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Saturday, September 18, 2010

I'm a Lumberjill and I'm Okay

These are the members of the Colby College Woodsmen Club, a team that competes in traditional woodsmen skills with other college teams in Maine and the Northeast.  Cross saw, bow saw, chain saw, ax-throwing, log-rolling, pole-climbing, log hewing, log throwing----it's all here!  Think of it as a track & field meet for lumberjacks.  It was a total treat to hang out with them during their daily team practice yesterday. 

The ceiling of their clubhouse is covered with the plaques and awards this epic team has accrued over decades.  Nice axe rack.

Any activity that requires specialized footwear is okay in my book.

Lastly, I did not expect to be throwing axes when I got dressed in the morning.   And, I kid you not, that is my second throw----almost a bull's-eye (although not quite from regulation distance)!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Words you'll like

One app I enjoy on my iphone is called Slango---each day it gives me a new word from the Urban Dictionary.  Today's word is cell phone samba, "the erratic movements of a person trying to get better cell phone service.  Example:  The other day, a man ran into me while doing the cell phone samba in the grocery store."  (You can get the word-of-the-day on the Urban Dictionary web site as well.)

Another (real) word I came across a few months ago struck me as so funny I wrote it on a post-it:

The Dunning-Kruger Effect  When someone's incompetence denies them the ability to recognize their own incompetence.  Named by two psychologists (and if you guessed Dunning and Kruger you'd be right), you can read the interesting history of this word here.

So this morning I was quite entertained to read Douglas Coupland's op-ed in the New York Times entitled "A Dictionary of the Near Future", his choice of words we need to describe our modern lives.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Deselfing  Willingly diluting one’s sense of self and ego by plastering the Internet with as much information as possible. (See also Omniscience Fatigue; Undeselfing)

 Portrait of Katie Lewis, Edward Burne-Jones

Fictive Rest The inability of many people to fall asleep until after reading even the tiniest amount of fiction.

Frankentime  What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and the Internet.

Intraffinital Melancholy vs. Extraffinital Melancholy   Which is lonelier: to be single and lonely, or to be lonely within a dead relationship?

 The Mirror of Venus, Edward Burne-Jones

Limited Pool Romantic Theory  The belief that there is a finite number of times in which one can fall in love, most commonly six.

Memesphere  The realm of culturally tangible ideas.

Rosenwald's Theorum The belief that all the wrong people have self-esteem.  (added by me: these people might also suffer from the Dunning-Kruger Effect).

Undeselfing The attempt, usually frantic and futile, to reverse the deselfing process.

I wonder if Morris made up words?  It's hard to believe he wouldn't have given his extraordinary creativity with language.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue"

James Hansen in front of Kayford Mountain, a mountaintop removal mine site

A few weeks ago a friend and photographer J. Henry Fair sent me a link to a photo essay that will be in his new book The Day After Tomorrow: Images Of Our Earth In Crisis.  The pictures were of a scientist I first met when I was a graduate student, Dr. James Hansen.  Jim, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies and one of the leading climate scientists of our age, had recently driven with Henry to Kayford Mountain in West Virginia to protest the scourge of mountaintop removal coal mining.  Indeed, over the last five years Jim has been crisscrossing the globe educating people about the perils of global warming due to unchecked fossil fuel consumption.  These activities have included testifying on behalf of citizen's groups suing large corporations, writing personal letters to many of the world's leaders in hopes of influencing their energy policies and, on occasion, getting arrested during peaceful protests.  In short, he is an activist, a label he proudly embraces, even in the face of much head-shaking, even scorn, from some of his fellow scientists. 

Like Hansen, William Morris excelled at and became a world leader in his chosen profession (in his case Arts and Crafts, later referred to by him as "ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich").  And, by the second half of his adult life, he also had become an activist, founding the British socialist party, fighting for worker's rights, and laying the foundation for today's "green" movement.  No doubt many of his upper-class family and friends likewise shook their heads in disbelief and dismay.

Shuttered stores at night in Whitesville, WV

If you are the least bit curious about global warming and whether you need to worry about it, I recommend you read Hansen's engaging two page essay Activist (follow this link then look for the line beginning with "Aug. 25, 2010").  When you find the "Hypocrisy" quote about half way through you will begin to understand the full might of the short-term political and economic status quo when it comes to the energy industry.  Not all of us are cut out to be activists but we can all be part of an educated citizenry.

Finally, the coal miners of West Virginia understandably advocate strongly for their jobs and livelihood.  In "Art and Socialism", a talk given by William Morris in 1884, he asks "What are the necessaries for a good citizen?  First, honourable and fitting work.  The second necessity is decency of surroundings, including:

1) good lodging,
2) ample space,
3) general order and beauty.

He goes on to elaborate on these three requirements including, for the third, to say "Order and beauty means that not only our houses must be stoutly and properly built, but also that they be ornamented duly; that the fields be not only left for cultivation, but also that they be not spoilt by it any more than a garden is spoilt; no one for instance to be allowed to cut down, for mere profit, trees whose loss would spoil a landscape; neither on any pretext should people be allowed to darken the daylight with smoke, to befoul rivers, or to degrade any spot of earth with squalid litter and brutal wasteful disorder."

Storefront at night in Whitesville, WV

I can't help but think that if Morris was alive today he also would be in these sad bleak towns of West Virginia, with Hansen and Fair, working to establish new economic models based on craft and agriculture.

James Hansen in front of Marsh Fork Elementary School, which is adjacent to a Massey Coal processing plant.
Thank you Henry for letting me share some of your very moving photographs.  Looking forward to the book!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yowzer! nice blue bench

Here's another bench-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden pic, brought back to life by a coat of paint in a great color.  Nicely done Pop.

A few of you have noticed what a blog slacker I've been lately.....I have an excuse.  On top of extra busy day job and getting my house ready to rent, I've moved---from a city of 100,000 people outside of Boston, to a seaside village of less than a 1000 people on Cape Cod---Woods Hole.  I would post requisite pics of "adorable harbor", "sweet gray shingle cottage" and "gorgeous sunset" but the cord that connects my camera to computer has been lost in the move.  Many interesting things go on in WH (mostly involving the science of oceanography) so, despite local consensus that there is no place more boring than the Cape in winter, I hope inspiration will be found.

In the meantime, I continue to search for cord.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Magical Worlds

 Printing textiles in Merton Abbey, Photo c. 1890, published 1911 in a book commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Morris&Co.

A continued pleasure of maintaining this blog is getting to know fellow Morris fans, artists, and travel enthusiasts around the world.   The picture above of Morris's textile "factory", aka ground-zero of the Arts and Craft Movement, was sent to me by a doctoral student/designer named Andrei who lives in Finland.  He also happens to be an incredible are a few of his hauntingly beautiful images.

Saturday, September 4, 2010