Cross promotion babey

Remember that thing I said at the end of last post about how I’d be posting every week? Yeah, so that was a lie.

My very creative Chicago/Seattle/Ann Arbor friend Cecilia made a blog & you should check it out! It’s at randomqueerwritings.blogspot.com.

Also, I guess I’m doing nanowrimo this year so look out for that.

Ok, I’ll try to be back with something of substance tomorrow.

Rambling, Memories

I have always been slightly embarrassed by my enjoyment of classical music. I’m quite a self-conscious person, and I think there are certain conclusions which are drawn about people who enjoy classical music. Not that drawing conclusions is wrong, because quite often those conclusions turn out to be correct. Not that that fact alone justifies the act of drawing those conclusions, it doesn’t, but it does make it quite a lot easier to justify to oneself on those occasions when one finds oneself lying awake at night with a videotape of one’s most embarrassing moments playing on a loop in one’s brain.

Or maybe that’s just me.

All of that is by way of saying: I like classical music, but not in that way. Quite a prologue, I know, but hey, if you don’t come here for the witty asides and extensive digressions, then there’s really nothing left for you here.

What do I like about classical music? I’m so glad you asked, conveniently interrupting imaginary audience member. Mainly, I like the fact that it doesn’t have any words. I recognize that lyrics make up probably 50% of why most people listen to music, maybe more. And I am in no way disparaging lyricism. In general, I am a big fan of lyrics. The thing to understand though is that the main time I listen to music is when I am writing, and lyrics, no matter how beautiful, would distract my train of thought and make it generally very hard to finish typing a sentence, let alone a blog post. I should note, I don’t listen exclusively to classical music, even when I’m writing. Anything with no lyrics or lyrics that aren’t in English is fine with me. I’m looking at you, Enya. (A quick aside, but did you know Enya lives in an honest-to-god castle? Look it up). But when I do listen to classical music, probably ~75% of the time when I’m writing, I find myself going back to the same few songs by the same few artists. So I thought I’d share some of them.

The first song I really enjoy when writing is called “Spiegel im Spiegel” by an Estonian composer called Arvo Pärt. You might recognize this composition from any sad movie or documentary ever, because it gets used in all of them. But that’s only because it’s a very sad song. Or maybe it’s happy. It’s good, anyway. And it’s pretty long which is nice because then I don’t have to worry about changing the music every three minutes. That’s another advantage of classical music, often the songs are quite a bit longer than three minutes.

Because I’m nothing if not contradictory (no I’m not [that was a joke (no it wasn’t [yes it was (ad infinitum) ])]), here’s a classical song which is three and a half minutes long. It’s called “The Swan” and it was composed by noted French composer Camille Saint-Saëns [who, despite the name, was a man]. This was composed as part of a much longer work, but it was the only piece which Saint-Saëns deemed worthy to be performed in his lifetime. Or so Wikipedia tells me. I was very surprised when I first heard this piece, because of just how accurately (in my view at least) it evoked the image of a swan, swanning around on a lake. Usually, music named after an animal is hard pressed to evoke any image, due to the fact that it is music and not, say, a nice painting.

Classical music is not the main topic of this blog post, however misleading the above paragraphs may seem. I wanted to share two experiences I had at the College of Wooster where I was once a student. They are two memories that I cherish as two of the happiest points in my life, ever. They both took place during the one year that I was at the College which for those who may not know is located in the middle of Ohio, about a three hour drive from Ann Arbor (if you don’t get stuck waiting for a seemingly endless freight train to pass, which actually happened a lot).

The first memory is as follows. This must have been a Friday night. Possibly a Saturday night. I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter either way. We (that is, myself, my friend from Ann Arbor and a group of people he had introduced me to, who will probably henceforth be referred to as ‘friends’ so as not to write this out every time) had decided to go see a movie. The movie was ‘Arrival’, and it was pretty good. The movie isn’t the memory, though, the memory is what happened after the movie. Because we were a large group (maybe eight people) we had taken two cars to the movie, which finished around 1:30am (it was a midnight movie, as I recall). It was winter time, so by the time we got out of the theater it had begun snowing. Not heavily enough to restrict visibility, but heavily enough that the ground had begun to turn white. Those in our car elected to stop at a McDonalds on the way back to campus. That’s one positive about the College of Wooster: there are three McDonalds’ within walking distance. That doesn’t really apply to this memory though because we were driving. Anyway, that’s the memory: the McDonald’s parking lot, the snow, the friends.

