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Monthly Archives: February 2010

War of Waffles. Fight for Flapjacks. The Battle of the Blintz.

Call it whatever you want (except for those names I gave, those are protected by copyright and I have a crack legal team of lawyers ready to sue). There is something that happens once you cross some invisible line. To the north stands IHOP, to the south Waffle House. It wasn’t until 2004 that talk of an IHOP in Kentucky was even heard. The commonwealth’s two largest, most northern cities, Lexington and Louisville, both have an International House of Pancakes now. Everywhere else you’ll see the yellow boxes with black block lettering letting you know you’re in the South.

When and where did this split happen? Neither waffles nor pancakes are really American, per se. It is probably because IHOP contains the word “International.” You are talking about the part of the country that, on occasion, still refers to french fries as “freedom fries” or “American fries.” There is something in the water that makes people a touch xenophobic down here. It goes beyond patriotism. It’s a fright of the unknown.

So here we are, a new Civil War, at hand. Instead of the gray and blue, you have the golden brown and the amber. Its a battle over which way you want your flour, eggs, milk and sugar cooked. I’d probably be deemed a sympathizer since I’m partial to IHOP. It’s not my fault Waffle House can’t put out a better product. While I’m a Southern Gentleman, at least the better half of one, at heart, I hope the north wins this one, and the IHOPs come carpetbagging in.

I trust by now you haven’t come to expect anything resembling a pattern or overarching theme on this site, aside from deranged anger and inappropriate rapture. Okay, I just wanted to use some fun adjectives there. Busted.

Regardless. This blog will never be more than a place for me put what I deem important thoughts into words. What I consider an important thought is another topic for debate. Not one to be had here, rather we’d need some Kentucky Bourbon and a dimly lit room with several deadbolts that locked from the outside to get to the heart of that matter.

All that out of the way, I think you should see this. It’s amazing what kind of instrument Ralph Stanley has in his voice. If you don’t experience some kind of emotion during his rendition of “Amazing Grace” you should probably just give up on trying to feel feelings anymore.

Also, look at that purple shirt. The man knows how to dress.

I hate mountaintop mining, as all four of my avid readers know. It’s a destructive, irresponsible, short-sighted way of getting energy. Blowing up anything nature spent eons crafting probably isn’t a good idea. Unless it’s Mars. Those bastards have it coming.

People are afraid that if we take away their ability to explode mountains, they won’t have jobs, gasp! And when we took away the ability for Nazis to gas Jews a lot of men lost their jobs, too. Yes, I’m comparing this to genocide. It might as well be. It’s a war on mountains, and therefore the people who live there, and the people who live in the watershed. It’s a war on humanity.

But ignorance hasn’t won, yet. Coal River Wind is a breath of fresh air. They are proposing putting up wind turbines on the mountaintops, with minimal environmental impact. These giant turbines have sprouted up around my hometown, and they do have a very small ecological impact. And guess what, they create jobs! Rejoice!

Now, will these turbines be around 50 years? It’d be nice, but chances are good they won’t. Or if they are it’ll be at the end of their life. Unlike coal though, once these turbines aren’t useful anymore, they can be dismantled and the mountain, its forest and the valleys will remain relatively unharmed.

Let’s hope common sense wins this one.

…and her name is New Orleans.

I’ve never been abused by authority, but I’ve seen authority abused. That was going to be the theme for this post, but I couldn’t get much beyond that.

So I will take this opportunity to tell you why I like the banjo, fiddle, spirituals and field hollers. It’s because the songs produced by those instrument and in that genre are raw. They are one of the purest forms of human expression. I associate them with people who are surviving, and not much else. It’s hard not to have some empathy for the performers, even though that seems to be the last thing they want.

I connect with these melancholic tunes more than anything else. Listening to recordings from John and Ruby Lomax’s 1939 recordings from the south, I can see the dirt under the peoples fingernails, which are at the end of callused hands that only know hard labor. The voices are soaked with pain and suffering, but also of a hope for the future. A hope that the next life will be better, or that the next generation might find a way out. It’s this depressed optimism that I find so attractive.

