northampton and a peasant sandwich lunch, before five; Ginny arrived an hour later with the dog on her lap, its head eager out the window. The sounds of students in the dormitory hall outside our kitchen door back to its usual roar, we left a bit before nine for a tutoring session with a student that never showed and then, as always, our Monday night radio program Tributary. As always, playlist follows; I was, it seems, feeling pretty funky.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Kool and the Gang -- Funky Stuff
Beck -- Where It's At
Oysterhead -- Shadow of a Man
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Nut Monkey
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Manu Chao -- Bongo Bong
Negativeland -- Yellow Black and Rectangular
Suzanne Vega -- Small Blue Thing
Cesaria Evora -- Sodade
Many Mann and Michael Penn -- Two Of Us
Robbie Fulks -- He Needs Her Now
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- He Don't Care
Missa Luba -- Kyrie
Barenaked Ladies -- Jane
Billy Bragg and Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Herbie Hancock -- Pygmy Flute and Soul Jazz
Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Des'ree -- Ain't No Sunshine
Phish -- If I Could
Alison Krauss -- Every Time You Say Goodbye
Jorma Kaukonen -- Waiting for a Train
Lyle Lovett -- Fly Swatter, Ice Water Blues
Shawn Colvin -- Tenderness on the Block
Salamander Crossing -- Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow
String Cheese Incident -- Up The Canyon
Ani Difranco -- As Is
Take 6 -- Mary
John Gorka -- Love Is Our Cross To Bear

posted by boyhowdy | 1:04 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 14, 2003

Long Time Gone

On the road for the past two days, down south past Springfield and Hartford and then back and forth across the Connecticut/Rhode Island shoreline border. Much to report, but sunburned and exhausted.

Please hold...this message will be replaced by a full version of events sometime in the next 12 hours. Also, radio show tonight. Stay tuned.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:51 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 13, 2003


posted by boyhowdy | 1:09 AM | 0 comments

Me, In South Park

Try it yourself.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Down On The Farm

Horse, student, and Farm director Richard Odman

It's finally Spring in more than just name. The indigo crocuses bloom in dense patches by the front door to the tennis courts, a mild breeze brushes the greengauze curtains over now-open windows. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a sunny latesleeping day, one of those days where you carry a coat but end up in shirtsleeves. Wisps of clouds float gently across a mostlyblue sky.

After a somewhat blurry lunch of sloppy joes in the mostly-empty dining hall next to students grumpy from a three hour ACT exam, Darcie and I headed down the campus hill to the NMH farm, ostensibly to pick up the gallon of new syrup we earned making supper for sap-collecting students over March break. The dog strained at her retractable leash and Willow chewed her sweatshirt in the stroller as we followed the smell of dissipating sugarhouse smoke, burnt sugar and greenwood and spring-in-the-air, until the black plume became visible over the new red barn.

Once upon a time, over a hundred years ago, the NMH farm was a vital part of school life. Students got up early to milk the cows and feed the pigs and chickens, trudging up to the dining hall afterwards for bacon and eggs and fresh creamy milk before class. In the fall, raspberry collecting, the orchard harvest and cidering; in the spring, the sap and the hot boiling tables. Horses drew winter sleighs across the frozen river between the girls school and the boys school for dances and hot cocoa socials. The students ran the place part-time and spent the rest of their day in the classroom; it's hard to say which was the better learning, or whether the question even makes sense.

Although the pigs are long gone, since the old barn burned down and the new barn raised a few years ago, the program has been brought to new life under the expert oversight of the bearded Rev. Richard Odman and his handy assistant director Alex. More and more students come of their own volition to add their hands and backs to those assigned for workjob service to the labor force; I came down myself two Octobers ago to crank the cider press to keep my mind off cigarettes then-recently quit. Fields of lavender and hot peppers, for drying and for vinegar and soaps, attract the tony alumni market; bees bought new last year will both pollenate the growing fields and make nectar for new products yet to come.

Today the farm was bustling with new life -- two half-sized calves still hiding behind a full grown Jersey, five horses where last year there were three, and a chicken-wired pen of brand new chickens, a new addition to the farm program. Students in the distance hefted heavy white buckets full of sap into the small-tank truckbeds. Willow got to touch a cow; laughed at the horses and called them dogs; flashed her teeth in the warm sun; got a light sunburn, her first, on the tip of her nose. Of course, on the farm death is part of life; while we were there, Carrie, the farm Border Collie, managed to slip under the wire and kill a yearling chicken lickety-split by the neck, although in her defense she was surely trying only to herd the stray back towards the raised coop, and seemed to understand the severity of her crime immediately. But overall, an afternoon well spent, New England Spring at its finest. I praise whatever God or gods brought us to this place of sunlight and warmth and friendship, to raise a family together in a community full of love and grounded in the cycle of the land.

As always, bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify the source of today's blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:29 PM | 0 comments

My Life In Cereal

Part of this balanced breakfast!

Cheerios: Os and an apple juice sippy cup on the floor in front of the television, before Elmo came along and ruined everything. Thought of as healthy, though not really, as it turns out. Nursery school garland fodder around Christmas time.

Oatmeal: Add raisins and milk; stir. For cold days, especially before school or sledding.

Grape Nuts: Mostly for yogurt. Otherwise like eating a bowl of gravel-and-milk.

Sugar Pops: Mellow bear on tv and box hawks sweet glazed puffs of corn. Eaten only in Florida, at Grandparent's house.

Sugar Smacks: See Sugar Pops, except puffed wheat and frog in a striped hat instead of bear and corn. Now called Honey Smacks, as if it mattered..

Muselix: Like granola, but not all stuck together. A fine powder -- what was that stuff? -- makes the milk tan.

Rice Krispies: Loud. Sometimes the pieces pop in your throat like swallowed pop rocks. Decent prizes in box.

Honeycombs: Only sugar cereal allowed in house. Abrasive, like Apple Jacks and Cap'n Crunch; makes the roof of my mouth raw.

Crispix: Bulging two-faced grids, one rice, one corn. The surface tension keeps the milk from filling the airspace between the two sides, so the cereal stays crunchy in milk.

Product 19: Mutant oversized flakes strangely addictive. Hard to find in smaller grocery stores.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:46 AM | 0 comments

Friday, April 11, 2003

How To Feel Old

Little Eva died today. A moment of silence, please.

She had an interesting life, one surely unplanned. Got her start as a babysitter for Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and leaves a total of fifteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren at the ripe old age of 59. But if you want to feel really old, consider that most of my students think that The Loco-motion was originally recorded by Kylie Minogue in the eighties, and most of your friends probably though the song was originally recorded by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974, even though you recognized Little Eva's name and significance immediately, didn't you, Mr. Audiophile?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:12 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Church, State, Classroom

Remember William Bennett, Reagan's Secretary of Education? Here's what he has to say about recent comments by Rod Paige, current holder of the cabinet post and subject of this CNN feature:

"He'd prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community. Who's opposed to that?" Bennett said.

Um...I dunno. Maybe people who aren't Christians?

I suspect there's an argument waiting to happen here, one which suggests that "Christian values" are actually human values. But the label is still inappropriate; if they're really human values, then why isn't that what's being said, and, more importantly, why does Paige's political record favor schools which are actually explicitly Christian? For Education Secretaries who happen to be Christian to claim these values as Christian diminishes the universality of the values themselves. It is smug at best, ominous at worst.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:16 PM | 0 comments

My Day As Five American Sijo

Because I'm sick and think in shortform poetry soundbytes,
today I write my blog as five American Sijo,
originally a Korean court poem of the sixteenth century.

It was a good day to teach about the epistemology of the telegraph,
by which we mean the way it disconnects immediacy from the present,
which shortens language: Iconographic packets travel more easily.

After lunch we went to look at pop-up campers;
I'd never been in one before, and thoroughly enjoyed thinking summer
sitting in a parked portable eight foot battery powered house.

Then sleep deficiency hit -- bang -- pulling into the supermarket parking lot.
I've only been sleeping about four hours a night for some reason;
I napped uncomfortably for twenty minutes in the driver's seat.

Past Gill, where yesterday a hill of deer stood watching me
a chorus of spring peepers sang like a thousand toy fire engines
and then just as suddenly stopped. I drove on home.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:12 PM | 0 comments

Fun With CNN


Who says Al-Jazeera is the media king of Gulf War II? In just a few short paragraphs, This CNN article about euthanizing a baby wild cow clone taught me so much:
  • A banteng is a kind of wild endangered Asian cow.

  • Being born twice normal size is a common cause of death in cloned animals.

  • The San Diego Zoo keeps deceased animal tissues on ice. They call it their "frozen zoo."

  • CNN can't do math. According to the story, a 40 pound animal weighs 20 kg, but an 80 pound animal only weighs 36 kg. Huh?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:05 AM | 0 comments

Tought But Fair As Ideal State

I love my students, but I don't need them to love me.

