You’re Not in Kansas Anymore

All of us crave order. We want B to follow after A, and when we end up somewhere else, it throws things totally out of whack for us.

In case you haven’t noticed—our world has descended into chaos—terrorist cells, heavily armed and fueled by rage and ideology are visiting death upon American journalists and pain and loss on those who don’t share their twisted view of the world. People of color daring to push back against racist police in an American city are met with a militarized response and tone-deafness from the white power structure and law enforcement that no longer seems interested in safeguarding the people they are pledged to serve, or the property that we know that they exist to protect. It’s brute force with a 21st century military twist.

I heard a story on NPR yesterday, while driving back from Rangeley, on how ISIS (or, ISIL, as the president insists on calling them) is especially sophisticated in using social media in communicating, both spreading their message and also using it as a recruitment tool. The US military and our intelligence community, while aware of this for quite some time, can’t seem to orient a response to it given our own multiple layers of bureaucracy. A case in point—using Twitter demands a spontaneity and savvy that’s impossible to achieve, when you have to run a tweet through 27 other people before you can post it on Twitter. And beyond that, our military leaders, continuing in a 20th century vein, are unable to come to terms with a decentralized, leaderless insurgency that also happens to be heavily armed (thanks in large part to our own military-industrial complex ways), and the immediate response is the same old “bomb them back to the stone-age” mindset.

White power, firmly ensconced now for decades in places like Ferguson, refuses to give up that power and control. Protestors, using protest tactics common for the past 40 years—marching up and down, holding signs and chanting—is ineffective when met with a hyper-militarized response that isn’t meted out in a 1:1 fashion.

Law and Order no longer prevails—only chaos.

Law and Order no longer prevails—only chaos.

I find it interesting that two weeks ago, my friend (and mentor), Emily, mentioned the name, Meg Wheatley. She indicated that in her circles, Wheatley’s latest book has been generating a great deal of buzz about her theories relative to organizational dynamics. While I fully intend to pick it up and read it, in the interim, I looked for other titles of hers during my last research stop at the Maine State Library.

They had a copy of Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World, her prior book from 2006. It’s been the perfect read for me over the past week, in light of both Ferguson, and the recent murder of journalist, James Foley.

Wheatley comes to her organizational hypotheses as a scientist and through the lens of science. Interestingly, I’m not really scientifically inclined—I never did very well in my biology and physics classes in high school. However, her talent and abilities as a writer and a communicator clearly elucidate what she’s trying to convey and helps her crystallize those ideas.

She makes the point that we live in a world that’s constructed based upon 17th century Newtonian scientific concepts—what is essentially a mechanistic understanding of our world and the events occurring. Wheatley, basing her ideas on what she calls “the new science,” which is basically, quantum theory, articulates that we must get used to a world where paradoxes predominate and often prevail. It’s a world of probability, without the ability to predict with a 100 percent certainty. Yet, we remain locked in the grips of a bureaucratic framework, with a religious fixation on quantitative vs. qualitative data, and a belief that a knight is waiting just offstage, who will ride in on a white horse and save us. We’re waiting for Godot, and Godot is nowhere to be found.

We live in a strange world—one that’s only going to get stranger. We can hold onto the old ways that no longer work—or we can push forward and embrace a new understanding and worldview.

What might embracing a new paradigm/worldview entail?

  1. Getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  2. Appreciate the key role that chaos plays in our own self-discovery.
  3. Understand that things aren’t always as we see them (our lens is faulty); we have to learn to see the whole, rather than disparate parts.
  4. Learn to trust others and value relationships because they help us see our way forward, and the bigger picture. In fact (according to Wheatley), relationships are all there is.

I might add that finding our way forward also requires people coming together, especially locally. Avoid those people and things that are set on dividing us along traditional lines like race, class, politics, religion, and all other mechanistic means of sorting human beings. These boxes prevent us from visualizing reality.

Posting Time Again

It just occurred to me that it’s Tuesday and I’m supposed to have a post up—well, in a technical sense, I still have slightly less than six hours to get it up before Tuesday’s done gone.

In some ways, Sunday’s food review/post about Slab was really my Tuesday post, two days early. But, just in case somebody’s keeping score, I’m staying true to my Tuesday/Friday posting schedule.

I’ve actually been chasing a story since late last week that’s due to hit the streets on Friday. It’s got some investigative elements, and it’s one I’m feeling really good about, getting it sourced and written, and turned in on a tight deadline. I also appreciate a new editor who took a chance that I could deliver it. More details to follow on that one. Continue reading

Slab

[I’m a big fan of Yelp, one of the apps I never leave home without. I check it whenever I’m looking to try a new restaurant, or some other hotspot. I am also a Yelper, meaning I write reviews of new places that I try, offering my own thoughts and opinions via the site. Oh, and it also helps satisfy my inner food critic when it needs expression.—jb]

Slab-Portland, Maine

There’s a history behind Stephen Lanzalotta’s migration from India Street (and Sophia’s, prior), where he was selling a famous style of pizza out of the back of a well-known Italian bakery, to Portland’s Public Market, on the corner of Cumberland and Preble. If you don’t know about it, then either you don’t follow Portland’s food scene closely, or more likely, couldn’t care less about history of any kind. Actually, there’s a great two-part interview with Lanzalotta at Eater Maine that you should check out from December, 2013, if you’d like more on this.

