Sunday, July 31, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.
This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell* into GOP Senate nominees . . .
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Which meant we left town to go visit places and see the sites, since it's a kind of rule that you tend to go see local/regional landmarks when there are visitors to show them to. Among the sights, we
saw a waterfall -- and a spectacular waterfall at that: Snoqualmie Falls. A good reminder of how the Cascades got their name.
visited another country -- driving up to the Peace Arch at Blaine, where we saw the monument Sam Hill (the famous roadbuilder and pacifist*) put up to celebrate a century's having passed since the last time we were at war with England (1814/1914). Both the US and Canada share the park, so you can enter from either side without a passport, enjoy the park, and then exit back into yr own country again. I'd never been there before (though I suppose we must have driven by it during two of our three trips up to Vancouver); V. nice.
went whale watching -- taking a ship from Bellingham out to circle San Juan Island in a six-hour tour that actually lasted about seven & a half, given how good the whale-watching turned out to be. On the way there we saw a buoy that had two sea lions sunning themselves on it (one Stellar and one Californian, according to our on-board naturalist), and we'd seen what must have been a harbor seal from the restaurant the night before. Unfortunately I missed the Minke whale -- a pity, since they're fairly rare and I haven't seen one before -- but there were orcas a-plenty. We even saw a baby orca with its mom, and off Lime Kiln Lighthouse saw two orcas (or the same orca twice) on his back slapping the water w. his tail. Great fun all around, and much nicer than going down to Point Defiance (which'd been a back-up plan).
rode the monorail -- something Janice had done but which I'd never been able to get my nerve up to before, due to the acrophobia. Not as bad as I expected, though the getting on and off wasn't pleasant (the flooring being that open gridwork that enables you to look down and see the street two or three floors below).
visited the market -- to see the fish fly, to pass by a spot apparently featured in SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (which I'm beginning to believe is a much bigger deal everywhere outside Seattle than it is here), to sample street food (Mee Sum!), and generally to show off something you cdn't see in Waskom or Marshall or Shreveport. While at Totem Pole Park (at least that's what I call it; if it has an official name I've never heard it***) I enjoyed watching the bold little scavenger birds pouncing on each dropped crumb and was gummed by a horse named Officer Charlie. The one down side of the outing was that we ran into more panhandlers than I'd seen before, and those who weren't buskers or Real Change agents were much more aggressive than I've ever seen in Seattle. I mark it down to all the cuts in benefits during the current rotten economy.
waited while the rest went up the Space Needle -- see acrophobia, above. I may have been able to manage the monorail, but zipping up 500+ feet to a place full of glass windows displaying all the walls gravity cd get you just wasn't going to happen. Accordingly, I waited below enjoying a chai from Starbucks in Center House (how 'Seattle' can you get) and a visit with friend Sig, who just happened to be passing by as the others were leaving to head up.
No time, alas, for Schmitz Park (in West Seattle) or The Earth Sanctuary (on Whidbey Island). And, sad to say, the Mountain remained in hiding behind clouds the entire time of their trip.** Maybe next time. Interestingly enough, while we enjoyed all these activities, the down times of just sitting and visiting (e.g., showing Logan how to play CLUE) were great too. Kudos to Janice for having planned a successful trip.
just finished: LEONARDE'S GHOST (1628)
started & abandoned: SEVERANCE PACKAGE (2008) [life's too short!]
*Hill also put up Fake Stonehenge down in southern Washington, on a beautiful spot overlooking the Columbia River Gorge; it's also a peace monument, this time to those killed in World War I. His mansion (now a museum) down in those parts is well worth a visit too.
**I'd thought that mountains and oceans being two things this region has to offer not to be found in their part of Texas, these wd be good to focus on. We wound up doing pretty good on the 'ocean' end, but had to give up on Mt. Rainer because (a) the snow was too deep for us to get to Paradise (a sentence that sounds really strange to type but is literally true)**** and (b) DELTA AIRLINES IS NOT OUR FRIEND, having delayed or cancelled or re-booked then to the extent that they lost a full day and a half on their way out. Perhaps the weirdest thing of all to them, in retrospect, might have been it's being forty degrees cooler here than what they'd left back home -- the temperature having hovered around sixty degrees the whole time they were here while much of the rest of the country was suffering 100+ degree days.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
So, one of the highlights of our trip to Missouri (aside from seeing friends, enjoying the fireflies, and seeing just how much rain could fall on us in the shortest possible time) was our visit to Cahokia Mounds. This is a place I'd heard about in a vague way several years back but that had come into sharper focus on my horizon with the desultory reading I've been doing on and off about the Caddo, having all been part of the same general mound-building agrarian culture that took in most of the lower Mississippi River valley (and its tributaries). Then I saw there was quite a lot about it (and also a little about the Caddo as well, and what De Soto did to them*) in Charles Mann's 1491: NEW REVELATIONS OF THE AMERICAS BEFORE COLUMBUS -- which I've still only skimmed but am v. much looking forward to reading in detail when things are a little less hectic (i.e., when multiple deadlines don't impinge). And, having made it to Toltec Mounds nr Little Rock a few years back (built by the Plum Bayou People), and the remnants of the mounds in Rockford just earlier this year,** being so close to Cahokia, the greatest of all North American mounds, was too good an opportunity to pass up.
