What I’m currently wrangling via Kindle

My Kindle Queue, 22iii23

Flux Jinwoo Chong

The Echo Maker Richard Powers

Everything Everywhere All at Once: Screenplay

Harvard Square: A Love Story Catherine J. Turco

Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology Chris Miller

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Erving Goffman

Annals of the Former World John McPhee

The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance Dan Egan

Finnegan’s Wake James Joyce

The Guest Lecture Martin Riker

The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade Herman Melville

The Lichen Museum Laurie A. Palmer

Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World Malcolm Harris

Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative Peter Brooks

coughed up by Flickr

Every now and again an image hidden in my Flickr photostream floats into view and tempts me to re-think a project that’s been back-burnered by other fascinations. Today’s case in point is from 2018, and Flickr tells me that somebody looked at it yesterday –no idea how, or why, it was chosen, or discovered:

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One of a bunch taken along a stretch of rocky St George shoreline (see the Flickr Album from that expedition. I see all sorts of wonderful lithic landscapes, full of interpretive opportunities, and expressing an aesthetic rather different from that I’ve been drawn to in the last few years).

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and

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So it’s high time to think about the creatures of the lithic world again, and try to understand just what it is they’re trying to communicate. Each tells a geomorphological story, involving an odyssey of exposure to heat and pressure deep in the Earth’s mantle, a tectonic-driven journey upward to the surface, transport and abrasive sculpture from parent rock somewhere far away (probably Canada) to the shore in St. George by glacial advance and retreat, and then a few thousand years of tumbling by waves of the Gulf of Maine. Awesome.

on Going with the Flow

Sometimes stone-cold-obvious insights appear out of nowhere and you think: ah. So that’s how it is. Today’s case in point came as I watched a YouTube video:

Geologist Myron Cook lays it out for us:

(I began with this one:)

I’ve never studied geology in any formal way, but I have been accumulating bits of rock lore over the years, and I can look back to influences like John McPhee‘s Annals of the Former World (four books: Basin and Range, In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, and Assembling California) and Geology of Newfoundland Field Guide: Touring Through Time at 48 Scenic Sites and a heap of other titles, gathered up in my usual hoovering fashion… actually quite a few books, as I begin to enumerate them and recall when and where and why I found/acquired them.

Anyhow, the stone-cold-obvious insight of the morning is that one can (should? must?) think of the 4 billion plus Terrestrial years of geological time as flows of material:

  • upwelling of sub-crustal magma (volcanic activity, seafloor spreading)
  • tectonic movements of crustal plates, broken by rifting and thrusting, leading to collision and subduction and shearing
  • glacial advance and retreat
  • sediment redeposited by flowing water
  • annual cycles of climate and atmosphere, and diurnal back-and-forth of tides
  • …and probably others that I’ll think of…

In fact, flow is at the heart of what we think of as time, across the range of scale from galactic (well, Universal&mdash lotsa galaxies out there…) to the microminiscule dance of electrons (whatever they are…). And of course the life-time scale of human activities (where anthropology lives and works) is a landscape animated by flow…

Would that I could transport this /insight/ back to when I began teaching, or better yet to when I began learning, and apply it to all of my various interests… The old hippy injunction to “Go with the Flow” is much more subtle than we knew… which is a pretty good launch pad for today’s inquiries.

Hessians

One of New England’s Autumn rituals is the Binding of the Evergreens. A bolt of [gunny] sack cloth or burlap or tow sackin’ or hessian (dialect variants for pretty much the same very rough cloth, almost loose enough to qualify as net) is sourced from somewhere (Tractor Supply, maybe?) and wrapped around ornamental evergreens for the first 5 or 6 years after they are planted. One must wonder why (not to mention where and when and wither and how) this custom came to be and to spread to its present territory?

And of the style and other niceties of the Binding: The most common configuration is the line, which often looks nothing but military:

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The ideal is a uniformity that is rarely achieved. Most straggle and sag and some even wander. Some manage to stand in a line as if on parade:


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(most of these can be read as faces…)

With Evergreens planted as specimen trees, there’s more latitude for the fanciful when it comes to Binding. It’s not clear if the Binders consider that they might be doing Evergreen Sculpture, or if the main point is to ward off hungry winter-browsing deer, and you get the burlap around her good enough…

Remarkable characters sometimes emerge:


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hawk-nosed portrait head with extravagant plumed headdress


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I can’t decide between genuflection and a couch too deep


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Exercise: caption this as you will

Some are marvelous portraits of character. I read this one as disgruntled old sergeant with silly tufted headgear.


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Longtime I’ve thought of these as Hessians, a tip o’ the hat to the 18th century Germans with whom the Crown sought to maintain order in 1770s North America. Others collected can be seen in my Hessians Flickr Album.