I used to be in it for the glory; then I was in it for the more immediate gratification of the students. But I've discovered that in the classrooms and dorms and public forums of NMH, how they feel about me as a person isn't what counts. The goal of education isn't student happiness, it's student learning. I still work hard to make class fun, but now I do it because I know it aids retention, not just because I'm having fun myself. I'm learning, this year, that if you want to be the best kind of teacher, friendship isn't going to work for every student's learning needs.

Don't get me wrong. It's nice to be loved, and I think I am, by enough of them to matter, though I know as well that some dislike me and my politics. Every year, there are a few students who I consider friends, and I won't pretend I don't appreciate friendship in any form. It's probably those kids who are tipping my rating scales on RateMyTeachers.com.

Still, if how these few voting students see me as a teacher now is a reflection of a solid sense of what students in general learn with and from me -- and I'd like to think it is -- I seem to be getting it right these days. I'm averaging a 2.6 out of five for easiness and a 4.4 out of five for clarity and helpfulness. Hard, relevant, and worth it. All signs, as the eight ball says, point to yes. Students speak of me as tough but fair. More and more often, I hear that students respect me for being honest with them about my motives, open about my pedagogy; for being a role model comfortable with my moral core and not afraid to push a little at both of us.

The real mark of student success isn't whether she looks you up ten and twenty years down the line to say thanks -- you changed my life. It's whether their life changes at all. Like a fine wine, I want my students learn to age well and mature over time, so that they are still learning from me years after they've left my classroom. I love being one of those teachers who students think about coming back to visit, years later, to say your class was difficult, but you made all the difference, but as long as they can think clearly about their world and their place in it, my vocation is fulfilling; I am fulfilled. I don't want proteges; I want thinkers. And sometimes the best way for a student under my tutelage to learn to think for themselves is to push them harder than they think they want to be pushed -- at least, that's what I tell myself when I see that one student wrote that I was a bit of a dick.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:12 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

And Counting

Selling a used pop-up camper? Now that the van is all but sold, we're looking for a pull-along to make this year's Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the first with the baby, a fun and relaxing experience. After three years of festivaling we've got good volunteer spots waiting for us -- making signs for Darcie, performer check-in for me -- and a good sense of how to make this work with baby (we think). And after a one-year hiatus for babymaking, we're eager to return. Can you blame us? look who's on the bill so far. Looks like a Cry, Cry Cry reunion's in the works; confirmed performers not to miss include:

Greg Brown, DaVinci's Notebook, Eddie From Ohio, John Gorka, Tracy Grammer, Arlo Guthrie, Lucy Kaplansky, The Kennedys, Patty Larkin, The McKrells, George Marshall with Wild Asparagus, Nerissa and Katryna Nields, Tom Paxton, Richard Shindell, Richard Thompson, and Dar Williams.

And I get to check all these fine folks in. Last year just to be memorable I asked a few of them about the strangest thing they've ever been asked to autograph. Kaplansky said "a banana." Greg Brown said "a breast," and I asked him about that, and he said what was weird was having to hold it down with his other hand.

The plan is to get there on Monday (the festival doesn't even start until Thursday afternoon), set up camp, show Willow the horses and donkeys, maybe Bash Bish Falls and a diner breakfast on Tuesday morning, then play with baby in the signpainting tent shade until the festivities begin. Feel free to join us. It's at the end of July on a big ol' farm in Hillsdale, NY, just over the Mass border from the Berkshires. Can't wait for summer.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:10 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Poemlets and Fragmentaries

Hadn't written anything in weeks. Not even a fragment. Then this:

Deer tonight
in the almost dark, three watching a fourth
run down the hill over the unexpected
April snow:

you’d be finished with the letter, I turned
at the stop sign past the planted pine field rows
toward home.

It's sort of a sijo, I think -- not formaically, but in its tone and approach.

I was successful, once, at rebuilding my poetry after a long blocked whirlwind time of incoherence. Maybe it's time to begin again.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:25 PM | 0 comments

Radio, Radio

The big news tonight isn't the weekly radio show -- after all, it's hard to imagine how a weekly event could be big news. It's the damn snow. Two inches of it so far, wet and slushy but unquestionably the same old white stuff that's been falling on and off and on again since November. What the heck happened to Spring? Ginny and I barely made it home.

That's not to suggest that the show wasn't good, of course. We talked about the weather, and plugged the upcoming Soulfest dance like good little doobees. More call-ins than usual; I think the prospect of a long weekend at home is overexciting the students, as most were laughing too hard for us to understand their requests, but we managed to find "something with harmonica in it" for one kid, and a Be Good Tanyas song for Molly. I played a short set of NMH-related artists -- a recent alum, a faculty spouse, and an old song which I keep meaning to empeethree and post but never end up getting to, from my days in Boston-based long-defunct band, Not Earthshaking (the only one of us still making music these days is PJ). Otherwise, an eclectic and generally mellow mix. Tonight's Tributary playlist follows; stop me if you've hear this one before. As always, cover songs are starred; free coffee for a week -- really! -- to anyone who can correctly identify the original performers of all starred songs.

Donna the Buffalo -- Riddle of the Universe
De La Soul -- The Magic Number (remix)
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man (the
Tributary theme song)
*Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Lifting me (Higher and Higher)
Suzanne Vega -- Fat Man and Dancing Girl
Trey Anastasio -- Money, Love and Change
The Biscuit Boys -- Boograss
Ani DiFranco -- Angry Anymore
*Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
*Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Eddie From Ohio -- Irish Dream
*Dolly Parton -- Shine
Be Good Tanyas -- Reuben
Mark Erelli -- I Thought I Heard You Knocking
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- Billy The Kid
Grateful Dead -- Dire Wolf
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Bruce Cockburn -- Down to the Delta
Peter Siegel -- Rainy Night in Montague
Not Earthshaking -- One False Move
Pippi Kessler -- Sound Like Me
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
Raffi -- Baby Beluga (by request, natch!)
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Brooks Williams -- Unexpected Rose
*Gillian Welch -- Summer Evening
*Dixie Chicks -- Let Him Fly

posted by boyhowdy | 12:59 AM | 0 comments

Monday, April 07, 2003

War Profiteering For The Lord

Saturday's Miami Herald brings us yet another tragedy in God's name: in the middle of a severe water shortage in a desert, for Christ's sake, Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston has managed to hoard 500 gallons of "pristine, cool water" and is offering baths to any military soul who comes along. The catch? Let's let chaplain Llano speak for himself:

It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized.

Dear God.

Bonus: Different Strings shows more focused and coherent outrage on this one than anyone I've seen so far, first with a compare-and-contrast between Llano's behavior and the requirements for being an Army Chaplain (clause 1. c. Sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.), and then with an Open Letter To The Chief Of Army Chaplains.

Added bonus: the Army camp where this horror story takes place is called "Camp Bushmaster." Kudos to the General with a sense of humor who managed to combine the presidential and the kinky into a single innocuous-when-taken-literally phrase.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:19 PM | 0 comments

The Muppets Go Global: How PC is Too PC?

Brought to you by the letters P and C

Welcome to the new mass media millenium. Mr. Rogers has passed on to the great neighborhood in the sky. South Park will air its one 100th show this Wednesday night; Kenny's back; it promises to be a doozy. Al-Jazeera gets more hits than CNN, despite its anti-american slant. And, on the eve of its 34th season, Sesame Street goes global village. Salon explains:

The 34th season of "Sesame Street" premieres Monday on PBS, offering more chances to peer into the souls of a whole new bevy of guests, from Sheryl Crow to first lady Laura Bush. The show has also added new features, aimed at increasing children's awareness of other cultures. In "Global Grover," the shoulderless blue one appears in costumes from around the world and narrates short documentaries about children from different countries.

Documentaries? For children? What I used to love about Sesame Street -- what worked -- was the locality of it all. Sesame Street may be imaginary, but in its original form, it was less of a world than a street itself, multicultural but seemingly right down the road apiece. We grew up, dear reader, in an era where the community was small and tight-knit, where Bob and Maria might stop in at any moment, where Oscar's can never did get picked up and tossed. The diversity was in those who had found the street, and those who stopped by; the street was small and finite, but it connected to the universe of ideas and cultures just fine, thanks.

What Sesame Street means by this new move, though, isn't to bring the world into the street, as was once the approach. It's to broaden the street until it becomes the world, by sending Grover in silly costume out to see the universe on a daily basis: kites in Malaysia, goat milking in Egypt, Russian dancers, Freedom Fries.

I posit that such a street is entirely unimaginable, uncontainable by the developing mind, too vast to "get."

The global village is a concept we take for granted, but it's not true, you know: there's no such thing as a global village. Kay James has been saying so for years; here's a quote from a speech of hers (sadly, not online at this time, but originally published in an old issue of Vital Speeches I cited in my 1996 thesis work) debunking the myth of the global village:

First, children do not belong to the village or to the community or to the government. They belong to the parents, and the village exists as a resource for those families. Second, even if we did believe this to be true, the village no longer exists (James, 1996).

