Use Other Exit

I loved the post from Clyde yesterday, along with the conversation that ensued.   I was especially tickled by this comment from Renee in North Dakota.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 4.46.35 PM

That is a beguiling image  - a would-be farmer, forsaking his chores for art.   It got me to thinking about old fiddle tunes, including Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races”.


Uncle Albert had a barn,
Doo-dah, Doo-dah.
Often he’d relate this yarn,
Oh, do doo-dah day.

All them cows produced for sure,
Doo-dah, Doo-dah
Tons and tons of ripe manure
Oh, de doo-dah day.

Piling up all night.
Piling up all day.
When the cattle tried to leave
Guess what was blocking the way?

Albert got his fiddle strung
Doo dah, doo dah
On a hillock made of dung.
Oh, de doo-dah day.

Never did a bloomin’ chore,
Doo Dah, Doo Dah.
Sat beside a fragrant door,
Oh de doo-dah day.

While he played he never frowned,
Doo Dah, Doo Dah,
Watching bovines turn around
All de doo-dah day.

He would just recline,
Looking at the birds.
Now and then Albert would say,
“Man, what a mountain of turds!”

When have you let something pile up?

About these ads

Rotten to the Core

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

I sit at my comPhoto #1puter and look out my apartment window into the woods at the top of a ravine in Mankato and see this.

Look at that mess. Nature is just untidy, disorderly. It needs a correcting human hand. No, you say? But then you are not the son of a man who was a pioneer born a century too late.

Photo #2

This is my father having fun. You cannot recognize it, I suspect, but I know he is smiling. It is one of only two or three pictures of my father smiling. Was I born with the same urge or did I learn it at our tractor’s knee? Nurture/nature? Is it a male thing?

Earlier this week just to get outdoors, I stepped into the snarled pile. I pushed at one of the upright pieces of tree trunk in a desultory way. It toppled to the ground. The itch was in my palms. With a back nearly as decayed as the trunk I just toppled, it would have been wise to walk away. I pushed at three more with my foot and found them as badly rotted. The itch was in my palms. Beside me was a deep ravine, already full of rotted trunks and dead brush.

I suspect from watching my father that many of the pioneers had a lust to reduce nature to human terms. Many of the first pioneers just kept moving on and doing it over and over again. This is a topic on which I have read extensively. I am sure you can see why.

Forty years ago I took a class on literature of the North Woods, which is not a large body of work, not much of it very good. The best piece we read was Robert Treuer’s The Tree Farm, which is a book well worth a read. Here is a part of a paper I wrote for that class.

On his tree farm Treuer must walk the edge between nature wild and nature cultured; he must keep the wilder aspects of nature at bay without destroying nature or allowing nature to destroy or reduce him. The dangers of the North Woods are survived if the necessary precautions are taken. It is not a nature that threatens to rise up and destroy us with alarming ease. If we dress and build appropriately, the cold can be kept out. With some care the storms can be withstood, the rapids can be run, and the bears will not eat us. Nevertheless, past history and current news tells us that lives can be lost or ruined if one forgets the rules or tempts nature too much. We live in this region to live with nature and survive it while keeping it as natural as we can.

So too in our day-by-day lives we want that nature within the right bounds. We move to the country but we cultivate a lawn. We mow that lawn right up to the edge of the woods, always feeling the urge to push out a little more and tame another few square feet. One summer’ neglect, however, will find the weeds back at our door. Two summers will return it all to brush. It takes constant effort to keep nature within the bounds we prescribe without losing the nearness to nature we reached out for when we moved here.”

Photo #3

I scratched my itchy palms. Today the snarl looks like this, all accomplished without using a single tool.


When done with the deed, I felt as my father did in this Photo #4photograph of him going home after a day of clearing land, pipe in mouth, satisfaction on his face. (Don’t miss the dog riding on the tractor platform.) My son’s photographer friends find this image iconic, say that it represents a larger moment in time than 1957 (ca.) and more than just my father.


What makes your palms itch?

Comet Softly To Me

Early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft currently orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will deploy a lander called Philae. This one-chance-only attempt will be the culmination of a ten year mission to do something that has never been done or even attempted before – to put a piece of human-made machinery on the face of a speeding comet as it hurtles towards the sun.

There is so much that intrigues me about this – not the least of which is the method of landing – described in this New York Times article..

Because Comet 67P is so small, its gravitational pull is slight and the familiar mechanics of landing on a moon or a distant planet are turned upside down. Mission planners didn’t have to worry so much about breaking the lander’s fall because Philae will be released and will drift towards 67P, pulled in gently at what is described as “a walking pace.”

