Thursday, July 8 2021

Quote of the Day

All fiction is cultural appropriation. What did Beatrix Potter know about rabbit life?

Steven Panonymous, comment on “The Problem With Bo Burnham’s Inside

MALINDA- The Sound of Silence (FULL COVER)

This is lovely, and made me really listen to the lyrics for the first time in…..well, honestly, possibly for really the first time. Since I heard this song on the radio nearly endlessly throughout my youth, I’ve never really put the whole thing together before.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never shared
And no one dared disturb the sound of silence
“Fools,” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops, fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence

I’ve been thinking a not insignificant bit about this, about how to get people to listen who don’t want to, and what it means if we do, and what it means if we don’t. So this song coming up now was a nice extra seed.

Native plants again

Did you know raspberry leaf is a Native American remedy? I didn’t either, though I am sitting here sipping it. Also did you know that black cherries are native to North America? I didn’t either!

As I get deeper into this native plant rabbit hole, I’m starting to loose track of my findings. I need to make a page with all this information in one place.

What causes climate change, exactly?

I know greenhouse gases, but are they all of it? What are greenhouse gases even? What are all the pieces of the problem here? I am too old to have learned about climate change in school (I remember mention about the ozone layer going to shit and how we had to fix that). So I’m thinking I need to devote some time to learning that the real problems are.

Insitute of Climate Studies, USA

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data

What’s causing climate change, in 10 charts

I might need a book for this…..

Wednesday, June 30 2021

Quote of the Day

The word “uza” meant something that didn’t quite translate to Aelander. It meant solidarity. It meant unity. But something more than that—it meant that the people banded together in a community had a moral duty to each other, to serve one another.

C. L. Polk, Soulstar

Sticky keys

Perhaps trying to find a whole new working concept of keyboard isn’t the way to approach my typing woes. My main problem right now is that I lock my head in place while working at the computer so I can see both the screen and my keyboard at once. It’s very much not a natural position, and after a few hours my neck is v v unhappy. Let’s just tackle that.

I found a thread that had an interesting idea:

What is the best way to create tactile bumps on your keyboard?

When the stickers are different shapes, your fingers may be able to tell the difference…

Do any of them feel like a Tilde or an Up Arrow?

Here is how they do it in Korea:


My problem seems to be that I can’t keep from trying to stare at the keyboard, even though I’ve tried a million times over the last 36 years to stop looking and touch type correctly. I am a three-finger typist usually, which means my hands are all over the keyboard. I absolutely must have memorized the key locations by now…I can type without looking for short spurts. But because I can’t do the home row thing, inevitably I need to reset my hand positions. Maybe putting tactile feedback on the keys will keep me always knowing where my hands are and I don’t have to look down to reset. I tend to move my head around more when I’m not focused on the keyboard so much, and it helps with the neck aching dramatically.

So I looked at stickers and at membranes that overlay the whole keyboard. I was convinced that the overlay wasn’t the way to go. But these stickers from Keybodo seem promising….

The End of the World

I thought of this quote the other day while brainstorming on my novel, but I couldn’t remember it exactly. Here it is so I can find it again:

Writers like Bastani or Morton have interesting things to say about climate change. But what I notice reading Indigenous authors is that a lot of it has been said already. At a time when many people are wondering “What are we gonna do if our homes flood and we have to move?” or “What sort of communities are we gonna be living in when ecological disaster strikes?”, a lot of Indigenous people are already there!

Lower Brule Sioux writer and professor Nick Estes has said that a lot of Indigenous folks are already living in a post-apocalyptic world, because climate change is only possible because of colonialism.

Abigail Thorn, “Climate Grief“, Philosophy Tube YouTube channel

She’s got a lot of references listed in the YouTube description, should I want to read more about it. This quote hit me hard when I first watched the video a few years ago. Even if climate change wasn’t a thing that was happening, Native Tribes would still be living in a post-apocalyptic world due to colonialism. Their way of life changed so drastically that even carrying on traditions, in my opinion, doesn’t change the fact that one world ended and another came into being.


Speaking of colonialism….OMG why is sourcing Native American food so freakin hard?! Most of the hazelnuts we buy today are either imported, because most commercial hazelnuts are grown Elsewhere, or are grown in Oregon, from English hazelnut trees or trees that are a hybrid of English and American hazelnuts. Why? 6 million links later, I finally found the answer: capitalism.

