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22 April, 2014

I Heart Microbes

Spring continues to burgeon. The flowers and en-leafening branches are only the most obvious evidence. Underfoot, though, the soil swells as microbes kick into high gear. Without their action, the plants would sit and starve.

Meanwhile, in a cabinet under the counter, acetobacters transform liquid leached from the neighbor's leftover juice pulp into some tangy amber vinegar. The photo above is a slightly color-enhanced shot of the flocculant mat that covers the surface, which as an added gift formed a heart shape. Heart Shaped Floccs--you gotta take your Nirvana where you can get it. 

20 April, 2014

Half-blind Faith and Half-baked Science

Well, it all started with a miraculously convenient find, what appeared to be a finial from a cross at a site probably associated with the Christian Mission. Those of us working on the project had been softened up, conditioned to accepting the extraordinary through the previous miracle of finding identical Native-style tools wrought in stone and glass, evidence of the Contact we'd been speculating about. For the finials, as with so many alleged relics of the True Cross over the years, there was no proof, although in this case it was a plausible and interesting enough story that it tempted faith.

Upon further examination, stemming from the dogged (of not Godded) persistence of a scientist not quite comfortable with the all-too-easy retreat to calling an unknown artifact a "ritual object," the site kicked up a bunch more of these last week. Too many to be a cross, and in a place where they might be from a century after the Mission packed up and headed north.

Oh well. The story, and my confession at the altar of science, is over at ArchaeOlygy. It is not all a tale of faith undermined, but a strange cycle that may loop back to the Tenino Stone.

So on a day when many of you celebrate a miracle of resurrection, I wish you well. I cannot share ultimate faith in the un-provable, but I share my physicist Dad's awe at the universe wrought by forces we may not yet fully comprehend, but which we can investigate and (with stumbles now and then) come to know for sure.

15 April, 2014

Goat Have Ready Now

Last post mentioned my first artisanal meme, "Goat Have Not Ready," and it's variously dark and crypto-ornithological permutations. It also mentioned Gayle Waters-Waters, who my eldest girl-son and I saw perform live last weekend.

Then, it turned out that Gayle's alter-ego, Chris Fleming, posted this shot on tweetbook with the caption "Hey Seattle, I found your goats." [OK, he didn't punctuate or Capitalize, and technically I guess it's a selfie on facebook, but I'm too old to know those things, so deal with it.]

Having made a couple of goat-memes, I've become something of an expert on the genus Capra, and I can tell you, that is one blissed-out goat. She loves the smell of his hair (probably because of the dog shampoo he uses to get into Gayle character), and is about to take a big bite of it.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about goats, and mangoes, and then goats again, and how our Capran friends deserve to be happy too, even though they have eyes no less creepy than Hypno Toad. Also, I realized that the Gayle show hit the intertubes two Aprils ago, the goat-memes one April ago, and that things cycle round and round, back again just the same except a little different. I mean, April even witnessed the cherry trees blooming again,...just like last year. Eerie.

I'm not a superstitious man, but man, when the omens drive me back into the meme-smithy, back into the meme-smithy I go. And now the world is one goat-meme richer.

13 April, 2014

The Week In Pictures

A lot of times, people find this blog because of an image. They're looking for a photo of a mountain top, or the NRA logo, or something, and find a shot from this blog. This week, some Germans were interested in the shot here, a product of my on-again, off-again dabbling in artisinal meme-smithing. The person is Gayle Waters Waters, the most hilarious woman on Youtube. The text is a swiveling nod to the episode "Chibby Point" and to my first meme.

Egret Have Not Ready is one of my more consistent image hits. Partly, my daughter's hipness made me an early adopter of Gayle so I posted ahead of the pack. Gayle's popularity is rising, and the meme could float on that tide, which would be funny. Not as funny as Gayle and her daughter Terry Gross Waters Waters, who we saw live in Seattle this week (a year after the Egret post--this must be the season). They went on for about 90 minutes, following a plot along with plenty of tangents; not forced Improv, but improvising more laughs, so many it hurt.

