Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Letters are things, not pictures of things."

A video interview with John Kristensen of Firefly Press, Somerville Mass., on the art and craft of letterpress printing.



Friday, March 30, 2007

Pictorial revisionism

Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite of the University of Virginia show in painstaking detail how a photograph of a group of black Civil War soldiers in the command of a white Union officer is transformed to represent the 1st Louisiana Native Guard of the Confederate Army.

You can buy a copy from The Rebel Store.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

To Daffodils

(Photo: Jeroen Wijnands.)

Fair daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attain'd his noon.
Stay, stay,
Until the hasting day
Has run
But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything.
We die
As your hours do, and dry
Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.

--Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Acts of memory

A fascinating article at yesterday's Cognitive Daily (new to my blogroll, a neat psychology blog by a psychology professor and her writer spouse out of Davidson): memories are triggered by body positions.

That's right: just holding your body in the right position means you'll have faster, more accurate access to certain memories. If you stand as if holding a golf club, you're quicker to remember an event that happened while you were golfing than if you position your body in a non-golfing pose.

One of the test questions: "Please, stand up and wave. Now, tell me a memory of one particular time you waved at someone."

Sorry, doesn't work as intended for me. Standing up and waving, or even thinking about it, all I can think of is Stevie Smith's wonderful poem, "Not Waving but Drowning."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dedication of Morgan Creek Preserve

Today at 1 p.m., the Town of Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Botanical Garden will celebrate the creation of the Morgan Creek Preserve, a 92-acre natural area in town along Morgan Creek, beginning at Smith Level Road and extending downstream to include Merritt's Pasture. The town retains ownership of the land, but it is being placed under permanent conservation easement to be managed by the Garden. Join us for the ceremony, which will take place at the top of the pasture. It was an honor and a pleasure to be on the Council committee that worked to make preserving this greenspace possible.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Poverty Awareness Week at UNC

The Campus Y's annual week of social awareness, this year focusing on poverty, ends today with a speech by NAACP President William Barber, 11 a.m., Campus Y building (which I wish I could hear!). Last night, I participated in a panel in the Pit that focused on homelessness. It was moderated by Mayor Kevin Foy; other panelists were Chris Moran of the IFC and Stephen Kirton, a formerly homeless former Marine who now works at the men's shelter. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird capped the panel with a brief address.

This event was the beginning of the "box-out," meaning that later on students would hole up in cardboard boxes and spend the night there in the Pit. I don't know how many stayed to do that, but a good crowd turned out for the panel and discussion. It's just a small sampling, but I had a feeling that these were students really working to understand the complex issues that surround poverty and homelessness and are wanting to help.

Earlier, two students spent the night in the men's shelter and up the road at Homestart, the shelter for women and children.

For Charlie McGeehan, used to quiet nights, the noise associated with sharing the floor with a crowd of other men--the lack of privacy--was disconcerting. The food was terrible, and morning came too soon. But he did not fear for his safety, as friends had warned him he should. He left as early as possible, feeling both drained and a little guilty. "Although I spent the night at the shelter, I still have the safety net of my life at the University. Beyond that, I have the safety net of my parents." He left early, but he came away with a new insight: "I look up to the men who stay there daily and still have the energy and the mental toughness to work all day because it would be very difficult for me. When you think of the homeless, think of these men."

For Elizabeth Szypulski, the women at Homestart seemed more familiar than she would have predicted. What she heard from them "made the problem of homelessness far more real than statistics or anti-poverty campaigns ever have for me."

I realize now that the worries I had about the difference between me and the women I met are not as serious as I'd thought, in large part because there aren't actually too many differences to speak of.

None grew up expecting to find themselves in their current situation; when I keep that in mind that it's not far-fetched to think that I, or someone I'm close to, could find themselves in similar need sometime in the future.

I know that much of life comes down to choice and decision-making, but a lot of our choices are limited by where we start out, which is left up to chance. No one chooses where or to whom they're born, and none of us are able to control the amount of money or education our parents have, the health concerns we're likely to inherit, or the prejudices and discrimination we will or won't face because of race, sex, or socio-economic status.

