Longer Days and a Longer View

The days are getting longer. Some snow actually melted, and a patch of grass showed up over the weekend. Hooray!

The grass is back!

The grass is back!

My week’s off to a patchwork start. Some cool stuff in the works that will end up appearing under my byline in a week or two. Something else that I’ve been pushing for years (yes, years!!) will making an appearance later in 2015, too.

What I’m learning about most of the stuff in my life is that taking a longer view is required. That’s hard because it’s not in my nature and hasn’t always been my experience to wait on things.

And let me close with a bit of a non sequitur.

Nearly every Monday afternoon when I’m working at home during the winter months, I try to catch DJ Ben and his WMPG show, Hip Hop is Alive. Often, I crank up the volume and do a session downstairs on my bike trainer. I’m late to the game on hip hop and rap and I learn something new every week listening to a DJ who truly cares about the kind of show he delivers every week, from 3 to 5. The genre is also deeper than I was led to believe by the anti-rap element and PMRC-types like Tipper Gore, and others, back when I was doing my post-punk thing in the 1990s.

Yesterday, he had Brzowski, a Portland-based hip-hop artist, along with Bruce King, talking about the connections between late 1990s/early 2000s punk/skate/hardcore and hip hop culture. The show was incredible. King also dropped some knowledge about his experience behind bars, and the prison-industrial complex.

It’s rare these days to tune into anything that’s deep, literate, and far-reaching in scope. Monday’s two-hour slot was amazing, and I don’t use that word lightly.

I’m anxious to catch Brzowski live at some point when he plays again in Portland. I’m also intrigued by some of the content I briefed of King’s on his website, Incarca.

A Winter Kind of Crazy

The winter of 2014-15 has been a host of things: late-arriving, cold, snowy, and while it’s only been four weeks since the snow began piling up—the length of it feels like 70 years—or that’s the sense for most.

When faced with difficulty, Americans, at least those of us bred for softness and an effete, technology-centric way of life, take to social media to bitch and complain about the cold, the snow, and people pushing snow back out into the road (on certain Facebook pages about knowing you’re from Lisbon). I’m taking a decidedly different tack with today’s blog post.

If I’m being brutally honest, I must admit that I have had my moments since the end of January. It really does seem like we’ve all been put in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine and transported back to the Ice Storm of ’98, or perhaps, the winters of my childhood, when the snow was deep, and men still knew how to shovel. And not to get all patriarchal on you, the women in my world weren’t expected to, but that’s a post for another, more sociological kind of day.

All in all, the constant shoveling (I actually know how to throw the snow, having learned the skill from the “Winter Carnival King of 1951” most likely during that fateful winter of ’69, and the one following in 1970), gathering of wood, splitting it, and keeping a fire cranking has actually gotten me outdoors, away from the technology trap, and out into the brisk, cold, wintry fresh air. I think it’s actually helped improve my outlook, too, especially compared to last January and February. That’s when the walls felt like they were slowly closing in, ready to crush me. The real world will do that to you, as opposed to the virtual one (aka, the fake one).

Have headlamp, will travel.

Have headlamp, will travel.

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Hands-free Driving

Self-driving cars built by Google is a topic that whenever it comes up, elicits interest and nods of approval. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be chauffeured around in the back of Google’s big black car, so you can play with your phone and update Facebook, right?

Well, according to Nicholas Carr and a post last week on his blog, Rough Type, we’re still several weeks away from cars that drive themselves. I know that’s incredulous for you “app addicts,” especially those that think Google already owns our world.

Look, Ma; no hands!

Look, Ma; no hands!

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Finding the Story

My regularly-scheduled Friday blog post got waylaid by snow, an early morning interview about lobsters (followed by another one a bit later in Portland), and a newspaper deadline.

Notepad and pen (and a thumb drive).

Notepad and pen (and a thumb drive).

I find my stories by putting boots on the ground. That takes time, some old-fashioned tools, and it sometimes supersedes blog posts. I also was forced to forgo my Friday morning pool time, also.

Add a laptop and a digital recorder.

Add a laptop and a digital recorder.

Our Critical Nature

There’s apparently something comforting in lobbing criticism at others. This seems obvious because everywhere you turn, someone is carping at someone else’s lack of competence—at least that’s the way it appears. It’s easier to do that than look at your own ugly mug in the mirror, and write down your personal laundry list of foibles.

On Sunday, Boston Globe staff writer, Sara Schweitzer, profiled another New England mill town’s post-industrial attempts at reinvention, focusing on Franklin, New Hampshire. I was envious of Schweitzer, as she was given double the word count I had to tell my Biddeford story the week before; just one of the perks of being a staff writer, versus freelancing.

