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Sunday, May 13th, 2007
2:45 pm - The Last Word (or Romania or bust)

Well, I leave Tuesday for my Peace Corps staging in Philly.  Thursday, I hop on a jet to Frankfurt, and then another one to Bucharest.

I'll be very busy these next few days and my access to internet overseas may be limited depending on where I'm stationed, so this may be my last entry for a while.  During my 27 months, I'll endeavor to stop by here and check up on how things are going with all of you as well as posting updates and pictures of my experience.


Best regards and be well.

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Friday, May 11th, 2007
2:34 pm - What I hate about (most) social events.

I am not an antisocial person.  I'd say I get along with 98% of the people I meet right off the bat (at least until I get to know them more and find out whether or not they're assholes).

Here's the deal.  I do not "mingle" well.  Countless times have I gone with a group of friends to a party, BBQ, or similar gathering held by a friend of theirs who I barely know, if at all.

"Meet people, go mingle," I'm told.  I don't do well in that scenario.  Not very well at all.  I much prefer introductions to "mingling" wherein you are introduced to someone by a mutual friend.  You know, like this:

"Edward old boy, this is my chum, Murphy.  Murphy, this is Edward.  We were at school together."

Well, maybe not exactly like that (we only talk like that when we're three sheets to the wind) but you get the idea.  Either I'm socially akward for today's society or I'm a stickler for bygone social etiquette.  I prefer the later.



In other news, I bought a new backpack to take to Romania.  It's a surplus Swiss Army rucksack made out of some heavy duty canvas and leather.  


No, it does not have tiny backpacks that fold out of it.

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Saturday, May 5th, 2007
2:41 pm - Photos again

My buddy Matt is from a big farm family where the property is split between his grandfather, his dad, and his aunts and uncles.  On a portion of one of his uncle's property is a campsite tucked away in a stretch of woods down in the valley of the Huron River's West Branch.  It's a great little isolated spot: no lights or roads or any indication of modern life are visible or audible from that secluded woodland.  The campsite fronts the river but is about four to five feet higher, so it seldom floods over.  From the broad shale beach you can easily launch an inflatable, a canoe, a kayak, or go tubing.  

Just a little ways from the campsite proper is a small waterfall that cascades from between two promentories (there is another smaller campsite on one of them, too) it becomes a bubbling stream that meanders through the sandy soil and shale.  In this time of the year the forest floor is covered in a carpet of Virginia Bluebells, Dutchman's Breeches, Spring Beauties, and other wildflowers.  

This campsite was always a favorite place to head out to on warm spring and muggy summer evenings.  While we'd sometimes plan bigger weekend camping trips to State Parks, this was the place we'd go on the fly when someone would suggest "Hey, let's go camping tonight."  Thinking of it now I can remember the bullshit and ghost stories told around a fire, the songs plucked out on an acoustic guitar.  I remember the taste of hotdogs cooked over the fire, potatoes and onions wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals, the taste of lukewarm Coors or Rolling Rock in bottles or PBR in cans.  I remember the smell of wood smoke, bug spray, sweat, and girl's perfume.  

If anything, that campsite reminds me of carefree Friday and Saturday evenings, after working hard and sweating in the sun all week and all day.  Your problems left you in that little valley.

But enough of this waxing nostalgic.  Here are some pictures of the river from and near that campsite.



Looking upriver from the shale beach in late July.  This time of the year the river is often too shallow to launch canoes, as you could probably tell fromt he rocks above the water ;)



current mood: nostalgic

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Friday, May 4th, 2007
4:37 pm - More Film Suggestions yet again.

The Lost Command:  An adaptation of Jean Lartegy's novel The Centurions, the Lost Command follows a group of French Colonial Paratroopers (Anthony Quinn, Alain Delon, George Segal, Maurice Ronet, and Jean-Claude Bercq) in the wars of the 1950s.  

The film opens with endgame being played out at the battle of Dien Bien Phu and the paras being taken into Viet Minh captivity.  After surviving captivity, the soldiers go their seperate ways: Quinn (in one of his great tough-guy roles) is forced out of the army while the Algerian soldier Mahidi (George Segal) leaves French service and joins the effort for Algerian independence.  With some help from an influential countess (Michele Morgan) Quinn is brought back into the army as a full colonel in charge of a new regiment of paratroopers and sent to combat his former comrade in arms.  There is also a love/betrayal story between Alain Delon's character and an Algerian terrorist, Aicha (Claudia Cardinale).

