My Summer Without a Home

As a child I always presumed we were middle class just as I presumed most of America was middle class. The life I lived wasn’t that different from what I saw on TV. We lived in a house. I had a backyard. We exchanged presents at Christmas, occasionally visited fast food restaurants, and drove our own car instead of taking the bus.

Only as an adult can I look back and see we were blue-collar working poor. Yes, we had a house and a car and money for fast food and Christmas gifts, but my parents lived month to month, and had little to no savings.

For my entire adult life I always told myself that while we might have been borderline poor we weren’t so poor that we were houseless.

This is one of those times where the mind plays tricks. A life experience gets categorized and locked in one category and it takes some nudge or insight to reveal that it belongs in another category as well.

I turned eleven in 1976. That was also the year my father lost his job at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. It never occurred to me as odd that I didn’t know what my father did, and I felt special when I learned in third grade that in case of a nuclear attack Amarillo would be one of the first cities hit. This is because Pantex was a facility for building nuclear weapons.

I think, though I’m not certain, that Pantex went through a series of layoffs in the mid-1970s as the US transitioned to a post-Vietnam defense budget, and Pantex shifted from building bombs to disassembling them. Whatever the story, my father was out of a job in the spring of 1976.

At the end of the school year we (mother, father, me, and younger brother) moved from Amarillo, Texas to Lewisville, Texas (home of the Fighting Farmers!). There we stayed with a family that had once lived across the street from us in Amarillo.

As a child this struck me as strange, but I accepted what I was told. We were doing it as a cost-saving measure, and it was for the summer, and it would be fun!

I didn’t even realize my parents had stayed in touch with the family after they had moved. They had two children, a boy a little bit older than me, and a girl a little bit younger. We had played together when we lived across the street from each other.

That summer had its good points. The four kids got to camp out in a tent in the back yard, we made homemade ice cream, lots of play time. And bad points, the job search was clearly wearing on my parents, we overstayed our welcome, and the kids started bickering.

It is only this year I realized, oh yeah, that was a period of houselessness. We were a working-class family that had no savings and when hit with the financial blow of job loss, we moved across the state and counted on the generosity of friends. I’ve always thought of this as ‘the summer we stayed with the B–‘s’, not ‘the summer we were houseless’.

That summer, however, pretty much destroyed whatever friendship there was between the two families. It took longer to find a job than my father expected. The kids started squabbling. Two families living together under one roof led to lots of strain and stress on everybody’s relationships.

Around the time school started in the fall things came to a head when I started bawling over a relatively minor conflict with the older boy. We packed up and moved to an apartment in Farmer’s Branch.

This memory got churned to the top of my consciousness recently as I contemplated my relationship with financial precarity. I have deep, deep anxiety about money, and I bet it’s probably because I come from a family where money was scarce.

I don’t mention it among my current social circle, but I’m often gobsmacked when I hear about the difference between their “middle-class” childhood, and my “middle-class” childhood. The idea of attending a summer camp was never mentioned when I was a child, and there was no presumption I would attend college. The presumption was I’d join the military when it was time for me to move out. We didn’t do summer vacations. There were no road trips to the Grand Canyon or Disney.

I suppose this is also a story of tremendous luck. There were no major health issues in the family to deprive us of what financial stability we did have. No accidents or disasters. The worst of the financial stress was mostly hidden from the kids, and we got new clothes and school supplies every year. We made it through a lot better than many people in similar situations. So well, in fact, that it’s only now I realize how precarious our financial life really was.

Syndicated Sunday 22May22

Intro

I’ve spent this week reminding myself that what I have is pretty great. I’m focusing on what is instead of what isn’t. Additionally, a particularly exhausting work thing wrapped up on Monday, and I’m only working four full days, and two half days over the next 21 days. Right not, right here, the future looks pretty good.

Art & Illustration

  • Eric Joyner has been combining robots and doughnuts for two decades now. I’m a sucker for his robot paintings. One of his most recent even includes another favorite — the creature from the black lagoon. He has lots of affordable prints available at imagekind.