Franklin on the mapSchweitzer’s article was excellent, and her focus on an entrepreneur/developer, Todd Workman, and his struggles and challenges in this small city smack dab in the center of the Granite State highlighted the difficulties inherent in bringing back forgotten places like Franklin. The story gathered a number of important threads in this narrative focused on economic development in rural America.

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Stepping Back From Collapse

A few weeks ago, I stopped over at Aunt Tomato’s for a cup of tea and a treat involving cake and ice cream. I refrained from sweeping crumbs on the floor. AT says that the “coffee pot’s always on.” Those aren’t just words—she means it and I’m enjoying having her only 6 miles away, across the river, instead of living in a neighboring state.

AT and I have been going round and round about what we refer to as “collapse.” If you aren’t a reader of blogs by James Kunstler, Morris Berman, and John Michael Greer, I’ll excuse you now, as this may or may not make much sense to you. However, if you’ll hang with me for a few more paragraphs, I think it might start hitting home with some of you, even if you’re not well-versed in the collapse industrial complex. Some of you might connect with my premise that social media and all its attendant promises are as filled with rocks as Charlie Brown’s Halloween bag. More on that in a little bit.

AT surprised me a bit two weeks ago when she told me that while she knows that working for Whitey the Man for enough shekels to keep a roof over her head can be frustrating and sometimes damn near impossible to deal with, overall, she’s happy with the things that Whitey allows her to have with the scraps he offers from his table. That’s American capitalism 101, really. She’s also not going to try to single-handedly save the world, either. Preach it sista!

On this particular day, I threw out a “what if” scenario, given our history of talking about men in tinfoil hats that implied that perhaps everything collapse-centric was designed to get us all to give up and stop enjoying the beauty in life, and the attendant joys that life lived on this side of paradise has to offer. I could tell that she was seriously pondering what I was offering up.

Collapse is more than the zombie apocalypse.

Collapse is more than the zombie-apocalypse.

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Charlie Baker’s War

For the last nine days it’s been snowing in New England. These haven’t been Alberta Clippers, either.

First, there was the Blizzard of 2015, which dumped upwards of 30 inches over Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Boston, New England’s urban hub, has been especially hard hit. The city’s received 73.9 inches of snow over the past two weeks. Compounding historic snows in a short period have been narrow streets, the need to get rid of the snow without a place to put it, drivers unaccustomed to snowfall totals of this magnitude, and epic public transportation failures. These have been vexing to newly elected governor of the Commonwealth, Charlie Baker.

Poor Charlie Baker; his term is off to a rough start.

Poor Charlie Baker; his term is off to a rough start.

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Losing Our Letters

Dictionary.com has a feature that allows you to sign up for their word of the day. The Saturday word of the day was “epistolize.” It means to write a letter, or to write a letter to.

Epistolize means, "to write letters."

Letters are dead.

Letter-writing has become just another relic, thanks to technology. Email pretty much killed that art of communication. Social media has all but done the same thing to emails in many instances. Each time we take a step forward in the name of “progress,” I wonder whether we’re taking two or three backwards.

A few years ago, I read David McCullough’s John Adams, a biography of the Massachusetts-based Founding Father. McCullough, the renowned American writer and historian, highlighted the written correspondence between Adams and his wife, Abigail.

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Stories and the Man from Maine

Ed Muskie is now a Maine political ghost. After running for president more than 40 years ago, which in Twitter years is like 2 million, his online profile reads (according to Wikipedia), he was “an American politician from Rumford, Maine.”

Why am I ruminating about Ed Muskie on this cold February morning, with temperatures well below zero, and my septic system on the fritz? Because I just saw a teaser/commercial during the break while watching WCSH-6’s News Center broadcast—Bill Green’s Maine will be profiling the late “legend” who failed to win the mayoral race in Waterville in 1947, but bounced back, claiming Maine’s highest office in 1954.

Reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72 just after Christmas altered my own take on Muskie, aka, “The Man From Maine,” the moniker Thompson began using in reporting about the four-term senator from the Pine Tree State.

Ed Muskie: Political Ghost

Ed Muskie: Political Ghost

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Court of Public Opinion

There is a belief in some circles that news and journalism has only recently succumbed to pressures from the masses and corporate interests, dictating what’s acceptable for publication. Knowing a little about the past will quickly cure you of that notion and any nostalgia about the “good ole’ days.”

E. B. White wrote an essay for The New Yorker that the magazine published around this time (January 31) back in 1948. It was titled, “Expediency.”

E. B. White and Martha White, Allen Cove, 1957.

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