Goat Have Not Ready also gets a bunch of hits, and was my first meme. Thank you, whoever took that photo. This hit the net last April, as well, when I first proclaimed my meme-smithing intentions. Later, I did a version based on "Scapegoat," a William Holman Hunt painting + Comic Sans:

But nobody wants to look at that one. It makes a mockery of horror. Humans have not ready for this.

What the French were ready for this week was a photo of punks dancing. Specifically the thrash pit (nobody said "mosh" until the scene was commercialized, much later) in front of Minor Threat at Benny's in Richmond, Virginia, circa 1983 or '85. Cindy Hicks took this shot (her collection of punks and their bands, including GWAR and the recently departed Dave Brockie, is an amazing archive). I'm in it, somewhere.

So yeah, that's what the French got from me this week, a photo of a room full o sweatosterone from guys who are now about 50, many of us incapable of even growing a mohawk now. I think the Germans fared better this time.

Here, I've rambled on and on and not even posted a photo from the 600 or so that I shot this week. Maybe another time.

08 April, 2014

I Guess You Can Call it "Work"

Call it Shooting Star, Dodecatheon, or Curlew's Beak, it's blooming this week

Monday, 5:15 AM.  The alarm on my phone buzzes, ending the fantasy that my wake-state could be followed by more shut-eye. There's but a single working clock in the house--definitely not in my room--but it seems like on the rare occasions when I set the alarm, my body gets a jump on the electronics. Maybe because it's usually prelude to fieldwork, and I love fieldwork.

6:26 finds me on the road, half a pot of coffee in my belly, and the other half in various travel vessels. I used to hate driving, but back then a trip of any length involved Interstate 95, too many lanes, and essentially no variation in the scenery: shrinking forest, burgeoning burbs, and Cracker Barrels. Today, I face a couple hundred miles of I-90, but it will rise into grand stands of conifers, pass through snowy crags, descend into elks among pines, wind through smaller hills, blow past windmills and orchards, shoot along fields, and finally let me exit into a forgotten town just in time for lunch. Then, from arterial to lateral to a gravelly capillary, not another vehicle in sight.

12:12 PM, and I am standing by the women who planned the project and will operate the machinery. My job is to watch and see if any archaeology turns up. Monitoring, as this work is called, is an exercise in bi-polarity, similar to descriptions I've read about being a soldier at war. Mostly nothing (or worse yet, senseless fulfilling of duties with no plausible reward), and then MAYHEM! No incoming artillery for the archaeological monitor, just the skull rolling off the excavator bucket, and the prospect of being universally reviled while trying to navigate a path that will satisfy interests deeply at odds.

2:02 PM rolls around, and it's clear that this project will only have the monotony pole. They're digging through what turns out to be silt dug out of roadside ditches and dumped here, and will never get down to the original soil. I decide to go walkabout and check out what I can of the 1 square mile of property.

4:24 in the afternoon, and by all rights I could knock off and head for the hotel, having turned in more than the 8 hours I'm supposed to. But I keep walking. I've already recorded one site--just a collection of 100-year-old trash, but something beats nothing--and feel like walking further. So I meander out toward where a 19th Century map said there was a wagon road. Plenty of daylight left, and this far from Olympia, I am loathe to stop. Who knows when I'll be here again?

6:36, in what even in the post-Equinox period must be considered evening. Besides flushing out a coyote (every outcrop in this place has the gnawed bones of some creature eaten by a coyote, along with a celebratory poop), I found a site that seems to have been a rest stop on the wagon road. Bottles of booze and medicine (i.e., booze with an excuse), cans capped with solder, tobacco tins, and so on. The older the glass in the Northwest, the prettier: aqua with bubbles of 19th Century breath and air, once-clear glass tinted purple by the marriage of sunbeams and manganese.