Books & Reading

Cartoons & Comics

Excerpt from Searching by Robert James Russell at The Rumpus:

Excerpt from Searching by Robert James Russell at The Rumpus

Cartoon/Comics Blogging

Columns & Essays

Currently Reading

  • Weather by Jenny Offill. Offill doesn’t name the source, but I recognized it immediately. (It’s Bruce Sterling.)

“I think of the time Sylvia interviewed that famous futurist. She asked him what was coming next, and he repeated his best-known prediction: Old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky.”

Health

Horoscope

Louise Erdrich writes: Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning.

You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.

And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

—Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Music

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

  • Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.
  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a breaking news story.

Politics

Spirituality

“Most of all, one needs to be mindful of appropriating and diluting traditional Asian practices. Moreover, as I found in my research, some digital religious practices resonate with the good life, and some are just a hedonic treadmill entangling users further in their desires.”

Wikipedia Post of the Week

  • The Book of Nut (original title: The Fundamentals of the Course of the Stars) is a collection of ancient Egyptian astronomical texts, also covering various mythological subjects. These texts focus on the cycles of the stars of the decans, the movements of the moon, the sun, and the planets, on the sundials, and related matters.

Writing & Creativity

  • I’ve been working my way through Tim Clare’s 100 Day Writing Challenge. I don’t do it every day, but I like the exercises. Clare’s sensibility about creativity and identity resonates with me.

Coda

And that’s all for this week. I think I’m starting get the hang of it. I have lots of categories, but if I don’t have something particularly interesting for that category that week, I skip it. Similiarly with the cartoons. If there isn’t a new cartoon over the past week, I’ll skip the entry.

I hope this week’s a good one, and right now I’m off to tend to the yard.

Peevish

One of the many series I’ve run in 20+ years of blogging was Pet Peeve Wednesday. After a dozen or so it petered out. I’m just not as peevish as I thought! Still, pretty peevish.

Here are some current peeves:

  • Email newsletters! Bah. I know I’m a decrepit old internet fogie, but just blog fercriminysake. Especially if you’re not using a newsletter to monetize your content. I have enough clutter in my email already. Give me a choice between email and RSS. And, if you’re monetizing your content… well, ok. I get that. There are actually a couple of newsletters I pay for and they’re worth it.
  • Gmail. Why isn’t it easier to make folders? I mean, I know how to make labels, and skip the inbox and all that, but it seems like it could be way more functional. I suppose it is “free”. I still miss Eudora.
  • Saying girls instead of women. Girls are female children. Adult females are women.
  • “Reading” audio books. That’s not reading, it’s listening. Listening to books is great! But you are not reading a book, you are listening to it.
  • Wear a helmet. Dear onewheeler people, I know your coolness is beyond measure. Still, wear a helmet. A friend of mine literally broke his neck (he’s ok now) because the wheel simply stopped randomly.
  • Unexpected serenade. We’ve just sat down for dinner at a restaurant and I’m looking forward to delightful conversation with my friends when someone steps up to a mic and starts serenading us with Tom Petty covers. If I had known, I’d’ve gone somewhere else. If I’m there for the music, then I don’t expect a conversation. If I’m there for the conversation, I don’t want surprise music.
  • Loud restaurants. A corollary to the above. Is conversing at dinner no longer a thing? Why am I shouting at the waiter? Why is the waiter shouting at me? Am I old? I suppose.
  • Coworkers coming to work sick. One of my coworkers spent all last week coughing and sneezing and not wearing a mask and running around close-talking to everyone. Since he first showed up sick at least FOUR people have also been out sick. Jumping Jehoshaphat dude, stay home if you’re sick. To you it may be a minor inconvenience, but you’re spreading it to people who will take it home, and you don’t know their home situation. Use your fucking sick time and stop sharing your virus.

There are so many more, but that’s today’s collection.

Syndicated Sunday 15May2022

Intro

Hello, welcome to this week’s link round-up. Tonight is a lunar eclipse around these parts, and I’ll probably step outside to watch. Should be a beautiful night.