The village, like the Street, exists as a resource for families. But, as Kay suggests, the village was a closed street, inclusive but localized. Sesame Street was never intended to be the global village. It's supposed to be that village which, in Kay's time and in ours, was already dissipated: that village which is solely a resource for and therefore an extension of the family itself, with friends and loved ones always nearby, teaching us to love. A move to bring the global village into the family will surely fail. The family cannot fit a village; it certainly has no room for the globe.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is a dire sign for the good old Street. Yes, you heard it first: Sesame Street has jumped the shark. At best, this may mark the end of childhood, a cultural construct already in severe decay. At worst, it is a signal that the family itself, like the street in all its finitude, was never there to begin with.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:01 AM | 0 comments

Didn't Know I Was A Country Boy (Until I Met You)

Until I met and married a shy, grounded, sturdy girl who fell off a tractor in her own tenth summer, all I knew of rural New England was summer camps and winter ski holidays; county fair midways and historic homes; long drives north with my family for a week at a rented cabin smelling of pine and surrounded by it. In my memory, Vermont and New Hampshire and later Maine were sporadically populated with ski lodges and quaint main street towns. I never thought about the side byways.

But I left the suburbs behind me, body and spirit, when my now-wife found me in college and wouldn't let me go. Because more than anyone I know, Darcie is rural New England. Her childhood goats jumped through the screen door. She fell off that neighbor boy's tractor. She skiied to work once when the snow blocked the roads.

When we dropped out of college in 1993, she loved me enough to try to make a go at it in and around Boston for a while, first in a series of greasy bat-ridden apartments on Commonwealth Ave, then in the Somerville apartment house under the willow tree. But it was clear that the city was too dense, too anxious-making. When we went back to Brattleboro to visit her parents, she flowered, coming alive again. And I came to love not just her, but the gentle rhythm of what made her most herself: the sound of the brook at night, the fireflies, the clarity of stars. The woman I love carries within herself open spaces and quiet streams. And, since she carries me, too, it has become home.

Her parents still live in on their couple of cleared acres next to that very same farm now mostly maintained by that tractor-driving boy and his wife, nestled in among the barns and the brook and the rolling green-hill cowpastures, at the end of a long dirt road. For my daughter Willow, one actually goes over the river and through the woods to get to Grandmother's house, although it's worth pointing out that one does the same over-and-under to get to the school where we live and work.

To be fair, the wilds of New England aren't a paradise. Although the outdoor air is clean and pure, in the summer it swarms with mosquitoes. After years full of midnight stars, suburban light polution and the stress of the city set my teeth on a knife-edge, but the coydogs howling makes for restless, dreamless nights.

And then there's mud season, the New England month-or-so between winter and spring. It's late some years and earlier others, and duration varies -- last year after two weeks of summer-like sun and heat a freak snowstorm in May set us back a spell -- but the symptoms are always the same: melted snow and subsequently roaring mountain streams swell the land past saturation, and the world turns brown and mucky for a while.

Which is by way of saying that I successfully navigated the the long and treacherous dirt road to Darcie's parent's house this afternoon, a road closed to all but local traffic, four inches of thick slush over scarred and rutted mud, three times in and three times back, in a Toyota Camry with all-weather tires, without even sliding around much. And I didn't even break a sweat. I'm damn proud to be a country boy.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Soldiering On

Still pretty sick. The cold has gone from the sniffles and sore throat stage to the achiness all over stage. My back feels swollen and fragile; my head feels foggy and thick. Ick.

There's blots of blue sky in among the clouds this morning, but the tiny ballbearing frozen rain kept falling after all until late last night. The roads are better, but the cars are still snowed in; the air is finally clear, but it's still below freezing, colder than it should be after daylight savings' "Spring ahead."

But sick and cold and tired are no excuse; we're off to Darcie's parent's house, with baby, sans dog, because the clan is congregating. Josh and Clay are up from Boston; Alicia and Matt are on their way from lower Connecticut; Ginny has to work at Mocha Joe's in town, but we'll probably all drop by together for free vanilla Lattes and hugs behind the counter.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:10 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Everyone's Blogging About...

According to Daypop, The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld is the second most popular blogtopic right now.

And no wonder. Transforming Rumsfeld's politispeak to poesy requires only line breaks and a title. Here's one lifted verbatum from a 12/6/01 Department of Defense news briefing:

Glass Box

You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

God, I wish I could write like that. And extemporaneously, yet!

posted by boyhowdy | 5:03 PM | 0 comments

The Dullest Blog In The World

That's what it's called, and they're not kidding.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:27 PM | 0 comments

Still Sick, Also Soundless: Nothing New Under The Snow

Cold's worse; dry sneeziness now the dominant mode of the -- achoo! -- day. Was hoping to go to the Eddie From Ohio show anyway, but they're sold out, most probably because last night's snow-and-ice bumped everyone's plans forward. If only I had Portable EFO Show, or their new live album -- I could just close my eyes and pretend.

Had to go to the post office this morning. Ever tried driving in two inches of tiny iceballs? Don't.

In other news, Eva's produced a coherent introduction to Blogshares which BS creator Sayed himself recommends. Playing the blogmarket sure is addictive; although this site hovers at three cents a share and hasn't been indexed in over a week, my stocks have increased by almost sixteen bucks since last night.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:43 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 04, 2003

Under The Weather

We're reunion relatives, Cathy and I. She is my mother's first cousin; the much-younger Jack's oldest; her father's artist brother's artist daughter. We meet every few years at the last of my generation's bar-and-bat-mitzvahs. Basically she's just Cathy, the blood and obligation for some odd reason thin enough to allow for acquaintance based on mutual curiousity and shared interest.

Last spring when a pregnant Darcie and I decided to go to Washington for one last vacation, we stayed at their home for a few days before jetting off to her father's gracefully offered and gratefully accepted Rehoboth Beach cabana, and had a wonderful and peaceful time. Though I've really only spent time with her three or four times as an adult, we seemed to click pretty well with her and her family: Jon, the wine-cellared builder; Jessica the art student, a Junior at BU; Daniel, looking at colleges. Mother and son came up from Maryland with Cathy yesterday and today looking at UMass and UHartford; we were eager to host them, as they had hosted us.

We put them up in the school guesthouse, an excellent grand victorian bed-and-breakfast-sans-breakfast, two rooms for two nights for a total in-house rate of $50, and they seem comfortable. But the sky gods and the microbes they carry seem to have conspired against us spending quality time with them.

Cathy and Daniel arrived yesterday evening in an ominous drizzle; we took them to the local Chinese/Sushi place for maki and sesame chicken. Willow was in the throes of her first cold, and it was serious -- crankiness compounded by an inability to sleep for more than a few moments without choking on her swollen sinuses, and who knew a kid that tiny could produce a full tablespoon of snot in a single sneeze? -- so we ate quickly and sent them off to rest for the UMass admissions program the next day.

The baby's cold began to fade by this morning, but Darcie came down with it rather quickly, the sniffles turning into honking and tissues rolled up the nostrils. It had begun snowing after midnight; by morning it was frozen rain, a half-inch sheen on everything. After scraping the car down to the glass, while Darcie and the baby slept and later went to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens to release indoors a butterfly that Darcie's mom's kindergarden class had hatched, I spent the day in the media center doing back work: gathering the raw materials for the department web page, rewriting policy documents and mandates, catching up on e-correspondance. Advanced Web Design class from 2-4, which I'm finding works most successfully as a workshop, guiding the peer-teaching of a nice small group of committed students. Home to a sick wife and child steaming themselves in the bath.

I managed to make it through another dinner with Cathy and Daniel, this time fried mozzerella and a sweet-n-lemony chicken francese at the vast Bella Notte, a middle-of-nowhere place that attracts the golf crowd and makes what I believe to be the best red sauce in the history of cooking. But here, at home, I've begun to sneeze; my back aches, and the back of my throat tickles thickly. I think we'll get through breakfast with them, if they can get here through the roads covered in frozen white ballbearings -- the baby should be mostly better -- but it looks like I'm staying in bed tomorrow afternoon, listening to the eternal ice-pea hail rattle the roof. A pity; I was hoping to get down to the Iron Horse to see Eddie From Ohio tomorrow night.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:50 PM | 0 comments

Quote Of The Day

If we put everybody in jail who has a fetish, we wouldn't have anyone running our government.

Added Bonus: The quote is from an article entitled Man Jailed For Haircutting Spree. The "Haircut Bandit" received a sentence of eight years in jail for theft (cutting off 9 women's ponytails) and sexual assault of a minor (one of the women was 12; he was using the ponytails for sexual purposes).

posted by boyhowdy | 10:06 PM | 0 comments

Buy This Space

Thanks to ericj and an ongoing concern for my own increasingly imaginary 401(k), I've decided to get started over at BlogShares. Using entirely pretend money and basing stock values on links inandout, you too can put a monetary value on your own popularity, and play the market on those whose popularity you think will rise. Buy stock in Not All Who Wander Are Lost, or sign yourself up to enable others to buy and sell stock in your blog. Of course, as an added bonus, if you sign up and link to me, my stock value goes up...so there's something insider-ly and incestuous about the whole thing...but it's still more fun than it should be.