While I probably can't go back and work at [Homestart] this semester - some of the same women will be there - I plan on going back and helping next year, and telling everyone I know interested in that type of work about the shelter and how to get involved. It's not that I think the women need me, specifically, or that I can make more of a difference than anyone else could. I'll do it with the hope someone else will do the same for me if I ever need it.

On our panel, all of us encouraged the students to make a point to get to know homeless people, to help us to continue to challenge the stereotypes, to volunteer when they could, to prepare to live their lives in ways that recognize that the privileges they'll enjoy as UNC grads come with responsibilities to others. Thanks to Mike Tarrant and the other organizers of Poverty Awareness Week 2007 for bringing this message home.

Sending good wishes to Elizabeth Edwards

Having met Elizabeth Edwards twice, I've been as impressed with her as Paul is, and I second his warm wishes for her and her family. They all have amazing courage.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Slaves in the attic: how many is too many?

It looks like the State of Maryland is on its way to apologizing for slavery. The Senate has unanimously done so, and it seems the House is poised to pass its version.

I can't find a second source on what's up at the University of Maryland, but according to Mark Graber, who teaches there,

The University of Maryland is debating whether to apologize for slavery. An only slight exaggeration of the state of the debate is that the University will apologize if the evidence demonstrates more than one-hundred slaves toiled on campus, are undecided about an apology if the number was between ten and a hundred, and will not apologize if the number was less than ten.

Can this be serious? Like Yale, which insists, as if it's terribly relevant, that Elihu Yale didn't actually own slaves and so his portrait with a slave must come down, it seems a bit literalistic. It seems to assume that only the people who owned or employed slaves reaped the benefits. I suppose it's the same kind of thinking that resists modern-day apologies of any kind: we didn't own slaves, so what is there to say?

I'm not entirely sure what I think of apologizing for slavery. It could ring hollow. But I think Graber is right about what it might be able to do:

I do not know whether all of this warrants an apology or reparations. On the one hand, neither resolves an extraordinarily deeply rooted problem. On the other hand, no better immediate solution exists. Perhaps the best we can do is convert demands for apologies for slavery and investigations into the direct presence of slavery into investigations of the pervasive influence of slavery and race on all aspects of American social, political, and life. Slavery and race were not the sort of warts on the American polity that could be easily excised by the 13th Amendment or Civil Rights Act of 1964. They are cancers that are so entwined with normal practices as to resist almost all efforts at social, legal and political eradication. Our students need to be aware of just how pervasive slavery and racism were and are, and this knowledge cannot be gained by limiting the debate to whether or not a specified number of slaves worked in specific places in specific times.

More on the subject of the indirect but pervasive legacy of slavery in Graber's
review of Robin L. Einhorn, American Taxation, American Slavery--"a powerful contribution to the now dominant view among scholars that slavery was such a significant, even a foundational institution in the early United States that it affected almost everything that happened in the political arena.'"

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Bluest Eye

If you haven't seen the Playmakers' fine production of The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison's novel set to stage by Lydia R. Diamond, you have five days left. The paring down it takes to turn a novel into a play can sometimes end up cutting out its the very soul. But this one works. It works in an odd way. There's a lot of comedy in the play, to the point of slapstick. I don't think of this as a comic novel--nobody could--but on the other hand, these lines are not made up. I did remember them as they happened, remembered that they were funny in the book. Once you put the book down, though, it's the overwhelming arc of Pecola's tragedy that stays.

So it's good that the play covers the whole range, gives you the whole dimension of these characters, which is not only comic and tragic but also something else: too wise. Little girls too wise beyond their years. Byron Woods in his Independent review picks up on this point:

It's one of the eeriest moments we've seen this year. Two young girls (Allison Reeves and Georgia Southern), dressed identically alike, are relating the gruesome details of another girl's partially interrupted dive into sheer madness—and they are doing so with all the matter-of-factness of a discussion of tomorrow's weather.
Whether or not director Trezana Beverley actually saw The Shining is immaterial at this point. When her taut production of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye puts the unspeakable in the mouths of babes, the chills flow from the Playmakers Rep stage like an electric current. The cruelty of distance in Morrison's ground-breaking novel and this production underlines our inability to intervene. So we watch, as the thin props keeping Danika Williams' poignant Pecola just above the waves of darkness are slowly pulled away, one by one.