It’s hard to put up a front when you don’t have much beyond the a low-paying job and a few family members. It’s nice to not have to decide if what I’m listening to is true or not, especially after days and weeks and months of doing that for a living.

This is the kind of hyperbole that I love and hate. “Is soda the new tobacco?” It’s an article in what I consider the pinnacle of daily newspapers, the NY Times. It also seems like a headline fit for Fox News, the nadir of journalism.

Oh well, it’s written by a columnist, and there are disclaimers saying that no, soda is not as addictive as nicotine. And it won’t give you lung cancer (but maybe some other cancers, especially if you drink the stuff with substitute sweeteners.) But it will make you fat, which is just as dangerous to your health.*

*This claim has no scientific backing and is not endorsed by the Federal Drug Administration.

I think the majority of people know that, just like they know smoking is bad for you. But like smoking, our ape brains can’t say no to those boosts in feel good chemicals. Nothing new here. What leaped off the page at me, and what scares me more than anything is this sentence:

The problem is that at roughly 50 gallons per person per year, our consumption of soda, not to mention other sugar-sweetened beverages, is far from moderate, and appears to be an important factor in the rise in childhood obesity.

Fifty Gallons!? Fifty Gallons?! Okay, that’s only 1.5 cans of soda a day, per person. The problem, however, is there are plenty of people, myself and the majority of my friends included, don’t drink any soda. So whoever is drinking the stuff is consuming way more than 1.5 cans.*

*This is all anecdotal, but probably true.**

** There’s no way to know if that is true.***

***Okay, there is, but I don’t have the time or money to do it, so, whatever.

Part of me thinks the idea of a another tax on something like this is unconstitutional, or at least not in the spirit of America. Then again, it seems people are too stupid to do what is good for them, and a nation is only healthy when its populous is healthy.

Just as  disturbing as the previous quote.

sugared beverages are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet, representing 7 percent of the average person’s caloric intake, according to government surveys, and up to 10 percent for children and teenagers

I could go off on a localism rant here, if you have to produce soda, or rely on your neighbor, you are going to be drinking a lot less than 1.5 cans a day, but I won’t because I’ve got a lunch date.

It seems places like Africa and Australia hold special places in our hearts. Movies like, well, Australia, and the documentary Blue Planet are extremely popular. So much so they redid Blue Planet with an American narrator to show on the Discovery Channel. Without Richard Attenborough’s soothing British accent, it’s not the same, but that’s a rant for a different day. (I mean, Sigourney Weaver? Really? Was Meryl Streep too busy? I don’t want the woman who beats the hell out of Aliens to narrate one of the most moving documentaries I’ve ever seen!)

We romanticize these places because they represent a link to our past. A time when there were vast, untouched wildernesses. Deep down, humans long to be back among the rest of nature. Africa, Australia, the Amazon, these are the few remaining stretches of huge wilderness that we haven’t plundered, yet.

I’m sure, given human greed, there is the possibility that we could. But, while we are nature, and a part of nature, there is one area in which we are separate from nature. We have the ability to limit our consumption. Unlike other species, we can recognize when we are destroying the very thing that keeps us alive, and make the necessary changes.

Some of those changes that are being made is a return to vast stretches of wilderness. Places where there will be the full gambit of species, from mice to top predators. Corridors of land in which animals and human animals can co-exists. But Drew, you say, how can I live in a place where cougars roam? I don’t want my children living in fear of playing outside. Well, sorry. Nature isn’t the safe, sterile place that zoos and the Animal Kingdom make it out to be.

Living with top predators is better than the alternative, living with their extinction. God willing the idea of “cores, corridors, and carnivores” will grow. If not , and nature shrinks, so does our chances for passing on a livable planet to the next generation.

No one likes the preacher except for the congregation. Even some of them aren’t thrilled by his message. They’re the ones in the back who fall asleep once the sermon begins. I hope my observations and critiques haven’t become sanctimonious or banal for the congregation. If anyone likes to doze off during the sermon, waking only to the sound of other members of the flock laughing, well, we have no need for your counterfeit faith. Only the true believers need to read on. By now, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Me too.

