Sunday, October 26, 2014

Summer in Oklahoma: No Man's Land

I have come aground again in one of the Midwest's more curious zipcodes, Texas County, Oklahoma, midway between Goodwell and Texhoma in the panhandle, a mere tenth of a mile from the former Confederate state of Texas where the heady smell of hog barns braces the air. Goodwell is home to both Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the No Man's Land Museum, the latter of which I have seen no reason to visit. Less than a mile up the road from where I'm camped lives a fellow who's in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame for bareback bronc riding.

What the landscape lacks by way of trees it compensates for in regularly spaced pods of eight or ten turbines cranking electricity into Texas's open-competition energy market - cowboy wind farms selling to the highest bidder. I can see them in clumps off to the the east and south from the farmyard where I'm camped.

Sunrise on the Oklahoma-Texas line

Strictly speaking it isn't summer here any longer, but the daily temperatures are in the upper 80s and low 90s, so it feels like summer could last all through December, even though I know what's coming. To get groceries, I have to drive 16 miles to Guymon. The trip takes me through Goodwell, six miles away, where the local police camp out in eight-hour shifts in the town's picnic area along US 54, which runs on into Liberal, Kansas. As the sole commercial endeavor in Goodwell, so far as I can make out, is a solitary convenience store/gas station which sells no donuts or similar baked goods, I surmise that Goodwell is a hardship posting for the freshly minted graduates of institutes of criminal justice. There is perverse pleasure in the thought that (considering the immobility of a parked car, the bleak landscape out the windshield, the complete absence of life about the place) working for the gendarmerie in Goodwell must be one of the most boring occupations on the planet. The photo files of Goodwell provided by Google's mapping service show this very park complete  with cop cars.

Park with cops, Goodwell, OK, from Google Maps

I've made myself as self-sufficient as I can out here in my private RV park behind the wind project's field office. I've done the wind farm one better, as you can see, by installing a solar emplacement on a modest scale to charge my auxiliary batteries and heat my solar-powered shower facility.

There's a farmhouse along the road with a kitchen, bathrooms and several bedrooms, but until the weather turns I prefer the fresh air, the coyotes and owls at night, and sunrise through the plastic sidecurtains. The sandhill cranes are still flying over on their way to the Gulf of Mexico and the Bosque del Apache for the winter. Right now there's a scaled quail rasping away atop a fencepost along the driveway. I reckon the winter will drive me at last into the farmhouse, but for now, Oklahoma is, as the state's license plate used to say, OK.

I figure I won't venture into the barn. I know it's full of pigeons in the rafters, and I'm betting (this being the Rattlesnake Belt) that it's full of snakes too. But everybody has to live somewhere, and it's usually easier to mind your own business.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

8.2 Saturday (Expostulation of St. Hilarion)

Last month, I received a summons for jury duty. When I espied the errant document in my daily ration of paper recyclables, I did what every true-hearted patriot does - I smote my breast, I rent my garments, I bemoaned the day of my birth, I imprecated whatever gods and sprites of the metropolis, the marketplace and the hearth had failed to forestall this nuisance, this blight upon the daily life of an unoffending, right-thinking American. 

My household god and favorite party guest

When at last Reason regained her throne and I fully appreciated the gravity of my situation, my best thoughts turned promptly to how I might avoid the necessity of answering the summons. Then, remarking the inescapability of it, how to insure that I might seem sorely unqualified to sit in judgment on any of my peers, either by the prosecution or by the defense attorney, and so be summarily dismissed with scarcely a glance or an afterthought. My helpmeet suggested that my red spectacles might be sufficient to set me off as eccentric in some indefinable and slightly disturbing way.

I knew I needed stronger stuff. But in the event, my imagination failed me. At the appointed hour I appeared at the county court with about a thousand of my fellow citizens, prepared to take my chances in the lottery and, if need be, improvise some peculiarity which might absolve me of further meddling in the affairs of any of my fellow citizens. Should I sit in judgment on a civil case involving some paltry sums of money, I was prepared to proffer capital punishment as a universal panacaea, even though it leaves the creditor no recourse (in that single item it is perhaps inferior to debtor's prison). If it were a capital case such as murder, kidnapping, or default on a student loan, I was prepared to maintain that the death penalty is morally repugnant in any circumstance whatsoever. I thought, this country being what it is and treating its criminal element as it does, that I had my bases covered and was probably due home before lunch was cold.

In the large auditorium where prospective jurors were herded, everyone was handed a questionnaire to complete with the usual information, plus an additional personal section in which you were asked to list hobbies and interests, what TV shows you enjoy, what radio programs you listen to, what you read, and so on. I sensed the opportunties this afforded me to compromise my eligibility ("Well, right now I'm just finishing Mein Kampf"), but my morale was undermined badly enough that I omitted the section. Large crowds tend to undermine my morale anyway, and this one was no exception, down to the staple character of the large gathering, the guy wearing shorts to show his prosthetic leg to advantage.  

"I was just gonna walk around the mall all day but I got jury duty."