I have to say I was impressed. I know that what survives is only about half at most of what was once there, but what survives is impressive: it's easy to forget that many of the most famous ancient monuments -- the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx, Stonehenge -- are similarly ruinous. And it's impressive in itself that any of it survived, the similar Mounds in St. Louis ('Mound City') having all been destroyed in the 1870s or thereabouts.*** Even with all its structures gone, Monks Mound is huge: about a hundred feet high (almost as high as England's Silbury Hill), with two tiers, and a great view of the whole site, from 'Woodhenge' to the Great Plaza and, once upon a time, the Stockade as well. It's pretty clear that the same impulses that organized the great Mezoamerican cities was at work here as well, and that it was civilization in every sense of the term.
One good thing about visiting Cahokia is that a few days later I got to see Ka-Do-Ha village nr. Murfreesboro, which is to Cahokia as Magnolia is to St. Louis is to Magnolia: a town or village as opposed to a city, but clearly part of the same overall agrarian/moundbuilding culture. Here you could walk around the (looted) mounds (I think what you'd call 'a self-guided tour'), visit their museum room, hunt for arrowheads in the most stone-less field of red dirt I've ever seen (Janice did find one small black stone, which we carried away in triumph). But the main attraction, aside from the mounds themselves, was the museum store. I'd learned about this site from their online presence, The Caddo Trading Company. In addition to some Caddo pots, many arrowheads, and a great 'Native America Mount Rushmore', the standout items for me were two Mayan vases, both of which I'd have snatched up like a shot if I had the money to do so: beautiful.
What I did come away with, aside from memories of walking around both sites and a greater than ever appreciation of the Caddo/Mississippian farming/moundbuilding culture, were (a) books and (b) a replica of the Birdman Tablet. The books were CAHOKIA: CITY OF THE SUN and CAHOKIA MOUNDS: AMERICA'S FIRST CITY and Thames & Hudson's THE MOUNDBUILDERS on the one hand and on the other THE STORY OF THE KA-DO-HA INDIAN VILLAGE AND THE KADOHADOCHO PEOPLE (a grand name for a sixteen page pamphlet), SAM DILLINGER: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARKANSAS (about an archaeologist's struggles against the pot hunters, esp. those who looted Spiro Mound), and THE KENT AND JONNIE WESTBROOK COLLECTION (an artbook showing photos of many artifacts, mostly Caddo). So far I've only read the first items in each of these two lists, both of which suffer from state-speculation-as-fact disease, unfortunately. The tablet is a little four-inch-long piece of sandstone (nicely sized to fit in your hand) found on Monks Mound etched with the image of a bird-man (shades of Easter Isle!) that I found v. appealing.
So, I'd highly recommend a visit to Cahokia if you find yourself in the area, and I quite enjoyed Ka-Do-Ha village as well; it's a humbler site in every way, except that you can leave here with an actual artifact rather than a replica. For those who can't make the trip, here's a link to a site with some images that give a pretty good idea of the place; if you scroll down, on the right there's an image of the Birdman Tablet.
current reading: LEONARDE'S GHOST
current audiobook: PICKWICK PAPERS (resumed -- finally nearing the end)
*back in my Boy Scout days I went for a week every summer to Camp De Soto, over nr. El Dorado (appropriately enough). Looking back on it now, knowing what I now know about De Soto, I think Camp Charles Manson would have been less egregious a honorific.
**reminiscent of the all-but-obliterated mounds in one of the lakefront parks in Milwaukee and of course at Lake Lawn Lodge (now sadly defunct) in Delavan.
***I see on the map that there's also a Mound City in Illinois nr Cairo, but I gather it's on a much humbler scale.
****almost as tall as Silbury Hill, in fact. Perhaps I'll get a chance to compare