Does the word that just popped into your head show up here? Find out:

30 April, 2013

Happy Boy (Try Not to Be Offended)

I'm sorry to realize that there are those who will be offended at this, an image of Baby Jesus on a John Deere. I mean no offense, and anyway it wasn't me that staged this tableau. It was an innocent child, who happens to enjoy the Nativity scene (and yardsale-sourced tractor ornament) long after Christmas. I never could get the kids to play with the barn and plastic animals I had as a kid, but here they are replacing it with a creche, an ornament, and some wire.

And it sure looks like the holy child (who am I kidding? It's a piece of plastic, a mass-produced goof falling well short of even what idolators demand in an icon--my own kids are far more holy) is enjoying his ride. Good to get out of the manger, where the sheep have taken to whining and the cow continues her endless judgmental gossipy monologue. Joseph and Mary need some couple time, and what boy doesn't want to drive a tractor?


28 April, 2013

Aimless Rocking

Sometimes, I wanna post something, but have no immediate ideas. This time, I don;t even have a photo. 

What I do have is music blaring. X, live at the Whiskey a Gogo. Guitar blaring songs I have known for 30 years. This morning I saw a guitar on the way to breakfast, a turquoise Fender stratocaster (among others, but the one my kids immediately keyed in on) on the way to breakfast. All it took was their second look to make me covet it as I have not wanted any musical instrument. My kids play piano (and ukelele a little bit), but the sudden urge to drop half a kilobuck on an electric guitar is at once compelling and aimless.

Also, I have images of rocks every time I close my eyes. I spent the weekend looking at rocks. Small ones, worn round by glaciers and Puget Sound, pebbles sitting on quarter-inch hardware cloth, washed clean by a jet of water, among which hide shards and sherds, and only we archaeologists know which is which. 

The energy of hunger and rock and roll (call it punk if you wanna), drives me to write, as a soup borne of whatever-is-around (miso, german sausage, leftover roasted Ozette potatoes, celery, nettler, sesame oil, a scayttering o grits, past-due hunger, and maybe something else) simmers at the lowest setting. Maybe, given my lack of focus, theme, and intent, I should just eat.


26 April, 2013

And Now for Somethign Completely Redundant

William Holman Hunt + Comic Sans
This painting is disturbingly fine. Seems even better than Random Internet Photo for the GHNR (pronounced like "goner") meme. I am told that Comic Sans, while sansier and ergo better than my dictionary-ish mis-choice, is still a font of ridculosity, and unsuited to a proper meme. All the better to heap on yon scapegoat, I say. 

This is the age in which we live, where the pathetic end of the unjustly reviled passes for art, or momentary diversion, whatever it is we want these days. Soon, someone will steal this idea and make a 'reality' series in which creatures already scapegoated will be targeted for afterthoughty mockery.   

25 April, 2013

Roofline Foregrounds

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire! Oh, no it's not. Just a cloud.
Sick of the Virginia posts yet? I'm not.

I have nothing more to offer here than a couple of shots with nice sky and vista, and a bit of roof in the foreground. It's a symptom of my obsession with the imposition of civilization's intrusion into landscapes (and skyscapes), perhaps a species of the old-school documentarian impulse to show it like it is, and not how it looks prettiest. Still, there is a beauty in the juxtaposition of nature's and humans' versions of beauty.

And here, a shot with roofline in the foreground, and then Thomas Jefferson's garden (a massive linear terrace replete with fancy resting house), before seeing the next hill (less sculpted than Monticello, but then again that treeless sward ain't natural either. Then, finally, plain old natural sky (if you can ignore the contrails).

24 April, 2013

Obliterative Persistence

Yon shot shows the floodzone of Scottsville, Virginia, on the River James. Once, it was called by King James' subjects the River of Powhatan, the name they used for the local leader Wahunsenacawh (father of the one they called Pocahontas), but this is upstream of his territory, where Monacan people no doubt had their own name. 

The photo is dominated by the most recent development along the north bank of the river, the massive dike clad in grass; it protects a town where people travel by pick-up and, increasingly, crossover SUVs and hybrids, none of which appreciate being flooded. Just to the right is the penultimate development, black rails on a bed of gravel where grass nor weeds nor even the most beautiful shrubbery are tolerated. Under that, and perhaps in the trees to the right, lies the canal that was obsolesced by the railroad; old timey as it may seem, the canal was no less a scheme to make money off of development and the transit of goods to markets. The red brick building handled the trade, but now it's cut off by dike and a pair of rails.

Further right, the brownwater of the James peeks between tree trunks. Once, people and their stuff moved on the river itself. Canoes, then batteaux. Way before that, there was a low spot in the terrain that water sought in it's quest to become saline. Now, cities pump out of the flow so the masses may drink, and a warming globe sucks it dryer and dryer every summer. 

Even when I canoed this part of the river in the early 1980's and had to hop out and tow it (downstream, no less) through massive algae blooms in tepid water, the James seemed like a hard place to move even a lightly loaded boat. The canal meant to bypass seasonal shallows and permanent outcrops was first damaged by federal troops before succumbing to rail-borne manifest destiny. Railroads still run, but mostly for the most massive of commodities such as Appalachian coal headed seaward, while diesel trucks carry the bulk of consumer goods. The town of Scottsville feels safe behind it's dike, but this too is momentary, as it was not planned for the climate changes facing the good townspeople and everyone else. 

The town exists because there a road crosses a river. One transportation system lays itself over the last. The stay the same even as they change. What we are used to will change, and what we build will fall, but the river still flows to the sea.

22 April, 2013

Lion Rock

On a trail somewhere in the Blue Ridge there is this rock. Looks like a lion's face to me. That is all. 