I had nearly reached the lowest, dampest point in my emotional puddle when I spied him standing in the line at the counter to get his questionnaire from the jury commissioner. I knew it was a fateful moment, an avatar of true genius, the convergence of role model and disciple, a Svengali to my gormless acceptance of my unpleasant fate. He was the Kafka-esque Ubermensch, a hero with a thousand possibilities, one not to be trifled with by either prosecution or defense, in a word, the answer to all my questions, the end of my jury time. It was just a guy with a pony tail, a baseball cap on backwards, wearing a freshly minted black T-shirt, white Gothic script across the front, each letter terminating in gorgeous pink flames, that spelled "hatebreed."

Brilliant. My heart surged with a newfound hope. Why, I asked myself, hadn't I thought of that?

"Uh, sir, you're free to go home."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kayaks: Where Prostitution Meets Art

The Japanese artist Rokudenashiko was arrested earlier this month under Japanese pornography laws for distributing "indecent material" after she mailed artistic patrons 3D-printer schematics of her vagina in exchange for donations intended for the construction of a kayak. The artist built her new kayak with a top modelled after the same schematic, an elaborate "selfie" of sorts.

Megumi Igarashi ("Rokudenashiko")

One is forced to acknowledge, I think, that the token of gratitude she sent out to her community of patrons was more than just a token. But by the same token one must confess that the item is a less-than-prepossessing prize for the undoubted satisfaction of "supporting the arts" (as they say on NPR). Put your vagina (or for that matter, its masculine counterpart) through a 3D printer and it's going to be pretty much unencrypted when it comes out the other end. Which means that it will never look all that good on, say, the wall in your office or family room.

The 'artistic process'

Nevertheless, Japan being what it is and not being, say, India, the artist could spend as many as two years in prison and pay a fine of up to $25,000 for distributing printed materials. Given the traditional Japanese preference to formalize their vices, as in the institution of the geisha house, she may have been better advised to offer the genuine article in exchange for her kayak. 

And as marvellous as the notion of printing real things in a 3D printer may seem, I still wonder about it. I mean, what would you do with a 3D vagina? Look at it? shoot it?

"Uhhh . . . lemme think about it."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4.29 Tuesday (Apparition of St. Cuniculus)

Culled from "Harper's Weekly Review" for April 29: "Children celebrating Easter in Richmond, Virginia, collected eggs stuffed with white-supremacist propaganda."

White supremacist

Residents in a Richmond suburb who put Easter eggs on their lawn for Easter morning noticed that their private cache had been seeded during Easter eve with alien eggs bearing messages inside like the little paper slips in fortune cookies. A bald attempt to overtake the plastic minds of children ab ovo, quite literally. 

Richmond of palmy memory was the capitol of the late and apparently lamented Confederate States and home to all sorts of nostalgic, plantation-themed nuttiness like Sons of Confederate Veterans costume galas, battle reenactments (a.k.a., a chance to get it right) and myriad opportunities to get togged out like a Confederate general.

White supremacist

What could the little missives inside the plastic eggs contain that might send a parent scrambling to wrest it from the sticky hands of a curious little seeker after God's own truth? Everyone knows that the Easter Bunny is a white rabbit. But this isn't really about Easter, it's about access to young minds. Santa is also white, but we think about Santa during a season when educational opportunities are scarcer. A dog can leave things on a lawn, but it's harder to get inside someone's house to fill the stockings with instructional materials. 

 (Ate an Easter egg)

Monday, April 28, 2014

4.28 Monday (Diminution of Agia Elisaveta)

"The Elizabeth Warrens"

This past week, on one of my endless daily drives through the Rattlesnake Belt, having reached that point of blank distraction at which even the basest form of cultural diversion would suffice, I turned on the car radio. The instant jackpot was a political talk show, the topic was banking regulation, the sympathies of guest and host alike were conservative free marketeering. 

The  guest was a spent intellectual force from American Heritage Action who began reasonably enough by pointing out a shared perception that the "banking industry" has perpetrated high crimes and misdemeanors with no consequences to itself. But if anyone were hoping for a bit of home truth about rigorous new regulation or strict oversight of an institution gone haywire, the speaker quickly volunteered that he did not agree with "the Elizabeth Warrens." A palpable relief emanated over the broadband (which Miguel still thinks of as "the airwaves.")

Now I confess I was ignorant of any other Elizabeth Warren in political life or in the public notice, not to mention several of them. Who were these other Elizabeth Warrens, I wondered, that he had even heard of them, could know their views on regulation, could know of their universal agreement on the question? And why would these women, all sharing a name, necessarily agree in questions of banking policy? Isn't it at least conceivable that, of the set of all women named "Elizabeth Warren," at least one might have landed on the side of the free market angels?

Oh, Miguel (I chided myself), always too literal minded. I had at last spotted the rhetorical coup de grace, the trick of diminishing a policy or argument by reducing it to the name of its proponent (Marxism, Keynesianism), then reducing the proponent to a type; the implication is that there is not a single individual named EW, no such person exists in her own right, no one individual capable of advanced and clear thinking.

There are only "the Elizabeth Warrens," which is to imply a set of clones or nested Russian dolls or kittens, all singing the same monotonous mechanical tune without a single functioning consciousness. An ideology requiring no counterarguments.

In a more positive vein, one might speak of "the Ronald Reagans" as a single functioning consciousness.

 "The Ronald Reagans"