Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 31st 1921 Tulsa

Wypipologist is a word you might have heard in your own community. I'll not attempt to define it. Instead I'll endeavor to offer examples from up and down the ballot. The liberal elite says "This is tragic, we must listen" means "Oh dear, not again, hope it blows over soon so we don't have to actually do anything." The Conservative elite says "Destruction of property is unacceptable" means "People don't matter, our life style and our economy is everything." A day or two and we'll hear it all, somber and sincere, hundreds of times, so remember the wypipologists, as bitter experience interprets.

May 31st 1921 Tulsa. Might not mean very much to many of us. It's not something Tulsa talks about, or likes to mention, a sensitive area. Interesting state Oklahoma, it has one Confederate Statue in the only county in the State named after a Democratic politician. And it's probably also accurate to suggest that those in our number who, just a few generations past were given their family's surname by their owners, might not remember May 31st 1921 in Tulsa when turpentine bombs were dropped by airplanes, and there were machine guns and death. It's like 99 years ago, so why bother. But today I'll remember, as we preserve the past.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Local Gossip

Pretty much down hill from here. Two short rows of Carrots remain to be planted, then it's just weeds, bugs, horrifying heat, endless humidity, numerous  disappointments, poxes, pressure cooking and pain until first frost in October. Why we do it, I don't know.

There's a neighbor whose answer to that question is "Well, you gotta do something."  He's one of the wisest of men, up there with Socrates. He's a little older than I am and he has a cell phone which he knows how to use. Might seem like an ordinary thing to you, but to me that's big. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Who Rises to the Moment

An unhappy and possibly righteously disgruntled wind last night passed by this way. It took a good look at the Potato, declared itself satisfied with the noble Red Norland and chose to ravage the haughty Yukon Gold. I had to forgive the wind for that, but absolutely no reason I could think of justified its decision to bobble the Beetroot and Chard, flattening some of them. The Onions are fine, they who survived the Kitten, like that kind of excitement.

But clearly that wind approved of shade cloth over the delicate Lettuce, no one likes shade cloth, it often becomes wet and heavy, gets caught up in a straight line blast, flops and flaps around and does terrible things to the sun-lovers and cocktail drinkers, but not this time. Meanwhile best not to hide from ugliness, don't pretend it's not there. Better to grasp the moment of realization, embrace a sense of being born again, renewed as the Phoenix that rises to the moment. There's a Psalm for a wishful David in there somewhere. And there's a Psalm to the Devil.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Trust and suff

A lot of thought has been put into what society might be. Back in the 1930's a man called Pareto suggested that around 20% of a population were active leadership-wise, and that 20% had to carry the burden being trusted to do the right thing by the rest of us. The word trust was the critical issue. Without that trust, the rest of just sat back and sneered. The rest of us were basically not so much incompetent as we were unpracticed at the business of useful decision making which is an area where practice is rather critical. And you can sort of see it as the idealism of youth consistently hits a brick wall of both political, commercial and whatever kind of reality you care to think about.  An experience that can turn perfectly nice people into stark staring fascists if they don't get their way, rather than being sensible and saying "Well maybe I do need a business plan, or a strategy, or something....."

The trust issue has it's ups and downs. Sometimes it's not absolutely critical, "So what if he hadn't looked at the weather forecast and didn't tell us to bring our gumboots, and now we've all got shriveled feet." A minor thing like that. But there are other uncertainties where trust needs to be well in place between us lot and these holy-rolling 20%. And should there already be a fundamental absence of trust within a society, a distrust that's been promulgated by a power hungry political class, a divide and rule by fear policy, the arrival of something like a virus with a potential to, as they say, go viral on us people, then you have an environment that is an ideal habitat for the virus to divide, multiply, thrive and enjoy the good life, visit it's great, great grandchildren and so on. For the past almost forty years, whatever you think of it's goals, the US Republican Party, its 20%, has modeled it's election strategy on the idea of discord between people who are white, reasonably wealthy and everyone else. So what do you expect and you're not going to cure it with soppy poems, or sending Whitey to the Space Station, or riding a bloody Peloton to nowhere in particular.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Four and a half million people live in the State of Kentucky. As of three hours ago (3pm EST) we've had 391 deaths officially attributed to SARS-CoV-2.  Our county has a population of 25,000, we've had 11 confirmed cases and no deaths.