The action is good, although fairly typical for a 1960s military film.  What is best about this film is that unlike many of the WWII films made during this era, it does not portray a black and white conflict.  Although the film primarily follows Quinn's character and the French, we see that the Algerians have very legitimate grievences.  We also see that neither side can claim very much moral high-ground: the Algerians bomb cafes and theatres full of civilians, while the French mount brutal reprisals and torture suspected insurgents.

This film is a good companion to The Battle of Algiers which covers the same conflict in a more serious, almost documentary style.  Lost Command is a great action film with some deeper messages.  One online reviewer described it as "comparable to John Wayne's The Green Berets if The Green Berets was actually a good movie."


The Red and the White:  Banned for many years in the USSR, this is a Hungarian film set in 1919 at the height of the Russian Civil War.  The film follows Hungarian volunteers within the Bolshevik Red Army fighting White Guards in the Volga River valley.  This is a very spare, minimalist look at the brutality, hypocrisy, and senselessness of war.  In one scene a brutal but effective White Cossack officer is executed by Czarist regulars for the attempted rape of a civilian girl while minutes earlier these same regulars cruelly executed several prisoners.  Despite being banned by the Russians, the Whites come off much worse than the Bolsheviks (who are no angels either).

The minimalist style will not appeal to anyone who is too used to lots of plot and character development.  We don't get any backstory on the characters, it's as if the audience is flung into the middle of the war.  You do care about the characters, but not because we are made to empathize with them because we get to know them, but simply because they are human beings caught up in a whirlwind.

This is a very European film and may not appeal to those too used to Hollywood.  If you enjoy Ingmar Bergman or early Roman Polanski (like Knife in the Water) you would probably enjoy this film as well.



current mood: okay

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Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
6:04 pm - Pictures from my old work.
I probably mentioned it numerous times, but the best summer job I've ever had (I'd make a career out of it if they had a full-time position open) was working for Erie Metroparks as a grounds and maitenance worker.  Though I worked in several of their parks my primary park was the Castalia Quarry Reserve.  CQR is an old limestone quarry that stopped operating in the 1960s and was donated to the parks in the early 1980s.  Except for maintaining trails, the on-site restrooms, removing non-native invasive plant species, and putting up an observation deck, we've let the land go wild.

The unique thing about Castalia Quarry is that it is not just a hole in the bedrock like most quarries.  Just west of the village of Castalia there is a line of limestone ridges, the highest points in Erie County except the sandstone Berlin Heights in the eastern part of the county (here I am talking about them like they've mountain ranges!  They're not even close.).  The Castalia Quarry is one of these ridges, they just started quarrying what is essentially one big chunk of rock.

Anyhow, pictures:



View of the pond on one of the quarry shelves.  This is fed by an underground spring and is 12 feet deep at its deepest depth.  A while back somebody put goldfish in this pond.  Now there are several, I've counted as many as 19 at one time.


CQR boasts a large variety of wildlife including several species of butterfly, at least five species of snake, red foxes, hundreds of birds including turkey buzzards and red-tail hawks who nest along the cliffs and can be seen drifting on thermals.

current mood: calm

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Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
5:58 pm - Something is on the fritz...
[Unknown LJ tag]

current mood: awake

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Saturday, April 28th, 2007
3:03 pm - "We don't give a damn 'bout the Volstead Law...

...and for Prohibition we don't care a straw..."


A good buddy of mine has been learning the art of homemade winemaking from his grandfather.  This isn't your fancy vineyard wine, but your oldschool backwoods "I make wine out of just about anything that ferments" wine.  He sent around to his friends and family bottles of his batch of elderberry wine (which turned out freakin' fantastic).  Right now, they're starting on dandelion wine and as we get into summer they'll be doing peach, cherry, wild strawberry, and blackberry wine (unfortunately I won't be around for that).  

Home winemaking is entirely legal in Ohio by the way (I'm assuming it is in the rest of the states too) so they don't need to worry about the Revenuers comin' 'round (though there are still a few folks around here that make some of that white lightning).