[UPDATE 4/5 12:15 am: Woohoo! So far, I've made $5.59. A 1% gain!]

posted by boyhowdy | 3:46 PM | 0 comments

I Am In Love With Kate Brigham's Thesis

If you want to know how to decode war images for their semiotic meaning, you need this. It's called Decoding Visual Elements in News Content, and I can't remember how I found it, and it rocks. Especially the Interactive Demo, of which Kate says:

The intention behind these exercises is to introduce people to some methods for looking more critically at visual news content. Hopefully, these exercises will help to improve or enhance visual and media literacy skills. At the very least, perhaps they will aid in promoting awareness of the impact that visual elements have on the messeges we receive from news media outlets.

All that and more, baby.

Reminds me of the lecture I gave here at NMH last year for our Seminar on the State of the World series. The title of my hourlong was Media Representation and Cultural Stereotypes in Times of Crisis; I used Disney's Aladdin and a photoanalysis of the same then-current sources that Kate uses, showing, more narrowly but similarly through semiotic analysis, how Muslim and American media portrayal was repackaged after 9/11. Kate does it better.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:20 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, April 03, 2003


New NYC restaurant smoking ban enacted last Sunday seems to be causing severe weirdness in city hotspots:

Weird: Some bars have resorted to handing out nicotene gum.

Weirder: The Italian restaurant Serafina Sandro unveiled a "Tobacco Special" menu on Wednesday, with such delicacies as gnocchi made with tobacco and filet mignon in a tobacco-wine sauce, garnished with dried tobacco.

Weirdest: Serafina Sandro isn't the only place aiming to placate tobacco-starved customers. The World Bar at Trump World Tower has introduced what it calls a smokeless Manhattan cocktail touted to taste like a cigarette.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:55 PM | 0 comments

More Random Leftovers

My mother comes up every Tuesday afternoon now. She brings us groceries from Bread and Circus, and we have lunch together in the dining hall with Darcie and the baby. Darcie and I go back to work and Mom gets to play with her granddaughter. For the rest of the week, odd healthy foods, out of place in a takeout kitchen, confront the unassuming fridge-peeker. A pineapple nestles between the stove burners. I learn that organic milk tastes just like regular milk.

Borrowed the Northern Sun catalog from a student down the hall; mostly bumper stickers and t-shirts, the content really being sold is the progressive bon mot, the pithy saying. Bumper stickers from Not All Who Wander Are Lost and Men Who Change Diapers Change The World to Actions Speak Louder Than Bumperstickers. A cartoon captioned "Hellfire and Dalmation" adorns a hempen shirt; in it, a berobed spottydog raises his hands to the heavens: ...and he said unto them: "Bad Dogs! No, No!" There's even an entire line of raised-metal fish plaques for the car bumper, the typical Darwin fish with feet to the simple fish outline enclosing the 'n chips.

CNN's Offbeat News still isn't up, and isn't being updated. The war's still too new for funny; either that, or we're rationing our humor.

When did 6 hours of shuteye begin to feel like a full night's sleep? Some nights I only get four and a half.

More signs of spring: the living room window cranked open, forgetting to put on your coat, the cat out all night, mud.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:47 AM | 0 comments

Irony Of The Week

War (huh!) good for Starr's record sales

U.S.-born soul singer Edwin Starr -- best known for his anti-conflict song "War" -- has died at the age of 61. (full story )

Say it again: this wouldn't have been front page news if we weren't at war, of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:08 AM | 0 comments

Sick and Stupid

Signs of sping today. Restaurant porchsitting; vivid purple crocuses opening up out of last year's skeletal leaf remains in the small patch of grass by our front door; drowning worms in driveway puddles. The change in the weather's brought the baby's first cold; when she lies down to sleep her nose gets all stuffy and she chokes herself awake crying. It's scary, but scarier still is realizing that this is just a cold -- no fever, no real pain, just discomfort and all our lives turn upside-down.

We drove up up up raindrenched mountains to Shelburne Falls this evening, mostly so she could sleep sitting up in the car for a while. She awoke as we drove over the bridge in this tiny arty town, and we killed some time admiring some blownglass in an artist's gallery above the smalltown's raging riverbed until the restaurants opened for the evening. Sat on the porch at Bottle of Bread enjoying a mostly organic beer and root-based meal, brie and mushroom tarts and a gluey chicken and dumpling soup, turnips and carrots and perhaps as much as half a stick of butter in the one bowl alone, while the baby ate Cheerios and bits of fished-out chicken with her mouth open, breathing raspily through her mouthfuls. Back to school and evening dorm duty, less boring for Molly's weekly visit.

Oh, the stupid part? NMH dismissed eleven kids allatonce this week. Tuesday morning the student centers looked like a refugee camp, over a hundred students crying and hugging each other and standing around looking stunned like they just found out their other grandmother died. Tonight the debate over whether the students should have been given a second chance rages on in our school online forum. But here are the facts: the students broke into a house up on the ridge behind the school, went through the owner's stuff, and partied (sex drugs and rock and roll, reportedly) over a period of two days. Let's see...trespassing, breaking and entering, smoking, illegal drug use, underage drinking...and coming back to do it all again the next day...what would you have done, really, if you were the school? As an added bonus, the cabin in question is the summer home of the grandson of the school's founder. It was good and surely shrewd of him to refuse to press charges. I'll miss them all.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


When I was a kid, my brother soaked my toothbrush in beer overnight. Now that was a good one. But I must be getting old, 'cause not one person played an April Fool's joke on me this year!

How about you? Forget about your foolish pride; let's hear about your best practical* jokes given or recieved!

*By the way, why are they called practical jokes? What's practical about them?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:34 PM | 0 comments

From Blog To Verse

Under fluorescent flickering light
on the radio tonight
rhyming bedtime stories.
The schema stuck, as you can see
so please enjoy this slice of me.
(As always, tonight's playlist follows in all its glory.)

The Way Back From The Radio Station

First it rained, and then it snowed.
Now there's rimefrost on the road
behind the school, and frost heaves still
to rock us as we crest the hill.

We don't usually go far
in what was once my grandpa's car --
just past the houses, furtively,
we covet for our selves-to-be

and then back to our cinderblocks
to watch TV in fuzzy socks,
eat warm cookies from the tray,
fade, silent at the end of day.

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
Trout Fishing In America -- My Best Day
Dan Zanes -- Wonder Wheel
Eddie From Ohio -- Eddie's Concubine
Phish -- Back On The Train
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Drunk (hmm. a cover, but I don't know the originator)
Barenaked Ladies -- Be My Yoko Ono
DJ Harry -- Rollover Remix (a remix of a String Cheese Incident song)
Johnny Cash -- Desperado (does anyone know who sings the original of this?)
Soggy Bottom Boys -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Angelique Kidjo -- Voodoo Child (a cover of the Jimi Hendrix song)
DJ Harry -- Wake Up Remix (another remix of a String Cheese Incident song)
The Be Good Tanyas -- House Of The Rising Sun (Trad.)
Blind Boys of Alabama -- Amazing Grace (to the tune of House of the Rising Sun)
Brooks Williams -- Yellow Hummingbird
Negativeland -- Somewhere Over The Hiccups (classic -- a three year old with hiccups singing the classic Judy Garland standard)
John Ondrasik -- The Hoppity Song
Cassandra Wilson -- Drunk As Cooter Brown
Nickel Creek -- Reasons Why
Dixie Chicks -- Top Of The World (a cover of a Patty Griffin song)
Patty Griffin -- Long Ride Home
Amy Mann -- One (a cover of a Harry Neilson song)
Tukeleur -- Africa (a cover of the Toto song!)

[UPDATE 4/1/03: My father -- a regular reader -- notes:

The original "Drunk" was recorded (and, I'm guessing, written) by Jimmy Liggins, an early 50's jump blues rocker. We should have it on some compilations at home if you want to hear it next time you're in. Hope all is well. Dad.

Thanks, Dad.]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:06 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Hands Off The Photoshop, Please

Thanks to the Webraw remaindered link list, I've discovered a congressional plot to shut down photoshop contests on Fark.com and quite possibly make it illegal for me to fix the redeye in digital pictures of my eight month old daughter. Here's an actual quote from the obscured-by-the-war headline House Votes To Curtail Net Porn:

The other amendment, which free speech advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union argue is unconstitutional, would ban the creation or possession of "a digital image, computer image or computer-generated image" that is "indistinguishable" from a real minor.

Seems that because explicit amendment language attempting to ban any image that appears to be of an unclad minor couldn't get past the Supreme Court, Congress has decided to widen the net so far it would let a whale through. Scary.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:25 AM | 0 comments

Language Matters

I am a lover of things concrete, a stickler for meaning. I teach my students there is no such thing as a synonym. I may have a tendency towards the verbose, but I know words count.