The county that borders us to the south has a population of 19,000 and has had 96 confirmed cases with 19 deaths. In our State, of the 391 people who have died of SARS-CoV-2, 361 have been over sixty, and about 16% of the State's population is over 65 years of age.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Mask Schism of 2020, a perspective

It's an old adage that situations need to be confronted, and by situations it's often difficult to arrive at a definition that doesn't include the idea of impasse. When wearing or not wearing a mask becomes a political statement, you kind of know that your dealing with an impasse. Mind you in Eleventh Century there was an impasse in the Christian Church that's still with us. This schism resulted in the Eastern Church and the Western Church deciding never to speak to each other again and it had to do with Leavened and Unleavened Bread.

This was serious business. The West reckoned that Unleavened Bread was obviously what Jesus ate at the Last Supper. The East reckoned that Leavened Bread was to be used at the communion, or Eucharist, because obviously Jesus rose from the dead. A sensible person might say "Look, obviously something else must have been going on. The Church would have been mentally impoverished to have got all worked up about so simple a thing." Well there were other problems, one of which was whether or not the Priest should hold up two or three fingers when he was blessing the flock.  So there you go.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Carrots for the Night Fighters

It was 1933 the somewhat elite Oxford Union Debating Society took up the issue of whether or not they would fight for their country. On the one side was a pacifist idea that declared that war-mongering cliques had their own reasons to go to war, most people didn't. On the other side was the idea that a pacifist Britain would cause war and not prevent it. The vote was cast, 275 would not fight for their country, 153 would. The popular press was outraged, Winston Churchill was shaken to his war-mongering core, and English Gentlemen travelling in Germany found themselves being pitied because to the German mind  England had clearly degenerated into pile of soppy little drips with absolutely no backbone.

The war came, it was a Second World War, and many of the young men who had voted not to fight for their country died fighting for their country, the remainder had war stories to add to the mystic of what the woebegone call the Greatest Generation for reasons that escape me. A strange brew us people, a mix of passions and ideas, a thousand different motivations bumbling around buzzing at each other. What to do about them, which is where a society needs leadership to define objectives, gather a consensus and just goddam lead. Easy to say, I guess, but otherwise it's just a bunch of people, in a variety of uniforms yelling and screaming at each other for their own dumb reasons, which can be fun as sporting event but usually within society it's more of an aggravating waste of time that just goes around and round until you get something like the Third World War to concentrate minds. Me I'll grow Carrots for the night fighters.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Jefferson's Dream

Indemnity is a word insurance companies throw around when they have to make a decision about what and what not to offer insurance against. In 1976 the USA took a stand against the Swine Flu outbreak, a Pandemic or a potential Pandemic some thought would be as catastrophic as the 1918 Flu. Ford was President, and he jumped right into it, a vaccine for every arm, a genuine mobilization of a united will would defeat Swine Flu. The insurance companies however, suspicious of the Swine Flu vaccine, decided they would not grant indemnity to the manufacturers of Swine Flu, so the poor little impoverished pharmaceutical companies went to congress and did what pharmaceutical companies do best to maintain their often loathsome lifestyles, they bribed the political class to grant pharmaceutical companies indemnity from any loss or financial burden that might accrue following the vaccine in every arm policy. As it happened there were a few problems with the Swine Flu vaccine program. It got more and more expensive, there was traditional mumbling in certain parts of Congress about the cost of it all, whether some people were actually worth saving, same old stuff that produced Reagan, Thatcher, supply side trickle down, anti-vaccinators and their me-me-it's-all-about-me, Billionaire Worship and food kitchens, for reasons that continue to defeat me.

