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The Smith College Greenhouses. January 31, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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This time of year in Massachusetts can be pretty bleak.  We have days on end when the sun doesn’t actually make it through the clouds and the weather, and the palette is nothing but gray.

So it’s really cool that there are places like the Smith College greenhouses.  At this time of year they’re preparing for their spring “Bulb Show,” a lillie-fest that’s hard to beat.

But right now, their perennial collection goes on, and some of it is flowering as we speak.

Here are a few of the blossoms I passed as I wandered the 18 or so rooms of this beautiful subtropical oasis in a New England winter:

It’s a feast of primary colors, that one yellow, this one red:

And a blue one which I used to know the name of:

These were taken in the late afternoon, and as it was dependably gray, the light was pretty low and the (hand-held) exposures were long.  The resulting “softness” of these shots might be deemed poor technique, but if you think of them as “flower porn,” you’ll appreciate the softening of the harsh reality of this dehumanizing trade.

Ahem.  Just making fun of myself there.

And there were some more complicated flowers there too, both in form and in palette, like the orchids:

…some soft and gentle, others more assertive:

Pardon my anthropomorphism, but this is the most sexually explicit plant I have ever seen.  It has a scrotum, a vagina, lots of pink bits, some short black hairs, and just when you were starting to think it was hot,  a phalanx of warts of indeterminate origin.

Thankfully, the Greenhouse Credo constrains us to “Look, but don’t touch.”

Expect more photos from these greenhouses in the future; there’s a lot going on there, and it changes weekly.

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The Wolf Moon. January 31, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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January’s full moon goes by an array of names, but the one most logically and consistently applied is the Wolf Moon.  Hungry wolves, leaned and stressed by Winter’s dirth of prey, bayed in baleful choruses as the well-lit winter nights offered them yet another chance to find a meal.  Aboriginal Americans took note, and kept their children close to home.

Because full moons work their magic on both the tides and the skies, the likelyhood of clouds and “weather” increases as the moon fills out.  But winter, with its drier air, seems less prone to matching a full moon to a cloudy sky.

So here are a few lucky shots from this month’s full moon, acquired by catching the actual moonrise from way up in Florida:

…and dropping down into the Deerfield River valley for subsequent “risings,” as seen against different skylines:

These last two, taken after the sun’s afterglow had faded, remind me of the Moody Blues lyric:

“Cold hearted orb which rules the night

Robs the color from our sight.

Red is grey, and yellow, white;

and We decide which is right,

And which is an illusion.”

Namaste.

When This Was A Farm… January 28, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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…I was a barn.

Yeah, really.  Tall and proud, straight and true.  Full of dairy cows, surrounded by pastures, not this scraggly forest you see here.

But that was then, and this is now.  My people spent long hours trying to patch things up with wishes and prayers and sweat, and when the sun went down, more hours around the kitchen table, scratching at pads with short pencils, cipherin’, and always coming up short.  There were arguments and tears, and lectures from the young’uns about government subsidies and Archer Danniels Midland, whoever that is.

And then the bankers came, and I closed my barn doors in an effort to shut out the pleading, but it didn’t help, and the bankers won, and my people left.

I’ve wondered what happened to them for some time now, but as far as I know, they just sort of disappeared.

I miss the old days.

The Death Of An American Icon. January 28, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Yesterday (Wednesday,) the day of President Obama’s first State of the Union address, saw the passing of a man who I consider to be one of the most important voices in the American Story.

Howard Zinn, father, educator, author and historian, died in California at the age of 89.

Dr. Zinn’s seminal work, A People’s History of The United States, earned him the respect and acclaim of social progressives the world over, and the unending ire of the power elite.  In it, he dared to challenge the history of America as written by the victors of our many conflicts, casting instead common people as heroes and telling the story from their points of view.

He was an early and forcefully vocal critic of the Viet Nam “Conflict,”  and in fact movingly posited that “There is no such thing as a just war.”

A professor of political science at Boston University since 1964, Zinn’s extensive body of writing, as well as his considerable library of lectures and interviews available through Alternative Radio.org, are eye-opening, thought provoking, and well worth seeking out for True Patriots with the courage to question the paradigms which have informed our ideas of politics and society since our earliest memories.

