LBJs in RVA

*I haven't done an LBJ post in a while, and certainly not since the move, so why not now?

*The move is effectively done. We got everything out of the house at Woodberry weeks ago, and after a couple of weeks where we couldn't bear to carry more than one item at a time up the stairs--say, a roll of wrapping paper or an umbrella--we've finally cleared out the cars as well. Mind you, I do have to go back and get my stuff out of my classroom, but I'm hoping that won't be a task that requires too much hauling. I've got books there, and posters, and some office supplies, and SOME file folders I'm going to want to keep--SOME--but it shouldn't be as brutal as cleaning out the house was.

The counterbalance for this, of course, is that the new apartment is full of stuff. A great deal of it has been unboxed and placed in proper locations, but we're a long way from done with that process. For one thing, we're going from a three-bedroom house with a finished basement, three bathrooms, and no fewer than three storage areas to a two-bedroom/one bath apartment--that means we're having to be a bit more creative with placement than we had to be in recent years. The good news is that though we now have fewer rooms, the new place has a) much larger rooms, and b) much larger closets. Each of the four non-linen closets is bigger than any of the closets we had at WFS, and the master bedroom actually has enough space that we can fit our dresser at the foot of our bed AS GOD INTENDED IT. At the moment, figuring out where to put everything is something like working out a giant Rubik's Cube, but we're getting there. I'm hopeful that we'll be ready for visitors by, say, Thanksgiving.

*Home birding has become a rather different pastime here. Because we're in a third-floor apartment overlooking a parking lot, I can't really put up any of my feeders. My new yard list (which consists of anything I see while standing in the apartment complex--four buildings and the parking areas/grassy areas that lie between & around them) stands at a mere baker's dozen after over a month here--and four of those are birds I've only heard and not seen. Granted, the former group includes both Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, both of which obligingly flew overhead, and the latter includes Barred Owl and Pileated Woodpecker calls, but the quantity is on the low side. That's why I've got a second list going for anything I see across the street--in Forest Hill Park. This expanse of grass, trees, lakeshore and riverside (if you follow the creek down to the adjoining James River Park) is an incredibly rich and varied ecosystem, and it's rumored to be the best place in Richmond for spring warblers. It's certainly host to plenty of nesting birds in the summer; I've got 35 species there so far, including Acadian Flycatcher, Great Blue Heron, Eastern Wood-pewee, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Orchard Oriole, and Osprey. Still, my daily summer birds now are House Sparrows, European Starlings, and American Robins, rather than the Indigo Buntings, American Goldfinches, and Eastern Phoebes of the countryside. Ah, well.

*I can't recall which blogger it was who made the somewhat controversial suggestion that everyone should take a year to read only books by women and non-white men, but it was an idea I found at least potentially interesting. The hard part would be giving up the work of some of my favorite white-guy writers for twelve long months, but the benefits would be enormous: I'd get to read plenty of some other favorite writers--Le Guin, Wharton, Byatt, Rushdie, Ishiguro--and I'd be motivated to explore the works of a lot of other people whose work I haven't yet read--James Baldwin, N.K. Jemesin, Barbara Tuchman. In the end I didn't consciously commit to the plan, but as I look at my reading list, I find that I may have done so unconsciously. Seven of the last nine works I've finished have been non-white-guy-created, including such winners as Castle Hangnail, Ursula Vernon's terrific YA fantasy about a young girl who wants to be a wicked witch and run a haunted castle, or Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, Lucy Knisley's delightful comics memoir of her upbringing among the foodies of North America. I'm finishing up a fantasy trilogy by Ms. Julian May right now, but after that, if I can't get my hands on Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, I may dive into The Sculptor, the latest graphic novel by Scott McCloud. I've met Scott, and I can confirm that he's a white guy, but I'm not going to hold that against him.

*I've been teaching my students about certain subjects for a long while now, and one such subject is the Confederate Battle Flag. I do so using a fairly simple process: to show them what the Flag stands for, I have them look at the words written by those who first raised that flag--the Confederate States themselves. When the South Carolina legislature voted to be the first state to secede from the Union, it declared its reasons for doing so openly; Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, and other states did likewise. And those declarations state, with no real lack of clarity, that the stimulus provoking this drastic response was slavery.

You don't have to take my word for it, though. You can read those declarations for yourself right here.

A few quotes that may stand out for you:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world." -- second sentence of the Mississippi declaration of secession

"For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery." -- second sentence of the Georgia declaration of secession

"A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery." -- South Carolina declaration of secession, issued three months before Lincoln's inauguration

"We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states." -- Texas, pushing not just for slavery, but for white supremacy, in its declaration of secession

In short, you may choose to fly the Confederate flag for reasons other than racism if you like, but any reasonable observer who views it as a racist symbol has history on his side, and will be likely to view you as a racist for flying it. If that bothers you, you may wish to reconsider flying it; if it doesn't bother you to be viewed as a racist by reasonable observers, well, maybe it should.

*Speaking of my old job, if anyone knows of a job that can be done in Richmond or done FROM Richmond, I'd be happy to hear about it. Drop me a line at cashwell@petercashwell.com if you like.

*I'm not really motivated yet to write about next year's presidential election, but I can't help noting that Donald Trump, who leads the GOP field in several polls, is pretty much already in what Bill Simmons used to call "the Tyson Zone." That zone, named after the former heavyweight champ and sometime ear-biter, is the residence of any celebrity about whom ANY story, no matter how outrageous, has at least momentary plausibility. If you heard that Mike Tyson was caught at the Sydney airport trying to smuggle a cocaine-filled, fifteen-foot taxidermied salt-water crocodile to the U.S., you'd have to consider that it might actually be true. At this point, if I saw on the web that Trump had walked into a bar, dropped his trousers, and rubbed his naked hindquarters in the face of a Mexican-American busboy, I'd have to at least spend a few minutes researching it before I dismissed it as a hoax. Needless to say, I had no trouble believing that he'd criticize John McCain for having been captured and imprisoned at the Hanoi Hilton for five years. No, what I found hard to believe was that a number of Republicans--among them Bobby Jindal, Bill Kristol, and Rick Perry--dared to criticize Trump for running down the reputation of a war hero. They certainly didn't seem upset when their fellow GOP members were doing it to John Kerry a few years ago.

*My dad recently bought me the most expensive beer he'd ever purchased. That happened partly because when I asked him to buy it for me, I didn't expect it to come in giant 22-ounce bottles. I also didn't expect him to buy me THREE of those bottles. Still, the contents more than lived up to the hype, and I'd have to call Starpoint Brewing's Whiskeytown milk stout one of the best beers to cross my palate recently. Brewed with chocolate malt flavoring and milk sugar, and aged in retired bourbon barrels, it's got a heady aroma and an aftertaste that's almost as tart as a cola, but it's smooth and tasty in the extreme. It runs about ten bucks a bottle and isn't easy to find, but if you're in the Triangle area, keep your eyes peeled.

*That novel thing? I'm working on a new draft. Since it's a combination of brand-new stuff and previously written stuff, it's a bit hard to say exactly how far I've gotten with it, but I hope to keep at it until I get, y'know, employed or something. I'll keep you posted.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 18, 2015 10:06 PM.

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