In us people, a tiny percentage of us, the Swine Flu vaccine produced neurological problems, heart and breathing difficulties, blood pressure problems and damage to the immune system. Preexisting conditions no doubt.  Around 25% of the US population was vaccinated against Swine Flu, including President Ford, there are pictures of him and for a man who ate the same thing every single day for lunch he looks well pleased with himself, his sleeve rolled up while another sensible looking balding man jabs a syringe into his arm. For those who might still be interested in what used to be called a President of the United States, Gerald Ford's lunch was, "..a ball of cottage cheese, over which he pours a small pitcherful of A-1 Sauce, a sliced onion or a quartered tomato, and a small helping of butter-pecan ice cream." And you can bet he knew all about Small Pox and how in 1796 a Milk Maid persuaded a county doctor that her exposure to Cow Pox had rendered her immune to Small Pox. In 1806 President Jefferson was able to visualize the very last case of Small Pox in the entire world. "Future generations," he declared, "will know by history only that this loathsome disease has existed." Finally, a modern Small Pox vaccine emerged from peer reviewed science and in 1958, led by the United States and the WHO, a world wide Small Pox eradication program was devised and implemented by Governments. The last case was tracked down in Somalia, in the October of 1977. I was probably drunk when Jefferson's dream was finally achieved.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

General Theory

Not certain what the Ancients would think of the "Mother's Bottom" theory of male personality in us people. Let's put it this way, Cassius definitely didn't have a Mother's Bottom but more than likely Brutus did. I only say this because of Shakespeare's description of the two men, where Julius Caesar wasn't in the least surprised to see a dagger in Cassius' fist, he was surprised to see Brutus with a dagger in his fist. Probably a lot of theories, but my own "Mother's Bottom" theory would suggest that Brutus was possessed of personality that wanted to be thought of as super fantastic and in order to be thought of as super fantastic by as many people as possible he lied about himself because it was much easier than engaging in the arduous disciplines super-fantastic-dom actually require .

If you're persuaded to care about these things, a Mother's Bottom is large, bulging, possibly dimpled and really only a doting and delusional mother could search around to find remotely nice things to say about it.  And indeed the wiser move for the possessor of a Mother's Bottom is to wear very, very baggy, thick  canvass trousers, rather than a lightweight white Cotton Voile, favored by the better-off elderly golfer. But sadly the possessors of Mother's Bottoms are remarkably vain about matching their appearance to the average standard of their usually venal calling and much beyond a prodigious capacity to lie purely to enhance an idea of themselves they're generally rather stupid and short sighted, certainly not someone to share a trench with.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Twenty Five Years

I think it was a very unpleasant man called Norquist who in the mid 1990's said something to the effect that all his Republican Party really needed was a President who could sign bills that cut Taxation to the absolute bare minimum. He was also rather fond of referring to menial staff, such as gardeners, as Chimpanzees.

He claimed, if all went according to plan it would probably take about twenty five years to starve the Federal Government, reduce it to a size that could be easily drowned in a bathtub. Sadly, after twenty five years of the Republican assault on the Federal Government we have a Republican President who thinks he's a King. For those interested, Norquist has or had a Mother's Bottom.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Local Gossip

Your local agriculturalist around here calls this a Blackberry Winter. And so far as I can remember pretty much every year for the past, I can't remember how many years, when the Blackberry are in bloom some kind of dispute occurs between the seasons that results in cold, damp, chilly weather of the kind that does not suit the delicate relationship Tomato have with the various poxes that abound in their surroundings. Tomato like warm, sunny weather with dry soil to aid against the Fungi, Fruit Rot, Early Blight, Late Blight, Mid-Blight, whatever kind of blight you can think of. Tomato eschew high humidity when it's very hot because it prevents them from pollinating and they become very nervous when they see Goldfinch, because Goldfinch consider Tomato bloom a high end delicacy and this even if there's a perfectly good Sunflower for them to peck at.

