Friday, January 06, 2006

Just Another Friday... Expecting Zombies, Meeting Friends...

An OYB night out... I went out tonight for awhile. The family was away for an overnight visit to friends, except for me. Rare thing. So I was free.

So I went out to the local bookstore to see how much of my stuff they've sold. And lo and behold I ran into my brother and cousin there. That was weird enough. I'm positive that I was the only person to do that there this week. And even in the parking lot I saw a big old black truck that I thought was my bro's but it wasn't, but then there he was anyway. I've never seen him here. He lives in the sticks. He was in this yuppy bookstore wearing his bomber hat and an Elmer's Peninsula Construction jacket that says "Ron" that he got for a buck at a thrift shop but which he says other construction guys want to buy off him coz it's so cool. It's like a Mighty Mac Bridge welder's jacket. My bro does crazy enough construction stuff to qualify. My cuz pointed me to a book about "the Singularity" where we're just about ready to hit the really steep uphill slope of technology. In ten years we won't have computers, coz they'll be INSIDE us. That kind of steep. It was good to see my bro and my cuz. They were wondering what I was doing out and about. We're all lost here when we leave the farm. Because, truly, there's nowhere to go. I said I was going to the bookstore then to the bar for a beer. My bro said Really? Just like that?

So I went to the bar. It's the local fancy bar, owned by the local indy actual wine-beer-cheese shop and bistro. They're quality people but Lord knows they have their own trouble running a quality biz with so many imbeciles around. They're in a minimall nestled between car dealerships and other businesses that go under every year or so. It's bleak. It's also the closest bar to our house that serves local beer. I thought I'd check it out. Been there once before. Sure enough, fancy crowd. I see a TV personality.

There is no bar snack food, no chips, no nuts, nobody eatin' nuttin at the bar. Very weird. The barfolk bring me a local beer and some chips from the kitchen. I truly don't want to be weird but I need a snack. How can you have 50 people in a bar only drinking, no snacking? Very weird. There's a fresh nuts shop downtown. Get nuts from them or go home. I need to carry nuts in my Manpurse, I tell ya.

So there's a yuppy dame next to me that I say Hi to. She's drinking a non-Martini. I ask about it.

I sort out my snack problem with the bartender and I order something local and hoppy. A bottle of MBC IPA. I think about telling the bartender that I know the brewer but I don't.

Then suddenly the two guys who run the nextdoor wine-beer-cheese shop come in and stand nearby and order drinks. Their drinks take TOO long to arrive by me. Sheesh. Damn straight.

They're talking to two suburban-looking guys near us. I say Hi to them. I've shopped their shop for years but it's the first time I've seen them over drinks...altho one of them invited himself to dinner once when I asked him what wine to buy for venison and morels. So I finally to got to neighborly meet both shopkeeps. The guys they're standing next to are the manager of the local brewery---who takes an ad out in the OYB mag and on OYB online---and the manager of the nextdoor quality restaurant (which owns the bar). The gal knows them all. I get to meet them.

Before I met the brewery manager guy he asks why I ordered that beer. Coz I know the owner and I like it. Well, hey, I'm the manager. Very cool. That's how we meet. And you're my advertiser, I say. You do OYB, he says? It goes on from there. The manager mentions that the biz mentor is having dinner at the back of the bar. He's the guy who inspired the brewery and who also took out OYB ads and kept pushing for more back in the day. I went back and said Hi to him. His wife said, He keeps reading it out loud but then doesn't let me have it. After a nice visit I went back to the front and the brewery manager said, Hey, I get stacks of mags, from everyone, and yours I read cover to cover. He asked a buncha questions about things actually in the magazine, which were very weird to hear in a post-literate setting. Then he said Man, those sociable magnet stickers of yours, they keep coming back to me; what a great idea; a positive thing; something you WANT people to take from you; it freaks me out. I mean, he wasn't acting like an advertiser at all. He was a READER. Turns out the gal was a local graphic designer. I know the newspapers she works for. She wanted a mag. I got one out of the rusty ex-Hippo catering minivan for her. Her boyfriend was the bartender. His brother lives in Bellaire, where Short's Bar is. I overheard him asking the beershop guy if he wanted to try some Short's new Reserve. I'd only heard about Short's from my Ann Arbor cheese shop deer camp buddy because that's where my favorite girl singer sings every week and he'd brought two kegs of it to deer camp. It was all very weird. So I had a sample of the Short's Reserve, too. It was dandy. (Another weird thing is that today I got a $10 check in the mail with no book or mag request. The check had the guy's ph# on it so I called him and asked him what it was for and he said Your mag is great, it's just cash, for you. ...Whoa.) So it all worked out. Sheesh. Is this what happens when one goes to the bar?