Morrison starting writing this, her first novel in the early 1960s, while the ripples of Brown v. Board of Education were still being felt. So it's appropriate to connect the theme--a little black girl who adores Shirley Temple and Mary Janes and wants blue eyes more than anything--to the "doll study" cited in Brown to support the proposition that separate schools were by definition not and could not be equal. But Morrison tells us in an afterword that she knew a girl like this in her own childhood.

We had just started elementary school. She said she wanted blue eyes. I looked around to picture her with them and was violently repelled by what I imagined she would look like if she had her wish. The sorrow in her voice seemed to call for sympathy, and I faked it for her, but, astonished by the desecration she proposed, I "got mad" at her instead.

"Who told her?" Morrison wondered. "Who made her feel that it was better to be a freak than what she was? Who had looked at her and found her so wanting, so small a weight on the beauty scale? The novel pecks away at the gaze that condemned her."

Pictures and more from the production.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Ralph Luker of Cliopatria writes to put my complaint about the verb "to friend" into perspective.

I stand (be)friended.

Bérubé back to the blogosphere

Thanks to reader "kingless" for letting me know: Michael Bérubé returns! He'll be posting at Crooked Timber. He says in the comments there that he'll start on Thursday.

I've missed him. For example when Jean Baudrillard died. I'm not smart enough to explain Baudrillard, but I knew the obits I was reading weren't doing it. Scott McLemee's essay was thoughtful and helpful. Another I found from wood s lot was even better. But Michael Bérubé would have taken the discussion to a whole new plane. Maybe there's still time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Black Seminoles

For a couple of years on the H-Net Slavery listserv I've been following the work of J.B. Bird, an amateur historian, as he's built his web site on the Black Seminole rebellion in 1830s Florida, the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. I'm glad to see it getting the credit it deserves.

What is perhaps most amazing about this story is how it has been overlooked so consistently, not just by filmmakers and popular audiences but by almost every historian of slavery. Now a nonprofessional historian--J.B. Bird, an administrator at the University of Texas--has written and produced an engrossing multimedia Web documentary, Rebellion: John Horse and the Black Seminoles, the First Black Rebels to Beat American Slavery. (To see it for yourself, go to In the process, Bird has illustrated not just an important part of the American past but also one of the ways cyberspace is changing how history is studied and taught.

A mistake was made (again).

Mark Kleinschmidt speaks for me and, I trust, the whole Council in deploring the recent action of our police in detaining an immigrant with a civil violation--and thanking our police chief for stepping in so quickly with corrective action.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The secret sits.

I don't know why reading Eric Muller's unsettling report of his latest archival find in his quest to recover the story of his great-uncle, who, having lost his arm fighting for Germany in Word War I, was killed in Poland in 1942 along with many other Jews, sent me to Paul Auster, to his beautiful little book The Invention of Solitude. The book begins with the death of his father, a mysterious and opaque man, then proceeds to reveal perhaps why his father was so reclusive: a murder in the family. Then the narrative turns in surprising ways back to Auster, to his own fatherhood, and to the art of writing and remembering.

The circumstances of Eric's uncle's death are not mysterious. Only the why it happened: that's unfathomable.

Possibly the common link is the archives, the physical evidence that floats up across time, that had been waiting there all the time. For Eric, it was the discovery of a tangible thing, his uncle's WWI decoration. For Auster, it was coming face to face with old newspapers:

The facts themselves do not disturb me any more than might be expected. The difficult thing is to see them in print--unburied, so to speak, from the realm of secrets and turned into a public event. There are more than twenty articles, most of them long, all of them from the Kenosha Evening News. Even in this barely legible state, almost totally obscured by age and the hazards of photocopying, they still have the ability to shock.

Auster's book begins with a sentence from Heraclitus: "In searching out the truth be ready for the unexpected, for it is difficult to find and puzzling when you find it."

Robert Frost had the same idea.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Language weirds.