Otherwise, now that the Mockingbirds are with chick its very peaceful in the garden. You get the occasional Dove eyeing the emerging Beans, but at least you don't have to listen to the Boy Mocking bird yelling at someone when your picking slugs off the Cabbage, and there's a sense of calm when the Girl Mockingbird drifts by the Tree Swallow nestlings to check on Strawberry availability. Strawberry is a treat for her, her chicks prefer insects for their own sense of wellbeing, they're not ready for vegetables and fruit. And I suspect that of the two branches of the family Mimidae in the garden both the Thrashers and the Mockingbirds have achieved a Pax-Passerine which suggests that the individual family groups are enjoying the benefits of early and comfortable bonding, which cannot be said of the Chipping Sparrow community who will totally ignore your presence when engaged in Chipping Sparrow disputes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Post 9/11 GI Bill

Years ago I had a disagreement. "Was the First World War worth the casualty lists." On the other side. "The men who died were brave, they died for their country, our way of life and we will remember them." Fair enough, tugs at every heart string. "We're all so grateful for their service, they sacrificed everything for us, and our gratitude will be eternal." On the other side of the disagreement, "Who's us! Good leadership, had they cared for the loss of life on the front lines, should have been ashamed of throwing men away like that. But they weren't."

Following 9/11 the Congress here in the United States, after seven years of attempting it, managed to pass a bill that gave members of the National Guard, with 90 days of active duty, educational benefits, early retirement, and other things. Many of those men and women deployed in late March would be eligible for those benefits on June 25th of this year. The administration has chosen to call in the guard on June 24th, one day short of those Guardsmen becoming eligible for their benefits. Pretty much says it all for the front line. In the end you die for your unit, and the rest of it is just so much BS.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Free Radicals

In physics Free Radicals are a group of atoms, or a molecule, that have bonded, but because each of the atoms contains an un-paired electron Free Radicals are "highly unstable, short-lived and reactive." They bounce around on pogo sticks, desperate for entropy, playing havoc with the croquette lawn and soon enough they collapse into a harmless heap and are poked with hockey sticks by much, much wiser atoms.

Those who might be interested in giving thought to the relationships between physics and consciousness in our attempts to retain some degree of confidence in the purpose of existence might find in "Highly Reactive, Short-lived and Unstable Free Radicals" a number of possibly soothing understandings. For my part I'm rather looking forward to the poking with sticks phase of the current outbreak of Free Radicals, which for me at least is reason enough to outlive them.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mail, Email, Memory and Pencils

As I understand it Outlook 2003 has been cast aside as shady, bulky, far too easily personalized, possibly insecure email platform and in this year of 2000, just seventeen years later Outlook 2003 has been rejected with a sneer by this particular technical device. In those happier and considerably simpler days of 2003, the new Outlook came on a disk, you stuffed it into your technical device waited a while as the device digested and for the next eight months you attempted to grasp what you as a consumer were supposed to do in order to receive and send emails.

The new app, which is short for application, that this particular technical device accepts with a wholly unnatural enthusiasm is arrogantly called Mail. You can't just have an ordinary password, it has to be supremely complicated and next to impossible to remember. And if you don't happen to be blessed with a functioning memory, the user, a most unfortunate name for a customer, has to press the "Forgot Password" button and your browser joyously advises you to enter your telephone number, which itself isn't easy to remember, and a new password will be provided. The telephone call is prompt, the new password is lengthy and complicated and best to have a sharp pencil, because if you don't it's not good for your emotional stability.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

An Ignoble Slayer of Lettuce

There's a heathen in the Lettuce. He, she or it. emerges at night and just for the hell of it fells a Lettuce then retreats into the underworld and waits for the dawn. Thus far my own reaction to a series of single felled Lettuce plants has been diplomatic. I've made noises, I've looked to the heavens and I've dabbled around with a trowel searching for this little barbarian. He, she or it will be the grub of a Moth, it'll be brownish, portly in that waddling over-fed, indolent and sneaky with it innocent kind of way. No offense to the obese of my own species because generally the obese of my own species would have gobbled up the entire Lettuce, possibly the entire lettuce crop, and instead of just leaving a single shriveling corpse to enrage me in the morning, the garden would be dotted with empty mayonnaise jars. 

