I'm not sure I know a good way to say this.
When I was a kid, show and tell sucked for a number of reasons. Now that I am older, show and tell sucks retroactively. I grew up in a community that was rural-becoming-suburban. The ostensible deal with show and tell is that you bring something into school to share with the other kids and everyone learns something about everyone else. In my school -- which seemed to have a real mix of people to me but probably didn't really -- this could be interesting, or it could be bad. Good was a kid bringing in a bird's nest, or maybe some pictures of the country where their grandparents lived, maybe something their dad made with them. Bad was when kids would bring store-bought toys. No matter how you spun it, some kids didn't have flashy toys and some did.
So, on the one hand you have kids -- who to be fair, aren't likely playing status games in second grade -- who bring in something expensive or fancy or large just to sort of, well, show
it to us. I mean, we've all seen toys, and if we haven't seen this one up close, we've seen it on TV or in the stores. On the other hand, you have kids who thought the bird's nest they brought in was cool, but their parents can't afford flashy toys or, like mine, were a bit more into homemade toys and games and less into what my folks might call "plastic crap". My recollection, which is probably colored by my current politics, is that kids with the nests or the low-grade toys envied the fancy store-bought plastic crap. I know I did. The kid with the four foot plastic doll with eyes that closed and the pink pinafore was afforded status because of what her parents could afford, not because of who she was, what she did, how she understood the world, how she treated people, how she thought, or basically anything else, for that brief moment in time. There's a poignancy there, both because I was jealous and also scornful. Because the kid was cool and yet deeply lame, even then. And the coolness came from money, and the lameness did too.
This is what I think of when I see people in their cars on their cel phones, and photoblogging during the speaker's presentation, and endlessly prattling about WiFi, and showing off their new tech gear. I use the tools too, same as most people I know, but I still can't shake how glitzy they seem, here in the land where most people don't have laptops, or cel phones. Every time I take my laptop out in public, which I do rarely, I feel like I am loudly saying "I had $800 free to buy this." and that's not really what I want to be saying.
The last of the Valentines went out today except for the six addresses I don't have. I don't know of a better way to spend $20, honestly. Dorothy Day's
autobiography had a neat little episode where she discusses how the best way to bring in materially what you need [money, food, companionship] is to give away what you already have. To get money, give some away, and so forth. It sounds hippie, I know, but it's really the best explanation I have for my general good fortune, material comforts, and dumb grin on my face a lot of the time. That and my general class background that means my teeth are straight and my health is good and my school is paid for.
The other buzzwords for this swapping-a-smile-for-a-sandwich phenomenon are phrases like "cosmic karma bank
" and "trading in social capital
" or whatever. I'm tired of the market metaphors, personally. There was an interesting article about this sort of phenomenon [not the strictly giving away of stuff, but the general sharing] on the Internet, written in First Monday
. Everyone puts a little in to the pot, everyone takes some out. People can trade good reputations for jobs, food, beer and companionship. Just look at Linus Torvalds
"Yes, you can trade in your reputation for money," says Torvalds, " [so] I don't exactly expect to go hungry if I decide to leave the University. 'Resume: Linux' looks pretty good in many places."
None of this has anything to do with anything except that I am continually pleasantly surprised at the general goodwill of total strangers [and, of course, friends], so I try to make an effort to surprise others with my goodwill as well. It's been great getting all these little "Hey, your valentine made my day." notes this week.
I now have this nifty and annoying flash app
that will draw Indiana-Jones style lines between where I am and where I am going to be next. New Haven is down, next thing is Columbia for which I will have to go through ... New Haven. My pal James
lives down the street from this neat little private library
that was the topic of much speculation. $15 a year, no cell phones allowed and no computers. I feel that if I ever got a job there it would be like heaven on Earth, except for the not-living-in-Vermont part.
In any case, here is a rough and tumble list of what I accomplished while Greg was going to a conference [in no particular order]:
- Saw the Voynich Manuscript with my own eyes, though did not get to touch it or photograph it.
- Got a library card at Boston Public Library and used their free [for card holders] WiFi.
- Went to four of six New England states and pondered how quickly one could touch down at all six.
- Had a lovely lunch with Steven and Adam and Sarah, none of whom I had ever met before.
- Got a Yale stack pass which gives me seven free days of having stuff brought down from the stacks per year.
- Read two very short Jessamyn West books.
- Had a few beers with my favorite librarian couple.
- Walked around New Haven for hours.
- Saw some art.
- Ate at this famous burger joint.
I frequently get to spend time alone in Vermont which I rather like. However, I rarely get to spend time alone in a crowd, or whatever it is you call it when you're among a bunch of total strangers that you have no intention of interacting with. I think a lot of people do this daily as they walk on city streets, go to work, ride in elevators and whatnot. For me, it's getting to be a completely unfamiliar experience. Even in Rutland where I don't know too many people, you still talk to people you see on the street, ride in elevators with or cross paths with. So, that's mainly what I did on Saturday, whatever that's called.