At its root, the sermon I’m talking about is the call to localism, sustainable agriculture, a total revamp of this consumer culture that corrupts so many. But I’d rather not put a label on it. Once you give something a name it is subject to abuse and misrepresentation.

The idea though, speaking in broad terms, is a return to a community we have traded for convenience of freeways, email and cheap food. Not that any of these are inherently bad, but they’ve been taken to an extreme that shows a complete lack of respect for nature, of which humans are a part. I guess it’s easy to separate ourselves from nature. We don’t see where our food is raised. Barely any of us get our milk from a cow we own or eggs from the hen house out back. Those things are just products for our consumption. We don’t see the piles of melting electronics children dig through for precious metals, the whole time inhaling toxic chemicals.

All of this comes from a disconnect. Who cares if we blow the tops off mountains to get to a thin seam of coal to fire power plants to enrich uranium to make bombs intended to whip unGodly numbers of people from the earth with the push of a button. Not my problem. It produces jobs. Hooray! Twenty more jobs for one generation, nuclear winter for six generations! Genius! Plus, you know, a war helps the economy, so really, we should be thankful we can screw mountains with the dick of capitalism before its impotent.

It doesn’t matter that “[a]dult hospitalizations for chronic pulmonary disorders and hypertension are elevated as a function of county-level coal production, as are rates of mortality; lung cancer; and chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease. Health problems are for women and men, so effects are not simply a result of direct occupational exposure of predominantly male coal miners.” (1)

Lung cancer, chronic heart, lung and kidney disease. Everyone wins! Health insurance companies can charge more for their policies, doctors will certainly be kept in business prescribing medicines from big pharmaceutical. Coal miners and their families die quickly, and so there are more jobs for everyone, from the high school graduate to the college educated! That’s not mentioning that mountain raping destroys watersheds nature has carved over millions of years. So hydrological engineers will certainly have job security trying to rebuild those masterpieces.

“Stream creation typically involves building channels with morphologies similar to unaffected streams; however, because they are on or near valley fills [the place where the mining companies dump the decapitated heads of the mountains], the surrounding topography, vegetation, soils, hydrology, and water chemistry are fundamentally altered from the premining state. U.S. rules have considered stream creation a valid form of mitigation while acknowledging the lack of science documenting its efficacy.”(1)

At the risk of sounding banal, it’s all very Faustian. No one loves consumerism more than Lucifer. There’s a rumor that he’s about to dump America, for a hotter, younger China. I’m not sure about that though, you can never really believe what you read on a geocities Web site.

And where does this stem from, a lack of connection to nature, a lack of  community with the Earth. I don’t even know if I should a lack of connection to nature, because people automatically, and incorrectly assume a dichotomy between nature and humanity. News flash, humans are part of nature, subject to its laws.

How would community correct this error? If I depend on my farmer neighbor for food, and she on me for repair of his machines, I would be a lot less likely to dump toxic metals in the stream she uses to water her oxen.

Fortunately I am not the only one with this attitude, and it seems these sentiment is growing. There is a growing contingency, especially in my generation, that isn’t satisfied with eating factor farmed chickens or buying products whose production is harmful to nature. I mentioned Maverick Farms yesterday. Today’s group of choice is “The Greenhorns.” It is a non-profit who is working on promoting farming to the younger generations. Something desperately needed when only about .001 percent of the US population are farmers under 35. I’m not saying being a farmer automatically makes you a promoter of community or the idea of localism, but it is a step in the right direction after a long sprint the other way.

I doubt if there exist today a more complete regimentation of the human mind than that accomplished by our … dream of sudden economic affluence. The saving grace of democracy is that we fastened this yoke upon our own necks, and we can cast it off when we want to, without severing the neck – Aldo Leopold

(1) Palmer, et al, Mountaintop Mining Consequences.