7:27 PM, and I'm nearly back to the truck, having noted an oddly elaborate fence post and a culvert passing beneath an old rail grade along the way. Normally, there is nothing less fascinating than a culvert, but in this case, it was made with a beautifully glazed terra cotta pipe, frags of which I'd seen before dumped at the depot. Wondering what the hell that fine pipe was doing out here had been bugging me for the past couple of weeks, and now I know. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railway did not skimp, even out here near the end of a decidedly minor capillary. Plus, this culvert seems like a nice den for some critter, and I am a big fan of the reversion of civilization to wildness. [Oh, and I did have time to check out the monitoring site, confirming that it would have been a waste of time to stay put.]

8:38, and it's pretty much dark. I've driven to the hotel (40 more miles of driving this day), and am in search of food. The options in Moses Lake for late dining are limited, and I end up at Safeway. Besides dinner, I now have tomorrow's lunch and some beer, in case I am awake enough to drink it when I get back to the hotel.

9:36 PM. I should be asleep, but instead I stay conscious for a while longer. I call the kids and learn about their day, enumerate the animals I have seen. No writing, but I check out my sister's blog. I even watch some TV, an exotic experience, and luck out with an episode of South Park about Haoles and "Native" Hawaiians. Yes, it is late and I am loopy, but it's hilarious, even though I forgot to drink the beer.

11:11 PM (plus or minus). I close my eyes and drift off, meadowlark song echoes in my ears, visions of purple glass and lines of shorn wheat on my lids.
So, that's one day, much abridged. Lots of driving with sub-par radio choices. Lots of walking while being whipped by winds carrying grit. Easily more than 12 hours of "work," but nothing I would change. I saw a lot, got to know some new ground as you only can at walking pace, and didn't have to deal with any monitoring emerencies. From my employer's perspective, I managed risk and kept them legal. For me, though, it was mostly fun.

I'm still amazed that I ended up this way, doing what I do. It's tempting to take credit and claim it was all the plan, but there are any number of junctures at which random chance changed my career path. The most I did was recognize the right times to pounce on opportunities. And now, whatever time of day, I find myself pretty happy with what I do for a living.

04 April, 2014

Art is in the Eye of the Decider

I'm gonna be late for work because of this, but so be it. Checking the news, I saw that our second ex-President Bush has been showing his portraits of world leaders, that he painted himself! Looking at Putin, I'd have to admit it looks like the work of a non-painter. Once again, W is demonstrating that Texas strut, as unaware that his paintings leave a lot to be desired as he was of leading us into two pointless wars.

At least the Putin looks a little like the real Putin, but it that reminds me of something else as well. The cheeks as smeared as those days whe Paula Deen has been drinking and insists on doing her own make-up. Oh! I know! They remind me of this, another famous bit of art news from our glorious age:

Seriously, very similar. Someone should tell Mr. Bush that he's supposed to learn from the original art, and not the botched restorations.

02 April, 2014

Twilight. All Beauty, No Vampires

Step out of the Darkness

This past February, while everyone from embattled Alaskan codgers to entitled Southern heiresses was bemoaning our only four-week month, I worked on the Pacific Coast of Washington, the notoriously winter-drenched Olympic Coast.It was warm and sunny.

Spectrum in the Spectre-less Forks

I stayed in Forks, most famous during my kids' lifetimes as the setting of the Twilight series of movies and their prequel books, a protracted tale of teenage angst and love, featuring vampires and werewolves in the Northwest, written by a Mormon from elsewhere. The town clings to the notoriety, fading movie images all around, not-quite-copyright-infringing attempts to cash in ready for the tourists unable to see the beautiful, actual, twilight.

Clear skies and stunning sunsets are not the order of February's precious few days in the Hoh Valley. I'll admit that, and I may never have as beautiful a few days on the coast as happened inexplicably this Winter. But instead of dismissing that beautiful twilight as an aberration, writing off Winter as gloom, my memory is lit by that golden softness.