My family has been trying and trying to drag me into instant messaging. They almost have me. But some things I will resist to the end, like making verbs out of "message" and "friend." I know I'm against the tide, and the descriptivist in me knows better. I know, for example, that once upon a time, "to edit" was considered a weird verb. It's what linguists call a back-formation from the noun "editor." (Why then did "monitor" not give us "to monit"? Why did not "editor," like "monitor," become a verb? Because English is not logical; because it is hostage to its users.)

But if I were to give in, I'd go whole hog. I'd ditch the label "back-formation." I'd favor the verve of "verbing."

It was the great philosophers Calvin & Hobbes who astutely noted that "verbing weirds language." But this is true, linguistics professor John Lawler adds, "only if you're expecting it to work in a simple way." The larger truth is that "Language Weirds."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Steering toward home

Last night the steering committee for the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness finalized the draft of the Orange County Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. With a few minor changes, which the staff work group will make today, it will be ready to publish and present to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and the county for adoption. This is a tremendous accomplishment. I'm proud of everyone who has taken part of it and proud to have been a part of it. Here's the vision statement:

Through the combined effort of elected officials, service providers, business leaders, government agencies, and the citizens of Orange County, chronic homelessness in Orange County will end within 10 years. Current and future efforts to serve the needs of all homeless individuals and homeless families will continue to be supported toward the goal of permanent housing.

That's a tall order, and it's going to take sustained commitment. So the work is not over. It's more like it's just beginning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

State action

Resolved: the North Carolina House of Representatives recognizes ibiblio and the ibiblio community as "cultural treasures," citing their advocacy of the "free and open sharing of digital information." Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


For fans of Ze Frank (and I've counted myself one for not long enough), it's a bittersweet week: the last week of "The Show," the video blog he's been doing five days a week for a year. Winding down, he's unusually reflective, as in Monday's episode. It's called "bittersweet," but it's about creativity and how to believe you have it.

Benjamin and the Arcades

Walter Benjamin's giant book of fragments, The Arcades Project, was an attempt to read the history of the 19th century through the lens of the Paris Arcades. "Part of Benjamin's purpose," write Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, his English translators,

was to document as concretely as possible, and thus lend a "heightened graphicness" to, the scene of revolutionary change that was the nineteenth century. At issue was what he called "the commodification of things." He was interested in the unsettling effects of incipient high capitalism on the most intimate areas of life and work--especially as reflected in the work of art (its composition, its dissemination, its reception). In this "projection of the historical into the intimate," it was a matter not of demonstrating any straightforward cultural "decline," but rather of bringing to light an uncanny sense of crisis and of security, of crisis in security. Particularly from the perspective of the nineteenth-century domestic interior, which Benjamin likens to the inside of a mollusk's shell, things were coming to seem more entirely material than ever and, at the same time, more spectral and estranged.

"Whether you translate Russian fairy tales, Swedish family sagas, or English picaresque novels--you will always come back in the end, when it is a question of setting the tone for the masses, to France, not because it is always the truth but because it will always be the fashion." Gutzkow, Brief Aus Paris, vol. 2 , pp. 227-228. Each time, what sets the tone is without doubt the newest, but only where it emerges in the medium of the oldest, the longest past, the most ingrained. This spectacle, the unique self-construction of the newest in the medium of what has been, makes for the true dialectical theater of fashion. Only as such, as the grandiose representation of this dialectic, can one appreciate the singular books of Grandville, which created a sensation toward the middle of the century. When Grandville presents a new fan as the "fan of Iris" and his drawing suggests a rainbow, or when the Milky Way appears as an avenue illuminated at night by gaslamps, or when "the moon (a self-portrait)" reposes on fashionable velvet cushions instead of on clouds--at such moments we first come to see that it is precisely in this century, the most parched and imagination-starved, that the collective dream energy of a society has taken refuge with redoubled vehemence in the mute impenetrable nebula of fashion, where the understanding cannot follow. Fashion is the predecessor--no, the eternal deputy--of Surrealism.

--The Arcades Project (Harvard ed. 1999), pp. 64-65.