Depressing! You can say that again. And worse, this little bastard, or a sibling, has found its way to the Chard. Generally Chard can survive the incisors of Bastard Cutworm, but not the seedling Chard that's still bobbing to the breezes, all full of beans and excited at the prospect of life upon earth, until the hand of god comes down drags away their leaves to be boiled up and frozen. That certainly shapes them up, gives them the fatalist perspective. Why not? The food's good here and he waters us when it gets dry, we get weeded, if our soils tired looking he fluffs it up, all very neat in nice rows, we should be happy with out lot, because we are chosen, not like those poor Nut Grasses and you know why they're called Nut Grasses, he goes nuts when he sees them. Either way tonight I plan on killing a Cutworm.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Was Socrates Pious

At his trial Socrates' defense was reported by Plato in a dialogue called the Apology. Each one of us who reads it, as opposed to reads about it, will come away with variants on the theme. And indeed if you read it, odds are you'll do so on the understanding that Socrates, who was year or two younger than our current chief executive officer, had actually done nothing so dangerous it deserved a death sentence. In my reading, it does seem to me that Socrates might have done better with his jury of 501 peers had he not accused a good portion of them of being rather full of themselves and dumb as rocks. 

"And surely it is the most blameworthy ignorance to believe what one does not know." Socrates went on to add that of course he would obey a superior, whether that superior be God or Man, even if that superior was well the other side of moronic. I paraphrase a little. But his own philosophy was more about how to better understand what it is you don't know and there were a lot of people, including his jury, who pretended to know but actually knew nothing other than to just believe they knew. So, if the jury aquitted him on the understanding that he never explored understandings again or entertained the youth with his philosophy again, then "Sorry chaps that's just not going to happen." He was pious I guess, and it's entirely possible the Gods like pious.

Friday, May 15, 2020


Very difficult to avoid commenting on the return of what I believe is called a sporting event that involves watching motor cars and their drivers risking life and limb as they race around in endless and increasingly dangerous circles. A yearning for the normal, I guess, and then there's that old rune "Normal is Relative."

A Roman Emperor once staged a sea battle to entertain the avidum genus auricularum, and I guess we who are truly pious will spend blissful hours watching what's called a Test Match, which is a game of Cricket that lasts five days. Quite why we do it I have no real idea.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Burial Mounds

Sphagnum Moss, or Peat, all the way from Canada. A resources laid down over the centuries, dug up, dried, compressed and sold in three cubic yard chunks to pathetic gardeners with soil that lies on the clay side and who have failed to harvest a sufficient quantity of their own organic matter. It's disgracefully idle behavior, necessary to keep it secret from prying eyes, casually barrow it down to the compost zone, apologize to the Gods for disturbing the Canadian dead  and then gaze fondly upon it as it tumbles from it's heavy plastic bag.

The Kitten, whose bodily functions are central to her sense of wellbeing, she can become very irrational when conditions aren't perfect, has a salivating pavlovian response to a pile of Peat Moss. It's perfect digging for her and at the sight of it she finds it necessary to dig a hole, defecate and then attempt to conceal evidence of her presence on what should be hallowed ground. Then when you see her running around, tail high, that gallivant of energy which in Cats suggests all is well with the world, you know exactly what she's been up to. Easy enough to spot the burial mound.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020


You can look at life in many different ways. Entropy is a measure of certainty in physics. A hot cup of coffee cools down, and will continue to cool down until it becomes the same temperature as the surrounding environment. The cup of coffee remains a cup of coffee but it enters an equilibrium as it transfers heat to the environment around it. But, if doesn't enter this equilibrium then it's acquiring heat from an energy source, and usually with coffee that energy source is fairly obvious, a flame on the gas stove or an electrical cord and it's this external source of heat which prevents the coffee from entering an equilibrium with its environment, or in an other way this external source of energy means the coffee remains in disequilibrium with its environment, and thus it will remain until the external source of energy of is cut off.

Life wouldn't be life if it was in equilibrium with its environment. Life is a system in equilibrium with itself, and within that equilibrium life has a capacity to make energy by taking it from the sun or whatever. That energy comes from life's capacity to maintain an equilibrium with itself and disequilibrium with its environment. This capacity, in terms of physics, makes life uncertain. Life is a cup of hot coffee that just sits there on the kitchen table and doesn't cool down because it doesn't follow the rules of entropy. Entropy wouldn't take much notice if it was just one small aggravating spot of uncertainty keeping itself warmer than its environment contrary to the laws of thermodynamics. But life has this capacity to reproduce itself, and when you stumble down stairs in the morning you're shocked, and rather alarmed, to see forty thousand cups of hot coffee lounging around and smoking cigarettes in your kitchen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Silence if Golden

Cats purr for any number of reasons, and occasionally they'll sniff, or groom each other and sometimes they can be a little demanding. Us people, who are apparently more social creatures, we talk to each other, and we're constantly looking for reasons to touch each other.