I’m still tweaking the categories. Not sure what to call the spirituality section. Spiritual hygiene? I like the word ‘extramundane’ but it’s probably not a particularly well-known term (and at least one online dictionary defines it as ‘extraterrestial’ which is not the meaning I’m shooting for).

Art & Illustration

  • Austin Kleon – There are times when Austin Kleon’s cheery optimism is exactly what I need. Other times he feels a little too self-helpy and naive. I do love the peeks into his notebooks, and hope that if I follow him long enough I’ll adopt elements of his notebook practice.
  • Colossal – One of my favorite art sites. Always worth checking out.
  • Juxtapoz – Another favorite art site. One of the few magazines I subscribe to.
Louis Fratino

Books & Reading

Cartoons & Comics

Columns & Essays

Extramundane & Immaterial (divination, spirituality, metaphysics, religion, faith, sacred)

  • Tara Brach – I only started listening to Tara Brach within the last year. When I do a guided meditation, it’s usually one of hers.

Gardening

Horoscope

Humor

Movies

  • I use JustWatch to see on which platform a movie is streaming.

Music

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

  • Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.
  • Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.
  • WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a big breaking news story.

Politics

Will they or won’t they? Members of Congress using subpoenas against other members of Congress is likely to end up in court. “Enforcing unprecedented subpoenas for GOP lawmakers turns on complex legal precedent going back centuries.” Or, it may not…

“Yet there is a catch. Because speech or debate provides legislators with immunity from both civil and criminal lawsuits, the clause prevents courts from hearing certain types of cases. And even when immunity does not apply directly, the clause may grant members with protections against the introduction of evidence or having to testify about certain actions if they relate to a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Scholarly Article of the Week

Archaeology and Animal Persons: Toward a Prehistory of Human Animal Relations” by Erica Hill.

ABSTRACT: The discipline of archaeology has long engaged with animals in a utilitarian mode, constructing animals as objects to be hunted, manipulated, domesticated, and consumed. Only recently, in tandem with the rising interest in animals in the humanities and the development of interdisciplinary animal studies research, has archaeology begun to systematically engage with animals as subjects. This article describes some of the ways in which archaeologists are reconstructing human engagements with animals in the past, focusing on relational modes of interaction documented in many hunting and gathering societies. Among the most productive lines of evidence for human animal relations in the past are animal burials and structured deposits of animal bones. These archaeological features provide material evidence for relational ontologies in which animals, like humans, were vested with sentience and agency.

Wikipedia Post of the Week

Coda

Internet/blogging stalwart Jason Kottke is taking a sabbatical. He left this link list to occupy your time while he is away. Perhaps some of them might make it into your own rotation.

The Kid Should See ThisThe Morning NewsWaxyColossalCurious About EverythingOpen CultureDrawing LinksClive Thompson @ MediumCup of JoswissmissStorythingsthings magazinePresent & CorrectSpoon & TamagoDense DiscoveryAustin KleonNextDraftTressie McMillan CottomPoetry Is Not a LuxuryA Thing or TwoThe Honest BrokerInterconnectedThe WhippetCraig ModWhy is this interesting?SidebarThe PreparedLife Is So BeautifulFave 5SentiersThe Fox Is Black, and Scrapbook Chronicles.

Arbitrary Blogging Mission Accomplished

Yay! This is post 100 of 100 for my arbitrarily assigned 100 Days of Blogging. Thank all of you who have followed along. I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to check in on this tiny corner of the internet.

My gift to you for playing along is the following mantra. Print it out, write it down, tape it next to your monitor, next to a mirror, tack it to a corkboard, scrawl it on a whiteboard, use a magnet to attach it to the fridge. It is your mantra to recite to yourself.

Today I choose not to criticize myself. I am enough.

This isn’t the end of blogging, just the end of the daily challenge. I have lots more to post. Thanks for sticking around.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 100 of 100)

99

I am right out of things to blog about today, so here’s a reading update.

I’m currently reading Analogia: The Emergence of Technology Beyond Programmable Control by George Dyson. It’s a bit of a slog tbh. I think all the disparate threads will come together in the end, but at this point I’m not sure how.