And today, the Paris Arcades--that is, what's left of them--are enjoying a renaissance. According to the Times, Benjamin "is as responsible as any urban planner for their present adoration and recovery. In an irony that he might not have appreciated, and that could perhaps only have happened in Paris, this fierce Marxist critic of the bourgeoisie has made shopping here an intellectual pursuit and unquestionably fashionable again." Behold.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Housing first

In a column in yesterday's Chapel Hill News, Mark Zimmerman discusses the housing first initiative and considers its potential contribution to Chapel Hill's plan to end chronic homelessness in 10 years.

Wednesday night, the steering committee for the Partnership to End Homelessness in Orange County will meet to discuss the latest draft of the plan.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Been listening music (and other language issues)

Lately I've lost myself in, the online radio station that listens to the way you listen. It's incredibly smart. But I do wish somebody would teach these folks that prepositions are not to be feared. My profile page lists my "recently listened tracks." Recently heard yes, recently audited, recently experienced, recently enjoyed: but also recently listened to.

So there.

It amazes me that really smart people can still think it's wrong to end a sentence or a phrase with a preposition.

Netflix is another incredible phenomenon. For Tucker, based on his prior choices, it recommended All the President's Men, still a great movie, capturing the drama of the newsroom, the risks the Post took in publishing what they barely knew, as well as the risks that two daring young reporters took. Among other things, Watergate involved a frontal, Orwellian assault on the English language, when "statements" became "inoperative," when double negatives were used to soften the positive lie, when "now" and "then" were pointlessly elongated into "at this point in time" and "at that point in time." I never understood that one. Was it to make it sound more distant, more objective? Did they think a long sentence sounded more intelligent? Did it put off for half a second having to say something of substance? Whatever, it stuck.

As doublespeak continues to corrupt the discourse of politics, this 1974 essay from the National Council of Teachers of English, while calling out many of the Watergate abuses, still has good advice: schools should be teaching "the critical analysis of propaganda techniques, language manipulation, and the new media."

Friday, March 09, 2007

History lessons

At the end of a fine tribute to Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who died on February 28, New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus throws down the gauntlet. Having noted Scheschinger's ability, in the pitch of the "anxious" twentieth century, to connect American history to the pulse of the present moment, he looks to our own moment and sees a vacuum: "If our own anxious age is to attain similar heights our historians must help lead the way."

Naturally and for good reason, the blogosphere reacts. Comes Mary Dudziak at Legal History Blog: "This makes me wonder what Tanenhaus has been reading," she writes, as she proceeds to list a handful of recent histories that explicitly touch on current issues. She could have included her own book Cold War Civil Rights. Though its subject isn't the immediate present, its understanding of the international dynamics of the civil rights era certainly resonates in our global era.

From where I sit, historians are speaking effectively to the present. I'm thinking of the work going on to reconsider Southern history as a whole. The names David Blight, Gaines Foster, Kirk Savage, and Fitz Brundage may not be household. Around North Carolina, though, at least Tim Tyson is. Their messages are consistent: the Lost Cause was highly motivated mythology. The ways in which we remember the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow are worth revisiting and revising. There's at least a dotted line between the essays in Brundage's essay collection Where These Memories Grow and the 2004 conference on UNC's campus to look more closely at the university's Reconstruction history. Blood Done Sign My Name, required reading at UNC and elsewhere, tapped into veins of other memories, giving people permission to talk about race in more honest ways. This reconsideration has risen to such a pitch that even the National Park Service offers a contextual take on the creation of the Lincoln Memorial. Kevin Levin quotes from the NPS's discussion of the memorial's symbolism:

The period between 1865-1909 was a period marked as a time of incredible technological advances, rapid industrial growth, and imperialistic expansionism; of enflamed patriotism during and after the Spanish-American War; and a continuance of Jim Crow laws, the exploitation of the working class, and Tammany Hall-style politics. Perhaps it should come as little surprise that the predominately white, classically minded and university educated, upper-middle class generation of architects and engineers that built the Lincoln Memorial would stress the theme of National Unity over that of Social Justice.

Mr. Tanenhaus has a lot of good reading waiting for him. These are not grand narratives in the Schlesinger style. But they add up to something important and maybe a little threatening. Is it a technical glitch that the passage Levin cites from the NPS pages is not to be found now, or did the National Review have something to do with it?

Over at Cliopatria, more responses to Tanenhaus.