And that's why the phrase suicide bomber pisses me off.

It's a common term. Today, after four U.S. soldiers were killed by an Iraqi in a taxi, CNN.com reports that Iraq promises more suicide bombings. But when one person deliberately causes four deaths, the suicide seems secondary. The semantic focus should match the narrative focus; the killed remembered morebetter than their killing.

I can't change the world myself, but I've got you. So help me out here. Use the term homicide bomber from now on, and lets see if we can't start a movement.


posted by boyhowdy | 1:58 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Unreasonable Assumptions

Assuming that the level of bias in the political contributions of the major news networks is an indication of the potential for bias in their media coverage is endemic to the students here at NMH, likely in the guy huddled against the traffic on the Brattleboro streetcorner waving his protest sign, common in punditry from both sides of the political spectrum. But that assumption is suspect, and therefore, The Polemic's Guide to Media Bias Part 1: Political Contributions doesn't make a strong enough case for a causal link between corporate donations and media bias.

Do you really think that donations from corporate entities is a realistic reflection of how the news agencies of those corporate agencies bias or flavor their coverage? To assume so would mean assuming that the corporate parents -- the veryrich folks who OWN the companies -- have a direct line to, or direct policies for, those middle-class wage-earners on the front lines of news coverage. This is much like -- not even as strong as -- assuming that when I speak politically at the school where I work, I am doing so in a manner consistent with the politics of the school's Board of Trustees: it MAY be true, but it probably isn't; if it is, it's not because I work here, or because they told me to do so. I've never met most of them. I have no idea what they believe, or who they donate money to.

I think an analysis of actual NEWS -- including what's covered and how, what's not covered well or at all, which stories get the most time, what value words the newscasters use and how -- is really going to be the only way to truly see news bias one way or another. But note that the dollar amounts for Fox news executives' donations to the GOP are required, by law, to be freely available to us. I suggest that one reason that pundits prefer to throw numbers at us is that it's a heck of a lot less work.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Friday, March 28, 2003

Kermit The Pimp, Barney On TV, Fat Albert As Klansman...

And I'm still laughing.

New Fark.com photoshop contest challenges participants to Photoshop children's TV characters somewhere they should not be. Imagine the potential. Now imagine surpassing it.

I'd post an example, but in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, just go see it -- you won't be disappointed.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:28 PM | 0 comments

The Few, The Proud, The Stupid

Found in my favorite livejournal community. Not sure where they found it, but am happy to add props if someone knows whose fault this pic is.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 0 comments

And Just Where Have You Been?

Thinking about the upcoming summer trip to Bangladesh. Just for fun, I thought I'd end the day with a list of all the various countries I've visited.
  • U.S. -- Born and raised

  • Canada [Montreal, Toronto] -- various ages

  • Mexico -- age 13

  • Israel, Egypt, Denmark, Sweden, Germany -- age 14

  • Ireland and Northern Ireland -- age 16

  • Finland, USSR [Russia, Ukrania, Estonia] -- age 17

  • Holland -- age 26, age 27

  • England [airport only] -- ages 16, 26, and 27

Grouped countries were visited on a single trip, often using my parent's wildly broad sense of while we're there... Although there is, in an overflowing closet in my parent's house, a shoebox of pictures of my very pregnant mother traveling throughout Europe by Eurorail in 1972, fetal visits don't count.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 0 comments

More Moore

Michael Moore rates his own watchdog site; it includes Moore's stupid theory about Oscar booing. Have you ever heard of "booing the booers" before?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:56 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Mediawatch: The War Becomes Part Of Life

For the first week, CNN.com was all war, all the time. Only by using the links on the navigation bar could you get to news about non-war stuff.

Then the NCAA Tourney became a tiny link at the bottom of the front page. Then the Oscars went on as planned, and it, too, became a tiny item, just below the POWs and the rest of the filtered news from the embeds.

Now, the top half of the page is still all war, all the time. But scroll down, and you'll see that, as of today, the news is presented in categories again.

Notably, it took twice as long for CNN to bring back their categorical news homepage format after 9/11. Note, as well, that the process is not yet complete, but give it another week; as it did two Septembers ago, CNN's Offbeat News will eventually return.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:11 PM | 0 comments

The Ice Flows Cometh

From Brattleboro to right under the bridge between the campuses, the Connecticut River is awash with chunks of ice.

This morning, I rose early to grade papers over a cuppa Hazelnut joe and a plate of Virginia ham, eggs overeasy, and homemade toast at the Main Street Cafe, sadly closing next week after 16 years of the best damn breakfast for a hundred miles. A fine breakfast was followed by a shave at the tiny barbershop next door. Driving across the bridge in the early fog, I could see how the wind and the undertow had pushed the slow-moving bergs, flat and immeasurable, up against the western bank. One side of the river was choked; the other was smooth and clear.

This afternoon, fifteen miles upstream, we shared a cup of pumpkin soup and a classic steak and baked up against the window of the bridge-side Riverview Cafe. The sun set in Brattleboro behind us, illuminating the green frame bridge between Vermont and New Hampshire. The floes washed fast through the wide river mouth below us like sideways snow on a reflected mountain, disappearing under the graffiti, under the traffic, into the artifical horizon.

Breakfast: $7 with tip. Supper: $70, also with tip. A warm Spring day rimmed by water in its myriad forms -- the morning fog, the swollen river and its driveby tributaries, the drifiting ice from the far and cold north of my imagination: priceless. I wish I had a picture of this to share. Maybe they'll still be coming downstream tomorrow.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

As American As Yellow Mustard

There will be no Freedom Mustard in baseball stadiums this season, as, thankfully, French's mustard has put out a preemptive press release, which the Miami Herald actually bothered to print.

Among other vitally important facts, the article informs us that ...with Americans' current anathema to all things français, French's decided to get out the word that the name of its founder, R.T. French Co., is where it gets its moniker. Nothing, it says, could be more American that the official yellow spread of Yankee Stadium and America's mustard market leader.

All together now: This is news?

Also, who writes this stuff? That isn't the correct usage of anathema, is it?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Lying At The Oscars

I know it was a few days ago, but I'm still steamed at Michael Moore for his inappropriate behavior on Oscar night. I may hate war but think it's a necessary evil; I hate deception in the name of truth much, much more, and believe it's NEVER appropriate.

And Moore was inappropriate on so many levels. Here's what I wrote in response to a student comment about it today in our school's online forum:

Those who saw the Oscars may have been disgusted, as I was, with his tactics. He invited ALL 5 of the nominees for the award he won (best feature-length documentary) to join him on stage, which looked, at first, like a wonderful gesture of collegiality, a kind of "we all win just for producing good documentary."

And then he used them without their permission. He took away their voice. He used them horribly.

His words at the Oscars were inclusive of that group; he used "we" to describe his own feelings, and specifically used langauge which would suggest that the "we" he was referring to began with his fellow documentary-makers. He made it look as if all the people on stage stood in solidarity with both a) his relatively extreme position on the war, and b) the position that the Oscars was the place to speak out against the war so avidly. In other words, the language he used forcibly took away the rights of those people to speak for themselves. That was the most machiavellian tactic I have seen in a long time, and I cannot respect Moore for it.

And, it would seem, neither could the members of the academy. Note that he was booed by the majority of the audience at the Oscars for his approach -- not for WHAT he said, but for using the Oscars as a political platform, and for stealing the voices of others without their permission to do so. Moore used us; he used his peers; he used the Academy. Nothing can excuse that. Nothing should.

But worse, after I posted, David, the extraordinarily liberal head of theatre here at NMH, went on to post the following:

I was not a fan of Michael Moore before the Oscars and am even less so after what I agree was his abusive behavior at that ceremony. To my mind, Moore's Oscar reflected a true knee-jerk response by the Hollywood establishment. As others have pointed out, Bowling For Columbine was itself a "fictitious" documentary which manipulated and falsified information in a manner usually associated with propoganda. If you felt (as most trusting moviegoers did) that the film offered an honest-if-humorous treatment of its subject matter, you might want to take a look at the attached article. As Joshua has often pointed out, quite rightly, there are a lot of ways in which our emotional responses as viewers can be manipulated in dishonest ways.

So let me get this straight. Bowling for Columbine isn't a documentary by the academy's standards, or by any reasonable interpretation of such standards, Blair Witch and Spinal Tap notwithstanding. It's the most manipulative excuse for fiction pretending to be a documentary the world has ever seen.

Don't believe me? Read James Berardinelli's damn article.

So even though I've already managed to boycott Bowling for Columbine despite the recommendations of the liberals around me, next year, although for a media teacher it's a kind of pedagogical error to do so, I'm boycotting the Oscars, too. Thanks, Mike, for ruining it for me. And sorry, Shaw, for I know that Moore is -- hopefully was -- your kind of hero.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:16 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

there could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you

Willow is eight months old, and I have deep secret hopes that she'll be Daddy's Little Girl someday. She has my eyes -- such big, blue eyes -- and my love of music; her mother's feet and quite likely my ADHD. She hates to sleep and loves to laugh. She grins at me in the morning, halfpebble teeth and wide wet mouth, when I wake up on weekends; she lights up when I come home from work. It's a dear package, and I covet her like there's no tomorrow.