18 April, 2013

It's All About Meme

I don't even pretend to understand the magic of memes. My favorite is Pepper Spray Cop, but that's just me...something about that lardass strolling through an impressionist masterpiece speaks to me about the banality of evil.

Most memes would rather be funny, or cuuuute, or hip, or whatever matters to the pre-middle-age demographic that consumes most of the genre. It can be a phrase, plopped onto whatever image you want, I am told. My daughter swears that there are meme generators where you hardly have to do anything, and it spits up a meme. 

That ain't for me. I'll John Henry this internet, dammit.

That's right.  I made a meme.

My daughter says the font is, and I quote, "The wrong one." Apparently, there is a single acceptable meme-font. It happens that she cannot name it, and makes a Comic Sans joke to distract me. 

"But this is an artisanal meme," I whine, "Of course I'm not gonna use the same san serif font that all the lemmemes use. I chose Cochin quite intentionally." Harrumph. Pause to make sure she understood how clever I was for "lemmemes" off the cuff, plus the nod to Portlandia

Still, she dismisses it as a dictionary font (probably true), and I realize that I may not be a cool as I thought. 

I was, however, able to make a slight recovery, adapting my text to another image, a screenshot my daughter sent in response to my email, "Chibby Point." If you do not know Gayle Waters-Waters, you are uncool. [Disclosure: I do know who Gayle Waters-Waters is, but still am not cool, so don't sweat it.]

15 April, 2013

Grave Stones

Occupants of last post's family plot rest on a hillside the upper reaches of which cradle this grave. There is no fence, just a low stone wall. Instead of groomed grass, there's ivy bare to the ground in one spot and crambering over the slab in others. The headstone slab and footstone are not marble, and are strewn with a few random cobbles. No family evident, and the grave is dug through the residue of the previous occupants, who were slaves of yon president, themselves occupying what had been a wash house. 

If this grave is what archaeologists would call intrusive--excavated through prior layers--that's nothing compared to the stream of visitors passing inches away, looking down on it if they acknowledge it at all, but more often gazing over it at the distant horizon and ignoring the grave. But I covered desecration last time, and this time instead let's just look.

Or maybe not just look. Look like anthropologists, who assign great significance to burials. 

This grave is not so monumental as some in the family plot (on the hill's west slope, the sundown direction being good ground to plant the dead in many cultures), but it does hold higher ground with a commanding view, and the markers are fine enough to be sure that this is not the resting place of a slave or even a middling farmer. The inscription tells us this is the resting place of Rachel Levy, marked by her son Uriah, Virginian naval luminary. The Levy family bought the place from the president's heirs, who were among his white progeny.

The name is probably familiar to most readers as a Jewish one, and sure enough Mrs. Levy may have been born in 1790, but she died in 5591. Around the turn of the Millenium, Southern Christians took to the Jews as partners in bringing about the end times, but decades ago "Jew" was a slur in those parts, and it probably surprises a lot of people (including Virginians) to know that Jewish people could waltz their way into hallowed gentry grounds, or be commodores, but Richmond has one of the nation's oldest Jewish cemeteries, and for that matter the Confederate Secretary of War was Jewish.

Meanwhile, back at the grave, we can look at the small stones on the grave differently now, right? Seems to me there is a Jewish tradition of putting rocks on graves. Since there are not many on this one, it makes me wonder if the grounds crew removes them periodically. Do they know what's going on? What do they do with rocks they "clean" from the grave? Could they ever be persuaded to stop removing offerings of stones, and if so would the grave become a stone mound? 

Also, what's with the gothic arched stones? A nod to Christians, or just the style of the day?

I guess I'm too shiftless to apply myself and find the answers. It's getting late, and that's enough half-assed anthropological gazing for now. So I guess it's time to say Shalom, yall.

14 April, 2013

Desecration is in the Eye of the Beholder

Do this to my grave and I will haunt the Hell into you.

Some people decide what's gonna happen to their bodies when life departs, willing the afterdeath: cremation, burial, embalming, burning viking ship, and so on, hoping the dearly un-departed will live up to the legal document, maybe even the dying wish. I'll cop to having considered all of the above except embalment, and can add a few more to the list, like: worm-food, fertilizer, being planted at the base of a tree, and something like the Zoroastrian end. 

Some people live in fear that somehow their corpse will be defiled, their burial site will be desecrated, their remembrance dirtied. As an archaeologist I've witnessed cases and heard reliable tell of epidemics of graves razed, bones bulldozed, and I'd rather it not happen to my bones, but I don't lose sleep over it, or even comprehend it as more than an abstraction.

But the other day I witnessed the routine maintenance of a US President's grave, a founding father, beloved by Virginians. A guy pulled up, trimmed weeds with one gas-powered machine before blowing trimmings with another. I don't speak for any dead presidents, singular or en bloc, but the racket and fumes felt like desecration to me. Said president remains synonymous with ambitious and creative husbandry, the idealized American nation of farmers, and so it's hard to imagine the guy being OK with a noisome din and gassy humors of the modern maintenance regime.

I don't blame people like the guy in the photo, and if you recognize him, don't be mean. He's just doing his job, and there's a lot to do for only a few staff, not the dozens of slaves and overseers that did everything in the President's day. Blame goes to that culture which cannot get things done without real slavery, or a mix of wage slavery and polluting technology. Maybe someday we'll be forced to do things by hand again, kill the leaf blowers and employ corps of landscapers at fair wages to weed, rake, and in all manners tend the grounds and graves, but I'm not holding my breath (until I die). Until I can keep gas-scaping from tending my grave, I think I'd rather be cremated and put where the weedeaters and leafblowers cannot reach, where the noise blows in on the wind and not out on the exhaust.

The dead were not issued ear protection.