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Friday, April 27th, 2007
4:27 pm - Leave the dialect alone.

Notice to the chick from California I met last night:

When I say "isn't it" I do not pronounce the "s" and, as you astutely pointed out, it sounds like I'm saying "idn't it."  This is Northern Ohio, if you hadn't noticed a good chunk of people around here pronounce "isn't it" as "idn't it."  It is part of the regional dialect so please cease and desist trying to correct our pronunciation.  

You know, south of here they say "y'all" instead of "you all."  You can bug them next time you want to force your own brand of English on the rest of the country.  

Why don't you buy two tall ladders and get over yourself?



current mood: annoyed

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Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
6:59 pm

The following is from a selection of poems in the 2006 Red Mountain Review put out by the Alabama School of Fine Arts.  The series is by Lou Suarez (a good Ohio boy) and is entitled On U.S. 6 to Providence.  I'm sure you can guess the route the author took that inspired his work.  I liked the following poem and thought I'd share.

"John Scott"
by Lou Suarez

Eight miles north of Union City,
says John Scott - and he should know - 
is his birthplace: truck driver
for thirty-eight years, hauling
freight, then timber, then explosives,
then waste.  Drove over
three-and-a-half million miles,
he says,

his trailer tipping over only twice -
faulty draft arms,
before he gives me directions to
Drake's Well, Kinzua and Austin Dams,
the canyon.  Union City used to be a monied
town, chair capital of the world.
His hand dismisses the rest.

Then he falls silent.  This is
Bonnie Sue's Family Restaurant
in Union City, Pennsylvania, where
I have stopped to eat wedding soup
for lunch and the turkey deluxe.
I'm getting a divorce, he says all
at once as if a vein in the sky has opened,

and rain pulsed onto everything beautiful.
Forty tow years.  My wife
moved on,
and his face rots
like a carved pumpkin's on
a Halloween porch.  A horrible
flame flickers behind his eyes.
Which reminds me: Where are the angels

for men like this who made life their work,
and therefore,
never learned to love women
fearlessly enough, or speak to them
as easily as they speak
to perfect strangers in restaurants;

men whose chronic dreams about fiery
death nag their sleep nightly,
whose dreams about crossroads,
phone wires, long drives
through darkness on bone-cold days
root in them like the tall and tempting trees
too near the roadside?  Then Hey,

he says,
and I turn my face, lean in to listen.

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Sunday, April 22nd, 2007
9:21 pm - Read This Book!
I'm currently reading the novel The Terror by Dan Simmons.  It's kind of a combination historical fiction/horror tale set during Sir John Franklin's disasterous 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage (the book's name is partly taken from one of the two expedition ships, the HMS Terror).  The men of the expedition deal with the very real problems of poor planning, tainted food, crushing ice, frigid cold, and the long endless nights of winter north of the Arctic Circle.  They also find a mysterious mute Inuit woman whose arrival is connected with frightening noises: screams, groans, and something scratching to get into the hull of the icebound ship.

Think of it as a combination of Patrick O'Brien (Master and Commander series) and Stephen King's better work.

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
2:21 pm - Music and a Movie

If you enjoy good music and are not one of those people whose tastes stick almost entirely to one genre (I can never figure those folks out, but that's another entry entirely) I can recommend checking out two fantastic albums by two fantastic artists.

A few months back I purchased Warren Zevon's last album The Wind, which is a damn good piece of work anyway, but hits you even harder when you know that Zevon wrote many of these songs and cut the album after he had learned that he was dying of cancer.  For this album he had brought together a venerable array of friends including Dwight Yoakam, Ry Cooder, Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, Tom Petty, and Emmylou Harris.  The entire album is solid and some of the stand-out songs include a great cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and humorous and heartbraking self epitaphs such as "Dirty Life and Times," "Please Stay," and final track, "Keep Me in Your Heart."


For classic Zevon fans who loved his delightfully twisted version of piano rock encaptured by his great album Excitable Boy (which featured his well-known song "Werewolves of London" and the disturbing title track) the songs "Disorder in the House," "Numb as a Statue," and "The Rest of the Night" recall his wilder days.  I'd recommend this album for long time classic rock fans and even those unfamiliar with Zevon who are looking for something different.