But the company has to buy over 90 percent of its hazelnuts from Europe, because, ever since colonial times, stateside attempts to grow enough hazelnuts to rival European production have failed miserably.

North America has its own hazelnut variety – Corylus Americana. It tastes as good as its European cousin, but is just one-quarter the size, with a thick shell that stays tightly in its husk when mature, compared to European nuts that fall on the ground, says Tom Molnar, associate professor in the Department of Plant biology and Pathology at Rutgers University. Taken together, its characteristics mean that not only do American hazelnut trees produce less than their European relatives, the meat is harder to harvest.

Marsha Johnston, “The Great American Hazelnut Hunt“, Modern Farmer





No one questions that we’ve spent centuries trying to get English hazelnut trees to grow here when there are already Native American hazelnut trees that grow just great? But the American variety “can’t” be grown commercially because the English version has a higher yield and are easier to process. Someone at some point could just decide to not make quite as money as it would be theoretically possible to make growing English varieties and grow American hazelnuts anyway. Instead we’ve spent many hundreds of years putting in a ton of man-hours trying to get the English trees to grow, trying to keep them from succumbing to a disease that American hazelnuts aren’t susceptible to, trying to get viable hybrids, studying their genetics to figure out which gene is the resistant gene, and killing thousands of trees doing all this experimentation.

Going through this process makes me realize how much we hate ourselves. How much we want to take everything that is native or inherent to this land that is our nation and erase it or transform it into some Frankensteined creation so that an individual can put their name on it and claim they invented it. It’s completely infuriating. Pretending that America didn’t exist until some Europeans showed up and spread their European shit all over it and re-named it just…..augh! So. Sick. Of. It. We could have done better. Can’t we at least try to do better now?

First Porridge

On the less angsty side of this Eat Like Your Ancestors project, I tried to make Cranberry Nasamp (from a Wampanoag recipe, but since they lived on the other side of the Narragansett Bay from the Narragansetts, I think it’s close enough. I made it using masa harina I bought from Masienda. And, um. I didn’t exactly feel excited to be cooking the things of my ancestors.

That would most likely be because I’ve never cooked porridge or grits before. Seriously. I had no idea how it was supposed to look or taste. Or how long to cook it for. Also the masa harina is definitely too fine for this, because it kept trying to make itself into dough instead of porridge. This is going to be a learning curve. Maybe I should buy some heirloom hominy and grind that up in my food processor for a coarser meal instead?

I mean, it tasted ok and my body seemed pleased about it, so yay? Lots more experimentation before I’m rhapsodizing about it, apparently.

OMG, you thought I was done talking about Inside for a minute, didn’t you

Nope! Not done. Now that I’ve seen some reaction videos, I’ve been getting bored by them because they aren’t really engaging with the piece (yes, I know, reaction videos are Not That Deep), but deep is my thing, so this morning I started looking for some video essays.

YouTube surfed up this essay “Bo Burnham: Inside is the best comedy special, whatever that means” by Alec Kubas-Meyer on his channel The Week I Review. It’s an hour long ramble. Not a bad ramble overall, but at about 25 minutes in, I realized I was really just waiting to see if Alec was going to engage with “How the World Works,” and yay! He did. So let’s look at that bit called “I agree with Socko (an actual critique)”.

First note: A ha, a lot of the commentary around this song seems to be happening on TikTok, which would be why I haven’t seen much.

Ok. I’ve typed out some bits of the video to examine.

The TikTok showed only latter with the caption: “where’s the lie.” And, actually, I want to make a small but important critique here because when I was watching the special I was immediately reminded of a broader discourse thing that I don’t know the name of and honestly I’m not politically pure enough to to make, but oh well.

So Socko initially presents as an incredibly reasonable and factually accurate puppet with a statement that the version of history we’ve been taught is just false and that the world is built with blood and genocide and exploitation. Great. But then he moves into conspiracy. The FBI killed MLK. And lefty talking points that a lot of people knee-jerk reject, like private property’s inherently theft.

I believe that Bo Burnham thinks that the history that we are taught in schools is bad. I don’t believe that he believes that every single politician and cop is working to protect the interests of the pedophilic corporate elite. But he puts those two things in the same verse of a song. And depending on the beliefs that you bring into the show, you will hear it in radically different ways…..