ADDENDUM:
My friend Brian Higley, landscape architect and vegetation whisperer, comments thusly:

I like to call these, trees in bondage. Whenever I see them, they look pretty tortured to me. But maybe the more creative way to see them is perhaps… homage to the landscape artist Christo. See the forms without any preconceptions, only for what they are as sculpture. What happens to the flora when you wrap it? … The wrappings can actually serve a purpose in some cases, but those cases included, it usually means that someone has planted the wrong species of plant in the wrong location, or deer.

Some species of evergreen trees and shrubs are extremely sensitive to wind and can become dessicated in the winter. If the winter wind doesn’t kill them, they will stay nice and brown the rest of the year. Wrapping can keep them alive and perhaps green.

Heavy pressures from a starving deer population (the case in several places I have worked) can make it next to impossible to have any new plantings without a seven foot deer fence around your entire property. Many people with money do just that, and then the remaining deer have that much less land to feed on. When they are starving they will eat anything in sight, including things they aren’t even supposed to like. Some people like to wrap up their plants in winter to protect from the hungry deer, a reasonable protective measure by tree loving owners, but in my view the dressed up soldiers stand out as a loud and obvious symbol of defeat. Really? looking at wrapped up trees all winter? I get it though. Falling in love with your trees can be as irrational as falling in love with another person.

Now if you live in Beacon, New York and you happen to get a nice little fig tree, and you wrap it all up and bury it in the fall to keep it from getting too cold, you can get some nice figs every year — it is totally worth the trouble. And the ugliness you have forced upon the plant, and the rest of the world, is justified.

morning links, 29 December 2022

Every day brings a shower of links, a new landscape of tempting rabbit holes and opportunities. Here are some of the temptations that greeted me this morning, in more or less serial order:

The Guardian’s “Best folk albums of 2022”

from Maria Popova’s Marginalian:
Nick Cave on the Antidote to Our Existential Helplessness and Art as Living Amends: Nick Cave on Creativity as an Instrument of Self-Forgiveness and the Necessity of Hope in a Fragile World

A Water War Is Brewing Over the Dwindling Colorado River (Abrahm Lustgarten)

Wheeeeeee from WFMU playlist

The Best Things I Ate in 2022 (Hannah Goldfield, New Yorker)

Fodor’s No List, 2023

The 50 Best Maps of 2022

Clerks 3 Easter Eggs & References


This Desk Gadget Can Do Almost ANYTHING Quick Keys by XenceLabs


How to HEAR Modes

before November gets away from me

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November was a very busy month, including a week in Nova Scotia and a lot of writing and thinking. The Snark was hunted, various boojums appeared, and my forkety fork fork mode continued as I explored Time and its Passage ( http://oook.info/Conviv/TimePassing.html ). All that is recorded on yellow pads. A few photographic forays, but the leap into Blurb book production is still gathering itself. A lot of music played, and listened to. The usual forest of books read and heard, and more are in the pipeline via (mostly) Amazon. It sounds pretty scattered, but makes sense from day to day. More of that should find its way to the blog.

scanning photo albums

Yesterday I began sorting through some accumulated heaps of Abandoned Ancestors and came upon a slim and anonymous sixteen page album which I scanned and reordered and uploaded as a Flickr Album. The most remarkable image is surely

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but this one is a close second:

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One rarely finds such direct engagement with the photographer as seen in the riveting gaze of the woman on the left, and there’s the further enigma of the evidently symbolic arrangement: the five participants seem to be holding hands in an expression of solidarity.

The album also includes nine cyanotypes, all of male subjects doing outdoorsy things. This one is especially gripping:

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But what does it all mean?

Learning to read albums of snapshots is challenging, since context is often missing and all one usually knows is that the assembler of an album cared about the photos included, and invested energy into arranging the images on the pages. What can we make of this pair, from the disintegrating and faded remnants of a small album from perhaps a century ago?

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(see the scanned album and try figuring out its story)


Perhaps further exploration of that album will give us some hints, but it’s a salvage operation. Most of the photos are faded, and so needed extensive work with Lightroom. There are a few captions, but nothing definitive. As vernacular as it gets.

Clark Island at low tide


“The Mysteries of Pebbles” by Paolo Mucciarelli and Enrico Ranzanici (via BoingBoing)

(and review How did I arrive at this fascination with imaginary beings?)

Yes, well… today’s photographic expedition took us to the intertidal zone at Clark Island, where I discovered all sorts of Personages and some lovely Surfaces. The Flickr Album offers the whole set, more or less sorted into a Narrative. I can’t pick a favorite.