“In Analogia, technology historian George Dyson presents a startling look back at the analog age and life before the digital revolution—and an unsettling vision of what comes next.”

I’m also reading Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which has done a better job of grabbing my attention.

“As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on ‘a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.'”

Cued up next is Spear by Nicola Griffith, and Weather by Jennifer Offill.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 099 of 100)

Syndicated Sunday 08May2022

Books and Reading

Gail Carriger recommends Black Authors Writing Queer Comfort.

“One of my reading wheelhouses, Gentle Reader, is queer comfort. These are books, mostly romances, featuring queer characters where trials might happen but things all turn out okay in the end. One of the reasons I like these books is because I see them as writing into existence the future we all want.”

Rachel Cordasco at SFRA recommends some SF in translation.

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April 2022

Adri at Birds of a Feather, Flock Together recommends some recent short fiction. (I wish they had linked to the stories where available, but you can copy and paste into Google for a search.) Questing in Shorts: Spring 2022.

Cartoons, Comics, and Humor

Bizarro by Wayno – Wayno’s weekly post of the week’s Bizarro cartoons.

Sarah Andersen – Sarah Andersen’s tumblr.

Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques – I love all these characters, and am amazed at the prolificity and quality Jeph Jacques brings every day.

Therapy Comics by Mardou – Mardou’s therapy comics help me feel less alone. I don’t think the RSS is updated anymore, but I read new comics on Instagram.

This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow – “The Absolutist”

You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld

A blog by Bado about editorial cartoons.

Peyote Cowboy by Dan Piraro

Columns and Essays

Jem Bendell is the author of Deep Adaptation, which I have not read. The following essay, however, has prompted me to get it through the library’s interlibrary loan. I share his critique of ecomodernism, but I have no opinion on his solutions.

Telling Uncomfortable Truths to Progressives

“…it can be helpful when those of us freeing ourselves from capitalism’s diminishing ideologies also try to influence public understanding and public policies.”

“…it is obvious that ecomodernism is bullshit…”

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An entrepreneur finds a way to repurpose partially used hotel soap. The surprising afterlife of used hotel soap.

Horoscope

Free Will Astrology – All signs; May 5, 2022.

Music

Bandcamp Daily – If you watch “What We Do in the Shadows” you’ve heard Norma Tanega. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, Bandcamp has you covered.

“Tanega, who had a single hit in 1966 with her song “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog,” was unwilling to bow down to the pressure of the music industry. She dropped off the scene after releasing two records (in 1966 and 1971) and spent the rest of her life as a visual artist and ESL teacher in California, where she grew up.”

Secondhand Songs – Search engine for cover songs.

News

I assume you already have your preferred news source(s). Here are news sources I use to supplement my news diet.

Wonkette – I love the cursing and share their love of Molly Ivins.

Popular Information – independent investigative journalism.

WikiNews – Wikipedia has a news page. It can be kind of hit or miss, but I always use it when I’m following a big breaking news story.

Wikipedia Post of the Week

Remedios Varo – Spanish surrealist artist working in Spain, France, and Mexico.

Coda

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 098 of 100)

More Poetry! Aphrodite Metropolis by Kenneth Fearing

Yikes! The day slipped away. Have some Kenneth Fearing.

Aphrodite Metropolis

Harry loves Myrtle—He has strong arms, from the warehouse,
And on Sunday when they take the bus to emerald meadows he doesn’t say:
“What will your chastity amount to when your flesh withers in a little while?”
No,
On Sunday, when they picnic in emerald meadows they look at the Sunday paper:
GIRL SLAYS BANKER-BETRAYER
They spread it around on the grass
BATH-TUB STIRS JERSEY ROW
And then they sit down on it, nice.
Harry doesn’t say “Ziggin’s Ointment for withered flesh,
Cures thousands of men and women of motes, warts, red veins,
flabby throat, scalp and hair diseases,
Not expensive, and fully guaranteed.”
No,
Harry says nothing at all,
He smiles,
And they kiss in the emerald meadows on the Sunday paper.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 097 of 100)

Friday’s Idle Thoughts and Hyperlinks 06May2022

So many typos! Every time I post I see a whole slew of typos. I’m not sure if I’m making more than I used to, or if I just didn’t notice before.

