Polka, tango everyone

5 07 2017

Niece #2 got married in June, to a rather nice gent.

They live in the Twin Cities area, so, of course, got married in Green Bay (where none of us lives). It was lovely.

My sister, who is very organized, was a bit frazzled on Friday morning: the Saturday forecast called for rain, and—did I mention this was an outdoor ceremony?—she (and N2) needed to decide whether or not to put up the tent.

Ugh, she said, that tent is so ugly. But we have to do it.

Saturday was hot and bright, and no one noticed the condition of the tent under which we so gladly sheltered from the sun.

The bride was emotional. The groom was emotional. The ceremony was short, and they both said I do.

At the reception, the maid of honor, Niece1, offered a funny, heartfelt speech, as did the best man (Niece1’s husband—why yes, the bride and groom met through the sister and the best friend), and my brother-in-law, witty and charming, welcomed the groom into the family with an unabashed I love you.

I danced with cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and relaxed with my sisters’ friends, who I see every few years when we all gather for celebration.

No one talked politics.

Oh, and I met my grand-nephew, who is the chillest baby in the Midwest. He was handed from stranger to stranger to stranger and reacted with, at most, raised eyebrows. My habibi.

It was strange to be back in Wisconsin, as it’s always strange to be back. I remember when I moved to NY and how the buildings pushed up next to the sidewalks took some getting used to; now, it’s normal to me, and it is the wide lawns and low buildings which startle.

Still, some things reassured: the (oh-my-god-how-incredibly-cheap) beer and the cheese curds. Some like the breaded kind, while I prefer the batter-fried: salty and super hot. The accompanying conversation with friends was also a bit salty, although a bit more relaxed.

I’m not certain of my future in NY—it is a costly and hard place to live—but it felt good to see the lights as the plane turned over Manhattan and we glided into Queens.

LaGuardia may be a shit airport, but for as many times as I’ve flown into and out of it, it is mine. And after a weekend in a place which is no longer mine, it felt good to be home.





Praise to thee, our Alma Mater

4 02 2015

I loathe Scott Walker.

That his politics are not my own should not, of course, surprise you, but that’s not what’s loathe-inducing about him.

No, what I hate about him is not so much that he’s conservative (whatever the hell that means, these days), but that he’s successful: he wants to wreck shit, and he does.

He wanted to destroy public unions in the state, and has pretty much done so.

He wanted to open up the great north woods of Wisconsin to mining interests, and has pretty much done so.

He wanted to slash Planned Parenthood’s presence in the state, and has done so.

He wanted to make a point about Obamacare, and has thus deprived poor Wisconsinites access to the expanded Medicaid program within the ACA.

And now he’s aiming for the University of Wisconsin system, seeking to further the process of privatization (which began decades ago) not just by further cutting state aid—$300 million in his latest budget—but by attacking the very collegiality of university governance itself.

Oh, and the swipe that professors don’t work hard enough? That’s a freebie.

The University of Wisconsin system, which has existed in various forms for almost 170 years. Compared to the University of Bologna or the University of Paris, each established in the Middle Ages, that’s nothing, but it is as old as the state itself (both were established in 1848), and has arguable played a key role in the growth of that state.

Not just in terms of economics and industry, but in terms of an ideal and a promise, a public institution in the best sense of the term.

And now Walker wants to cut it down to size, to cut it loose from both the citizens of the state and the citizens of the university, to turn it into a giant work-training facility.

And I loathe him because he might just succeed in bringing my beloved alma mater to its knees.

There is one bright spot: an early draft of a bill had deleted the phrase that “the search for truth” is “basic to the purpose of the sytem”, but apparently that was “a drafting error”, and the search for truth remains.

I doubt very much that it was a drafting error, and has only been re-inserted after its deletion was publicized. Perhaps this means that this terrible idea can be stopped.

But I had thought all of those previous terrible ideas would be stopped, and they weren’t. In fact, they were either popular enough to get him/not-unpopular enough to prevent him from being re-elected.

So, yes, I admit it: I loathe him because he’s effective. He’s good at wrecking what I believe makes Wisconsin a decent place to live, to work, to learn, and to wonder, to think that there could be something more, something better.

~~~

At least he’s given me a theme to use for his presidential campaign: Walker—Wrecking Ball 2016.





On Wisconsin!

2 05 2014

I haven’t lived in the Badger State since the late ’80s, but jeez, this is just embarrassing.





Cheese, glorious cheese!

28 03 2013

Now this is my kind of crime story:

Illinois Man Arrested in NJ With Stolen Wisconsin Cheese

Police said the man was driving a refrigerated truck carrying 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese

.
The headline says it all.
.
h/t Shakesville




Talkin’ at the Texaco

2 10 2011

Kitty boy is not out of the woods.

He seems to get better, then, ohp, back the other way. He’s not in crisis, but that the improvement isn’t steady concerns me. I’m trying a variety of home remedies—yes, even after taking in the admonitions for a vet to check him out—which likely have a good shot at taking care of him. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this problem will likely recur, such that prevention will have to be worked into his everyday diet. He needs to drink more water and I need to increase his acid intake.

Here’s hopin’ Jasper gets used to salt and cranberries.

~~~~~

Good weekend for sports in Wisconsin.

Badgers rolled over Nebraska, Brewers are up 2-0 in their 5-game series with the Diamondbacks, and the Packers remain undefeated.

I am deeply ambivalent about sports—brand loyalty is for suckers, blah blah—and in particular, about football, and the evident harm it inflicts on the players. Thus, the cheering isn’t as full-throated as it was in the past, but it’s still there.

Maybe someday I’ll be enlightened enough to let it all go, but in the meantime. . . .

~~~~~

Thanks to Brad DeLong, I was hipped to John Holbo and Belle Waring’s equine-eviseration of libertarianism:

Now, everyone close your eyes and try to imagine a private, profit-making rights-enforcement organization which does not resemble the mafia, a street gang, those pesky fire-fighters/arsonists/looters who used to provide such “services” in old New York and Tokyo, medieval tax-farmers, or a Lendu militia. (In general, if thoughts of the Eastern Congo intrude, I suggest waving them away with the invisible hand and repeating “that’s anarcho-capitalism” several times.) Nothing’s happening but a buzzing noise, right?

Now try it the wishful thinking way. Just wish that we might all live in a state of perfect liberty, free of taxation and intrusive government, and that we should all be wealthier as well as freer. Now wish that people should, despite that lack of any restraint on their actions such as might be formed by policemen, functioning law courts, the SEC, and so on, not spend all their time screwing each other in predictable ways ranging from ordinary rape, through the selling of fraudulent stocks in non-existent ventures, up to the wholesale dumping of mercury in the public water supplies. (I mean, the general stock of water from which people privately draw.) Awesome huh? But it gets better. Now wish that everyone had a pony. Don’t thank me, Thank John.

The and-a-pony bit is explained earlier in the piece; g’head and read the whole thing.

Once again: libertarianism is not a serious political theory; it is at best an adjunct to serious political theory.

~~~~~

I’ve noted in the past that an over-concentration on process to the neglect of substance bleeds politics dry of its very purpose. That said, some attention to process may fruitfully obstruct an over-concentration on ends.

See, for example, presidential freelancing in the so-called war on terror.

President Bush stepped up the use of extraordinary rendition and justified the imprisonment and torture of detainees (even as he denied that beatings, waterboarding, and sleep deprivation were torture) as necessary to securing the dominance security of the United States. He was hailed on the right, booed on the left, and denounced by libertarians of all stripes (n.b.: see, I can say nice things about libertarians!).

President Obama has allegedly stopped the torture and has tried, with varying amounts of effort, to close Guantanamo. He has also authorized far more drone strikes on militant leaders than President Bush ever did, and hailed the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki as “another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates.” (He presumably did not mourn the death of Samir Khan, another American citizen killed alongside al-Awlaki.) He has been (mutedly) hailed on the right, (mutedly) booed on the left, and denounced by libertarians of all stripes.

I’m not particularly a fan of either al-Awlaki or Khan—violent hatred of the world isn’t my thing—and I do think the citizenship status of al-Awlaki and Khan (and John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla, for that matter) ought to give any American pause regarding their officially-sanctioned killing. (I leave aside the question of whether the Constitution covers noncitizens; my understanding is that this question is unsettled, juridically.)

But even if you don’t think the 5th Amendment applies in this case, nor that the citizenship of al-Awlaki or Khan matters, what of the matter of presidential power?

Obama apparently consulted with various staffers and legal experts on the legitimacy of such assassinations, but is a consult with one’s staff an apt substitute for legislative debate? Is it enough for the president to say “it’s okay because I say it’s okay”?

And because it was only bad guys who were killed, then, hey, that’s okay, too? Ends justifying the means, and all.

If pure proceduralism is deadly to politics, so too is pure consequentialism—especially in its democratic forms.

~~~~~

Whine whine whine about my life. What am I doing, here I am flailing, here I am failing, what if I moved. . . .

No.

I don’t know if I’ll be in New York forever, but I do know that this is where I need to make my stand. If I were to move anywhere else, it would be too easy to say “oh, if only I were in New York. . .”, and distract myself from the work I need to do.

I am so far past “enough” that I have lapped myself; still, if I’m ever to catch up, I have to stop jumping away from my life.





Home again, home again

21 08 2011

Did I mention that my mother got a tattoo for her birthday?

On her ankle, about an inch-and-a-half, two inches.

A butterfly.

Apparently, she’s long wanted one, but only now did the time seem right.

Besides, she said, I’m at that age where everything that was going to sag has sagged.

~~~~~

When I was in college it was easy to go home; it was still “home”, after all.

I left for good when I left for my second year of college—not that I knew that at the time. It was just that I decided to stay in Madison in a sublet that summer and work, then the following summer I was in my apartment and working, and then, y’know graduate school.

I kept stuff at my parents’ house, gradually moving it to whatever apartment I was in in Minneapolis (I moved a lot those first few years), then moved some of it back to their attic when I hied on out to Montreal.

And there was a big drawer reserved for some clothes, which was then downsized to a smaller drawer. I still have some old running shoes there, which came in handy this last visit.

Oh, and I went through a bunch of boxes that were still in the attic. I thought they were just grad-school books, but there were toys, stuffed animals, files, and some books from when I was a kid.

The Great Brain, Encyclopedia Brown, a few books by Ruth Chew, and the first book I ever read (memorized, really), The Monster At The End Of This Book.

I don’t particularly like sentimentality, but I thought, what the hell, I can keep some of those old books.

So I still have a box. And a drawer.

~~~~~

When did it become strange to go back to SmallTown?

Like I said, it was normal when I was in college, and probably into graduate school, as well. Maybe it was when I stopped returning for Thanksgiving: Minnesota was on a trimester system then, and the fall quarter ended the first week of December—too close to the end to leave town.

Maybe when I ran away to Albuquerque, and had Christmas dinner with T. and her then-husband at their apartment in the NE quadrant of ABQ.

Who knows. At some point when I said I was going “home” it sounded strange to me, to use the term “home” for a place which was once, but never would be again. Home, now, would be where I lived.

Still, even today, I’m not at all sure I’m home.

~~~~~

This last visit discombobulated me. It was normal to go back, then it got hard, and then it was a rush, and now, now it’s just odd.

When it was hard, it was as if I flipped a switch to return: Blue when I’m out of state, notched over to red when I’m in state.

Either/or.

Now, now things are blurry, and they slide along rather than click over one side to the other.

Not bad, really, but in some ways it was easier when it was hard.





The heaviness, the heaviness

17 04 2011

Family farms are amazing places.

You notice the barns, first (there’s always more than one barn), and, in Wisconsin, they tend toward the standard red. There’s usually a big barn, thirty or forty feet high, and then a smaller one, maybe around 20, 25 feet, and maybe another outbuilding, used for the farm equipment; there’s often a chicken coop thereabouts. If there’s not a silo, then there are a number of large cylindrical containers, and it’s not unusual to find a gas pump on the property.

The family farms I knew were dairy farms, and the milk-barn, where the cows went into their stalls twice daily for milking, tended to be low-ceilinged in the stalls area, although where the hay was kept there was, actually, a loft.

The farm house looked big from the outside, but it was usually quite cozy inside. The first floor would have the kitchen, a den, then maybe a formal living or dining room; the parents and kids’ bedrooms—and on these farms, there were usually a lot of kids—were on the second and third floors. Depending upon how large the family was, the younger kids would share rooms, and the older ones might have their own, or, they were all shared, divvied up by sex and age; maybe there were two full bathrooms.

Any trees on the property were near the house, or maybe there’d be a small stand to mark the edge of the property or on some spot where crops wouldn’t grow. Two-lane highways might cut through a property or serve as the dividing line between families; shoulders were gravel and often pitched steeply toward a ditch. If you came upon a tractor driving on the shoulder, you still had to swing wide around him, as the tractor usually trailed some equipment that spread across both lane and shoulder. It was rarely a problem; there’s not much traffic out on those country roads.

And there’s the smell. It’s almost always smelly on a farm, but it’s a clean smell, of manure and hay and dirt and animal, the kind you get used to and reminds you, simply, of country.

I’m thinking of one farm, in particular, as I write this, but it was the thought of another which prompted this post.

Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm posted on a 4-H visit to his mini-farm, for the kids to watch his farrier take care of his donkeys. Katz notes (correctly, I think) that urban and suburban parents today are over-protective of their kids, but that In farm areas, most families can’t afford to do that and don’t believe in it. In this and many other posts, he celebrates the hard and necessary independence of those farm kids.

Such hardy independence, however, has its risks.

As I read Katz’s post, all I could think of was RW. R. was in my brother’s class (two years ahead of me), and oh, was he a honey. He was popular with the guys, very popular with the girls, close to his younger sister J, who I later knew through theatre and track.

Word was she had to be sedated at his funeral.

R. was hit in the chest with a piece of farm equipment, and, being out in the country, was far from any hospital; by the time the ambulance got there—word was it got lost on its way to the farm—it was too late.

I think he was sixteen.

R. likely wasn’t doing anything on the day he died that he hadn’t done before, and, at sixteen, was certainly old enough to be doing anything that needed doing on that farm. He was one of those kids that Katz and I would both admire.

But as much as Katz wants to thrust the sweat and peeling paint and oh yes, the smell, into his viewers’ understandings of the family farm, as often as he cautions that there’s no such thing as a “no-kill” farm, as much as he wants us to see the hardness and the beauty of these places, the admonitions themselves often serve to turn that hard beauty into its own kind of light.

There is light there; he’s not wrong to see it. But not everything hard is beautiful and not everything beautiful is light, and sometimes what matters most of all falls beneath a heavy sight.