The other memory is more solitary. It also took place at the College of Wooster, but this time in a dorm room. Specifically, the room of aforementioned friend from Ann Arbor. He had a single, because his roommate moved out after one semester. He transferred back to his home town. It was a shame because I liked him, but it was cool because then my friend got a single. So that kind of became the designated hang out spot. But again, in this memory I am alone in his room. It was nighttime, and everyone else had gone to some event. I don’t remember which one. I hadn’t wanted to go, so I stayed behind and watched Silence of the Lambs on my computer. It was dark in the room because I had turned the lights off, and it was raining outside and I had opened the window to hear the rain. That’s the second memory: the room, the rain, the silence of the lambs.

I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than I want to have these memories recorded for posterity. Sorry if you didn’t enjoy this blog post, it was mostly for me. As a prize for reading all the way through, I’ll tell you that I’m aiming [read: I’ll try but bear with me because my life is kinda busy at the moment] for weekly posts on this here blog. Also, I think my mom’s work life would be perfectly adapted into a TV show so I might try writing one episode and see how that feels. So be on the lookout for that. Also I may or may not be writing a novella and it may or may not be a murder mystery and it may or may not be titled “The Spider’s Web”. Ok, that’s all for now. I’ll post again, hopefully, next week.

Politics

Before I get into the main purpose of this post, a quick update on the story that was promised and is still coming. That was the update, actually. I’m working on it. Expect part one on this upcoming Sunday 7/8/18, with one part each week for like four weeks and then a week break, which serves a dual purpose. From your perspective, it lets you catch up with the past few weeks, reread, etc and also lets any new readers catch up. From my perspective, it lets me write the next part. So, that’s the plan. As for the results of the poll, with 100% of the vote, the winner is an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. So look forward to that. And special thanks to the one person who voted in the poll, I do it all for you.


Hegel once wrote “World history is not the ground of happiness. The periods of happiness are empty pages in her”. I think it is a truth universally acknowledged that the times we currently live in are not altogether happy ones. This blog post will utilize an American perspective on American politics, but before I get to that, I want to take a brief world tour and show that, as ever, the world is bigger than America.

We will begin in the United Kingdom. As you may know, there was a vote on that fair isle in June of 2016 in which, by an incredibly narrow margin, England (and therefore the entire United Kingdom) voted to leave the European Union. I don’t want to spend this whole post re-litigating Brexit, but to put it briefly: although England (and Wales, which hardly warrants a mention) voted Leave, the other two countries which make up the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland, voted to remain. But as is so often the case, England’s vote is the one that mattered. So as of the writing of this blog post, the UK is hurtling towards a hard exit date of 29 March 2019 with very little plan. Also, let’s face it: Theresa May is not great.

Moving on before I get too off track, let’s look at Germany. The German federal elections of last year were, to put it simply, disastrous from the perspective of the party of longtime Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. For one thing, her party won a measly 33% of the vote, with big wins going to the relatively new Alternative for Germany party which is essentially Germany’s response to the French National Front and far right extremist parties like it across Europe. Just to give you a taste of AfD’s platform, they are against gay marriage and gay adoption, they want to reintroduce conscription in Germany, and they are ‘climate change skeptics’. On top of that, Merkel’s CDU party is unlikely to be able to form another coalition government with the other dominant party, the SPD, and thus be unable to govern at all.

That’s all by way of proving that these are indeed not happy times. But now I’d like to turn to America, and spend some time discussing how our party system could be on the verge of a monumental change. My suggestion is based on two presuppositions: first, the Republican Party is dead, or will be very soon. And two, the Democratic Party is no longer a progressive party. Let’s take those one at a time.

First, the Republican Party is dead. I think if this current national embarrassment of a President has proven anything, it’s that the current Republican elite are more far right than center right. From barely-hidden white supremacy to nationalism that even Hitler would think was a bit extreme, this party is an exercise in extremism. Importantly however, I don’t think the problem is Trump. I mean, yeah, one problem is Trump. But another, bigger problem is that this party, which still laughably proclaims itself one of the two major American political parties, has been like this for, by my estimate, nearly 40 years now. Thirty seven years to be exact. And to save you the googling, that’s when Reagan was first elected President. That’s right, it’s time to talk about Reagan.