Here I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere and I just went out for a beer and I met like six new people who kinda already knew me and who variously appreciated what I was doing. But when I first walked in I recognized none of this. That's just really weird.

Maybe I just need to get out more.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Lance: "I'll never be in such good shape again." Sad...

I heard Lance say on Larry King the other night that "I'll never be in this good of shape again." That's sad.

What kind of shape has he ever been in for garden-hoeing, kitchen-work, XC skiing, seakayaking, thai-kickboxing, javelin-throwing, longbow shooting, ax-chopping, timber-frame house-building, yoga or esoteric studies?

In a month or so he could get into far better shape than he's ever been in any for those activities. And he could get into better KINDS of shape.

Lance has only been in world-class shape for road-bike racing.

He's actually been weak and ill-equipped to do those other activities and to do things in other ways.

There's a big new world out there waiting for him, all at least as good as bike racing, easily healthier and so offering better general "shape."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

PS: Goal for OYB --- the other side of the new hope


Furthermore, the currently dominant modes of presenting culture to the public (academia and NYC-based publishing --- literary mags and NPR-vibe literature) have been co-opted and corrupted, or have given up or proven not up to the job.

They're losing, fast! Readers are leaving them in droves or using them as excuses to gossip at book clubs.

Only indy movies and indy music seem vibrant and viable, but even they are overly ghettoized. They're missing their natural leader: a strong indy LITERATURE.

Cultural revival needs to look not to academia and elites but to the cultural expressions of people more usually associated with...practical culture and outdoor sports. Again, a la Hemingway, in a sense. And by "practical culture" I mean the arts of everyday living: gardening, cooking, housekeeping, auto-repair, even livelihood work habits. All these are ripe for a resurgence of cultural value and expression. Again, academia and NYC/LA elites offer NOTHING, NO HOPE in this regard. Independents---probably from the hinterlands---are where it's at for this mission. OYB hopes to be a part of it.

It's Time for Indy Biz to RISE UP!

Indy biz is in big trouble these days. They're disappearing fast. Small towns and traditional downtowns are nose-diving as well. Only metro areas seem to be holding on. The freewayexitminimallbigboxes are rolling like steamrollers. Is it a Red State take-over? (Whups, or is that Blue? I'm dyslexic. Which one is Texas? --That should set me straight.)

Why is indy biz hurting so bad?

It's not using any of the hyper-powerful sales tools that big biz is using. It's not using culture.

When I talk to indy biz owners I sense one main thing: panic and desperation (oh, that's two). And rigidity. Frozen in the headlights. They know only one thing: Quality. And they have that in spades. And great customer and human and employee relations. They HAVE culture, indeed they do. They're the SOURCE of it. But they don't USE it to survive, thrive and beat back the big boxes. Everything the Little Guy does has to make him money money money does it pay does it pay does it pay no time no time no time... Makes sense, coz if it doesn't work good now fast direct---they're gone. But panic never helps and we're losing them ever-faster.

How to stop the loss?



Big Biz is singing ONE song, ALL together. The song of crap and power and image.

But indy biz could use image, too---and the truth---and win. Coz sometimes image is more than image---it's art. Big Biz will NEVER get that one.

