Sunday, September 25, 2022

The reason I read Garden and Gun Magazine (Because of the dogs)

         I don't remember the exact date, but I was in the nearby Tractor Supply Company store about a decade ago when I saw the magazine at the checkout rack for the first time. I am a sucker for any magazine with a beautiful hunting dog on the cover, as well as a Remington 770 Shotgun, just like one I have. 

         You might think from the magazine's title, that it only covers Gardens and Guns. You would be happily mistaken. Garden and Gun regularly covers Southern cuisine, Ecological projects, Environmental concerns and Southern Music Icons. Their Interview with Waylon Jennings a few years back was brilliant, covering the scope of his career from his teen years to work with Willie Nelson. 

         Those are all good reasons to pick up a copy and read it, but interspersed among the articles about everglade protection and protecting crop pollinators, there is always one feature I can depend to be there for me in every Bimonthly issue. The Column is titled, GOOD DOG.

         Each story is written by an essayist of note, some you will know, some you will not, but each of these pieces are a story about a dog (or dogs) the writer had in their family at one time in their life. In many of the pieces the writer relates how the canine friend had a profound effect on their lives, and in many instances, how they coped with their canine friends passing. Many of these pieces have brought me to tears, reminding me of the emotional connection I have had with the many dogs I have had in my life, and those oh so painful moments when I held them in my arms at the vet's office and let them go.

         Thankfully, the most recent offering, in the October/November 2022 on page 99, is titled "PACK MENTALITY" Why settle for one dog when you can have five? by Jonathan Miles.  The writer details how he went about moving from Mississippi to New York City, and had to find a place to live that would be good for his then five dog family.

          Dog People understand this conundrum. When moving anywhere, the comfort of your dogs always comes first. He hilariously describes walking five dogs together with these words: "Taking the Pack out for a walk is equivalent to a cattle drive; at the end you will be dusty, exhausted, and in want of a saloon." 

         I am not going to recap this piece for you, I want you to read it and enjoy it (or not) on your own terms. I am trying to convey the context of how much I enjoy these pieces and why, so you might sample it. That's my magazine review for this Sunday. As always, I encourage everyone to try to read something outside your comfort zone. You never know what you might find that you like.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Governors Abbott and DeSantis and the practice of Dehumanizing

        Who would have ever thought that two governors of Border states would spend the money to bus or fly immigrants from their states to other jurisdictions? Especially two governors who are so in lock step with the Christian right. 

    You know Christianity, that religious idea where Jesus Christ preached Love for one another? Who knew that it could be interpreted as putting the hungry, needy and poor on a bus and shipping them to Chicago? Or putting them on a plane to Martha's Vineyard? The bus to Kamala Harris's official residence was an interesting twist. 

      Put all the political intrigue aside for a minute, and think about this on a human scale. That is right, consider the humanity of those immigrants who likely, in some way, shape or form, risked their lives and came to America in hope of a better life. How do you think most of us not native Americans got here? I am sure the Africans on the Slave ships had quite a journey, but that is another issue, even as they were treated just as inhumanely, if not worse than the immigrants. 

      Abbott of Texas and Desantis of Florida saw these members of what the inscription on the Statue of Liberty as describe as "wretched masses" as nothing more than political pawns to be exploited for gain with their racist leaning Trumpublican base. It made good theater for these two would be Presidential hopefuls, Christian principles be damned. 

      Christian principles stress giving love and comfort to others, not taking advantage of them. Feed them, clothe them, and offer them a hand up. That is what true Christians do. A few lies and a plane flight to Martha's Vineyard? I don't think that is quite what Christ had in mind, dropping a scared immigrant in a strange new place far from where they thought they were. 

        Kudos to the people of Martha's Vineyard for stepping up and taking care of those abandoned there. That is more than they got from the Trump wannabe Governors who willingly dumped them there. There is a special place in Hell reserved for people like that. Yes they are immigrants, but they are also humans, and they come here in search of a way to build a better life like many before them. They don't deserve to be treated like stray animals from an overcrowded shelter, yet, that is exactly what happened. God help us as Americans if we come to accept this as standard procedure. We can't let them be categorized as less than human just because they are immigrants. It would be a sin on us all.

     I want to make it clear here that I differentiate between Trumpublicans and Republicans. My Mother was a lifelong Republican who would be aghast at what a large chunk of her party has become aligned with.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

A Faustian opinion on the demise of Cursive writing.

   I just finished reading several pieces from the October edition of "The Atlantic", and one article that struck me as profoundly eye opening was titled "Cursive is History." It is written by a former Harvard University President and current Atlantic contributor Drew Gilpin Faust. 

     Her piece starts out noting that in teaching an undergraduate seminar, she was stunned to learn about two thirds of her class could not read cursive writing. In her discussions with her class on the absence of handwriting in their lives, she admits to feeling she had become a historical artifact, categorizing herself as a "Rip Van Winkle" confronting a transformed world.

     Faust gives a detailed history of how cursive was phased out after the new Common Core standards were put in place in 2010, and describes how the proliferation of laptops and tablets and lessons in what is called keyboarding replaced Cursive writing. Some states have passed laws to restore cursive handwriting to the curriculum, but Faust believes that despite the effort, the decline of Cursive writing is inevitable.

     Faust gives a thorough History lesson, detailing how cursive writing evolved over the past three centuries in America, pointing out how it helped in the spread of education in the 19th century, where by 1860, 90 percent of the White population could both read and write. She points out how penmanship could give a reader a look into a writer's very soul, and how a signature became accepted as a unique representation of individuals of any economic standing. 

     Then Faust notes how the invention of the Typewriter brought about the first observations that handwriting would eventually become obsolescent, quoting LOOK magazine in 1956 pronouncing cursive writing as "out-of-date." Faust then relates several instances of her interactions with her students concerning their inability to read cursive. Faust learned that when the students were forced to write grocery lists or thank you notes, they mostly did so on laptops and phones, and only wrote in block letters on paper as a last resort. One student even admitted to her that he had to ask his parents to read and translate notes from his grandparents. It led Faust to wonder if the students ever read or understood the many notes and remarks on their submitted papers that their instructors had returned.

      Personally, I find that admission of asking the parents to translate as an indictment of our society, and I see it as another example of how we as a society have become more and more empathically disconnected from one another.  A handwritten letter or note is something that came directly from another person, and it was likely composed with some emotions of a sort attached. There was no cold machine involved sending an email that has no heart attached to it, unless you count emojis, and I don't. 

      I believe Cursive writing, the way we create our words in individual styles, helps define each of us as individuals. It allows a peak into our individual soul that communicating electronically tends to mute, and in many cases, distort. Context is hard to convey on a laptop or tablet, but in cursive, it can be seen when it is sought. 

      Yes, I do see the irony in my writing this blog post on a laptop and posting it for all to read, and that it may seem somewhat cold and critical. In that case, I would urge you to go out to Barnes and Noble or any available news stand and get a copy of the October 2022 Atlantic, turn to page 74, and read it yourself. It will make you think. and that is always a good thing.