UPDATE: Tanenhaus responds: "where are the master narratives of our moment?" The assumption in that question, I think, gets to the heart of the debate he's set off.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Destination Hillsborough

What does Hillsborough, N.C. have in common with Charlottesville, West Hollywood, New Orleans, and Little Rock?

It's one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2007.

Via North Carolina Miscellany.

Today is International Women's Day.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls."

While manifestations of violence against women and girls vary across social, economic, cultural and historical contexts, it is clear that violence against women and girls remains a devastating reality in all parts of the world. Existing research, data and testimonials from women and girls world-wide provide chilling evidence. It is a pervasive violation of human rights and a major impediment to achieving gender equality, development and peace.

News roundup:

"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged on Thursday the international community to work for a transformation in relations between women and men.
"In a message for International Women's Day, which is observed on March 8, Ban said that 'empowering women is not only a goal in itself. It is a condition for building better lives for everyone on the planet.'"
"Chile's first female president marked International Women's Day on Thursday saying women were in politics 'to stay,' while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe must do more to bring about gender equality."
"A report by EU statistical agency Eurostat compiled from national data gathered between 1998 and 2006 said that women were more likely to be unemployed than men.
"'Patriarchal structures still exist and women tend to be in lower position. The reduction of salary inequalities has not gone far enough,' German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told a seminar at the European Parliament.
"The European Commission has announced plans to use educational programs to increase awareness of gender inequality in schools and eradicate gender stereotypes, and encourage promotion of women into senior positions."
"On International Women’s Day on Thursday reports suggested women have a long way to catch up with men in Spain."

March 8 rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
"Men in Bangladesh vowed to fight disfiguring acid attacks, as the UN and European Union marked International Women's Day on Thursday with calls for an end to violence and discrimination.
"In India, a Mumbai company launched a new taxi service for women, with female cabbies at the wheel to make the customers feel safer."
And with a roundup of her own, law professor Mary Dudziak reminds us of the long struggle for women's rights.
A history of International Women's Day, via wood s lot.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mentally contaminated? You be the judge.

Cory Doctorow and Paul Jones in conversation.

The old New World

From the North Carolina Collection, a new online exhibit: Picturing the New World: The Hand-Colored De Bry Engravings of 1590. From a rare edition of Thomas Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. The book includes the first images of North Carolina published in Europe.

As you can see in this picture of a man and woman eating, and many of the others, there's a lot of interpretation going on. From the collection guide,

While the De Bry engravings shown on this site represent the earliest published images of Native Americans, viewers should be careful not to interpret these as accurate depictions of the inhabitants of North Carolina in the late sixteenth century. The images shown here are twice removed from John White's original watercolors. In the engravings created by Theodore De Bry, there are many subtle but significant changes from White's originals: the facial structure of most of the people has been altered, resulting in portraits that look more like Europeans; the musculature on most of the people is much more defined in the De Bry engravings; and the poses of many of the subjects seem to reflect classical statuary. The colorist for this volume has contributed to the distortion of the original images by adding a pale skin tone and blonde hair to some of the people and decorating much of the vegetation in colors that are unlike anything that occurs naturally in this part of the world.
These are striking images, and they are important primary sources, if only because of their age. However, they are also significant cultural documents. By making the changes that they did, De Bry and the colorist for this volume demonstrated either an unwillingness or inability to understand the differences between European and Native American culture and physiognomy. This lack of understanding and appreciation for Native American culture, combined with a stubborn tendency to view the world and its inhabitants through a narrowly European perspective, were likely key factors in the widespread destruction of many of the indigenous peoples and cultures of North America.

Via North Carolina Miscellany.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chapel Hill, backward and forward

At last night's Town Council meeting, we authorized an agreement with Preservation North Carolina for a historic preservation easement on the old Library Building, 523 East Franklin Street, now home to the Chapel Hill Museum. This was the result of my petition from 2005. At the time I blogged about the local significance of this building, designed by Don Stewart. I'm thrilled that this distinctive and important example of mid-century modern architecture in Chapel Hill will be preserved for future generations.