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Here’s a bit of a deep dive into Led Zep fandom. John Coulthart uncovers the source for some fonts used on the fourth album. Coulthart isn’t always about Zep. He’s mostly about art and design.

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I didn’t know Birds Aren’t Real was a thing. It is a thing. The Guardian explains where it came from.

McIndoe made a placard, and went out to join the march. “It’s not like I sat down and thought I’m going to make a satire. I just thought: ‘I should write a sign that has nothing to do with what is going on.’ An absurdist statement to bring to the equation.”

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“The purpose of education is to teach each of us to defend ourselves against the seductions of eloquence.” –Bertrand Russell (in Harper’s, March 1991, p. 47) [source]

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Terrific (albeit brief) interview with Josh Glenn. I’ve been a fan of Glenn’s since reading Hermenaut in the 1990s. Hermenaut was an awesome and influential zine, and Glenn’s current website is HiLoBrow. He also has the best ‘generation’ definitions around.

A reminder of my 250-year generational periodization scheme:

1755-64: [Republican Generation] Perfectibilists
1765-74: [Republican, Compromise Generations] Original Romantics
1775-84: [Compromise Generation] Ironic Idealists
1785-94: [Compromise, Transcendental Generations] Original Prometheans
1795-1804: [Transcendental Generation] Monomaniacs
1805-14: [Transcendental Generation] Autotelics
1815-24: [Transcendental, Gilded Generations] Retrogressivists
1825-33: [Gilded Generation] Post-Romantics
1834-43: [Gilded Generation] Original Decadents
1844-53: [Progressive Generation] New Prometheans
1854-63: [Progressive, Missionary Generations] Plutonians
1864-73: [Missionary Generation] Anarcho-Symbolists
1874-83: [Missionary Generation] Psychonauts
1884-93: [Lost Generation] Modernists
1894-1903: [Lost, Greatest/GI Generations] Hardboileds
1904-13: [Greatest/GI Generation] Partisans
1914-23: [Greatest/GI Generation] New Gods
1924-33: [Silent Generation] Postmodernists
1934-43: [Silent Generation] Anti-Anti-Utopians
1944-53: [Boomers] Blank Generation
1954-63: [Boomers] OGXers
1964-73: [Generation X, Thirteenth Generation] Reconstructionists
1974-82: [Generations X, Y] Revivalists
1983-92: [Millennial Generation] Social Darwikians
1993-2002: [Millennials, Generation Z] TBA

LEARN MORE about this periodization scheme | READ ALL generational articles on HiLobrow.

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Happy Friday everyone! Hope the weekend’s a good one.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 096 of 100)

Happy Cross Quarter Day!

I don’t follow any traditional religious practices, so I’ve decided to create my own. In this new personal religion I’m creating I observe eight Solar Sabbaths (a term I just made up). The eight solar sabbaths are the two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the four cross-quarter days. And today happens to be the point between the spring equinox, and the summer solstice.

I’ve also created four new seasons that overlap with the tradition seasons. These cover the time between the cross-quarter dates, and are:

  • Spummer (spring/summer)
  • Sutumn (summer/autumn)
  • Finter (fall/winter)
  • Winring (winter/spring)

That means today is the first day of Spummer.

Today’s also the first day of my Screenless Spummer challenge. I’ve been good at reducing my social media time, now it’s time to reduce the amount of time I spend in front of screens. I can’t completely eradicate screens from my life because I’m expected to use them for my job, and I use screens for creative expression, learning new things, and recreation. Nonetheless, I’m certain my life will be enriched by diminishing the amount of time I focus my attention on glowing glass. I won’t truly be screenless, but my intent is to be more mindful of how much time I spend in front of a screen, and shut them down more often than I have in the recent past.

(100 Days of Blogging: Post 095 of 100)