Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Works - List 1 - Nature Writing before 1900

I've been teaching English language and literature for seven years now and I noticed that my mind tends to organize things I read into potential syllabi. I thought it might be fun to share some of the lists I come up with, so here goes:

List 1 - American Nature Writing Before 1900

1. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur - Letters from an American Farmer - 1782 - Crèvecœur was a French immigrant to the America who recorded his experiences with the colonial/republican political experiments, but also his experiences with the natural world he discovered in Orange County, New York.

2. Thomas Jefferson - Notes on the State of Virginia - 1787 - One of Jefferson's best known works, "Notes" discusses cultural and natural issues. Jefferson engages in what modern readers recognize as questionable pseudo-science, particularly his remarks on Native Americans and African-Americans, but his scientific mind shines when he talks about nature.

3. Meriwether Lewis - The Journals of Lewis and Clark - 1804-1806 - though the Lewis and Clark expedition laid the way for westward expansion and the dispossession of the Native Americans, those on the expedition didn't know it at the time. Poor Lewis committed suicide in 1909, but the work he left behind paints an fascinating portrait of the American west before expansion.

4. John James Audubon - Ornithological Biography or An account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America  - 1831 - This is the accompanying text to Birds of America. Ornithological Biography tells stories of the birds Audubon depicted in Birds of America and describes his own dangerous experiences in the wilderness.

5. Ralph Waldo Emerson - Nature - 1835  - The ultimate work of Transcendentalism.

6. Susan Fenimore Cooper - Rural Hours - 1850 - Though I couldn't quite justify including her famous father, James Fenimore Cooper, in the list, Susan Fenimore Cooper's Rural Hours is a beautiful work of nature writing. Thoreau consulted it when writing Walden.

7. Henry David Thoreau - Walden: of Life in the Woods - 1854 and The Maine Woods - 1864

8. John Wesley Powell - Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries. - 1875 - John Wesley Powell only had one arm, but he sure got a lot done. The parts about the Grand Canyon are amazing.

9. Walt Whitman - Specimen Days - 1882 - This is some of Whitman's prose. It's really beautiful.

10. John Muir - Just read everything you can by John Muir.

So that's what I got. I did this mostly off the top of my head, so I'm sure I missed some great stuff. I know I I also didn't really define nature writing, but I'm relying on the content to do that for me. Also, I didn't include Native American nature writing here because that deserves its own list rather than being lumped in with the Euro-American stuff. Oh, and all the links go directly to the works because it's all off copyright!

What did I miss? Fill me in. Post your own list.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

50 to 1

50 to 1 is an online journal that publishes very, very short fiction. It's "an ezine that posts only 50 word stories and first line inspirational sentences that are meant to get the reader hooked into the rest of the story." The theory is that "by limiting the readership to these conventions we hope to liberate them from the terror of writing a short story or a novel and get more stories out into the collective unconsciousness and share the experiences that make us human. Any and all kinds of good stories will be accepted."  

If you've got 50 good words or 1 solid opening line, send it over to Glen. Here are the submission guidelines.

I thought it seemed like a cool idea, so I sent them the first line to a short story I'm working on entitled "Easter." It's published it on the site. Check it out here.

Brattleboro, Vermont

"The Gulf Bridge and Connecticut River, Route 9, Near Brattleboro, Vermont"

Here are some of our pictures from Brattleboro. We'll be up that way in a month or so - in the Berkshires, not quite Vermont - and we're really looking forward to it.

Brattleboro Train Tracks

amc eagle best car ever

Brattleboro, Vermont

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

"They now begane to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strength, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, and bass, & other fish, of which yey took good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer there was not wante. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great stor of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besides venison &c. Besids they had aboute a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports." 
 - William Bradford, "Of Plymouth Plantation" Chapter XII. Anno 1621

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Protect Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest includes much of the desert, riparian areas, and forests around Phoenix. This volcanic plug, called Weaver's Needle, lies in the heart of the Superstition Mountains, which is part of Tonto National Forest. TNF contains some beautiful landscapes, rare desert wildlife, and wonderful hiking.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service is considering a new travel management agenda that could potentially open up areas of TNF to more motorized vehicle use. The plans are available here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/travelmgt/.