Coz indy biz is the source of ART as well as culture.

Big Biz ties its message into everything every which way. Indy biz needs to also.

But indy biz is frozen out of mainstream media and all its tie-in opportunities.

It needs to create its own.

It needs to work together. It needs to unite in its diversity. It needs to wrench diversity away from exclusivity-politics and lobbyism once and for all.

Not just for convenience or survival but because that's where it gets its life. It needs to EXTEND its LIVING model beyond its usual range or it'll die. The world is bigger today, but indy biz still has what it takes to win, if only it will dare to use it.

Right now I usually see indy biz in specialty media---and often where little shops are competing against each other for scarce bucks. Rarely do they work together.

But their customers use them together.

For the most part. Some customers treat indy like it was big---they use it for identity and won't shop anywhere but in one certain little shop. That's not the future. Most people work a wider scope these days. Indy biz needs to reach beyond its neighborhood and usual suspects. It needs to go after GM, Time-Warner and all the Billion-Ton Weaklings out there. It can be done.

Fuel Usage by Sector in the U.S....

I'm wondering which sectors of the US economy use which percentages of the overall oil/fuel use.

Does anyone know or have a good hunch?

I can picture several sectors as responding quite quickly and sanely to the need to conserve. But what would the overall impact be?

For instance:

*There's no need to use airlines for recreation travel. Let that go to near zero. It's a waste.
*There's no need to have cold commerical buildings in the summer and hot ones in the winter. Switch to, say, 75F summer temp and 65F winter temp, as a start. (As it is, Martha and I wear winter coats when we go to a movie or restaurant in the summer and we wear Hawaiian shirts when we go to public buildings in the winter. Who's INSANE, us or them?)
*Short jaunts can be done by bike, foot or canoe.
*Rec vehicles don't need motors---won't quiet lakes and uneroded woodlands be nice? Bike, canoe, sailboat, rowboat, horse, mule, llama, donkey---all work fine for fun.

Anyway, here are the major U.S. energy sector players that I picture (fill in any missing big ones). Maybe they could be grouped in bigger chunks...

individuals (commuting, driving, recreation/ATV, lawn/yard)
airlines individual biz/recreation
airlines material transport
boats/shipping (for transport)
boats cruiselines/recreation
home heat/cool
biz heat/cool
construction (bldgs, roads)
ag (incl. timber)
boats---commercial fishing
mass trans (incl. Amtrak)
infra trans (cops, fire, EMT, govt)


OK: I heard back in a couple emails about this:

The results are that approx one-third of fuel is used by each of the 3 main sectors: residential, commercial and industrial. I don't know how they break down as per above.

Here's more:

Brief 2004 numbers (in kbarrels/day):

transportation 13,621
industrial 5,082
residential 893
electrical power 527
commercial 395

Gory details here:

The Goal for OYB...

......To use practical culture and outdoor sports as an entre' to the foreign world, for Americans, of culture, value, diversity and civility---and literature.

For starters, practical culture and outdoor sports HAVE (or had) lots of culture. It's been severely neglected the past 20 years in favor of shopping and consumerism and corporatism. Thus many of these activities have been in effect hollowed out. Time for a change.

In the media anyway.

Out where the people are there's always culture. But we're losing people fast, they're being replaced by shoppers. Stepfordism rules!

Hemingway did this same OYB mission via Esquire and the outdoor sports back in the 50's. It's time once again...

The Other Economy?

How big is it? Does anyone know?

For instance, we've never bought a big ticket item new. So we don't contribute to that part of the economy. Or the way we contribute creates a dynamic that I haven't seen discussed.

We bought a dirtcheap house, we buy $500 cars, thriftstore clothes. How many Americans do this?

I heard on NPR that the new Energy Bill offers tax incentives for those who buy Hybrids---they can get like $500-$2000 back when they spend, what, $20K on a thrifty car. That's not thrift in my economy.

For how many Americans does a $20K car have no relation to thrift?