If there’s a Heaven, Howard Zinn is in it.  Few have done more to promote social justice and decry the horrors of war than this brave and brilliant man.

Good night, Howard.  A piece of my heart goes with you.

Dinner With TCR – The SoTU Edition! January 28, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Dinner with TCR, Politics and Society.
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For this auspicious occasion, the night of President George W. Obama’s first State of the Union address, a feast of spicy shrimp and poached tomatoes, served along side more of that Black Japonica vegetable stir-fried rice, with a generous helping of organic asparagus:

‘Twas guuud!

Unfortunately, dessert was a rewarmed platter of platitudes, difficult to swallow and leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

And so it goes.

Health Care Reform, With A Few Tea-Baggers Thrown In. January 26, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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I took advantage of my currently unemployed status to attend a noontime rally in Northampton in support of “health care reform.”

As a bit of an aside, who in their right mind plans these things when most people are required to be at work??  If we want to appeal to the common person, we’d best straighten this shit out.

As another aside, be forewarned (if you didn’t just notice the clue) that this ain’t gonna be nothin’ nice.

I got there just in time for the start, signed a mailing list, then held a sign for a while, engaging in a couple of faux-outraged conversations with The Choir before getting antsy enough to pass my sign off to a neighbor (in kind of the Birkenstocked version of, “Hold my beer and watch this”) and began to wander about with my camera.

I hope you’re awake enough to smell trouble brewing.

It was my impression from the “invitation” that the host of the event, Pat F. (who didn’t choose the time, but rather worked with the outline which was suggested,) had a permit for up to 100 attendees, though that’s just an assumption based on the wording of said invitation.  And we came pretty close to that, with a peeps-wad on one corner of the town’s main intersection and smaller droplets of representation on each of the other three corners:

Rescue Fido was there representing “Mad As Hell Doctors.com.”  Thanks, Fi.

Anyway, as these things are wont to go, we weren’t alone.  Among the pro-reformers were, shall we say, some of a “different persuasion:”

See that nice lady in the 1950s-Kitchen-Appliance-Turquoise slicker?

Well, I did.  And having not had the chance to meet Margaret Thatcher, I thought I’d take this opportunity to go talk to a woman with balls.

I mean, she was resolutely expressing her contrary opinion on our corner,  so I assumed she had balls, though I didn’t actually check.

Anyway, her sign said, “If the Mass. voters wanted a populist liberal agenda, Coakley would have been elected.” [I hope I have that quote exactly right, but know it’s close enough to convey the heart and soul of her message.]

“Your sign is interesting to me, what exactly do you mean by that?” I asked her.

She seemed startled, probably because nobody around her had reacted to her thus far.

“Oh, this is a direct quote from the HRC website!”  she enthused, puffing up a bit in premature triumph.

I stepped back and re-read it.

“Um, I don’t think so.  Not only haven’t I seen that said there, but it doesn’t sound at all like them.”

“Oh yes, it’s a direct quote, ” she insisted.

“Lady,” I pressed, “that’s either a mis-quote, or something taken entirely out of context.”

She fidgeted and got a little shifty-eyed.

“Well, the last part I added, but the rest was a direct quote!”

Bingo.

“So let’s get beyond the fact that you just lied to me and this isn’t a ‘direct quote from the HRC website.’  What were you implying here, that Obama and Coakley are “liberals?”

“Oh,” she enthused, “Obama is a Socialist!

“Lady, please!  He’s not a ‘Socialist,’ he’s not a ‘progressive,’ he’s not even a liberal – he’s a product of the University of Chicago, for God’s sake!”

Silence, and an uncomprehending blink.

“Do you know what that means?”

The sign dropped an inch, and through clenched teeth she said, “No.”

A chuckle from behind caught my attention; a couple of old hippies with “Health Care Reform Now!” signs had apparently overheard our exchange.

“Do you guys know what that means?”

“Oooh, yeah,” they replied in unison, eyes twinkling.