Another great album that I just purchased this weekend is Jackson Browne's Solo Acoustic Vol. 1.  It's Jackson Browne, live, on stage with only his guitars and a keyboard doing some of his best songs.  I'm constantly surprised by how little people know excellent and prolific songwriter although they are familiar with his work (songs such as "These Days" and "Take it Easy" which he does on this album).  Aside from the fantastic solo performance, the recording includes Browne's interactions with the audience and his introductions to his songs (which are seperate tracks on the CD for the impatient who wish to get straight to the music).  The first track is an excellent rendition of my favorite song of his, "The Barricades of Heaven."


Last, but certainly not least, I want to recommend the film Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.  Contrary to the conclusion you may draw from the title, this is not a martial arts film but a Korean film about the Korean War and its effects on a family, two brothers in particular.  With their father deceased, times are tough for the family.  Jin-tae, the elder brother works as a shoeshine boy.  He dreams of opening his own shoe store and working as a cobbler, but for now he is using his earnings along with those of his mother's noodle shop to help his younger brother, Jin-seok, go to college and support his fiance and her young sisters.  Life is hard, but it's enjoyable.

When North Korea invades, Jin-seok is drafted into the South Korean army.  Jin-tae joins up to look after his little brother, and when he learns from an officer that he could get Jin-seok released from the army if he were to win a medal, Jin-tae volunteers for every risky mission.  As his older brother rises to the rank of sergeant, Jin-seok sees him becoming more brutal and driven, putting other soldiers at risk to get his medal.  

Filmed in the same gritty, realistic style as Saving Private Ryan, Tae Guk Gi is a much superior movie.  The physical and phsychological dangers of war are laid bare before the audience and their effects on the two brothers are heartbreaking.  This is one of the best war films I've ever seen; better than Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, and many of the other popular war movies.  This is the only war movie other than Lewis Milestone's 1930 All Quiet on the Western Front to make yours truly cry.  That's something.

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Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
11:07 am - Reform the Reformation

I'm no theologian, I never went to a seminary, and my religious schooling never really went beyond Sunday School.  Despite all that, from time to time I feel the need to chime in on religious matters, so what you're about to read is what could be termed an "amateur's" opinion based off of nothing but my own observations and reading.

What happened with the Protestant Reformation?  I know the history, the early-modern European history course I took gave me enough Martin Luther and John Calvin to last me a while.  What happened to the ideas is what I'm asking.  I'm raising this question because I often hear a lot of Protestant friends of mine talking about what their pastor says, what their pastor tells them is the way to interpret such and such passage, what they used to believe but their pastor told them otherwise etc.

Now, these aren't folks from Protestant denominations with traditionally strict hierarchies (i.e. Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc.) but Baptists and some of the non-denominational churches.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't part of the Protestant Reformation (Calvinist reforms in particular) the doing away of a strict Ecclesiasticy?  Wasn't the purpose of translating the Bible from Church Lation into the lingua franca of various nations in order to allow the lay society to read or understand the Bible on their own and reach their own conclusions and interpretations.  Wasn't it part of Calvin's work to establish "The Priesthood of All Believers" exemplified in the Presbytery of Calvinist and Scotch Presbyterian Churches as well as current Congregational and UCC Churches (former German and Dutch Reform)?

It seems to me that some Protestant denominations that historically have been derived from the Calvinist tradtion of bucking the strict hierarchy and orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church have, in fact, formed the kind of system they once rebelled against.  How is it being true to your Protestant roots to cultivate a religious climate where the word of the Pastor is the unchallenged word of God and church members are not encouraged to derive and discuss their own interpretations through personal or organized Bible study?  

Is this a conscious shift in religious thinking or is it just a mirror of larger society wherein a population (in this case, the church members) do not wish to put forth the effort to make their own judgements and rely on the authorities (church leaders) to make up their minds for them.  It's easier to just sit and nod your head then to look things up yourself if something from the pulpit doesn't sit right with you.