This is a terrible idea. This website shows what the desert suffers when exposed to unmitigated use: http://fourpeakspickup.blogspot.com/.

Every year a dedicated group of AZ residents get together for the Four Peaks Cleanup and attempt to undo some of the damage the desert suffers at the hands of irresponsible, destructive vandals. You'll see that there are a lot off-roaders at the clean-up. Of course, not all off-road vehicle enthusiasts abuse and destroy the land (though there is an inherent element of destruction in off-road vehicle use), but people are more apt to destroy and area they drive to with a vehicle loaded with guns and garbage than to pack guns and garbage on their back.

The Sierra Club has a form letter you can fill out and send to the Forest Service available here:

It would be great if you could take the time to quickly send the letter, especially if you're an AZ resident. Many of the citizens and politicians in this state are distressingly poor stewards of our unique and amazing desert environment, so we need to be more vigilant in protecting it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On The Origin of Species Turns 150 Today

Few works have had the cultural (indeed, the ontological) impact of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. The book was published on November 24, 1859 - 150 years ago today. The book revolutionized life sciences and help drive a wedge into the already-widening rift between science and theology.  Pretty impressive accomplishments for a book that primarily focuses on finches.

At the time of its publication, the book generated little controversy; in fact, Darwin sent a copy to the Rev. Charles Kingsley, who was the head of the Church of England at the time. Kingsley response? It's not what our conception of Darwin and religion would lead us to expect; Kingsley replied:  "It's just as noble a conception of God to think that he created animals and plants that then evolved, that were capable of self-development, as it is to think that God has to constantly create new forms and fill in the gaps that he's left in his own creation." Darwin included Kingsley's comment in future editions of On the Origins of Species.

You can read the full text of On the Origin of Species here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lorine Niedecker

"'The Brontes had their moors, I have my marshes,' Lorine Niedecker wrote of the watery, flood-prone Black Hawk Island near the town of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where she lived most of her life.  Although few people endured for long the seasonal hardships of life on Black Hawk Island, Niedecker's attachments to teh place ran deep. Her life by the water could not have been further removed from the avant-garde poetry scene where she also made herself a home." - Jenny Penberthy from the her introduction to Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works.  You can read Penberthy's complete introduction here.

Lorine Niedecker was the only woman associated with the Objectivist poets, briefly, a lover of Louis Zukofsky, and she shared Thoreau's taste in real estate. Her poetry often takes folk images as its subject, though to call her a folk poet would have the academic secret police knocking at your door. Stylistically, she wrote in the condensed, direct language of the Objectivists, sharing a poetic ethos with urbanites like Zukofsky and George Oppen. She also borrowed from surrealists and eastern traditions. She wrote most of her poems from the 1940's until her death in 1970.

I'm teaching Niedecker (along with Gary Snyder - also very exciting) tomorrow to the students in my literature class, so I revisited her work today. That's what prompted this post. You can check out some of her work here at the SUNY Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center. However, they don't have a few of my favorite poems at EPC, so I'll reproduce them here. All are from "Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works" which was published by the University of California Press and edited by Jenny Penberthy. They originally appeared in either "New Goose" or the manuscripts for that book. Here goes:

A monster owl
out on the fence
flew away.What
is it the sign
of? The sign of
an owl.


O rock my baby on the tree tops
and blow me a little tin horn.
They've got us suckin the hound tit
and that's the way I was born.

O let me rise to the door-knob
and let me buy my way.
I know the owner of the store
and that's the way I was raised.


I walked
from Chicago to Big Bull Falls (Wausau),
two weeks,
little to eat.
Came night
I wrapped myself in a piece of bark
and slept beside a log.

I just found this great site, too. Check out Susan Ticky's Field Guide to the Birds of Lorine Niedecker's Collected works.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Open Road - AZ

Arizona Highway Postcard, originally uploaded by Thee E. Aldriches.
From the reverse side: "Arizona Highway -
These huge and bewildering tumbles of granite rock formations tower about the motorist as he travels through one of the many unusual beauty spots of Arizona."