But when it comes to sleep, a little girl wants her Mama, and I'm okay with that. Darcie spends a lot of time these days in the bed near the baby, nursing her to sleep and back to sleep, at ten and three and seven and once again drowsily, hardly stirring, half awake, at two in the morning.

As she gets tired Willow shakes her head side to side to stay awake, rubs her eyes, begins losing focus. There comes a point past the yawns and the drooping head when she needs her Mama, and no one else will do. My women hit the bedroom, and I am exiled, a distraction.

Once, months ago, she fell asleep slung low in my rocking arms, an orangutan hold. Once, and only once.

Until today.

Twice, today, once by accident and once again to test the hypothesis, with Trey on the stereo loudly and me at the computer, the baby leaning forward, facing outward straddling my thigh, my arm around her from the outside and under the arms, the head lolling impossibly sideways slowly like a slow leak tire, the eyelids drooped and then featherlight she was asleep.

Oh, heaven is a place I know, and it is anywhere my daughter sleeps. Paul Simon's got nothing on me.

In Willow's honor, tonight's Tributary bedtime storyreading celebrated parent/child love stories: Love You Forever; Mama, Do You Love Me; Guess How Much I Love You. I know she wasn't listening. I just needed to tell the universe.

Playlist follows. Note the Trey triple-play, eh?

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Eddie From Ohio -- Good At That
String Cheese Incident -- Drifting
Slaid Cleaves -- Horseshoe Lounge
Dolly Parton -- I Get A Kick Out Of You
Kasey Chambers -- Little Bit Lonesome
Acoustic Syndicate -- Why Not
Nenes -- No Woman, No Cry
Trey Anastasio -- Drifting
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
Phish -- Bouncin' Round The Room
Stevie Ray Vaughn -- Chitlins Con Carne
Bela Fleck -- Sunset Road
Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
Brooks Williams -- Great Big Sea
Spike Jones -- The Jones Laughing Record
Rani Arbo -- Butter And Egg Man
Jorma Kaukonen -- Bread Line Blues
Johnny Cash -- In My Life
Norman Blake -- You Are My Sunshine
Lucy Kaplansky -- Just You Tonight
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade -- Locomotive Breath
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- The Coffee Connection
Barenaked Ladies -- Light Up My Room

posted by boyhowdy | 1:38 AM | 0 comments

Monday, March 24, 2003

Metablog: How Far Do You Scroll?

I'm not asking about those blogs you read every day, of course. I'm curious about both one-shot discoveries, and those blogs read infrequently.

What I want to know is, when you first encounter a blog, or when you go back to one you haven't read in a while, how far down do you scroll before moving on? And, more importantly, define interest -- to wit, what factors determine how long you linger, how deeply you read?

I ask partially just to ask, and partially because I realized that I'm averaging four or five posts a day, write lengthy entries, and use a big font. The net result is that often a blogentry written in the wee hours of the morning is several screens down already by that following evening. I'm wondering if some entires aren't getting read much, even, perhaps, by regulars.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:45 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Grignr: The Best Medicine

My write-in vote for best picture!

Thanks to Zannechaos' random off-topic post in Customers Suck for the best and longest laugh session I've had in months: A 1996 script for MST3k's take on the poorly subtitled and even more poorly written fantasy epic The Eye of Argon.

Ordinarily, I'd quote from it here, but you just gotta read the whole thing. I daresay it's actually funnier in plaintext than it would have been on the screen.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:28 PM | 0 comments


Although the advisor to Gemini, the NMH Yearbook, is an English teacher known for her inflexibly high standards in the classroom, the sheer size of a yearbook for the largest co-ed prep school in the country is overwhelming, and the product is primarily produced by students -- some of whom are not native speakers and all of whom neither speak nor read at a publication-ready level -- working only a few hours a week in the midst of an otherwise overwhelming workload. The potential for errors is off the charts. A couple of years ago too many mistakes slipped through the final proofing process, including switched captions on the pictures of the two head administrative deans, and needless to say, they weren't pleased.

Darcie, the assistant advisor, brought some of the yearbook proofs home for me to look at near the end of that next year, and what her coworker's aging eyes had missed jumped out at me naturally like a red Buick in a green field. There were only a couple of errors in the yearbook that year. And this is how I became the yearbook proofreader.

So now I have the final say, am the final set of eyes on the uncorrected yearbook proofs, those pages sent back from the publisher for us to make final corrections. I look for spelling and grammar, match names to pictures, find and encircle too little or too much space between words. It takes about 20 hours out of my life each term, for which I get paid in kisses I'd hopefully have gotten anyway

And I love it.

I've always liked proofreading, and I've always been good at it. I'm one of those people who can't let a word or phrase go by until I'm sure it's correct. I kept myself in beer money and cigarettes through my last two years of college editing senior theses overnight for a dollar a page. More, it is rewarding to me on a fully visceral level; I like making order out of chaos on the page, and I genuinely enjoy making proper turns of phrase out of garbled messes and typographic errors, concrete and deliberate language out of the vague and close enough. (heck, I even enjoy grading papers.) As an added bonus, I get to be the first to see the yearbook.

And then there are the belly laughs. What follows is a few choice selections taken directly from this round of proofs. The editors and copywriters are all high school seniors, but there's no secret out there that the average high school student can't write these days, and if you needed proof, this is a good place to start. It's grammatically side-splitting student writing, and it's too good not to share. Most are picture captions. The typos are not mine.

Memebers of Amnesty International write urgent actions.

Well known for our Arts until the days of Moody, NMH still continue to prove this theory right.

She helps student, who English is not their first language, to build a stronger English.

She is so concentrated that she does not notice the yearbook photographer.

Pam is smiling at us with her smile.

Green Pastures is one of the many departments here at NMH.
[note: Not only is this problematic because the caption is supposed to describe the department's function, not note that they are a department, Green Pastures is one of our administrative buildings.]

The farm staff, Richard and Alex work in the farm all the time along with their horse [note: This would be okay, if it were not accompanying a picture of Richard, Alex, and a COW.]

And my favorite:

The Power Plant Department helps provide power to the two campuses. One of the staff members include the chief engineer Joe Santucci.

In my mind, I see the power plant department running on a hamster wheel, while, from deep inside one of the staff members, Joe's muffled voice urges them to run faster, it's getting dark in here. The image has been stuck in my head all day. I keep laughing out loud, embarassing myself. It's a good feeling.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:47 PM | 0 comments

The Twofer: When 30 Seconds Is Still Too Damn Long

Kudos to Big Pink Cookie for finding this recent Procter & Gamble study, which startlingly concludes that consumers who fast-forward through ads with digital personal video recorders such as Tivo still recall those ads at roughly the same rates as people who see them at normal speed in real time.

What this suggests to the overactive mediamind, of course, is that this would be true of all programming, not just ads. I'm such a media whore, I'm actually excited by the idea that I could watch two episodes of ER in one high-speed hour.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:54 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 22, 2003

You May Already Be A Loser

Today I had a cheese sandwich for lunch. It was really good. Do you like cheese?

Voting ends tomorrow for this year's Anti-Bloggies, and only true blogheads need apply. Categories include Most/Least Updated, Most Often Late To Work, Most Caffeinated, Most References To Pet, Dumbest Title, Worst Meme Bandwagoner, and Best Amazon Wishlist; Prizes tend to be product, worth, on average, 20 bucks.

P.S. Please do not nominate me for anything. I'm happy being a loser solely in my own mind, thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:40 PM | 0 comments

War's 15 Minutes Of Fame

According to Yahoo's Buzz Index, War toppled sex and music as the most popular search term among Web users as the conflict in Iraq captured the attention of the online crowd... (full story at CNN.com)

This is news? It's interesting that the search term War has finally beat the search term Britney Spears on both counts, I suppose, but cynics around the globe know that after a mostly silent day or so of sexual frustration we can expect the bloggiverse to go back to normal.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 PM | 0 comments

Smuggling The Truth Out Of Iraq

Interesting UPI story from Blog Title Of The Week winner Occam's Toothbrush:

A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

How interesting to hear about folks who went to Iraq specifically because they were anti-war coming out of Iraq no longer anti-war at all.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:40 PM | 0 comments

Back to Mundania

It's been a long time since I just blogged down the day. But as we settle into the idea of war, I think it's especially important to keep track of the important things in life, like family, and the crystaline moments of peace we each carry with us throughout our days. In the interest of thinking locally while we act globally, then, here's a FridaynightintoSaturday, the first of the new term:

Mom's in Washington DC for her yearly weeklong social worker's conference; while our recent trip to Boston was a full adventure reported earlier, Dad hasn't been up to see the baby for a while, so he drove up solo last night for a visit and an overnight stay at the school's guesthouse. We took him to Yankee Candle's flagship store down in Deerfield to marvel at the 22-room spectacle, and he took us to dinner at Chandlers, their excellent and adjacent gourmet winery (lit entirely by candles, of course). We sampled white wines sweet and dry, ate potato and carmelized tartlets, steak and scallops. Dad ordered sea bass because the waitress told him that the chef said it it wasn't Chilean sea bass, which turns out to be merely a fancy name for Patagonian Dogfish, which isn't a bass at all, and of course it was the dogfish, but one of Dad's finest qualities is the ability to let things go and relax, and we all enjoyed ourselves.