Political scientists often speak of the ‘Reagan Revolution’, but I think the term ‘Reagan Revelation’ might be more appropriate. This is because the true damage of the Reagan presidency was, in this wholly unqualified observer’s opinion, a certain celebration of populism. Reagan turned politics into a game of ‘who can appeal the strongest to the emotions?’. And sure, sometimes these are good emotions, like hope and joy and laughter, but all too often these emotions are hard for politicians to get enough political energy out of, so they move to the short-but-powerful emotions: anger, hate, fear. Think of these emotions as newspaper which has been lit. It burns easily, but for how long? This shift is what has allowed such extremism in the modern Republican party.

But the Democratic party is not blameless in this situation. This brings us to my second assertion: that the Democratic party is no longer a progressive party. I often find it helps to think of political parties in America as ‘The Progressive One’ and ‘The Old People One’. This is because, as I see it, a political party’s specific platform can only last about one generation. As a generation ages, it becomes as a whole more conservative. Therefore if young people join a political party when they are young, they will join and shape the more liberal, progressive of the parties available to them. As they age these people tend not to switch parties, instead electing to change the party platform to be more in line with their needs and desires. This is one of the many reasons that a two party system is a terrible idea.

In this specific case, it is the turn of the Republican party to attract all the young progressives and the Democratic party to become the more conservative one for a generation. But this time, something is different. As mentioned previously, the Republican party is tearing itself apart (thanks in part to Reagan and the populist politics he helped to popularize), and so the Republican party no longer is a viable political actor. It can’t be taken seriously. In effect what has happened is America has reduced its political party system yet again from two parties to one. This is bad. But don’t worry, I have a solution.

In my view, a new progressive party must form. Be it an existing one (the Socialist Party of America which has existed for 45 years) or a new one (some sort of Progressive Party, or even take a hint from England and form a Labor Party of America), this new party must be uncompromisingly radical and liberal.


If you’ve read this far, thank you. Here’s a video of a bunch of foreign people telling jokes in their native languages on a British talk show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0iaciZNojY.

John Steinbeck

I think if there was a case to be made that God was real and moved the hand of certain writers, the example with which the thesis would be driven home would be that of John Steinbeck. To put it simply, gosh this man could write. I was first exposed to Steinbeck’s writing in high school as, I assume, were most of you. But a half-hearted teenager reading the Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men not because they have a genuine interest in the themes or the time period but because they are being graded on it is a surefire way to turn someone off of a book. And that, if you’ll excuse my french, is a fucking disgrace. To relegate possibly the greatest writer in American history to the trash heap of a high school English classroom is unthinkable. So if you would be so good as to indulge me, let this serve as a reintroduction to the works of John Steinbeck.

The first Steinbeck novel I read of my own free will was East of Eden. I bought it from amazon on a whim, because I’ve always been interested in novels with Biblical themes, and everyone’s heard of Steinbeck. As it turns out, this is one of my favorite books. It ranks up there among the best chronicles of life in the American West, and it does so in a way that never drags or feels boring. It’s a truly enthralling epic of Biblical proportions, and it also contains some of my favorite dialog ever penned.

Consider the following: http://timshel.org/timshel.php

I’m currently reading Cannery Row, a book which is less interested in story and instead which seeks to chronicle a community, and I’m enjoying it greatly so far.

So next time you’re looking for something good to read, might I recommend Steinbeck?

 

 

 

Follow me on Twitter to be notified whenever I post: @patr2016.

The Inspiration Project

I’ve been getting kind of fed up with the negativity on social media (and in a larger sense, the Internet) of late (and in a larger sense, always), and so I’m going to be starting a new project on the ol’ website Namely, I’m going to be writing up people/places/things that inspire me or that I like, and sprinkling them into the regularly scheduled “posts that have a vague sense of sarcasm about them” that anyone who reads this blog (if anyone is out there) has no doubt become accustomed to. The first will probably be either Ben Franklin or John Steinbeck (they won’t all be people, and they certainly won’t all be straight white men). Expect it later today/tonight. Maybe. I’m not great at deadlines, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.

Decisions, Decisions

Time for some audience participation.

Would you prefer to see:

A: a sci-fi story set on a spaceship.

B: a murder mystery ala Agatha Christie

or

C: other

To respond to this poll, simply email your decision to responserecorder at gmail.com. If you choose ‘c’, please elaborate. The choice with the most votes in one week (11:59 pm EST 6/30/18) will be presented on this website in serialized format, one post every week for four weeks, then one week off to let people catch up.

I’m very excited to do this, so please share with anyone you know in order to get lots of responses to the poll. I don’t make any money off this website, I just like writing.

Also you can follow me on twitter if you want: @patr2016.