That said, this doesn’t really matter, because it isn’t really the point of the bit. What at first seems to be a critique of oppression quickly reveals itself to be a demonstration of it. The literal puppeteer asks what to do, and the puppet becomes frustrated at being forced to “teach” basic humanity to a rich white guy. But as things become more pointed, the puppeteer becomes angry. And literally figuratively pummels them into submission, threatening them with the void that they exist in any time he doesn’t see fit to offer them a platform. And when the puppet has calmed down and accepted their place, well, the puppeteer forces them off anyway because of course he does.

And this all feeds into a pretty constant theme in Burnham’s work throughout his career about his place in the world, and now his place in a moment with increasing unrest and public division epitomized by one of the show’s first lines: what can a white guy do while still getting paid and being the center of attention.

I’m not in the this for the money, but we can’t pretend like my self-centered YouTube channel on which I pretend to review things so that I can talk about myself is not a function of my self-centeredness. And I am super aware of it and can pretend that makes it okay but as Burnham says: self-awareness does not absolve anybody of anything.

And yet.

Why shut up when I can just not do that. Us straight white men have collectively had the floor for hundreds of years but what about me?? And my guess is that on some level you’re bothered by what I just said while also being conflicted because like you’re a lot of fucking minutes into this, so you have clearly accepted the idea that this particular white guy must have something worth saying at least some of the time. Sucks, right?

I’m going to do this by listing my reactions in order:

  1. OMG, don’t hit Google and collect ten thousand articles and papers and other proofs that everything that Socko says is true and post them all triumphantly. DO NOT DO THAT. Not the posting, not the looking, leave it. LEAVE IT.
  2. Oh that’s so interesting. Alec is guessing what he thinks the artist does or doesn’t believe. Why would he do that, and what is he basing that guess on? The inside of other people’s brains is weird and fascinating. I’m guessing Alec is guessing off of what sounds reasonable to him that other people might believe.
  3. (Of course, he’s wrong, Bo obviously knows the truth about capitalism because Bo is a super smart cookie.)
  4. Well, ok, I can see dividing the bit, the first half being the tell bit, the second half being the show bit. But take them together and you get the hauntingly genius showing of the white people power move that presents for example like this: POC will protest about a thing and The (white) Discourse (TM) says: Oh yes, that’s a terrible thing we somehow never noticed. But do you have to protest about it like that? Sitting through the (racist) anthem is so disrespectful. We’re going to talk about the unAmerican-ness of that exact action, and the ungratefulness of that POC, and how we used to like and support POC but now we just can’t, and we’re going to never, never, never ever talk about the thing. But oh the riots! If only they wouldn’t riot and just protest peacefully while dealing with the terror of people like them randomly getting killed over a broken taillight or wearing a hoodie or doing everything they are told to do. I can’t condone the riots. Just look at how awful those 93% peaceful riots were.
  5. Deep breath.
  6. “…and that the world is built with blood and genocide and exploitation. Great.” Oof. Phrasing.
  7. Super aware is good. Yes, no that doesn’t make anything inherently okay, but then you engage with these ideas and…..
  8. WOW
  9. WOW
  10. ….
  11. I think Socko can take this one: Why do you rich fucking white people insist on seeing every socio-political conflict through the myopic lens of your own self-actualization? This isn’t about you!

And I think that’s really the thing, the thing just stops all conversation or engagement before it starts. People make it about them as an individual and not them as a tiny piece of a societal story that we are all caught up in. It’s not just the racism that’s the problem in the society story, it’s the individualism, too! And strong attachment to the one feeds the life of the other. That’s what needs getting over.

Monday, June 28 2021

Quote of the Day

Beauty was out there, all around. To create art was not to capture it, but to participate in it.

Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance

How to converse

I’m about to go on a short trip, and will spend much of the time talking with people that have very different views and opinions than me. Opinions that I would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of my lungs. So, how do I have a conversation? I can avoid talking about things, but I know from experience they will be brought up anyhow. I don’t want to just smile and nod and appear to agree, because I DON’T AGREE. I really, really, really don’t want to get into an argument that will get lots of sound bites parroted at me, that will require me to have encyclopedic knowledge that will be discounted as fake facts anyhow. It’s too much energy to expend when the result will dig everyone further into their own trenches, only now with anger and bad blood.