The cat woke us up with a robin in his jaws, so I guess it's officially spring. An hour later, Dad, a late riser like myself, came back over; after transferring the baby seat into his Lexus, we directed him through the woods and over the river to Turner's Falls, an old mill town a couple of miles down the road with plenty of brick architecture and rowhousing but no remaining industry. The diner in Turners is essentially authentic, by which I mean they serve breakfast all day, change their menu seldom if ever, grill pretty much everything, and make real milkshakes with local ice cream; Dad had poached eggs on dry toast, Darcie had pancakes; I had three overeasy with sausage and white toast; the baby had dry Cheerios, although most of them ended up on the floor.

As a non-narrative aside, it was great to see him, and a wonderful treat to have him all to ourselves, and I know he reads this, so Dad, thanks for the visit, and come back every month for as long as you are able, okay? 'Cause we miss you lots, and watching you play with Willow makes me feel like my heart is exploding, and I'm so very glad we've found ourselves friends after all those years of terror. Oh, and if I haven't said so before, I know you know, but geez, I was a mess for a long time, and I'm really, really sorry, Dad.

Okay, back to the plot.

Dad left before one o'clock, Darcie and baby drove off to Brattleboro for a visit with Willow's other grandparents, and I headed over the New Hampshire border to meet up with a crew of NMH Sophomores doing a ropes course at Camp Takodah to prepare for their impending trip to South Africa. The directions were easy to follow, the frost ehaves on the back roads made for a wonderful roller-coaster of a ride in, and the newly thawed mud on the camp access road was treacherous, but I managed just fine in the slippery weight of the Grand Marquis.

Although the place seemed deserted upon arrival, I managed to find the students without taxing my limited tracking skills -- sneaker prints being uncommon enough in the woods of New Hamshire. Little to say about the event itself, as I was there only to take a couple of hours of video tape for the documentary they're making of their trip experience; through the lens, I watched 'em crawl through string spiderwebs and catch each other trustfalling, and mananged to soak my good shoes standing up to my ankles in the meltingsnow woods, but the kids were mostly familiar, it was great to be outdoors on a warm barelyspring day, and I even got a bit of color on my prominent Semitic nose -- hoorah for the first sunburn of the season, yet another sign of Spring.

Home in time to jumpstart the battery of the maroon conversion van that's been sitiing under the nowmelting snow all winter, uninspectable and rusted through, to show it to Chris, the verymellow cook at the school snack bar. Chris loved it, as I knew he would, and what was once my own private home on wheels was sold on a handshake for $300 bucks. We had some good times in that van, two years of camping and concert trips with students afterhours; I'll miss it and the freedom it represents, but it's time to grow up a bit more, and it's nice to see it's going to a good use, and to a good home -- he's hoping to put some time and cash into it and start a catering business with it. We'll take the week to find the title and clean out the accumulated camping gear and then he'll drive it off with borrowed plates to start reconstructing the body on it, and then maybe I'll cry a little for the loss of one more scrap of my emotional bachelorhood, and then I'll sneak into the bedroom in the dark and wait until my eyes adjust to the darkness, and the baby's fuzzy head and soft breath fill my senses, and my heart explodes again, and it will be more than alright.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:59 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 21, 2003

National Guardsmen: Robots in Disguise

I am Optimus Prime! Bow before me, puny non-mutable organic beings!

Optimus Prime is heading out to the Middle East with his guard unit on Wednesday to provide fire protection for airfields under combat.

In a metallic voice, Prime, a member of Ohio's 5694th National Guard who legally changed his name on his 30th birthday, proudly adds I got a letter from a general at the Pentagon when the name change went through and he says it was great to have the employ of the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. As an added bonus, now that he's more than meets the eye, Prime is his own virtually indestructable transport vehicle.

Thanks to reporter Vic Gideon at WKYC Cleveland for bringing this vital issue to our attention. A video clip is also available.

No word yet on whether Pikachu, the Wonder Twins, or the Shmoo will be joining the war effort.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:07 PM | 0 comments

Quick Post From Work

Here's what The Greenfield Recorder, our local paper, had to say about yesterday's speech by Robert Kaplan.

Here's what I have to say.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:12 AM | 0 comments

As We May Blog: My Response to The Survey

Dear Kara:

From one cyberstudies person to another, I'm really looking forward to seeing the results of your work. Myself, I'm working on best-practice methods for blog curriculum integration at a bleeding-edge technology-using Prep school; if you think your work might benefit from a discussion with a teacher teaching blogging to teachers and students, let me know and I'd be happy to chat. Survey follows:

*** Questionnaire ***
1. How long have you maintained your blog?

5 months or so.

2. In the last week, how many entries did you post on your blog?

Twenty two. It's been a slow week.

3. In the last week, how many hours have you spent writing entries for your blog, or otherwise maintaining your blog?

About eight -- average an a day, plus or minus.

4. In the last week, approximately how many hyperlinks to external web sites (not your own) did you post within your entries?

43 hyperlinks TO external sites, but there was some site duplication (two docs/pages at one address, for example). Figure 35 different sites linked to, if that's a more useful statistic.

5. Look at your first entry for 3/20/03. If you do not have an entry on that day, use the next entry after that time. Did you include a
hyperlink in that entry?

Two, actually.

6. If yes, what page did that hyperlink point to?

1. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375505636/
2. http://www.nmhschool.org

7. (If you remember), where did you first encounter that hyperlink?

1. Went hunting for it [via google] to create the link. The linked text is the title of a book by today's all-school speaker; the link .
2. Known it for some time -- it's the URL of the school where I teach.

8. In general, how do you find the links that you add to your blog entries?

Pretty equally split, two ways

1/2 wandering the web, something catches my eye and I "blog it" using blogger's right-click "blog this" option, adding comments alongside.
1/2 I'm talking about something I did (went to a museum, ate dinner at a nice restaurant) or purchased (like a new CD, or a puppet), and I use google to find the address so others can see what I'm talkiing about.

9. What criteria do you use to decide if you will add an external hyperlink to your blog entries?

Generally, if it is the kind of thing I'd tell people about if they were right there, I "tell people about it" by blogging it. Maybe it's funny; maybe it is politically interesting or thought-provoking; maybe it's relevant to something I was alreadyt hinking about.

10. Do you list permanent links to other blogs (such as a blogroll)?

Yes, but not with a blogroll -- I have a hand-coded list. It's short (maybe 20 blogs).

11. If yes, what criteria do you use to decide if you will add those blogs to your site?

Essentially, the criteria is whether I read them or not. Some of them are people I know from Real Life; most are just blogs I found when surfing and they struck my fancy. All are blogs I follow, albeit some more sporadially than others.

12. Do you list permanent links to other web sites (other than blogs)?

Yes. The list includes museums, jigsaw puzzles, and my own thesis work.

13. If so, what criteria do you use to decide if you will add those links to your site?

In all cases, permalinks to non-blog websites are selected because their content relates to my persona. I read (or have been published) at some; I used to (or still) work at others. Some are websites of mine (poetry, Media Literacy course), or to which I am connected in some way.

14. Approximately how many hours do you spend surfing the Internet in a typical day?

Not counting blogging, since that's not "surfing?" About a half an hour per day, mostly in increments of just a minute or two. .

15. What sources do you rely on the most for your news information?

5 different media, one "channel" each, all used daily:

The Boston Globe (hard copy). local NPR stations. The Daily Show at 11:00 p.m. each night. The grapevine -- when you live at a prep school, news is contantly buzzing through the community. CNN.com.

16. If applicable, please describe how you interact with other blogs. This would include, but is not limited to, leaving comments, following hyperlinks
from entries, and following hyperlinks from blogrolls.

Ready for the most unique answer you'll be receiving from this question?

I am actually HOSTING someone else's blog IN MY COMMENTS. Really. It started spontaneously, but the potential seemed too interesting for me to make Shaw, the blog's owner, stop. We're trying a sociological experiment. The term I've been using for it is blogsquatting, but underblogging or Guerillablogging works just as well. If you want to see how that's working, check it out here.

Other than that, my primary way of interacting with other blogs is by following referrer sites back from my bravenet visitor counter, which means I also read the blogs of those who have linked to me. I also like to click on random blognames that sound tasty at www.weblogs.com; I see one or two new blogs a day with that method. .

I leave comments seldom but not never, follow hyperlinks from entries often but not always, and regularly follow a small number of blogs, maybe six or seven, reading each more than three times a week.