Disclaimer:  I have nothing against hierarchical religion such as Roman Catholicism.  With my father coming from a big Irish-Catholic family, I actually have a pretty positive outlook towards many aspects of Catholicism, however it's just not the faith for me.



current mood: content

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Sunday, March 25th, 2007
11:22 am - More Film Suggestions
The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming:  Aside from Dr. Strangelove... this is the only Cold War comedy I'm aware of.  It's not the cynical dark comedy of the aforementioned Kubrick film, in fact the moral of the story is that the Russians are people just like us Yanks.  A Soviet sub without any hostile intentions runs aground by accident offshore of a small New England Island.  The sub's second officer (Alan Arkin) leads a small shore party to investigate the island and look for a boat capable of pulling the sub off the shore.  The Russian sailors stumble upon the vacation home rented by a New York family (Carl Reiner and Eva Marie Saint).  As the sailors look for a way to free their ship, they are spotted by a few townspeople who think that it's the beginning of a full-scale invasion.  Rumor spreads and the town police chief (Brian Keith) has his hands full trying to restrain the quirky and overzealous townsfolk.  This is a very funny film (and a bit bold in its political message for 1966) showing us how ridiculous our Cold War xenophobia really was.

The Virgin Spring:  Not as well known in North America as The Seventh Seal, this is another Ingmar Bergman masterpiece set in medieval Sweden and starring Max Von Sydow.  Like most Bergman work the visuals and the performances are stunning.  Von Sydow is a lesser landowner whose homestead is near the edge of a forest.  He sends his young and beautiful daughter to go and deliver candles to the church.  In the forest she is set upon, raped, and murdered by three desperate brothers.  That night, in bad weather, the brothers unknowingly seek shelter at the girl's father's farm and we the audience see what enfolds once the truth is uncovered.  Excellent film and the Criterion DVD includes an interesting introduction by Ang Lee.

Blood Diamond:  I saw this in theatres back when it came out and loved it.  My parents, on my recommendations, recently got it on Netflix.  I was worried that this film would come off as too preachy, a liberal guilt-trip film focusing on the subject and losing sight of what it is that makes a good film.  I was greatly surprised, it gets its message across and is a great film at the same time.  Djimon Honsou is Solomon Vandy, a fisherman living in Sierra Leone during their recent civil war of the late 1990s-early 2000s.  He has a happy life with his wife and three children.  His son has been going to school and has dreams of becoming a doctor.  All that collapses when RUF rebels attack his village.  His wife and two daughters escape, but Solomon is captured and taken to work as a slave in the Kono diamond fields to help the RUF finance their war.  His son is taken to be indoctrinated and used as a child soldier.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio, showing as he did in The Departed that his acting ability has come a long way since his Titanic days).  A former Rhodesian mercenary, Danny works as an underground diamond trader.  Solomon escapes the RUF after uncovering a large diamond and hiding it.  Danny hears about it and seeks out Solomon in order to get his hands on the rare stone and makes promises to help him find his family.  Jennifer Connelly also stars as a female reporter seeking to get the story told.  The performances, action scenes, and visuals are fantastic.  Ed Zwick's best film since Glory.

The Wild Geese:  This is a thinking-man's testosterone fest (I say "thinking-man" because while it is not an extremely  highbrow film, it would not hold the attention of those who like the ADD, nonstop, crappy modern action flicks).  If you enjoy movies like The Dirty Dozen this one is for you.

A large British mining conglomerate headed by businessman Sir Edward Matherson (Stuart Granger) seeks to overthrow the government of a brutal African dictatorship by replacing him with the exiled President Limbani (Winston Ntshona).  The plan is to hire a group of seasoned mercenaries to rescue Limbani from his prison, and use him to start a popular uprising.  Matherson hires aging mercenary leader Colonel Faulkner (Richard Burton) and has him put together his team.  Faulkner persuades his old colleagues: family man Rafer Janders (Richard Harris), petty criminal Shawn Flynn (Roger Moore), and retired RSM Sandy Young (a great Jack Watson).  On Flynn's recommendation he also takes on the shady, racist Afrikaaner Pieter Coetze (Hardy Kruger in a fine perfomance).