I’ve considered asking questions. But that will just lead me on frustrating logic loops that go nowhere, and might give the impression that I am interested in “learning the truth.” After a phone conversation that somehow ended up on immigrants and things I very much don’t agree with were said, and I let the moment slip by, confounded, I had an idea. What if my response is: “Wow, that’s really mean.” Because these statements are mean. They are not nice or charitable. That, is, of course, my opinion, but then I am speaking my truth without inviting an argument that lately everyone seems to just be waiting to have.

It’s my best thought. I’ll report back if it works out. if I’m brave enough to try it.

It’s always Bo Burnham day lately

It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one.

Ranking Bo Burnham INSIDE songs by how life ruining they are

And if you haven’t seen the Bo Burnham special maybe you think I’m being dramatic.

No. No my friend, I am not being dramatic, these songs are just that good.

If you enjoy feeling existential dread—because you know we all like feeling existential dread, right—this is the special for you.

Hannah Baylis

Tomatoes are not native to New England

The answer to a question I looked up online this morning, and found this gem: Why the tomato was feared in Europe for over 200 years

Friday, June 25 2021

Quote of the Day

She sat back on her heels and sighed. “That’s hitting below the belt.”

That was where the truth, when it was inconvenient, usually hit.

Anne Bishop, The Queen’s Weapons

Not Much Time Today

Here’s a list of links with minimum commentary:

Learn about black walnuts After a bit of researching, I found out that walnuts were indeed a food the Narragansetts ate, most of the walnuts you can buy today are English walnuts. The Native American walnut is the black walnut, and this brand is for sale in WalMart and on Amazon.

Cultivating Wild Strawberries Of course even strawberries are not simple; conventional strawberries are hybrids with non-North American native varieties. But there is a brand in the PNW that sells wild strawberries, huzzah. I think I’ve seen them in the freezer section of the local Whole Foods.

Cozy Grove A happy chill sim game with ghosts!


Sunday, June 13 2021

Quote of the Day

Artists spend more of their lives making bad practice pieces than they do masterworks, particularly at the start. And even when an artist becomes a master, some pieces don’t work out. Still others are somehow just wrong until the last stroke.

You learn more from bad art than you do from good art, as your mistakes are more important than your successes. Plus, good art usually evokes the same emotions in people–most good art is the same kind of good. But bad pieces can each be bad in their own unique way. So I’m glad we have bad art, and I’m sure the Almighty agrees.

Brandon Sanderson, Oathbringer

Building without expansion

Terra Nil is a “reverse city builder” where you restore an ecosystem

In Terra Nil, your goal is twofold. Your first task is to reclaim a barren wasteland, finding ways to reintroduce plants and wildlife into an ecologically devastated area…Once your ecosystem is up and running again, your job shifts: now you’ll need to up stakes and leave, removing any traces of your presence in the area, and completing your work to restore the area to its former natural glory.

PC Games

It’s not out yet, but I can’t wait to play it. This is the kind of art that I love to hear about existing in the world, the kind that gives us a vision of a future where we thrive. As much fun as dystopian endtimes are to read about and watch, living through one is becoming less and less fun.

Are there native Rhode Island plants that are similar to native Pacific Northwest plants?

RI Native Plant Guide

I don’t know, but I found this link that is at least a bit of a start to finding out. This is more research for my new obsession of eating like my ancestors. The Guide will filter by edible plants.

I like cranberries–are they native to RI? And how did the Narragansetts eat them if so?

Native Fruit: Cranberry for all Seasons

Called sasemineash by the Narragansett and sassamenesh by the Algonquin and Wampanoag tribes, the tart berries were an important food source, as early European settlers came to discover. To make pemmican, the fruit (or another berry) was incorporated with pulverized dried fish or meat and melted tallow, and formed into cakes baked by the sun. An endurance athlete of today knows that a proper combination of fat and carbohydrates is necessary to fuel the body. Pemmican was the original power food as this provision provided energy, lasted for months, and was easily portable on long journeys. 

The Indians and English use them [cranberries] much, boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meate, and it is a delicate sauce…

Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon), wild in only certain parts of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest…

Julia Blakely, Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

Well, some of the recipes to try are going to be interesting, for sure. But cranberries are easy to get on both sides of the country at least.