How fast is that? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet it could comfortably approximate the pace of this classic 1959 song by the Fleetwoods.

As the lander meanders towards the comet, planners will watch nervously to see if they are able to connect in a sympathetic and constructive way, or if a stray boulder causes the lander to flip over or a spot of shade renders its solar collectors useless.

Not to indulge in too much space-vehicle anthropomorphism here, but if Philae is able to kiss the surface of this elusive, enigmatic space traveler, it will be a brief, unlikely, and historic romance. The lander will run out of battery power in 62 hours and will fall silent, but not until it has had enough close contact to send back a treasure trove of data.

And what is in this for 67P? Perhaps nothing, though one must wonder if even a lonely, speeding comet has an innate desire to be known. And yes, this Earthling may bring just the sort of longed-for intimacy that has been missing during all the years that 67P has been orbiting the sun.

But in case The Fleetwoods have you thinking of this rendezvous as a perfect extraterrestrial romance, consider this one additional aspect – shortly after Philae and 67P gently touch, the lander will cement their new relationship by shooting a harpoon into the comets surface.

Charming. And such an Earthling thing to do.

Ever been stung?

Storm Porn!

Today’s post comes from Bart, the bear who found a smart phone in the woods.

Having the Internet through this phone is good, but there’s a lot of stuff I can see on it that doesn’t interest me much.

Like all that human porn.

He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods
He Found a Smart Phone in the Woods

What I see there is animals without much hair, making faces and wriggling around. What’s that about? I mean, I get what it’s about, but when you live in the woods like I do, you can see that kind of thing going on right in front of you with all the deer, raccoon, muskrat, chipmunks, etc. Don’t get me started on those chipmunks. If they spent more time looking for food or sleeping, there wouldn’t be so darn many chipmunks!

But when it comes to reproduction, it’s just not that interesting. The only time I watched for more than a few seconds was when I saw a couple of porcupines getting together because, you just have to wonder about that, y’know?

All the porn on the Internet just says to me you people aren’t really connected in any real way to nature. If you were, basic stuff like that wouldn’t be so fascinating. Maybe you need to get out more. Then it wouldn’t be so simple to get you to look.

But the thing that really gets my attention on the Internet is when there’s a storm coming! Now THAT’s exciting.

When a big snowstorm is building up, I can’t turn away. I mean literally, I can’t turn away because I LIVE IN THE WOODS!

And the worse it’s expected to be, the more I wanna watch, especially if I’m hibernating. Then it’s really fun to snuggle down into my hidey hole so I can see it come in on the radar, looking all mean and colorful and blotchy.

If I’m not hibernating, I go looking for a place to hang out until the worst is over. Note to all you folks who spent yesterday working in the yard – don’t forget to leave your tool sheds unlocked!

Your pal,

How do you prepare for a snowstorm?

Finger Business

Today’s post comes from marketing genius Spin Williams, who is always engaged in The Meeting That Never Ends.

At The Meeting That Never Ends last night we all looked at a photo that’s all over Twitter – a middle aged woman is standing next to a young man. The two of them are gesturing towards each other in that jokey way people do when they want the picture to be about the fact that they are in the same frame with THIS person.

We all thought it was charming, but the ensuing kerfuffle over Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, KSTP-TV, and #Pointergate raises an important question about your fingers.

Who owns pointing?

KSTP and some folks connected with the Minneapolis Police Department would have us believe that when you raise your thumb and direct your index finger at the person standing on the side of your body opposite that  hand, you are pledging allegiance to a group of selfish, scared, violent bullies who have taken over complete cultural control of that gesture.

No, not a media corporation. A neighborhood gang!

What got us excited was the potential of it all. What if a Minneapolis gang DOES own cross-body pointing? That would be an awesome marketing opportunity! And what about all the other gestures and multiple ways of arranging body parts? There would be a sudden “hand rush” to buy up all the possibilities. Why would anyone go to the trouble of dealing drugs and murdering if they could sue people instead over the way they arrange their fingers?

We asked our staff lawyer, Britta Mandamus, to look into it. She focused on her phone for 30 seconds and then came back with this conclusion – “You can’t trademark a hand gesture. The Internet says ‘No’.

That settled, we calmed down and moved on to other business but a minute later Britta interrupted to say “The Internet is contradicting itself – maybe you can.”