After training 50 former professional soldiers (veterans of WWII, Korea, and Malaya), the mercenary team executes the plan.  But while they spring Limbani, Matherson and his company reach a deal with the dictator for mining rights, and he decides to abandon the mercenaries in the hostile country and no way out.  A ripping-good action yarn of the old-school.  DVD includes a documentary on producer Euan Lloyd and another on the filming.

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Friday, March 16th, 2007
10:58 am - March in Ohio
So, Tuesday was absolutely gorgeous.  Temperatures in the 60s, sunshine, and a warm breeze.  Wednesday was actually balmy, again in the 60s but with rain and a relatively impressive thunderstorm.  I woke up Thursday to a blanket of snow.  Today it's in the 30s.  Welcome to life living 15 miles from Lake Erie.  I was kinda sorta hoping the warmth and sunshine would hold until Saturday when I'm visiting friends out of town but, C'est la guerre.


Anyhow, within the last few months I've started getting back into writing fiction.  I was so damn busy in college that I had done almost no creative writing since my Sophomore year, which was the last time I actually had a creative writing class (Historical Film and Screenwriting to be exact).  When the last things of significant length I've written were 20-odd page works such as "The Importance of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie in the Context of the Western Theatre of the War of 1812" and "A Broad Comparison of Byzantine, Islamic, and Western European Military Traditions Prior to the First Crusade," you can tell I had been in a funk of non-fiction.

I've started going to the Firelands Writing Center.  It's a free community group at Firelands College which is a satellite campus of BGSU.  Basically it meets once a month and you can email your piece into the professor who officiates it and he prints out worksheets with that month's submissions.  The group reads through the stuff and you are able to get comments and constructive criticism, which is really great.  My only problem is that there are so damn many poets.

I have nothing against poetry.  As you can tell by the number of poems I've shared with you all on here that I really enjoy it.  I can appreciate good poetry, but I know enough to know that I can't write it.  Because there are so many poets at this thing, so many of the writing exercises that the professor has us do are poetry-related.  Us budding authors of fiction are starting to feel left out.

current mood: indescribable

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Wednesday, March 14th, 2007
2:38 pm - Radical Agendas
I consider myself a tolerant person in regard to lifestyle choices.  I'll live my life as I want to, and you live yours how you like.  

I have no problems with vegetarians or vegans and though I am a person who consumes meat and animal products, I do not feel threatened or angered by someone simply stating their dietary choices.  You have your diet, I have mine, and we'll get along fine provided we don't go around condemning each others choices.

However, I was a little pissed-off to read this article basically stating that you "can't be progressive and still eat meat."

Bullshit.

Complete, utter, bullshit.

Firstly, the current progressive movement does not hinge in any way, shape, or form on the diet of the members.


I'm a country boy.  Through involvement in Scouts, 4-H, FFA, the Sierra Club, Izaak Walton League, and the County Soil and Water Conservation District, I've got plenty of experience with agriculture and its effects on ecosystems, and I feel qualified to take on these arguments.


Yes, people nowadays eat too much meat and fatty animal products.  The traditional Euro-American diet evolved in a time when the vast majority of folks did hard, physical labor on a daily basis.  For better or worse (I think worse myself) we've moved into an age of stagnation where most folks sit and do little physical exertion or enough exercise.  I know a farmer who is in his 80s who eats bacon, fried eggs, hash browns, and buttered toast every morning for breakfast and has done for most of his life.  However, he goes out and does a variety of chores and gets plenty of exercise whereas your typical office jockey buying fast-food breakfast sandwiches on his morning commute is going to become a fat, unhealthy fella.

Yes, there are big problems with industrial-scale meat production.  There are also very big problems with industrial-scale agriculture in general.  Phasing out meat production is not going to stop wasteful and environmentally degrading agricultural practises associated with factory farmed wheat, soy, and corn.  Buying organic is not enough either, large-scale operators are starting to jump on the organic market as well, and though they may not use the harmful chemicals the monoculture and scale is not that much better for the environment.

And I'm sorry, buying fresh greens, fruits and veggies out of season that are shipped in from Southern States or Latin America are not environmentally friendly either.  Learn to can and to eat in season.

Agriculture in this country needs to be reformed in two major ways.  1) it needs to be done on a smaller scale (which means that more people are going to need to go into agriculture) and 2) it needs to become more diversified, and that includes animal production.