With us people, ninety percent of what we say to each other is little more than purring, it calms us, makes us feel comfortable enhances our sense of self, especially when times are very clearly uncertain. What we prefer to forget is that times are uncertain ninety eight percent of the time.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Strawberry Wars

Not certain how many Mockingbird Pairs there are in the vicinity of the domicile. I believe two. One on the Northside, the other on the Southside. The Southside pair are a glamour couple, both very loud urban dwellers and both very pleased with themselves. He chases Crows and she has a somewhat gluttonous appetite for certain parts of ripening Strawberry. Their choice of territory is probably the busiest of the possible territories, there's a lot of toing and froing from both the partially domesticated cats and by a pairing of Hominids who still cling to the frail belief they are the dominant species round here. The Southside Mockingbirds however are firmly of the opinion that their two pet Hominids are struggling with delusions of grandeur. And today I had a little bit of a discussion with the girl Mockingbird, it got quite heated, and to spite her I picked all the Strawberries that even looked a little bit red.

But I did leave the partially sampled Strawberries, which was probably a hygiene error on my part, encourages the Fuzzy Pox which Strawberries can be prone to when weather conditions are cold, wet, icy breeze ridden and unspeakable. The other half of my own pairing, when she saw the harvest, concluded that possibly I'd gone off the rails, and again she suggested I probably needed my eyes tested, she suspects cataracts, late onset color blindness. Sad fact is, I did go outside at three o'clock this morning in my nightie and without shoes to make sure the Potato were still well covered against a potential frost forecast to arrive after the high winds and thunderstorms of yesterday evening. My own pairing assured me the behavior was extraordinarily noble and very brave, the lack of footwear however suggested an eccentricity verging on late stage senility. And fortunately I did find a patch of frost this morning, it was about three square inches in the shades of an Arborvitae.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


One of Plato's Dialogues describes a conversation between Socrates and a chap called Euthyphro. The Dialogue dwells on the subject of what is it to be pious. There's a chicken and egg thing. Do the Gods love pious because it is real, important and has a definite form, or do they love pious because they just love it, Pious people amuse them and make them feel good about earthlings. Socrates and  Euthyphro were on their way to the power centers of Athens and each of them had a court case to look forward to. Socrates was Socrates, he was seventy years old at the time, he was a huge character, ugly to look at, very entertaining, he loved to discuss things in an open and friendly manner, the youth loved him, he was a star as far as the younger Athenians were concerned, "Yo-yo-yo Socrates" and he was always calm, didn't shout, stamp his feet and go all lava mad on people. Euthyphro, who hence forth on this page will be referred to as E, was a younger man, he was a professional priest and had a talent for looking into the future, or at least he though he had. E asked Socrates whether he was a defendant or prosecutor. Socrates told E that he was a defendant. He had been accused by someone Socrates didn't really know him, but Socrates believed his accuser was a young person named Melatus from somewhere rather rural. "What's Melatus accused you of?"

Socrates had nothing against Melatus, he was quite sure Melatus would go far, clearly very interested in public life, and it was a very interesting accusation, quite fascinating really. "Yeah, but what's he accused you of?" "Corrupting the youth and of being a maker of Gods." E, who was good at looking into the future, didn't think it was going to go very well for Socrates. "Are you a prosecutor or a defendant?" Socrates asked E. "I'm a prosecutor!" "Who are you prosecuting?" "My father." Socrates was very surprised. "What are you accusing him of?" "Murder." His father had unjustly killed a laborer who himself was a murderer. E had studied the law on the subject of murder and he was absolutely convinced he was right to accuse his father of murder. It didn't matter who! If you break the law you break the law. Socrates felt his own case was nebulous, teaching the youth to ask questions, think for themselves, and being flexible, possibly innovative, in the rather mysterious area of what the Gods were all about seemed like a worthy and useful enterprise to Socrates. But he did understand that if Melatus was convinced he was correct in his understanding of the law on the subjects of corrupting the youth and on being a maker of Gods, then a good chance if there was such a hard and fast thing as corrupting the youth and being a maker of Gods, then entirely possible he'd probably be found generally guilty. Yet specifically what was he guilty of. "I'd like you to teach me how to be as pious as you are Euthyphro."

