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.

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.