That got our juices flowing again! Immediately we started talking about taking steps to gain control of gestures and postures like that “thumbs up” and “peace”, along with that fingers-spinning-around-the-ears “crazy” signal everybody loves, and my personal favorite, arms akimbo.

We even talked about how much finger business we’d have to do before we could file a copyright infringement suit against The Pointer Sisters and the Poynter Institute.

But in the middle of that hopeful conversation Britta dashed our dreams with the news that you have to turn your gesture into a printed logo before you can protect it.

In other words, the photo that got us all excited at the marketing possibilities of hand gestures would have to be put on an “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt before we could make any money.

If you had seen our slumped postures, downcast eyes and frowny expressions in that moment, you would have wished you could trademark all of them, for they spoke volumes.

Sadly, not every day brings a victory.

Yours in Marketing,

What gesture is your trademark?

Power & Privilege

Yes, our miserable world is overrun with meaningless awards and empty accolades.

It used to be you could get either a Pulitzer or a Purple Heart and that was about the full extent of it, but now if you are an ambitious person with a global “brand,” you have to leave enough space on your shelf to separate your Emmys from your Grammys from all your Nobel Prizes.

And with each of these prizes, there is a requisite amount of gratitude one is expected to express publicly.

That has proven to be a boon for the Acceptance Speech Writers of America (ASWOA), whose members specialize in crafting all manner of short, humble statements that are designed to publicly recognize the inescapable fact that no one does anything of consequence without help.

I’m a member of ASWOA, and I admit I’ve never scored a large-scale acceptance speech, even though I’ve studied and practiced the various forms.

For example, we know that Oscar acceptance speeches are famously long-winded, thanks-wise. Enough said (except that enough is never said in one of these).

One of the best things about that MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant is that you don’t know you’re in the running until you get it, so your reaction is pretty much pre-written.

“This came totally out of the blue and I can’t believe I was even up for it. I’m stunned speechless. Love you mom!”

The shout-out to mom is important because there’s hardly anyone else to thank. It’s so much about YOU.

But the one global prize the members of ASWOA absolutely detest is the Forbes Most Powerful Person Prize, which went to Russian President Vladimir Putin this year for the second year in a row.

Why no love for this mighty sounding accolade?

Because winners of the FMPPP rarely give an acceptance speech of any kind. To understand why, all you have to do is take a look at the draft I wrote for Putin last year:

“Me getting this means the world finally recognizes what I’ve known for a long time. I’m awesome! So to pretend I’m grateful would be counter-productive.
After all, you can only be the Most Powerful Person if every other person is weaker, right? How can I thank anyone for that? Does a mountain thank the prairie for being flat? I don’t think so. For me to credit anyone for my greatness would make me less than them, thus disqualifying me for the award I just received.
So there’s no way I can accept this award, because I already had it long before you realized I am the winner! And only by being a complete jerk about it can I clearly indicate to you that I totally deserve to be The Most Powerful Person in the World, and that with the announcement of this award I am simultaneously delighted and completely and thoroughly bored out of my mind.”

Not only did Putin not give this wonderful acceptance  speech I wrote for him, he wrote back and told me I was a worthless little worm who was destined to do his bidding, or die trying.

Of course I took that in the way it was intended – as the highest possible compliment.

Who is the most powerful person in your world?

Don’t Fence Me In

Today is the birthday of famous movie cowboy Roy Rogers, who we think of as a fixture of the wide open western expanse even though he actually entered the world at Cincinnati, Ohio.

Though it’s hard to imagine two forms of entertainment that are more out of fashion today than musicals and westerns, Rogers excelled at both. His work with the ensemble Sons of the Pioneers is a source of fond musical memories for me, although I don’t have many warm feelings towards hay, saddles, guns or cactus.

Born Leonard Slye, Rogers was a Hollywood creation, although he did seem to play well with horses. In this video clip, Trigger steals the show and Roy lets him, which strikes me as both kind-hearted and practical.

Though I didn’t think this was allowed, you can watch full Roy Rogers movies on Youtube, where there’s something for everyone. In “Sunset in the West”, Roy and Trigger deal with a hijacked train that’s full of guns, which ought to have equal appeal to those rail-loving new urbanists and the N.R.A., though for different reasons.

There aren’t many celebrities today with the kind of broad appeal that can span the political, musical, sartorial and behavioral boundaries we draw around ourselves. Roy Rogers had that quality, though I’m sure his solid relationship with Trigger helped.

Who is the Roy Rogers of today?

About these ads

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,397 other followers

%d bloggers like this: