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The World is Ending! It’s Over!

Oh, wait- we’re still here.

The election cycle is over, and in two months our 45th President will give his inaugural address, and we can, at last, start to see what manner of President Donald John Trump will be.

Please, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and calm down.

He’s neither the antichrist nor Hitler reborn; he’s not going to destroy this country any more than Hillary Clinton would. What we’re experiencing is the result of the campaign these two nominees waged: a campaign of slander and bigotry on both sides.

If Trump is a Niagara Falls of mean remarks and nasty names- spewing them constantly by the hour; Clinton was the Old Faithful- gushing from time to time with her own deplorables. It’s little wonder the transition of power is accompanied with protests from the Clinton supporters, and, I’m sure, Clinton would have faced protests as well if had she been elected.

After a year of our candidates brawling in the mud, they seem to have taken the time during the count to wash it off and put on the “good job” face. Clinton ceded, and said “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead”. While Trump said Clinton “fought hard” and thanked her for her service to this country.

Meanwhile, we citizens who live on the battlegrounds still have mud on our faces. We need to pause. We need to remember that the experiment that is our country forces us to confront opposing views, and that it is our duty to walk a mile in those ill-fitted shoes.

We need to breath- the world is not ending. Our republic is so constructed that executive power is balanced by congressional consent. Yes, the Government is Red- but it’s a red of many tones.

Red or Blue, a full house means we have the opportunity to change our country and defend what we believe is right, and what we believe is good for our country. We will have conflict- but let’s commit to resolving conflict even if our adversary wants to argue.

It is time to turn protests into propositions- how can we improve our nation? Let’s stop being spectators and start being active in our self-government.

When we want change let’s write letters to our congress; let’s propose strategies to improve our lives, and petition our State and federal government for the changes we want to see; let’s move forward together and discuss and consider each other’s views until we know for certain that what we are doing is in the best interest of our country.

We will have the voices we’d rather ignore. The White Nationalists say this campaign has opened doors, and misogynistic minorities think they’ll have leniency in this term to harass women. They have a right to believe what they want to believe, but we have the right to resist them and show them that they are a minority in this country.

Because a country is inseparable from its people- and people are flawed and multifaceted. We, the people, are the country, and any government in place is one that we’ve put there by explicit choice or implicit consent- let’s work to improve our situation, and become involved. “Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time.”

Finding America: The Potato Drops

Finding America (Series I: Idaho): The 3rd Annual Potato Drop

The United States is full of awe inspiring places, people, and things- ghost towns turned tourist trap, archaic worshipping sites, old battlegrounds, vast canyons and mountain ranges, extinct volcanoes, and the stories of the people who have lived and toiled here. Thinking of these things, I realize that I have not yet met my country, and there are a many things to explore. But discovery is a process, and since I cannot learn it all at once I will start with where I am: Boise, Idaho.

I’ve been in Boise since September, 2015. During the past three months I’ve only brushed the surface of the sites and people that occupy this postage stamp of land. Though I could write about the Capitol building, or the Botanical Gardens, I will save these and others for another time. Instead, I will start this New Year with a new Boise tradition: the annual New Year’s Potato Drop.

I first heard about this event on December 30, 2015, and found the idea novel enough to attend. This year’s festival, ringing in 2016, was the Third Annual Potato Drop, and featured a 15ft Potato lowered for the countdown that initiated a fireworks display. Though I arrived at 11:45pm that evening and missed most of the vendors, it was great fun.

In final 10 minutes before the drop there was a short New Years Bachelorette program, where a young woman asked a series of questions to three eligible bachelors. She ultimately selected bachelor number three to sit with during the drop, while the other two bachelors were introduced to the runner-up bachelorettes. Immediately after this, came the countdown for the New Year and the ceremonial lowering of the Potato.

It was a bit silly, yes, and cold, but it was a nice way to remind us that life is more than ceremony. That life is full of cold days, times of loneliness, and other sufferings we must endure, but life is just as full, if we look, of the little things to make us smile, and of the 15 foot potatoes descending on a crane.

A Coffee Bean

I’m working in a coffee shop.

This coffee shop serves resource sensitive and environmentally conscious coffee which has been planted, grown, harvested, roasted, and transported with utmost care and delicacy. This tedious process is to ensure a high quality cup of coffee for people to enjoy for a nominal fee.

The shop serves excellent coffee, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the back-burner by-the-pot coffee of those 24-hour restaurants I grew up with, and those cheap, off-brand coffees that come in two-pound tubs: those “blue-collar” coffees of the Safeway aisle and the labor-class bulk buys.

These coffees speak in softer, more familiar tones. They call with light voices through the mild musk of ground beans and thumb a milky nose at the “finer blends” through swirls of milk and sugar.

They are crasser blends, but they are, I think, a part of my history that time will not weaken, because I have memories of coffee scented music and hazy late nights that will ever remain as coffee stain on my life’s white cloth.

Caryn Franklin: When Did Fashion Become Porn?

I found a website called “Elance” a while back, which is a kind of social network designed for freelance writers, artists, and other creative types. It’s a bit like online dating, except the program suggests jobs based on your criteria instead of dates.

I found one job possibility today that entailed fashion writing, and since I’ve never considered fashion I started investigating what fashion writing entails. My search brought me to “The Best Fashion Writing of 2013” and as I perused the articles I found one that caught my eye: “When Did Fashion Become Porn?” by Caryn Franklin.

Franklin’s article begins by noticing the sheer accessibility of pornography and the false expectations it arouses. She comments that there is a growing market for Viagara and even penile surgeries.

“Masculinity now, just like femininity,” Writes Franklin, “is prey to a whole host of marketing promises and pressures.”

And it may only get worse, where pornography was presented as “a misogynistic standard from a shabby back-room printing press for most of the 20th Century, now pornography is produced on an industrial scale as never seen before and, courtesy of continually developing digital markets, commands huge revenues although over 80% of young users access it for free.”

And this is problematic for developing healthy, supportive relationships whether sexual or not. According to Franklin, “Boys also have little idea of what makes sex pleasurable for women. And neither it seems do today’s young women, studies reveal girls expect relationships to be controlling and sometimes violent.”

Pornification of our popular culture is happening right under our noses.

But these children don’t necessarily learn these behaviors from pornography, they learn it from popular culture. Franklin writes that “Pornification of our popular culture is happening right under our noses.”

And it takes the form of “Grooming”, a form of media that says, “This new media porn is all a bit of innocent fun, nothing to make a fuss about. Just give us a little flash of your honey-pot and stop being so uptight.” and is presented as little more than “media at its edgiest”.

“That’s how sexual groomers work in both seedy and shiny surroundings isn’t it?” Writes Franklin, “When repellent ideas are given a fun or adventurous spin, they are always easier to carry out.”

And such seems to be our media environment. The slow development of pornographic world where humans are objects of pleasure, and pornography is matter of artistic creativity.

Franklin writes that “Grooming by individuals or an entire industry, is morally corrupt”.

But what can we do to create a popular culture that is morally sound in a world of changing moral ground? And what does it mean to be moral?

Though I can’t answer these questions today, or really at all, I have a few ideas of my own that I will present as an argument towards a new moral code which preserves “old fashions” while challenging the modern morals with reasonable constraints.

I aim to challenge the pretense and superficiality of the mass media and learn what it means to empower women and the human individual, and how to practice that empowerment.

“And so we come full circle.” Concludes Franklin, “Standard viewing of barely adult girls engaging in demeaning acts of sexual posturing, finger sucking, fanny massaging and arse waving. Cheap shots from fashion, a luxury industry loudly trumpeting its taste-leadership credentials, and music, pretending to empower all young women. Not all of us are taking it lying down.”

 

 

http://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/read/think-pieces/519/when-did-fashion-become-porn

http://www.styleite.com/news/the-best-fashion-writing-of-2013/

Michief’s Brewing

I’m terribly behind in my writing. Unfortunately, this seems to be a typical thing in the world of writers. Fortunately for us, however, the good lord invented coffee shops where we may sit and procrastinate in peace.

Better still, we look busy as we procrastinate because people who write often look busier than they really are. It’s the magic of having a computer open before you, and a coffee close at hand.

Moving on.

I have embarked on an incredible journey of unemployment and relocation, and I find myself with a great deal of time on my hands. Theoretically, this means I could work out and finish another book or two in the next few weeks as I apply to jobs and wait for responses. The reality, of course, is that I tool around and haunt coffee shops.

Not that I’m a complete bum.

This particular coffee shop -Mischief’s Brewing- is located in Libertyville, Illinois, and the owners have agreed to host me on August 17, 2014 for a third attempt at a book event. I can’t say I’m over optimistic, given the last two events were about as lack lustre as they come, but I’m content for the opportunity.

The shop itself has an air of a reclaimed train depot, and rests on the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and the Fox Lake-Chicago train line. There are a number of tables strewn along the walls and potted plants in the windows. Across from the counter, is a fireplace around which is a ring of black sofas.  From what I gather, the owners are hoping to become a kind of cultural hub for the city, and are the venue for a number of events each month.

I can’t say I know much more than that, but, if you happen to be in Northern Illinois anytime soon, it’s worth a stop for a cup of coffee, a quick round of connect four, and, maybe, a book signing.

Fictional Realism

Dear You,

I know it’s been awhile since I wrote, but I wanted to get your take on this idea I’m playing with:

The idea is that the world is a massive book: an encyclopedia which, like Hermione’s bag, can be entered and explored. How I picture it is as a maze of letters: rows of books within books and shelves upon shelves containing and composing the history of the Universe. It’s the Library of Babel and the number 42. It’s extensive, complete, and vast, but ultimately limited to the constraints of Time.

What this means, I think, is that the split seconds are recorded with intensive detail by some unknown “scribes” of this encyclopedia, and the day to day realities of life are reduced to a story which, in our histories, are perceived as fictions even though they really occurred. That is, Napolean is no longer a person, but a character in a story because we can only know the man through the written texts. And, like a character in a fiction, our understanding of these historical figures are limited by the information we have available.

In fact, every interaction we have in the day-to-day is reduced to a kind of vague document outlining the events, but lacking the minutia of the split thoughts and partial comprehensions.

This encyclopedia or library, then, is a multifaceted construct which preserves both the crust and the core of these histories. Some of the entries or books provide the minutia, while some relate only the vaguest of suppositions.

It’s difficult for me to digest, but it’s like this: the world is literature, and we are readers and critics assessing the story and pulling meaning from the words we understand.

I’m not sure how this thought came to my brain, I think, perhaps, from reviewing my old journals and realizing that I understand and imagine the past in the same way that I understand and imagine the stories I read.

I’d like to know what you think of this,

I’m not sure when I’ll write again, but I will when I will.

Until the previous time we’ve met,

Your friend

 

Bloomsday 2014: Sing In Me, Muse…

Aside from presuming to reference the Odyssey (which I’ve read only once in a Freshman philosophy course four years ago), I’m also presuming to write about Bloomsday, that is, Ulysses, by James Joyce.

Bloomsday, if you don’t know, is today: 16 June, 2014. It is a commemoration of the life and work of James Joyce, and it is based on his monstrous novel Ulysses which takes place on this day in 1904.

I’ll confess, I’m sort of jumping on the band wagon rather late: I only realized Bloomsday was a thing last month, when I visited the James Joyce Centre in Dublin. There I learned something about Joyce and his work, and today I’m just beginning to understand.

My understanding began when, in the spirit of the wagon, I wanted to know what people do on Bloomsday. Perhaps, consume a mutton kidney, or take a walk by the beach, or, in the evening- well, somethings are best left unsaid.

But it was this search for involvement that lead me to an article in Vanity Fair called “Bloomsday is a Travesty, but Not for the Reason You Think” (James S. Murphy). This article made me more aware of just how little I know about James Joyce and his work.

Murphy discusses the history of Ulysses as a vulgar, banned text, and how Joyce as a writer would probably be bothered by the holiness of the day.

“Bloomsday celebrations treat Joyce too much like a saint and his book too much like a gospel to be revered first and read later, if at all. By placing Ulysses on a pedestal, we lose sight of both its vulgar origins and its power to tell us deep truths about our world and ourselves precisely by keeping the earthy and obscene aspects of ourselves in view.”

So this makes me wonder about the text. I’ve started the text twice in the last three years, while attending college and taking classes, and both times I found that I could not immerse myself enough to get anything out it. Like a “gospel”, it is a text that requires a great deal of time and energy to read well, and a reader who isn’t prepared to immerse fully in the text will miss out.

But I’m presuming again, to talk about books I haven’t read as though I have some knowledge from my own understanding! What I’m writing here is still only a parrot of the mind of Murphy and, through Murphy, a man named Birmingham.

“Luckily,” wrote Murphy, “a new book by the literary scholar Kevin Birmingham, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, can help us recall Ulysses for what it was and should still be, a shocking novel that tore at decency and tradition as it clawed its way into existence rather than a “classic” that sits happily on an educated person’s bookshelf for eternity, never to be pulled down.”

Here, like the sinner in the pews, I’m finding moral conviction from the words of this literary “preacher”. And I’m beginning to experience Joyce as a fellow writer and human being. I can’t say I know diddly about his work, but I can say that I’ve started a journey with an uncertain end. I’m parroting these writers now, but maybe we all need the crutches of another’s words as we learn to speak for ourselves.

So here is the beginning of my appreciation of Joyce and general literature: the affirmation that literature is seeping, and slow-working. Though I’ll parrot Murphy again, he expresses this with a paraphrase:

“Birmingham compared reading Ulysses to taking a slow-acting drug that gradually reshapes our understanding of ourselves, working its way into our consciousness as we read it, unsettling who we are.”

So, on this Bloomsday, read well and read carefully, but be warned: you may find your understanding altered.

 

 

Lost and Found Restaurant

A few weeks ago a fire gutted the Laramie Vision Clinic on 408 South Second Street, and closed the entire block for about five days.  Though most of the businesses are open again, the Vision Clinic’s neighbors are taking their time.

One neighbor, the Lost and Found restaurant, hopes to open officially the week of June 9. But that doesn’t mean they’re idle.

The shoes belong to the son of one of the chefs

Shadow from the back door sign

Apart from drying their building after its soaking May 24, the restaurant staff prepared a meal for the Wyoming Entrepreneurs and Small Business Development Center.

The WE and SBDC are operate through the University of Wyoming, and offer educational and advice centered resources to small businesses.  Lost and Found is a client of theirs.

The preparations began around 4:30 in the afternoon. The interior of the building was still disordered with furniture huddled together for safety. Alex, a main server, moved the furniture and set out five tables in a line for the evening banquet.

The tables were covered with white cloths, and set, temporarily with plates and cutlery to ensure the guests would have space.

Notice the duck salt and pepper shakers

The table was set with white cloths and eclectic dinner ware

Like the name suggests, the dinner ware had the eclectic feeling of an antique store. The plates were a blend of patterns including floral and cheetah print, while the cutlery ranged in design from colorful, plastic coated handles to sturdy feeling knives and forks.

But the preparations were not complete. There were still dishes to do and meals to make, most of which would come after the guests arrived.

When the WE and SBDC arrived, Mike Armstrong, the owner, gave them a short tour of the space before dinner, while the servers for the evening, Alex and Simon, prepped waters for the party of 20.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen: Miki Hudson, the Lost and Found chef and owner of the catering business Hart’s Alley, was busy making salads, and prepping the main course for the evening.

Notice the cheetah print plate

The Strawberry Field, locally sourced ingredients and homemade bread

The meal began with salads. Some were simple – greens with a light sauce – while others where the “Strawberry field”: a base of spinach, with gorgonzola, homemade balsamic vinegar, blue cheese, strawberries, and locally sourced vegetables.

Following salads was the main course: Ratatouille, a combination of squash, eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and local herbs, nestled on a bed of chicken and curry flavored Israeli cuscus, which was then slow baked for three hours.

The chef in the background is the guy "Linguini" from the Ratatouille movie is based on... not really, but we can dream

Ratatouille with chicken and couscous

Ratatouille is a French peasant dish, and Chef Miki Hudson said she likes these slow-bake peasant foods because they follow the theme of “Lost and Found”:

“No one has time to make them anymore,” she said.

After the Ratatouille came the desserts: bread pudding in whiskey sauce, topped with fresh berries; red wine chocolate cake with whipped cream; and a berry fruit cup with whiskey sauce, crowned with whipped cream.

It may have been a little warm when we placed the whipped cream, though I find the little avalanche quite charming

Bread Pudding with whipped cream, raspberries and blueberries.

As the evening came to a close the guests expressed their satisfaction with the meal, and the restaurant staff began the clean-up.

Notice the small army... it's an trap!

Raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry fruit cup with whiskey sauce and whipped cream.

Though it’s tempting to go into detail on the process of clearing tables and washing dishes, these are things best left for another dinner that they may be, for the moment, lost, and later found by another writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I said: the fruit cups are attacking!

Red wine chocolate cake with whipped cream, raspberries, and blueberries.

 

Patterson-Sutton Duo Perform at Laramie County Library

The Patterson/Sutton Duo performed an hour-long recital at the Laramie Country Library at 7pm on Thursday, May 29.

The Cheyenne Guitar Society partnered with the Library to present the duo:

Kimberly Patterson, cellist, who earned her Master of Music Degree from Julliard School and her Doctorate of Musical Arts from Boulder, Colo. and Patrick Sutton, Guitarist, who earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in classical guitar performance at the Lamont School of Music.

Informal attendance counts estimated a crowd of 175 came to listen to the duo perform in the Cottonwood Room on the ground floor of the library.

The Duo’s first selection was 3 Nocturnes for Guitar and Cello by Frédéric Burgmüller (1806 – 1874), a romantic era composer.

Sutton opened the piece, playing a light ascent then descent in a triple meter. Then Patterson entered with a lilting melody reminiscent of lullabies or, perhaps, the homesick sighs of a traveler.

Following the final Nocturne, the duo performed Park of Idols (2005) by Stephen Goss (b. 1964). In a thesis she wrote in 2012 for the University of Colorado, Patterson says that,

Park of Idols is a kaleidoscopic pastiche that takes the cello and guitar through myriad styles of avant-garde rock, classical music, and jazz, creating a work that is sonically unpredictable, yet always pleasing.”

The duo will present a lecture on Park of Idols for the Guitar Foundation of America Convention on June 24, 2014 in Fullerton, Calif.

The lines in the background gave me problems.

Patrick Sutton and Kimberly Patterson pose after their performance Thursday, May 29.

Park of Idols was followed by two movements from Quatre Pieces Intimes (1997) by Dušan Bogdanović (b. 1955), and by Reflexões No.6 (1986) by Brazilian composer Jaime Mirtenbaum Zenamon (b. 1953).

Quatre Pieces Intimes starts with a slow, pensive movement called Priere which opens with sustained cello tones under which the guitar plays rain-like droplets of notes.

The second movement, Mouvement, opens with a syncopated structure in the guitar which the cello mimics; creating an effect not unlike a rabbit hunt.

Reflexões No.6 is a three movement work. The name, said Patterson, means “reflections” in Portugese, and though she knew the meaning, she said the pronunciation was still coming along.

The first movement of Reflexões No.6 is called Fluido. The guitar in this movement plays rapidly beneath a legato cello line.

The second movement, Doloroso, maintains the fluidity of the first in the wafting cello line, but here the guitar plays fewer runs and replaces them with periodic glissandos.

The final movement, Vivissimo, is a piece written in distinct triple meters and is full of life and vitality.

The duo performed with skill and ease, and brought to their selections a character and quality which enthralling their audience.

Often, between especially pensive movements, the audience paused before applauding as though they were slowly emerging from the music.

The final Vivissimo, however, brought the audience to their feet while the duo took a bow and left the stage.

Their exit was brief, however, and they returned a short while later to perform their encore piece: Bachianas Brasileira No.5 (1947) by Villa Lobos (1887-1959).

“This one I can pronounce!” Patterson said as she introduced the piece, saying that the piece is very beautiful and rather haunting.

The original piece was written for solo soprano and eight cellos.

After the final bow, the duo lingered another hour to speak with those who attended before calling it a night and heading home.


Links:

http://www.celloandguitar.com

Patterson, Kimberly. (2012) An Overview of Stephen Goss’s, Park of Idols. Thesis, University of Colorado. Retrieved from: http://www.stephengoss.net/images/publications/pdfs/Patterson%20Lecture%20Final.pdf

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