And will there ever be lots of Chapel Hillians in the future! We also discussed the draft Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO 2035 Long-Range Transportation Planning Organization Socio-Economic Projections. Chapel Hill's population is expected to grow by 55 percent in that time (with jobs growth of 107 percent), to about 80,000. How accurate are these numbers? So far with their crystal ball, says planner David Bonk, they've been accurate to +/- 10 percent.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Coming up: your lucky day?

When I saw a Times article with a picture of wedding announcement dated July 7, I thought how nice (but odd, given that it isn't exactly a love story), they're honoring Jill McCorkle's novel July 7. But no--it's because the date is 07/07/07!

More than 31,000 couples have already signed up with, a wedding-planning Web site, saying they plan to marry that day, a figure that is roughly triple the number for any other Saturday that month — and nearly 20,000 more than the number of couples who got married on the corresponding weekend a year earlier.

Reservations for Vegas are up too.

Jill McCorkle was born on July 7, 1958. In 2007 she'll be 49 (or, 7 x 7).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Oink if you love pig.

Who knew? Today is (was; it's about over) National Pig Day. I tend to trust the recommendations on this Serious Eats page because they get the main thing right: Allen and Son is the gold standard for North Carolina barbeque.

In my native Texas I'm an apostate, but the fact is that my weakness for pig goes way back to undergraduate days, before I ever left the state. I became a pretty consistent vegetarian; but though I lost my taste for beef I regularly broke for bacon. I'm not terribly scrupulous any more. When it comes to North Carolina barbeque I have no scruples whatsoever.

My fall from grace was gradual and unremarkable--nothing like the ordeal former ibiblian Miles Efron put himself through when he decided to come off of a long stretch of carnal deprivation, a two-step experience he describes in an essay that, to my mind, puts him in league with Calvin Trillin as contender for the pig poet laureate.

When North Carolinians discuss barbeque, they are prone to swoon. Even the most urbane among them waxed ecstatic when given a forum for extolling smoked meat. People who have lived in New York--and one who lived in Istanbul--drawled like Daughters of the Confederacy about sweet tea 'n slaw.

But after much hand-wringing consensus emerged. The consensus seemed to be that Allen and Son, just north of Chapel Hill, should be my destination. In choosing Allen and Son, my thinking focused on several factors. First, I elected to eat barbeque that was (more or less) Eastern style. After all, with no tomato in the equation, there would be nothing between me and the meat--no filter or safety net. Second, after several interviews around Chapel Hill, and after reading many reviews it was clear the Keith Allen is a barbeque purist. By eating his fare, there really could be no regrets, as nobody disputed his skill and attention to tradition. Third, Allen and Son is a strong contender on the major variables that distinguish a barbeque restaurant: the meat, hush puppies, dessert, and ambience.

Finally, I chose Allen and Son because it is located near my house. North Carolina barbeque is special because it is a regional cuisine. Not unlike many vegetarians, barbeque purists are concerned with the authenticity of their product. This authenticity derives in large part from issues of place. Keith Allen is held in especially high regard because he splits his hickory on site and by hand, behind his restaurant, just up the road from my house.

Reasoning that "it's a long way from whole grains to whole hog," Miles on his first trip to Allen and Son stuck to sides, especially the hush puppies. "They provided the perfect medium on which to practice eating meat again. Put bluntly, that medium is oil: fried in lard, hush puppies leave a sheen on the napkin, lubricating this vegan's slippery slope toward omnivorousness." A few days later he returned for the pulled-pork piece de resistance, and his transformation was complete.

The future, revisited

Longtime GreeneSpace readers will remember my fascination with the modern history of the future.

So naturally I welcome this new blog Paleo-Future ("A Look into the Future that Never Was") and the related Flickr group.

patio view

Kitchen computer, marketed by Neiman Marcus, 1969, on display at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California.

The Kitchen Computer was featured in the 1969 Neiman Marcus catalogue as a $10,000 tool for housewives to store and retrieve recipes. Unfortunately, the user interface was only binary lights and switches. There is no evidence that any Kitchen Computer was ever sold. Inside was a standard Honeywell 316 minicomputer, billed as the first 16-bit machine at that price from a major computer manufacturer.

Via Cliopatria, which also points to an interesting syllabus from a course on the history of the future.