30 March, 2014

Silence of the Dams Lifted (Temporarily)


Recently, I walked what had been the bottom of a lake for the past 50 years. A crack had appeared in the dam plugging that stretch of the Columbia, and as a precaution, the lake had been mostly drained. The fat placid bullfrog of a lake became a snake, flaccid flow replaced by rapids.

Shallow soundings, deep sounds

With the water level dropped, rocks and riffles raise their voices.  The Big River (translation of many Tribes' names for the Columbia) sings its song for the first time in decades. Some say that there's a stretch just below the Priest Rapids dam where the river runs free, but for the most part, the Oregon/Washington part of the river (hundreds of miles) has lost its voice in the age of hydro-electric power and irrigation diversion. Hearing riffles and rapids amounts to time travel, and I was lucky enough to hear that past, now. 

One goose says to another...

With the Columbia back in it's channel, creatures from geese to archaeologists walk the flood plain again. Minus the muffling waters, footsteps echo, gravel slips and crunches. The old fords become visible again, instead of dark placid waters crossed only by bridges and damns. 

Threatening to fight, even in death.
On the other hand, dropping the level of a dam lake leaves a lot of creatures accustomed to the sodden past 50 years high and dry. What the photos don't convey is the smell of millions of mussels rotting in the Spring sun, the stench of crayfish turning to rotten goo in their exoskeletons. Weirdly, there was little evidence of gulls and crows Columbia Gorging themselves on this buffet. No wheeling and squawking birds, and the aquatic critters even more silent than usual.

Hopefully, I'll get back again before the dam is fixed, and waters rise again to swallow the roar of rapids, the rhythm of riffles.

24 March, 2014

Goodbye, Dave Brockie

Dave Brockie, during his stint with Virginia Beach Police Department

Suddenly today, there were a bunch of hits here, which is unusual. When I tracked them back to the source, it was an article about the death of David Brockie, founder of Death Piggy, and later, GWAR. Sadness.

I'd pretty much left Richmond by the time GWAR came about, but always enjoyed Death Piggy more. So much so, that 30 years after dancing to their manic music, it seemed important to post about their place in the history of punk, the post which is getting all the hits now, apparently because of the Death Piggy image I posted then and there, and here:

David Brockie and I were not friends, and he wouldn't remember me, but he influenced who I became. The random hilarity of Death Piggy, the utter freedom expressed by a band who could get up and play a song consisting entirely of the words "No prob dude," the refusal to plummet into the pitfalls of many a hardcore band (brick-headed hate, intoxicated inability to perform, and maybe worst of all, sanctimonious preachiness), and the commitment to just having fun stuck with me.

The internet, especially those cul-de-nut-sacs where know-it-all critics lurk, is full of references to the ridiculousness of Death Piggy, but without much appreciation of what a gift it was. They use terms like "Silly Core," and treat Death Piggy as a joke precursor to GWAR, which of course is the opposite of what really happened; GWAR was the Death Piggy sideshow that took over. That Death Piggy did not depend on spike-studded leather or huge mohawks to express their hardcore punkness did not mean that they could not thrash out noise with the best of 'em.

Dave Brockie was a leader in the Richmond punk scene because he did not act like a leader. He didn't give a shit how you danced when they played. He did not write lyrics preaching a Message (a Mess, maybe, but that's another thing entirely). He rode the GWAR waves, but as far as I can tell, did not become an insufferable asshole. He was a self-mocking artist. His "time waster" posts (on some site I cannot re-find now) would show up every so often as I surfed the net--one of my favorites was a screed about art in Richmond, especially the Lady Diana Mural and the Bojangles statue, which he correctly recognized as a racist city's backhanded insult, tucked away off the main (white people) drag and appearing to have been literally slapped together out of shit.