I'm not sure exactly where this is, and the postcard doesn't say, but it looks like Route 10 East near Benson.

AZ 89 Entering Utah
AZ 89 near Page, AZ. Entering Utah.

84 Pontiac Dream
Route 87 - "The Beeline Highway"

Beeline Highway
Route 87 - "The Beeline Highway"

Staggered Yellow Lines
Highway 80 between Tombstone and Benson Arizona.

It's not surprising that Arizona's most popular local travel magazine is called "Arizona Highways." Here are a few shot we took of the road. I can't imagine how many photos we have FROM the road....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Worcester Postcards

Bancroft Tower 1907

bancroft tower reverse

Worcester County Massachusetts and the city of Worcester were our homes for most of our lives. I grew up in Uxbridge and my wife is from the neighboring town of Douglas. It's a great place to live. The first postcard shows the Worcester Town Hall, which is where we got our marriage license (yesterday was our anniversary, which is what prompted me to post this) and the second is of Bancroft Tower near Salisbury Street. 

The postcard was sent on May 25 1907 to:
Miss S. W. Austin
202 Harold Street,
Roxbury, Mass

The inscription reads:
"Glad to hear from you and that you can be about again. Expect to be at home soon. Am going to Worcester today. M.A.A." 

The stamp is a really interesting and commemorates Captain John Smith who founded Jamestown in 1607.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sir Ernest Shackleton's Stash

In 1909, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton lead a failed expedition to the South Pole. As part of the trip, he and his crew constructed a hut on an Antarctic peninsula called Cape Royds. In 2006 some visitors to Shackleton's hut discovered two cases of whiskey. This winter a group of explorers will try to break the whiskey out of the ice so it can be studied. Read more here: Whisky on (Antarctic) Ice.

Here's the layout of Shackleton's cabin. Thanks Angelo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Amalgamated Sons of Rest

I rediscovered this album today while I was hiking around Bear Canyon. The Amalgamated Sons of Rest was the name given to a one-time only collaboration between Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co.), Will Oldham (Palace Music, Palace Brothers, and Bonnie Prince Billy), and Alisdair Roberts (Appendix Out). Galaxia released the album in 2002.  It sounds pretty much exactly as you would expect the combination of those three musicians to sound, though Oldham and Roberts might influence the sound a bit more than Molina.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Transcripts of a Troubled Mind - The Atlantic (April 29, 2004)

An article in the Atlantic Monthly about Breece D'J Pancake.

Transcripts of a Troubled Mind - The Atlantic (April 29, 2004)

New Tumblr

I created a new Tumblr. It's www.makingowlscool.tumblr.com. It will be strictly photography.

At the Grand Canyon

025, originally uploaded by Say No Go.
Galleries are the newest function on Flickr and I must admit I'm getting quite addicted to compiling them. The Favorites function has long been the means of keeping track of photos you enjoy, and it still has its place, but Galleries let you arrange photos into groups of 18 images, comment on them, and present them a set. It's a type of meta-organizing. It's not unlike what people are doing with Tumblr, but internal to Flickr and very convenient.

I added this photo my Gallery "The Grand Canyon." You really need to check out the whole gallery to get the full effect. Check it out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

David Muench

I just bought photograph David Muench's book "Arizona." Check out Muench's desert photography here.

Chiura Obata - Evening Glow at Mono Lake

Chiura Obata was a a Japanese-American artist known for painting western national parks and, during WWII, painted his experience in an internment camp. See more of his work here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Desert Magazine on Scribd

198105 Desert Magazine 1981 May                                                                                                                                                

Dear Hours,

I found many full text issues of Desert Magazine online today. I know I was supposed to use you to be a good teacher and obtain a graduate degree, but I think I'll look at 20+ -year-old photographs of mountain lions and rock formations instead.

Consider yourselves wasted,



No Jackets in Mexico - 1956

saguaro 1956 reverse side

The inscription reads:
"We are having a wonderful trip. I saw some jackets in Mexico but they were not like mine so I didn't get any. They were not pretty. Em."

The postcard was addressed to:

Mrs. George Authier
148 South Main St
Palmer, Massachusetts

I couldn't find too much on George Authier except what appears to be a list names of those buried in Bethany Road Cemetery. Those names included George W. Authier and Eva G. Reggiani Authier:

Authier, George W., b Oct 26, 1912, d Feb 13, 1981
Authier, Eva G. REGGIANI, b Dec 15, 1916, d Jan 31, 1996, w/o George (w/o=wife of)

I guess Em. was letting Eva know about the dearth of pretty jackets in Mexico.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saguaro you today?

We take a lot of photographs of saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). Here are some of our favorites.

Sabino Sunset
Saguaro Sunset 38/365
Dayvan Cowboy
Erin and a Giant Saguaro Cactus

From the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center @ University of Texas, Austin:

"Saguaro grows to 50 ft. in height; its tremendous weight, up to nine tons, is supported by a skeleton of about two dozen spongy, wooden rods. Accordion pleats contract as they gain and lose moisture. White flowers open after nightfall and close by late afternoon the following day. Saguaro has fleshy red fruit. Giant, leafless, columnar tree cactus with massive, spiny trunk and usually 2-10 stout, nearly erect, spiny branches.

Native Americans made use of the entire cactus: they ate the fruit both fresh and dried and made it into preserves and beverages; the framework of ribs provided wood for shelters, fences, and kindling. Giant Saguaro (pronounced sah-WAH-ro), the largest native cactus, is the state flower of Arizona and a symbol of desert landscapes. Well-adapted to its hot, dry climate, Giant Saguaro is leafless. Food is manufactured in the green stems, and rainwater is absorbed quickly by the shallow roots and stored in the succulent trunks and branches. The thick, spreading spines offer protection against animals. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers make round holes near the tops of branches for nests that are used afterwards by elf owls, cactus wrens, and other birds. Wildlife, especially white-winged doves, consume quantities of the seeds."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sorry, George

Sorry, George, originally uploaded by Thee E. Aldriches.

Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone might be a tourist trap, but it's pretty damn interesting nonetheless. Poor George Johnson lies among some interesting company, including the men killed at the O.K. Corral.

The description on the reverse side of this postcard reads:

"Hanged by Mistake
Tombstone, Arizona
Impulsive early-day citizens were sometimes overanxious in dealing out justice. George Johnson evidently was a victim of one of their costly mistakes."

This photograph was taken by Stan Davis.

I decided to switch to the white background; the gray was dreary. What do you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jean Ritchie

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians Sung by Jean Ritchie, originally uploaded by Thee E. Aldriches.

skin and bones
From: Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians Sung by Jean Ritchie (Oak, 1965). Renowned musicologist Alan Lomax wrote the forward to the book.

The Dulcimer Book by Jean Ritchie

dulcimer making
From: The Dulcimer Book by Jean Ritchie (Oak, 1974).

"My husband George and our Uncle, Morris Pickow, have a small workshop where we make dulcimers. We use Ed Thomas' basic pattern, but our instruments are a little larger and we have added a few of our own ideas."

Performance in 1980. Jean sings one of her newer mining songs based on the flooding of a coal mine in Hominy Falls, WV. A woman's reaction- and heartbreak.

Jean Ritchie is an American folk singer, folklorist, and dulcimer player from Kentucky. Here's a more complete biography.

Her husband, George Pickow, is a well-known photographer.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick Photo - 1875

Trick photo, decapitated man with bloody knife, holding his head, originally uploaded by George Eastman House.

Here's another gem from the Flickr Commons. I'm impressed with the sophistication of this illusion. The photograph comes from the collection of the George Eastman House. Eastman founded Kodak. His home in Rochester now houses a large collection of photographs and photographic artifacts. The George Eastman House page on Flickr offers a small sample (825 photos) from the collection.