Chocolate Custard

Yesterday for Mother’s Day my brothers and I made dinner for my mom. I was in charge of dessert, and I made a nice chocolate custard. I’m putting the recipe here for two reasons: one, I wanted to share it in case anyone else wants to try it, and two , so that I don’t forget it. Ok.

You will need:

1/2 cup milk

two egg yolks

4 tbsp sugar

6 oz semisweet baking chocolate (I used Ghirardelli) [don’t use unsweeted]

4 tbsp butter, softened

Procedure:

First, add milk and sugar to small pot. Heat until milk is steaming and sugar is dissolved. Then, slowly pour into bowl with egg yolks in. Don’t go too fast or the eggs will scramble and that’s not what you want.  Once all milk is added to eggs, pour back into the pot and heat while whisking constantly for about two minutes. At this point, the mixture should be a lot thicker. Then, remove from heat. Add in chopped up chocolate and the butter. Mix until smooth.

You can refrigerate or serve hot, it doesn’t matter.

This recipe is enough for four small servings or two regular size servings. Plan accordingly.

The Boll Weevil, or A Case Study in the Resilience of the Human Spirit

I have something of a short attention span, and so I often find myself navigating to Wikipedia, clicking ‘Random Article’ a few times, and getting lost in the beautiful standardized formatting of Wikipedia.

So imagine my joy when I learned that there was a Firefox extension which redirects every new tab that you open to a random Wikipedia article. It’s like someone at Mozilla has a copy of my dream journal. That firefox extension is how I came upon today’s topic: the Boll Weevil, and specifically the Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama. Travel with me back in time…

<insert that wavy time travel flashback effect>

The year is 1918. The place? Rural Alabama. Understand, in 1918 Alabama was about one thing: cotton. If you so much as breathe a word about corn, God save you. If this economy was any more made of cotton, you would have to air dry it for fear of shrinkage. Enter… the Boll Weevil.

The Boll Weevil is a beetle which is indigenous to Mexico, but which migrated to Alabama and which by 1918 were wreaking havoc on the cotton trade in that state. Whole fields of cotton were being devastated by this pest. This is because the Boll Weevil not only eats cotton buds, but also lays its eggs inside of them. Thus when the larva hatch, they add to the destruction of the white fluffy lifeblood of the early 20th century American South. Well that and the Great Depression. If only FDR had focused more on the Bull Weevil! But I digress.

Rather than be discouraged by this terrible disaster, an enterprising Alabaman named H. M. Sessions saw an opportunity. He convinced a desperate farmer named C. W. Baston to plant and grow peanuts instead of cotton. The result of this risk was unmeasured reward. Not only was Baston able to pay off his debts, he sold his peanuts to other farmers who wanted to take a chance on this new wondercrop. It’s not that the farmers of Enterprise stopped planting cotton. Rather, they planted cotton AND new crops like peanuts. This is a concept commonly called “diversification” and it’s helpful in the case of, oh I don’t know, a pest which only preys on cotton? Just as one hypothetical example.

This moral tale was not lost on the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama. They recognized how close they had come to ruin, but instead of cursing the Bull Weevil they did something strange.

They built it a monument.

The monument appears thusly: on a podium stands a woman in a flowing white gown. Think classical Greece/Rome. The woman’s arms are outstretched above her head, and in her hands she holds a small cushion. And on that cushion sits a miniature version of the podium on which she stands. And on that miniature podium sits a Boll Weevil.

So if you ever get sad thinking about things that have happened to you, things that might not have been fair, times when you did everything right and still got a bad result. Just think of Enterprise and their statue, and remember: often it is only through adversity that we are empowered to do extraordinary things.

I Had An Idea

I don’t think there is a reader of this blog who I don’t also know personally, so I’m gonna keep it pretty informal.

I’ve been pretty stressed out lately for reasons which are not important to this story, but something which has made me a bit less stressed is I found my world atlas book which I had gotten from the free book section at the library last summer and which I had, until a few days ago, considered totally and hopelessly lost. (It was in a drawer in a table that sits in our living room and is probably as old as me, at least). I genuinely like that atlas more than I like some people.

Anyway, the atlas got me thinking about state capitals. And that got me thinking about Michigan’s capital, and why it’s terrible. So without any further adieu, I present: why Michigan’s capital should be moved back to Detroit.