It's sad to lose a creative force. It's a loss to have a rebel die. Personal friend or not, I'm pretty sad. Maybe these lyrics, from the first Death Piggy release, will help:

BATHTUB IN SPACE (by Death Piggy)

I tried to get out, I tried to dry off
But when I got out it called my bluff
Bathtub in space, bathtub in space
Once you get in what a difference you make

I went up in space, I've given up hope
When I got out I slipped on the soap
Bathtub in space, bathtub in space
Bathtub in space what a difference it'll make

We're all in bathtubs, given up hope
What's that mean but soap on a rope

Bathtub in space, high above earth
You know I'm covered in cosmic dirt
Bathtub in space, bathtub in space
Once you get in what a difference it'll make

Time for a nice long soak.

04 March, 2014

An Other Sign Post

Signs may be the Alpha and the Omega

For some reason, one post I wrote about signs keeps getting hits, and currently (again) tops the list of hits over the past month. Signs have been an obsession of mine for a long time; I compulsively take photos of them, and write about them from time to time. Often, it's because signs are so often inadvertently self-mocking. Official signs, so often so lacking in humor, can be hilarious.

But then there are the signs posted by people who have no "right" to do so, no funding, no license to signify the wilds. The "A Line" and "Z Line" signs shown above, for instance, are on logging roads that belong to one of the largest resource extraction corporations on the continent, but somehow I doubt that corporate HQ called for or even approved those signs.  But the elk and shroom hunters wanna get their bearings, and so they put up signs.

Another species of signs in the NW woods are the mile markers. Not sure what "WILLY" has to do with it, or if this is even truly the 20th mile of the road I was on, but on many a logging road, you will see spray-painted upon trees numbers corresponding to the miles and half-miles of haul routes. Entering the forest, you'll see a little paper sign announcing the CB channel you're to tune into, upon which you are to announce your presence in-going or out-going so as not to be run down by a truckload of logs. Some guy drives the route with a can of spraypaint, stopping and hopping out, a scribe saving your life. Unofficial, but important.

Despite those efforts, people still die on roads, be they glacial gravel miles from pavement, or 8 lanes of asphalt. The bereaved often place signs in memoriam. Rex, I'm thinking, went down on his hog. This was on the same logging roads southwest of some place you've never heard of where the other photos in this post came from, but you'll see memorial signs closer to and even in towns, on highways and freeways.

People, humans with no authority or even any tendency to respect authority, have a need to put up signs. Wayfinding, marking miles, or memorializing, we put up signs.

25 February, 2014

27 Degrees

These shots are from January 20th, and it may or may not have been 27 degrees Fahrenhite, but it was one of those crisp high pressure days. Apparently, I only take pictures at Mission Creek. I do like the arcs and watery sinuousities in this shot.

Turn clockwise 27* degrees, and you sees this. The beach's shelly curves are still there, but so too are a straight stream, logs, the distant horizon, and even a sign, it's verticality standing alone. Land looming large, shadows anchoring the right side. Good in it's way, but I think the top shot's better.

* Maybe not exactly 27. Maybe a boringly even 30 degrees. I just said 27 because it is 3 cubed.

24 February, 2014

Straight Outta Compton, MG!

"Bang, broken like glass and plastic"  -Kurupt 2006
(or for old schoolers, "Broken glass everywhere" -Grandmaster Flash 1982)

No, the title is not a MF-in' typo, OK?!

Just a reference to the Maywood Glass Company, of Compton, California, whose mark is the MG at the left. I heard that Dr. Dre's uncle worked there, maybe. Made a bottle that got drunk sometime during or after 1951 (so sayeth the "51" in the right-hand square), and ended up broken on a beach in Olympia. The stipply texture was known as Duraglas when it came out about a decade earlier.

Nothing but a coastal thing brought this gLAss up north, so I guess I cannot resort to my usual "globalization is older than you thought it was, you punk-ass kid" rant (as if punk-ass kids even gave a shit). Nor do I have any clue whether any of NWA's aggregate ancestry worked at Maywood Glass, so I cannot in all honesty conjure some Afro-Scandanavian tale of unity or anything else.

Um, yeah. That's it. I guess this post really should be filed under ArchaeOlygy.