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Frost and Stuff

Brisk morning. Woolly hat, fourteen layers, heavy boots brisk. The sort of brisk in May that reminds agricultural interests to remain dour and abjectly miserable under all circumstances. But we gardeners can find cheer in the First World War's Henry Reed "Today We Have naming of Parts," it's Spring out there. And the schoolmasterly Rudyard Kipling's thoroughly depressing "If You Can Keep Your Head When All about..."  And safe to stay infinitely better to go "Softly into the night" than to "Rage against The Machine" then go on home to that warm and guiltless place, sit down while someone feeds you, or does your nails, cuts your hair while meat packers and nurses die.

"He is a fool if that's the way he takes me." It was in a poem by Robert Frost. A misunderstanding about whether to continue cocking the hay with showers of rain on the horizon. The farmer wants it done. One workman downed his pitch fork walked off in a huff, his work, he felt, had been criticized. The other remained and waited for the shower to do whatever the shower was going to do which which was what the farmer should have advised, instead of just wanting it done, his workers paid and done with. And indeed out there in the vegetable garden shards of frost have savaged inadequately protected Potato. Now blackened Potato leaves remind me to blame myself, but there again it's a heart that feeds a nation, and we are all hungry I suspect. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Chaucer and The Great Mortality.

Chaucer was three maybe six years old when the second pandemic of the Black Plague, or The Great Mortality, took the lives of 40 to 60 percent of the population in Britain over a period of five to six hundred days. Safe to say it took several generations for the memory of that particular pandemic to recede into the past. That plague ended in 1349, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales was probably written in the 1390's and Chaucer, sometimes called the Father of English Poetry died around 1400. Chaucer was no impoverished and gentle garret dwelling poet. His career included marrying a queen's Lady-in-Waiting who had a good pension, and a lot of foreign travel in Europe with English Armies.

One of the consequences of The Great Mortality was a dramatic reduction in Farm Labor. Consequently wages for the working man rose. Landowners interpreted this rise in wages as a symptom of poor morals and social upheaval. The English Parliament stepped in to restore a pre-pandemic order, and introduced statutes that fixed the price of labor at pre-pandemic levels. And to make sure the statutes were observed the statutes were ruthlessly enforced. Back then Landowners tended to ignore the law and were able to get away with it, but labor was kind of forced to follow the rules. Public reaction to the Statutes of Labour was very mixed, and by 1381 there were a series of incidents history records as the Peasants Revolt. The Revolt was ruthlessly suppressed, but by 1400 serfdom in Brtiain which had been alive and well in 1340 was pretty much extinct.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Yellow Chat, a Smale Fowele.

"...And smale foweles maken melodye...." Like it or not Chaucer is pretty much of a chore to read. Yet a smale fowele making melody is one of the joys of Spring. And no doubt about it a Yellow Chat is one of those smale foweles that can charm the pants off a gardener. It's also very much the case that the Yellow Chat is one of those that at least looks as though he "..slepen al the nyght with open ye," but who knows he might well tuck his head under his wing so that he doesn't have to struggle with the moon.

There's an African bird that in no way could be thought of as a smale fowele called a Secretary Bird, it has long legs, it pads around the savannah eating lizards and snakes, it can fly if it chooses to, but it has an aspect, an expression in its shapes and movements, that suggests a slightly disgruntled secretary working in the corporate world for some loathsome young twit who insists on using French Sevens. And if you get your chance to come face to face with a Yellow Chat behaving suspiciously around your Strawberries, a Yellow Chat can make you feel like that same loathsome young twit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Flute-like Wood Thrush

The tic ridden woodlands down the slope have Wood Thrush. It's sometimes described in the literature as a "pot bellied bird with a big head." Fortunately it has an "upright" posture, so it's got that going for it. And like some of us people, the Wood Thrush is "reclusive" which is usually defined as avoiding the company of others. All very well until the entirely natural and seasonal urges require Wood Thrush to consider future generations. To do this a Wood Thrush defines itself for other Wood Thrushes by producing one of the more beautiful calls. Clear as a bell through the leaf canopy, and if you're delicate it can be startling.