17. What criteria, if any, do you use to decide whether or not you will follow a hyperlink?

In blog entries, it depends on whether I am interested in the original source as presented by the blog author. If the entry seems to say all there is to say about the linked item, why follow it? On the other hand, if the blog entry is a recommendation, it would have to be something I'd already be interested in. Mostly, that's quirky things about people and institutions.

On weblogs.com and on other people's blogrolls/permalinks, most often, it's the name of the website, actually.

18. If applicable, please describe how visitors to your blog interact with you.

Almost exclusively through my own comments -- we've had some heated discussion. I do have a guestmap but it isn't featured prominently on the page, and few people find it.

19. Is your writing style and content affected by having visitors to your site? If so, how?

I do occasionally say hi to my readers. Intellectually and habitually, I know they are real people. But stylistically, blogging ends up a bit like being on the radio -- because you can't SEE your readers, they're not fully real. They are, we might say, unrealized. To make them feel real, I necessarily clothe them with my own projected image, somewhat amorphously. Although I am externalizing my thoughts, I think more than anything I clothe the people I encounter with, mostly, a double of myself, for whom else do I have to project upon others than my own imagined mind?

I feel very natural talking to myself in public; I'm a teacher, after all, and I have been a radio DJ for many, many years. Tonally, I do think I was a bit stiff when I started, but I think eventually I stopped thinking about it, and I believe - although I cannot be sure -- that my now the "voice" I use is essentially my own "diary voice."

As for content selection, yes, there are some things, mostly secrets, both my own and those I hold for others, which are not for blogging. For some reason, I seem to have a lot of secrets.

20. What web sites, if any, have you visited today?

Well, CNN.com, with the War on.

I visited Google several times, and a specific page on amazon.com through google twice.

I visited my own blog a bunch of times. I checked out the photo of the day at www.nmhschool.org. I went to weather.com. I visited my own syllabus for the class I was teaching today at http://zonorus.marlboro.edu/~jfarber/medialit.html so I knew what I was planning on doing today in class.

Please add any other comments about blogging or reactions to this survey.

There are at least five entries in my own blog which specifically address the sociological meaning and ramifications of the Blog as Medium. They are VERY easy to find: they're listed at the top of all my blogpages, on the right.

May I send a follow up survey to you?

Please do!

Thank you for your participation! Please refer to my site in the next few
days for preliminary results!

posted by boyhowdy | 1:30 AM | 0 comments

I'm Taking The Survey

Because Kara asked me to.

Maybe I'll post it when I'm done.

I bet you'd like that.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Robert Kaplan Makes Sense

I had a strong suspicion that I was going to like Kaplan, author of Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands A Pagan Ethos. What I didn't expect was that I'd lead the standing ovation we gave him at the end of his 40 minute talk today at NMH. I felt good about what he had to say -- he made, in a much more organized way, the same case for war that I think/hope I was making earlier this week. I now feel like I understand why Iraq is the worst totalitarian regime out there, for example, and why that was inevitable, and why stopping Saddam as soon as possible, even if we leave only a vacuum in place, is better than leaving things be. I also realize that pretending that we're going to leave them with a democracy is silly, and that any new leadership would be much, much better for the Iraqi people than what's there now.

Where Howard Zinn appealed to our emotions, Kaplan appealed to our logic. Yet it was clear that, like any good thinker-historian, he, too, has a fundamental assumption at the heart of his arguments, an assumption that what the people of the world need is, ultimately, to live in a governmental structure which is both stable and preserves basic rights, such as those of the US Bill of Rights. According to Kaplan, this war is not really prompted by an issue of international security. It's a case based on humanism, on trying to engender a stable life for Iraqis, to lead them to a place where they can begin to lead themselves, a longer process than most believe. In other words, his long-term desires are about the same as anybody's -- peace, justice, and basic freedoms for all. I just think he's more a realist, like me, than an idealist like Zinn.

But Kaplan's ideas speak for themselves better than I ever could, and his argument is linear, so it's best presented in the same exact order that I heard it. Thus, what follows is a verbatum transcript of my notes from Kaplan's speech today. It's long, but worth reading, especially if, like too many people, you persist in the belief that this war is about oil, daddybush, or even -- surpise, surprise -- about trying to impose our own standards of democracy wholesale on other countries. As best as possible, it uses the actual phrasing Kaplan used.

Notes On Robert Kaplan's Speech to the NMH Community 3/20/03

Historically, always true that development (centralization, social change, etc.) escalates and diversifies demands on govt. beyond the capability to serve those demands. Because of this, development inherently leads to increasingly shaky social infrastructures -- and most collapse. Also, in the process of migrating into cities, religion refocuses ideology, compensating for a lack of social governance. This also, however, becomes a petri dish for the development of extremism, like that which engenders terrorism.

Therefore, periods of growth are always followed by periods of upheaval. AND, when small places change, big places change in response (development in small countries leads to increased emigration, for example). Interconnectivity.

"I'm only interested in one kind of population statistic. Political upheaval is always instigated by young males..." Therefore, "youth bulges" are a solid indicator of impending growth pains in developing nations/regions. The top ten youth bulges right now are sub-saharan, but the NEXT ten are all middle eastern, and middle eastern countries are so small that their growth is much more ccentralized (one city per country; the country becomes an extension of the city). We're entering an era where the middle east is becoming urbanized, and literacy is rising, so look for increasing unrest from the middle east. Leaders will need to be more like big-city-mayors, Giulliani-like, as small countries become citified.

Urban populations are harder to govern. More management, less opportunity for families and individuals to solve sustenance issues on their own (no urban agriculture for family food, for ex.). Their needs are interconnected; they are more dependent on / suceptible to supply/demand, etc. For example, in ten years, the amount of clean water per person in the middle east will be half what it is now.

"Newly formed, mostly-finished democracy is the MOST destabilizing element out there." Because when you have a crisis, you want to act, not discuss and consult. "So we preach democracy, but rely on autocrats." A condensed, literate population is less likely to tolerate autocracy. Thus, developing countries don't handle crises well at all. Our difficulty with Turkey, then, is BECAUSE there is a committee, not just a president, to convince and work with. You get, in the formative stages of democracy, neither a decisive democracy nor a decisive autocracy. "If we're frustrated with Turkey and the palestinians now...well, welcome to the future of our relations with the middle east over the next generation."

Big idea/thesis: What we're striving for, then, is NOT democracy in the short term -- democracy will need to spring from the people of Iraq if it is to take hold well. We're striving for "historic liberalism", by which we mean a civil society which supports basic rights and freedoms, like free press and speech, freedom to own property, basically the whole idealized Amnesty package.

But here's the problem. The world is a big and diverse place. In many places historic liberalism is traditionally furthered by mature democracies. BUT in many places, benevolent dictatorship provides better historic liberalism than a popular election would produce. Tunisi is a perfect example: their current benevolent dictatorship provides a strong foundation for civil society and fundamental rights, but a popular vote at this time would produce a restrictive fundamentalist society with hardly any rights for the people at all. This is also true of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine at the moment. You'd get worse rights preservation with voting. The benevolent dictatorships / autocrats need to be supported until such time as they can be sure that basic rights have taken root, and that elections would further those rights. That's coming, but not yet.

Now to Iraq. Iraq is "the last of the cold war regimes," by which we mean Stalin-era. Worst case scenario of basic rights -- none for people at all. The most centralized respressive kind of regime there is. Almost anything that replaces it would be dramatically better for the people. Even a general would produce a military regime like that of Morocco or Tunisia, where distribution of goods would be better (assumption -- no-longer-hungry people then can better advocate for rights, higher on maslo's pyramid)

"So I plead: don't expect absolute results. Even a measurable change in leadership is significant to the human freedom and rights of the average Iraqi family" (asumption: even if we take into account some deaths in those families in forcing a regime change, since there is no potential for regime change otherwise, deaths will be equivalent or worse as people starve slowly). "If Iraq isn't a democracy next year, then by no means can we conclude that the war was wrong."

Yes, expect it to be messy and brutal. War isn't pretty. But it seems necessary. IF we can carry this through, existence in the entire region will improve immeasurably. And there was, and is, no better way to do so. The Hussein regime was, and is, an evil, oppressive, narrow dead end. Only the creation of a vacuum will/is the way to help the Iraqi people.

Finally, in answer to the question "but should we have acted without the "proof" the UN was asking for?", I say this: Philosophically, the greater the danger, the less evidence you need to act. If you knew I was going to kill three people, you might wait to act until you had some evidence; if you knew I was going to kill thirty thousand people, you'd probably call me in for questioning, at least, with little proof. Therefore, in this conflict, virtue comes on acting on probable evidence. And, if the danger to the Iraqi people and to the world is great enough -- and it is -- we cannot wait IF waiting would continue to escalate a danger of that scale and scope.

And so it ended, and we filed out of the auditorium, swarms rushing into the beginnings of the first rain of spring.

Let the criticism begin.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:52 PM | 0 comments
coming soon
now listening