For all the horror stories and video clips you see of slaughterhouses and egg farms on the internet I would reckon that there are many more responsible smaller-scale producers.  You don't hear about the folks that are doing it right.  Daisyfield Pork, Tofts Dairy, and Gerber Poultry here in Ohio are great examples of clean animal production facilities.  I've seen the facilities myself and I personally know some of the farmers who supply them.  I know that free-range poultry and grazed cattle make a difference not only for peace of mind, but also in taste (.The pastureland used for grazing pigs, sheep, and cattle also provides crucial habitats for a variety of wildlife).  If you like eating animal products, you should do the research and find out where and how your food gets to your plate.

If we change how we do agriculture and go back to a more traditional diversified manner of production, it will only be beneficial to the environment.  We can continue to eat meat, but do it in a responsible fashion.



And finally, I have a problem with the moral attitudes expressed by the author and folks like Peter Singer.  Humans are animals.  Yes, we may have cognition skills that allow us to do things like make clothes, build houses, and type on our computers, but that cognition is simply the survival skill God gave us, like a mountain lion's hunting ability.   To say that we as a species have evolved morally beyond eating meat while bears and other animals continue to eat an omnivorous diet is to put us on an arrogant pedastal and it also doesn't jive with the argument that "we shouldn't eat meat because that is unfairly asserting superiority over other animals."  You can't have it both ways.


I eat meat and use animal products and shall continue to do so.  I shall continue to hunt and fish and consume my quarry.  I will continue to follow a diet that I feel is right for me and that I feel does not make me any less of a "progressive."  If you wish to live your life differently and eat what you please, go right ahead.  But don't stand on your veg soapbox and sanctimoniously moralize at me because you think you've found the "Truth."  You do that and you, Kathy Freston, are as bad as the religious right nutballs.




P.S.  I bet you want to take my guns away too...

current mood: annoyed

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Wednesday, March 7th, 2007
9:46 pm - Marching Orders

May 15th, that's the day I ship out for Eastern Europe.  They still haven't given me a specific country I'll be teaching in yet, that's something I guess I learn once all my medical screening is done.

Anyhow, I'm listening to the song "Lies" by Stan Rogers right now.  I really love this song and feel like sharing the lyrics.  If you're unfamiliar with the late Stan Rogers, I highly recommend him.  He was a great Canadian folk singer who is almost entirely unknown here in the States.



current mood: content

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Tuesday, March 6th, 2007
10:14 am - More Film Recommendations
If you are looking for something to add to a Netflix queue or rent at the video store, I can recommend the following:

Guns at Batasi: This film from 1964 is set during current events of that era, specifically the European de-colonisation of Africa.  The action takes place at the base camp of a British colonial regiment.  With a transitional black government begining to step in to the shoes of the British, control of the regiment is handed over to the highest-ranking black officer, Captain Abraham (Earl Cameron).  The white officers and sergeants celebrate the Queen's Birthday for what might be the last time at this posting.  In the Sergeant's Mess, headed by Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale (Richard Attenborough) the Sergeants reminisce about previous stations and also entertain a visiting Member of Parliament (Flora Robson) and a wayward UN worker (Mia Farrow).

However, a more radical element attempts to seize control from the transitional government.  Within the regiment, Lt. Boniface (Errol John) seizes control of the weapons and ammunition stores and is under orders by the revolutionaries to kill or detain "collaborators" such as Captain Abraham and keep the British under house arrest within the Officers' and Sergeant's Messes.  When a wounded Captain Abraham stumbles into the Sergeant's Mess, Boniface demands he be turned over.  Lauderdale refuses to give Abraham over until he recieves word from the Colonel (Jack Hawkins).  A tense standoff ensues.

Not a war film in the typical sense, this is more of a thriller and a character study of RSM Lauderdale, whom Attenborough plays marvelously (the Lauderdale character is to British and Commonwealth Sergeants what R. Lee Ermey is to American Sergeants).