When it comes to verbal descriptions of the Wood Thrush call the suggestion is that the call contains "flute-like tones." A verbal description of the sound of a flute well describes the call of a Wood Thrush.  "Airy, light, poetic, mellow, bright, wafting, ethereal, rich, soft, graceful, penetrating, brilliant, clear, shrill, silvery, wind-like, whistling, whispering, humming, filigree, sighing, aspirate."  For a Wood Thrush call "Humming" and "Aspirate" might not belong to this collection of characteristics of the flute from the Vienna Symphonic Library, but "filigree" is excellent I think, it suggests a moving spiral of sound.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A return to the Prodigies of Livy

Titus Livy was a Roman historian who lived his life during the decline of the Roman Republic. Soon enough Julius Caesar declared himself Emperor, the Number One the Big Pooh Ba, and the Roman Republic was over. Always argument about these things, but Livy was one of those who reckoned the past was better than the present, and infinitely preferable to the future. His History was devoted to exploring the wonderful early years of the Roman Republic, things like the founding of Rome by twins raised by Wolves, the Punic Wars, it was a long list of aggressive and very far from gentle behaviors by megalomaniacal Romans hell bent on world conquest and one of Livy's moans about his present was "What happened to the Prodigies?" In those days "Prodigies" were things like Chickens that could talk, Plagues, Terrible Hail Storms and other clear signs that the ethers were upset with Rome and were desperately trying to send messages to the chosen people that possibly they needed to shape up, get their act in gear. The other thing about Prodigies was that when one occurred, Roman Leadership had to demonstrate, not just through long rambling, incomprehensible speeches, but  through sincere and demonstrable personal sacrifices that they'd taken notice of the ethers and were doing something constructive about it. Failure to do was seen as a combination of weakness, ignorance and self serving betrayal of Rome. Livy noted that as the Roman Republic declined there didn't seem to be very many Prodigies and Livy suspected that as power concentrated, leaders were reluctant to permit news of Prodigies to spread. Easier to simply pretend that something like a Chicken hadn't recited the Iliad than to ask serious questions about why it had recited the Iliad and what should be done about the panic and uneasiness and financial hardships the wretched talking Chicken had caused.

Sixteen hundred years later, Titus Livy's History was still read, a man called Francis Bacon, a high achiever and fashionable dresser, his ruff was magnificent, his hat splendid and his horrible goatee was about as pubic as you could possible imagine, mentioned Livy's Prodigies. Bacon's own interest in life had more to do with ascertaining facts. He wanted to "make collections of all monsters and prodigious births and productions." But it had to be done with "the most severe scrutiny, lest we depart from truth." And our man Bacon was a little suspicious of such areas as the Prodigies of Livy, of all natural magic, of alchemy in all its iterations, indeed any subject or personage that had "an unconquerable appetite for falsehood and fable." If it doesn't ring a bell, then sad to say there is no hope in you, you are doomed, it's as simple as that. As the eighteenth century blossomed the well fed Scotsman David Hume determined to make some sort of sense of it all. His first effort was so boringly titled it failed to touch the popular imagination, his second effort "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" has by some been considered the most important work ever written in English by an Enlightenment Philosopher. And if there's a passage from his book that should light fires in the current age, it might be this "The smallest spark may here kindle into the greatest flame because the materials are always ready for it. The avidum genus auricularum, the gazing populace, receive greedily, without examination, whatever soothes suspicion and promotes wonder." David Hume died in the August of 1776, two days before General Howe's rout of Washington's troops in Brooklyn. Washington was a Man of the Enlightenment, he persevered, but these days there's a virulent yearning for the kind of Expiatory Ceremonies from our leaders Livy had such confidence in. In the good old days of course, a humble gardener confronted by a late frost would do his bit by sacrificing the odd puppy to placate the god Ceres. Worth a try, if we all do it, it might work, thoughts and prayers etc..