Pizza is a food that’s ubiquitous and can be found in all manner of styles and varieties in Maine and elsewhere, most not terribly cutting-edge or awe-inspiring. It’s also one of those foods that when I read people raving about others making it, I’m generally nonplussed (kind of like I am with barbecue). I find that with both of these foods, people like what they like, and often, their affections don’t mirror mine. Continue reading

Trains on Time

Being able to make the trains run on time was laudable for any 20th century Fascist leader, Indian viceroy, tribal lord, or any other governmental figurehead. Given our current 21st century challenges, and chaos looming around every corner, merely being able to coordinate the logistics of trains would be a welcome respite.

What time is your train?

What time is your train?

Things continue unspooling in the American empire. The bigger question might be—moving beyond the parochial—were things ever that simple in global flashpoints like Iraq, Gaza, Liberia, or places in our own country like Ferguson, Missouri (or Birmingham, Alabama)? Being white affords privileges that are hard to trivialize. Continue reading

When Famous People Die

When a well-known person, especially someone who acquires a considerable measure of fame dies suddenly, media (and now, social media) lights up with first the news, and then, reflections on the famous person’s life. The apparent suicide of actor, Robin Williams, is another case in point. Prior to Williams, you had the unexpected death of another actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to a drug overdose.

My introduction to Robin Williams.

My introduction to Robin Williams.

People in the spotlight—actors, musicians, athletes, politicians—have their personalities and public personas broadcast into our living rooms, and their actions are splashed across the pages of newspapers, magazines, and tabloids, as well as the phenomenon of their “trending” status via a platform like Twitter. Continue reading

Tilting at Windmills (and texting)

On Tuesday, Maine officials, including the governor, rolled out a brand new initiative aimed at preventing drivers from texting on their phones while driving. Teaming up with three trucking firms, Maine is placing messages on 16 commercial vehicles traveling the state’s roadways, warning drivers of the dangers of texting while driving. They’ll be sporting messages like, “one text or call could wreck it all.”

Truck drivers in Maine are helping to spread the word that distracted driving can be deadly.

Truck drivers in Maine are helping to spread the word that distracted driving can be deadly.

I’ll give Mr. LePage the benefit of the doubt that this isn’t just a cheap election year gimmick that signifies very little. According to one of the reports I read, LePage, who hasn’t had to drive since being sworn in as Maine’s 74th governor in 2011, has been sitting back and observing all manner of behaviors among fellow Mainers while traveling up and down the state’s highways and byways. Continue reading

Endorsements

An endorsement carries with it a certain amount of weight and prestige. In publishing, a common practice involves having other writers write a blurb for a book jacket that tells readers how stellar an author’s latest book really is. These are solicited and there is an implied quid pro quo arrangement.

If you’ve reached a certain status as a writer, and you’re still being published by a traditional publisher, then book jackets and filler pages are likely to be crammed with these, along with positive reviews of the book. The bigger the name, the more reviews accompany their books. Amazon is also chock full of reviews for top echelon writers and their books. Continue reading

Explore! Turner—Bonus Material

It’s likely that you are reading my blog for the first time, sent here from the Sun-Journal’s website, or the print version of today’s Explore! feature I wrote on the town of Turner. These monthly features are fun to do—they allow me to scout around a town for an afternoon, talk to locals, and uncover a bit of the local history, along with some color and flavor.

I often have “left-over” material, and in this case, it relates to some writing and research I did on Turner a decade ago. The subject was baseball.

Back in 2004, when compiling information, box scores, and research on town team baseball in Maine for my first book, I spoke to a number of former players, some of them former members of the Turner Townies, or chief rivals of the talented local baseball team that drew fans out on many a summer night to watch them play. Back in the 1960s, they played their games at the field that was located in front of Leavitt Institute—what is now the village green, where the gazebo is. Continue reading

Local Food is Radical

On a daily basis, we are bombarded by a myriad of messages, all carefully crafted and coordinated by our corporate overlords. In case you haven’t been paying attention, we don’t live in a democracy, a democratic republic, or whatever else we were brainwashed into believing our American government was supposed to be during our 12 years of indoctrination in public schools. And then, of course, we’re convinced to add another four, six, or eight years on top of that, just for the privilege of tacking a few letters after our names for the purpose of “prestige.” And at what cost does this so-called honor come?

It’s too easy to succumb to this onslaught and get caught up in all the finger-pointing and ideological blame-gaming—it’s so much easier to control and subjugate a people divided. But this isn’t intended to be a screed, a diatribe, or even a jeremiad. No, I’m here to talk about simplicity in its most basic form—local food. Continue reading

Dentists and Civil War Generals

Oliver Otis Howard was a Civil War general from Leeds, Maine. Prior to serving as top commander under W.T. Sherman, he attended Bowdoin College, class of 1850, his tenure at the prestigious school overlapping that of Joshua Chamberlain, class of 1851. Growing up in a state that was (and still is) the whitest state in the nation, Howard’s views on race put him in the vanguard for his time and place.

[Oliver Otis Howard, 1830-1909, bust portrait, facing left; i...

Civil War General, Oliver Otis Howard, from Leeds, Maine.

I’ve been going to the same dentist, Dr. Gary Howard, for more than a decade. Every six months, I go in for my twice yearly cleaning and check-up. I’m fortunate to have dental insurance, which provides for regular maintenance of my teeth. Howard’s hygienists and office staff are personable and most have been with him for as long as I’ve been seeing Dr. Howard. Continue reading