Thursday, 21 July 2016

Good Video: Sickest Buddhist

Isn't this the dude on the cover of this month's Lion's Roar?

Arj Barker @ Sir Stewart Bovell Park (7 1 12) (6693046301)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

WW: Ranch rings

(A round dozen of fudo rings collected on a friend's ranch. They're black because I sealed them with rust converter.)

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Rough Around the Edges: Pullman

Pullman is improbable. Even from a distance, the town looks, not out of place, but out of epoch. In theory it's a typical prairie town: terraced into four loamy knolls, shaded by spreading maple, pine, and spruce, all of it drifted together by steel rails. In its leafy streets and neat switching yards you could believe you're trapped in an HO layout, especially if you throw in a train. Which you often do, in a city named for the man who invented the sleeping car.

But even from the horizon – say, the top of Kamiak Butte, eleven miles north – there's something incongruous about Pullman.

Only on approach does it land: it's the brick. Lots of it. Pullman's ruddy walls rise like the defences of a medieval town, which it also resembles, once you've put your finger on it. But those ancient cities were not walled in factory-made terra cotta, and so Pullman has a futurism, like a robotic eye in a human face, that contradicts and complements the train set and the Templars.

Those red ramparts, rising amidst what Greensiders sneer a cow town, are the source of cognitive dissonance. Because Pullman is nowhere. It's near nothing of consequence in three states, of which it lies outside all but one. Had matters so rested, Pullman would today be what its constituent bits still are: a Gold Side hometown in decent dusty coveralls.

But in 1890 the red came. That year, the federal government extended its network of land-grant agricultural colleges to Washington, and with atypical boldness, the State Legislature sited the new institution, not merely in eastern Washington, but in southeastern Washington. That is to say, in Plutonian space.

And as Pluto was not a real planet, so Pullman was not really a city. Incorporated just four years earlier, its 200 farmers and railroad workers were quickly inundated by a veritable lahar of staff and students. And so the first product of the Agricultural College, Experiment Station, and School of Science of the State of Washington, was that most Washingtonian of things: a mill town. Except that this mill splits from its raw resource, not shakes, but scholars.

In our motherland of apple carts, that was just the first the new college upset. For all the novelty of its location, today's Washington State University serves a region more cultural than physical. Olympia may be capital of the map, and Seattle the money, but Pullman is the capital of nowhere. All of it, (the nowhere), from Sumas to Sekiu to Skamokawa to Scotia, and every backwater between. Country kids statewide aspire to WSU, not just for agronomy, veterinary, and teaching programmes, but also its world-class faculties in media, literature, and archaeology.

And behind the carrot, the stick. Growing up in rural Thurston County I engaged daily with WSU's army of barnyard Green Berets. Their Cooperative Extension ran my 4H programme. They ran FFA. They ran the tansy-ragwort eradication campaign, the artificial insemination service, the whole head, heart, hands, and health consultancy. They answered questions about recycling plastic, feeding babies, canning corn. With an irony I did not remark at the time, they sponsored the marine science summer camp I loved.

From WSU's guerrilla intellectuals I learned as much about war, Watergate, and women as rabbits and razor clams. They wore gumboots and flannel, got our jokes and fears, and saw no incongruity between our podunk ZIP codes and their university degrees.

The Extension Service is the reason a King County town can lie 30 minutes and a million miles from the University of Washington. To those of us in the woods and prairies and mountains, the difference was never about football.

I'd never been to Pullman before that day, but even from afar I knew those brick battlements for the college. As they encadre that city's neighbourhoods and thoroughfares, so too do they gird every small town in Washington: the bone and sinew of the Academy.

(Adapted from Rough Around the Edges: A Journey Through Washington's Borderlands, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

WW: Airship

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Rock Groups 2016

Mt Rushmore July is happening again, and that means another rack of Rusty Ring rock groups is ready for delivery, in no particular order, with no implied obligation or warranty.

The rules remain the same as they are every year:

1. Anybody can use any of these band names; I claim no form of copyright or trademark on any of them.

2. That said, be aware that some of these bands may already exist. (And some names may be taken by non-music projects, such as the Internet browser that stole "Iceweasel" from me, probably before I even thought of it.)

3. If your group decides to take one of these names, all I ask is that when people ask you where you got it, you say, "A Zen hermit gave us this name." Because that's, like, an awesome origin story.

Where a genre suggests itself, I've included that meditation. Such proposals are for your consideration only; if your Cookie Monster metal band wants to take a name that sounded like a jazz ensemble to me, I stand corrected.

And now:

Rock Groups 2016

Baby Goes Boom
Opie's Maw (all female alt-country band)
Box o' Rocks
Kalakala (North Coast First Nations rock band)
Dormouse (psychedelic)
Metal Rain
Titanic Mushroom
Hitler GIF
The Tailfins (50s rock)
One Horse Town
The Trust
Dr. Strangepork
The Zouaves
Dred Scott
Terd O'Hurtles
Blood Moon
Tinfoil Fedora
The Chocolate Teapot
Mudd's Women (all-male group)
Possible Soup
03 (pronounced Ought Three)
Tone Def (rap parody)
Death Zipper (Canadian metal)
The Screaming Carrots
Hammer & Tongs (British folk rock)
Mysterious Meat
Magnet School
The Love Dogs
Steel Penny
The Flashbulbs (warning: apparently there's already a musician called The Flashbulb)
The Walking Stereotypes
Klo Zen Plā (old-school rapper)
Origami Ethos
Quảng Đức's Heart (political rock)
Doctor Dregg and the Maniacal Plan
Monkey Wrench
Bucket of Dumb

(Photo of the original rock group courtesy of Sam Boulton Sr. and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

WW: Irony

Thursday, 30 June 2016


We like to believe we forge ourselves, but that summer on the Acres, submerged in my youth, I realised for the first time how many of the songs I grew up on were about wilful loneliness. The 60s and 70s were a transcendent era. And restive.
Green green, it's green they say
On the far side of the hill,
the New Christy Minstrels sang, when I was two.
Green green, I'm going away
To where the grass is greener still1
Turning it over, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard a song like that in ages.

One by one, titles spilled from memory: Castles in the Air; Five Hundred Miles; Early Morning Rain; Four Strong Winds; Gentle On My Mind; Don't Think Twice It's All Right; I Was Born Under A Wandering Star; I Got a Name; Take It Easy.

Some were bold, some wistful. Some angry. But all were about homelessness.

A man wonders what it might have meant, all those years ago. And what it might mean now, these many years later.

Snakes in the ocean, eels in the sea
I let a redheaded woman make a fool out of me
And it don't look like I'll ever stop my wandering
No it don't look like I'll ever stop my wandering2

1. Green Green, by Randy Sparks and Barry McGuire. Copyright New Christy Music.
2. Wandering, by James Taylor. Copyright Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of young people on walkabout in 1972 courtesy of Tomas Sennet, the US National Archives and Records Administration, and Wikimedia Commons.)
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