“It means, Lady,” I continued, “that he’s a product of the Milton Friedman school of economics!  Do you know what that means??”

The sign dropped two more inches.

“No,” she growled.

“Guys,” I asked The Hippies, “what does that mean?”

“It means,” one of them replied to the enthusiastic nods of his neighbor, “that he’s fully on board with concepts of supply-side economics, ‘free markets’ and trickle-down theory, all of which have been subsequently debunked by both scholars and history.”

I turned back to Ms. Kitchen Appliance 1956, whose sign was by now sitting on her boots.  I almost felt bad about the tear in her eye, but swallowed hard and pressed on.

“Lady,” I said, softly but resolutely, “you don’t know what you’re talking about.  And I resent the fact that you come here, ignorant as a toilet seat, and publicly push your poorly thought out agenda on the general public.  I’d be amused if it were just a matter of watching you screw yourself as a result of your abject stupidity, but in the process, you’re screwing me and my children, and I am not amused!

I left it at that, not wanting to see a grown-up cry, and went across the street to where another woman was holding this:

I won’t bore you with the details of this exchange, which was considerably more to the point, due to the approaching 1pm wrap-up time.  Suffice it to say that both of these Good Americans vanished from the public square as soon as they were confronted with their willful ignorance.

Now, let me make this clear: I worship at the feet of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  It does the dual duties of allowing Truth to be spoken to Power, and simultaneously allowing shat-in intellectual laundry to be hung out in the light of day for all to see, evaluate, and publicly denounce.  It’s not my intention to stifle speech, but rather to scream “BULLSHIT!” when it’s bullshit.

A year or so ago I tried to build bridges to people on “The Right,”  looking for common ground, scratching for small points of agreement.  That effort nearly killed me, the Sisyphean task of building bridges to a place which is intent on tearing down your abutments.  So I’m done with that, setting out instead on a course of screaming “BULLSHIT!” whenever I encounter said intellectual excrement.

And it’s no more “Mr. Nice Guy,” either.  I spent the first forty-five years of my life being a soft-spoken “nice guy,” and all it got me was fucked up the ass by stupid people who fought hard for their misguided points of view.

So, people, here’s the take-home message:

…restated as, “Grow a spine!”  and quit being so fucking polite.

Unless you’re enjoying being served your own ass on a platter, thanks to stupid people with fire in their bellies.

Along The Road. January 26, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
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Twilight on Route 8A in the high rolling hills of Windsor, Massachusetts:

G’night.

A Relic Of Another Time. January 25, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Taken a short while back, this black and white image of an old truck captures its essence better, I think, than the color version which previously appeared here:

Something about this old work horse is so proudly defiant as to cause tears to well up in my eyes, perhaps because it predates the brilliant capitalist inception of Planned Obsolescence, the cornerstone of en vogue economic theory and, in fact, the world as we Westerners know it.  This beast/beauty was built to last, and last it shall, beyond the conceivable life spans of so many vehicles a generation its junior.

Despite knowing that The Future is hurtling at me unchecked and unvetted, I find myself longing for the days when sustainability held sway over  the cancerous growth of economies and the viper’s bite of corporate hegemony.

And so it goes, and so it goes.

Some Music, If You’re So Inclined. January 24, 2010

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Just a little something I stumbled across while grogging my way through the You(tube)niverse.

Antoine Dufour making the most of a Harp Guitar, with Tommy Gauthier doing a violin proud.  The song is “Solitude,” an original composition:

If you enjoyed this, click through to Youtube and check out their many other clips.  These guys are mui talented; I’m hoping they hit the road and make it out this way.

Dinner With TCR – The Fugly Edition! January 24, 2010

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It’s difficult to take pictures of anything “creamed” without eliciting an initial response of, “Ewww – friggin’ dog!!”

Having said that, this dinner was exquisite with a blindfold on.

A boneless fillet of wild-caught sockeye salmon, poached in a sauce of heavy cream, smoked salmon bits and capers, and served along side a veggie-fried black rice:

‘Twas substantially better than it looked, and set my quest to regain my gurlish figure back a month.

But we hedonists can’t help ourselves, now, can we??