  Trojan Eddie:  Watch this film!  Set in a small town in Ireland, this movie follows Trojan Eddie (Stephen Rea), an ex-con who has a talent for selling things, mostly merchandise of questionable origin that he fences for local crime-boss John Power (Richard Harris).  Power is a former "Traveler" (Travelers, also called Tinkers, are the indigenous Irish version of Gypsies) who has settled in town, trading the nomad life for wealth.  His eye is caught by the much younger Kathleen (Aislin McGuckin), a pretty and spirited Traveler.  

Trouble ensues when Eddie's handsome young business partner, Dermot (Stuart Townsend), begins eyeing Kathleen as well.  Eddie, who wants nothing more than to give up fencing stolen merchandise and open up his own lawful store, is caught between his loyalty to his friend and the influence of Power and his goons.  

This film shows a side to life in rural Ireland far different and less idealized than that shown in popular films such as The Quiet Man.  Its showcasing of the Traveler lifestyle is also illuminating, though most Travelers live in poverty conditions many would not trade the wandering life for prosperity and settled life.

My Favorite Year: Set in 1954, Peter O'Toole plays Alan Swann, a booze-addled and washed up Errol Flynn type matinee idol who is slated to appear on a live TV comedy variety show in order to get enough money to pay the IRS back-taxes.  When Swann shows up for rehearsal blasted, the show's host, King Kaiser (a thinly veiled Sid Ceasar character played by Joe Bologna) wants to drop him.  One of the show's writers, Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) who idolized Swann when he was a child, speaks up on Swann's behalf.  Kaiser gives Stone an ultimatum, keep Swann sober and get him to rehearsals on time or it's your job.  

Peter O'Toole is, as always, fantastic.  His comedic performances are played with the same passion as his dramatic work.  He is perfect as the both dapper and bumbling (when drunk) former swashbuckler.

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Monday, March 5th, 2007
10:15 am - From the History Channel
Check out my Dark Ages profile!

current mood: geeky

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Wednesday, February 28th, 2007
1:31 pm - teeth condition and my father's "geekhood"
Today was my dental examination for the Peace Corps and I was surprised by how healthy they said my teeth were.  I haven't had a professional cleaning since the 90s.  I just brush twice daily and drink milk (does a body good).  Unless something shows up in my bloodwork and urinalysis from my physical (which I kind of doubt) I should be in class-A shape to head overseas in April or May.

In unrelated news; the other day when I was rescuing one of our cats who had gotten himself trapped in the storage room under the stairs and was unable to get out, I noticed a stack of old 60s vintage sci-fi novels from my dad's youth (including The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein, The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, and a story collection including works by Philip K. Dick, Frederik Pohl, and Lester Del Rey).  I always knew my dad enjoyed sci-fi: he's got a good deal of Asimov, Bradbury, and all the Dune novels (all those written by Frank Herbert himself, not the newer ones).  

I found it kind of funny when my dad was leafing through The Chessmen of Mars and he told me that back in high school he and his friends actually replicated the martian chess game described (it uses a larger board, has additional pieces and different movements). 

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Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
10:29 am - Congrats Marty

If you followed the Oscar news at all you know that Martin Scorsese finally got the honors he has long deserved, getting Best Director and Best Film for The Departed.  I was also glad to see Forest Whitaker get the Best Actor award for The Last King of Scotland wherein he played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada.  Go see that movie if you haven't already.  It's great.  Read the novel by Giles Foden too.  That's an order.

I know a lot of folks dislike the Oscars.  They dislike the idea that a bunch of "Hollywood Elites" (the Academy) have the audacity to tell them what great cinema is.  Now, there have certainly been some real overrated stinkers that have received honors at the Oscars.  And there are plenty of times where I have disagreed with the choices for awards the Academy has made (i.e. I thought LOTR ROTK was the most poorly done films of the trilogy, yet that was one that swept all the honors.  TTT was the best done film of the series IMHO).

But the attitude that the public knows better than the Academy what is good cinema is a frightening idea.  If major awards were decided by what the public at large patronizes at the box-office it'd be the equivalent of honoring a gas station Elvis on black velvet over a Rembrandt, or praising Justin Timberlake and ignoring Bob Dylan.  If films like Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and similar dreck deserve any kind of award it should be being thrust into a gilded trash can.  

It's okay to like and enjoy bad or mediocre movies, but the populous at large needs to learn that "what I like" is not always synonymous with "what is truly great."

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