First, some history. During the War of 1812, the British basically walked into Detroit which at that time was the territorial capital of Michigan (or possibly the Northwest Territory at this point) and captured it with a total of 7 casualties. The British held Detroit for ~a year, before being driven back to Canada. Then, in the late 1830’s, Michigan wanted to become a state, and so did (ignoring some bullshit with Ohio which is a topic for a separate post), with Detroit remaining the capital.

The only thing complicating matters was a clause written into the Michigan Constitution which stated that the state capital would remain “at Detroit, or at such other place or places as may be prescribed by law until the year eighteen hundred and forty-seven when it shall be permanently located by the legislature”. If you ask me, that’s a stupid system. But I digress. As the year 1847 approached, people had two main arguments against keeping the capital in Detroit permanently. The first was that they worried that with a state capital so far to the east of the state, the western bits of Michigan wouldn’t develop very well. The second argument was concerning that whole business with the British 35 years ago, and wouldn’t a more centrally located capital be better from a defense standpoint. So in 1847, they selected… the nearly uninhabited Lansing Township. They renamed it “the Town of Michigan” (and then quickly changed it back to Lansing a few years later), and called it a day.

And now fast forward to 2018. Or later, if you’re a future internet archaeologist who carves out layers of internet search results like a physical  archaeologist carves out layers of rocks. 20xx, we’ll just call it.

Let’s reexamine those criteria from a 20xx perspective. I’m going to take the second one first. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 150 years, England no longer has a presence in Canada. Also, barring a terrible catastrophic breakdown in relations, we will never be at war with that country again. Also, even if the previous two points weren’t true, it still wouldn’t matter because we don’t subscribe to that ancient western ideal of war in which once the capital is taken, the territory is taken.

Ok, so the reason that I’m tackling these arguments in this order is that I think the first argument put forth is the stronger one. Namely, the argument that moving the capital to more of a central location would assist in development of the western side of the state. So, in order to take down this argument, we must turn to… geography.

First, let’s examine Nevada. Nevada’s capital is…anyone? anyone? Carson City. I know, I hadn’t heard of it either,  but there you go. Carson City is located at the extreme western border of Nevada, NOWHERE NEAR the most populous city in Nevada, Las Vegas. The population of Las Vegas, as an interesting side-note, is more than ten times the population of Carson City. Carson City was named and settled in 1858, a full 53 years before Las Vegas. But Pat, I hear you shouting at your computer screen, surely that’s just an outlier? I bet you don’t have two other examples which support your argument! And that’s where you’re wrong. Texas is my next example. Austin is the capital, and it’s ~150 miles away from the most populous Texas city of Houston. That’s about double the distance from Lansing to Detroit, for anyone keeping score. The third and final example here is Florida. The capital of Florida is Tallahassee. Tallahassee is located at the northern end of the state, while Miami is located at the far southern tip. Miami has about triple the population of Tallahassee, despite the fact that it’s located over 400 miles away.

So what has all this proven? Well, I hope it has cast some doubt on the idea that having a capital city close to you makes you grow and develop more. There is no proof that that is the case, it just seems like it kind of should work. Unfortunately, it appears that location of a capital city is irrelevant to the development of another city in the same state.

Next, I want to address the idea that moving a state capital is somehow bad. This is a very recent idea. The last state to move its capital was Oklahoma in 1910. And before they did, many other states did this. In fact, exactly half of the states in the Union did move their capital at some point. Notably, Georgia changed their state capital TWELVE TIMES before settling on Atlanta in 1868. So there’s no reason that we should be embarrassed. If anyone makes fun of us, we can just remind them about Georgia’s shame and that’ll take care of it.

So, that leaves the question of where to move it. And this is the part of the idea that I really like: back to Detroit. That’s right, we’re going to move the capital of Michigan back to Detroit. Why? Let me count the ways. First, it’s historical. Detroit was the first major city in Michigan, and it helps connect us to our heritage. Also, it’s quite near Canada which means there’s a border crossing. This is ideal, because it means that new immigrants from Canada can immediately start their new American lives with all the bureaucratic necessities in their new city. Detroit is also the most populous city in Michigan, and there’s something to be said for having the capital city be also the most populous. Third and finally, the west side of the state doesn’t need help with development anymore. But you know who does? Detroit. Detroit has been in the midst of a great comeback for the past five or so years now, and that’s great, but it appears to be stagnating somewhat. If Detroit is to return to its former glory, it must become the capital of Michigan again.

So anyway, that’s my idea. It feels good to have written it all out like this. Thanks for reading this long thing. Also, sorry it’s been a while, I’ll try to post more on here in the future.

Ok bye.