I'm halfway down to New Haven where Greg is going to attend the Rebellious Lawyering
conference and I am going to muck about in well-funded libraries. It's been an interesting few years for civilly disobedient elected officials: Ray Moore
, Gavin Newsome
, George Ryan
. Watching the news unfold in Massachusetts [and being here] and watching/reading the news in San Francisco, people seem worlds apart. SF news is all about delighted gay people and obliging government officials and a principled mayor who is taking a stand that is likely to get him in some kind of legal trouble. Massachusetts -- where it is Winter, granted -- is all about pious representatives, potential Constitutional amendments and a bunch of unhappy people pissed off to be tossed into the spotlight. And John Kerry saying stuff that could be interpreted to be supportive of practically any position. Or that's how I see it anyhow. Or, as my Dad says "You don't see people in Massachusetts ever getting this passionate about hunger.... or poverty." Now I'd like to see some folks take on even less popular topics in the same fashion.
- Immediate amnesty to anyone who is in jail for posession of less than two joints worth of marijuana
- Immediate return of all property seized from people who were never actually charged with a drug crime
- This one already came true.
- PATRIOT Act repeal, and vigorous resistance to sneaky attempts to get PATRIOT II riders attached to other innocuous legislation
- Sane indecency laws. No more fake apologies from, and show trials for, celebrities who are just playing their role in the military industrial entertainment complex. If TV shocks you, turn it off.
- Freedom from Fear no longer being used as an excuse to make other people frightened.
Tomorrow morning is the pancake breakfast at the White Church down the street. Tomorrow evening is the hockey game where Vermont Law plays the Harvard Business School. I'm still signing and mailing the last of my valentines and will spend the waning weeks of this shortest month getting busy with cleaning my data and trying to make all my future web pages standards compliant. Hope your Valentine's Day is how you
want it to be.
We went to a Jamaican party last night sponsored by some of the local Retired Peace Corps Volunteers
in town and around town. The Jamaicans who were scheduled to attend didn't wind up showing up because it was snowing and they never
drive in the snow. We got a lift from our landlady, brought along the food we made
, and had the odd experience of being the youngest people listening to reggae and contemplating the limbo bar.
I just won a small battle with a filtering company
who, for some reason, had this page identified as "chat" in their control list. This page may be many things, chatty even, but not chat-enabling. I sent them a nice note to try to get the ball rolling. Since the entire state of Georgia uses this filter on all school and library computers [staff included], among others, having it blocked for inaccurate reasons was sort of troubling. I got an auto-responder email back indicating that they would unblock the site, starting on the 10th. We'll see. The entire jessamyn.com universe is still blocked by N2H2
as "pornography" which would be amusing if it weren't so wrong. Keep this in mind when you read stats like those from N2H2's press releases
saying that "N2H2 now has identified over 260 million pages classified as pornography." 350 of those pages are mine.
Our former-law-student neighbors said we can park in one of their spaces, problem solved. We took the ailing older Honda for a long drive up a mountain and left it there until the thaw. Friday we see if we can get the Toyota started since it seems to have a frozen ignition. Then we'll be totally out of the church parking lot.
The thing that I have been omitting discussing about Winter is not the snow or cold, which I mostly like, or the driving, which I mostly don't, but the way that being cold for so many days in a row forces your soul into a tightly-wrapped crabbed claw, making even the thaw a somewhat painful experience. Greg thinks it's all the high pressure zones that abound weighing down on us, but I've been in an under-siege state of low level anger on and off for weeks it seems. I had been sort of wondering "Gee, why did I leave, the Winters are really nice..." and yet there's something about them, the short days, the cold houses, the poor nutrition and the lack of exercise, the scary roads, the exhaust in the air, the driving to work damp after cleaning off your car, the scraping and the extra layers, the times you shouldn't drive but you do anyhow, the wrecks you see on the side of the road, the wrecks you watch happen ahead of you, your friends who get in accidents, the salt sting in your eyes, the staticky hair, the runny noses, the dirty ice in your pants cuffs, and the chill that never quite leaves the shower.... Not to say that I'm sad I stayed, or that I wouldn't do it again, but I am now ceasing to forget just why it was that I left.
This whole "Oh my god I may have accidentally seen part of a breast
on TV" hype
about the Superbowl is in many ways America at its worst. Tawdry tittilation is fine, and even required it seems, but as soon as you cross the line into something that might be actually sexual, people freak out. This giant wall Americans build between their desires and the acceptable manifestations of those desires is baffling and problematic. And I seem to recall that it used to be a bit of an issue when you showed up wearing the American flag
? Maybe just if you're not singing songs about cowboys.
In any case, we have more American problems: parking. The church parking lot has been declared off limits which means we can park in the center of town [just another block or two away] or in the driveway [blocking the U-part so people can't drive through] but not nearby. We've been freeloaders on free town parking for too long anyhow, but this is just another sticky issue with the car culture that IS the reality here in the rural hinterlands. You need a car for commuting, and even a back-up car in case something happens to that car. This Summer I'd like to live someplace in Rutland where I can actually walk or bike to work and park off-street for weeks at a time. If anyone has Rutland connections, please let me know.