I mean, even if we had the money, we wouldn't do it. Why buy a new $20K car and get $2K back when you can buy the same car one year used and pay $10K?

We look around us and see 1000 minimall stores in our area. We shop at 3 of them. We TRY to support as many of them as we can (we try to get to know the owners but they're never around: only sullen teenage temp-staff) but we couldn't see the point of going into more than 3 of them. If people lived like us, 997 of those stores would be gone. Wouldn't they? What would happen?

Someone told us last week that we needed to open a restaurant so there'd be a place worth going in the area. Martha is indeed a great, fast cook who's kicked butt in some fine restaurants---but she knows the crazy score. Also, being the ONLY good restaurant in a region may not be a bright idea. It might mean that the public doesn't want quality, has been trained (stupified) away from it. Anyway, if we had a restaurant we'd only want to hire real people, no temp-drones. Our waiters would make a decent living at it. They'd be adults. You know how weird that would be for exurbia? 1%?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

OYB Gardening: the most for the least!

OK, we were so swamped this summer, me with the Catazeen and Martha with her LazyGal booths, that we didn't put in a garden.

But we still had a bit of the true OYB garden anyway.

Well, first, we did do some gardening: we at least got the garden mulched. Ha. Funny. At least we're ready for next year, eh?

But we had a bumper crop of berries both tame and wild. And that's where the OYB comes in.

An OYB Garden is one that gives you most for least, given your location.

Like, here in mid-Mich I could go for apples and spend half my waking hours spraying and pruning. A pretty apple tree is a nice thing. But so is a nice berry bush.

Berries need their canes cut back in the fall.

Otherwise, that's it.

No bugs or critters seem to bug them. They LOVE this area. So I say go for berries!

I have two kinds of cultivated berries that I tried: one is tender and mild, the other is Everbearing, giving two tasty, robust crops and spreading hard. So Everbearing is where it's at for me! I'm going to let em spread and grow into multiple rows. The whole yard could end up berries. We got gallons of them this year so far and the second crop will be bigger, in a few weeks.

The wild berries grow around the edges of our yard and wild-spaces. I let em. Sometimes they make an archway over a small sapling. Neat. They look nice and just love to grow here. And again: nothing bugs em.

Daddy Longlegs seem to suck at a few of them, but we can share.

Anyway, I read about pre-Civil War Southern culture and it turns out that Crackers also greatly prefered crops that required no work. I hear ya!

I say to grow what grows and forget the rest.

OK, on to Stage Two of the OYB Way: grow stuff where you go. Put plants and little gardens everywhere in your yard where you go the most. Like by your front porch or outside the window you work or eat near.

Our main garden is at the back of our yard, beyond our huge, vast brushpile. We don't see it. That's WAY bad in terms of OYB vibe and results in both neglect and overt labor.

The OYB Way is to garden as you go. When you have plants by your front door, as you leave the house, you can bend down and easily do weeding without thinking of it. Or when people stop by for a quick visit---as you chat, you can weed.

Next year our kids will both be in school: Phase Three bigtime for our household! Martha will get a lot of her life back. And she declares a rebirth for the garden.

So OYB gardening is mostly: #1--grow what grows!, #2--grow where you go!

We'll see!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mister Multitask

I'm a list person.

I suppose it's because my days are unstructured---unhinged, even.

Here's a list of what I'm thinking about (and doing) in any given hour:

*car repairs and drop-offs
*yardwork and gardening (bare maintenance, like we just mulched our garden this year, no garden---but we did pick all the wild berries! no brewing or winemaking, though)
*urgent home repair (leaking roof, electrical blow-outs)
*kiddy pool maintenance
*bike maintenance
*OYB/ULA/LazyGal projects---print, product, producing, online, sales, shipping---typically at least SIX (usually far more) items in these 4 categories under way at any moment
*photographing or jotting down anything of artistic merit that comes up
*ebay items to list and photograph or watch
*dealing with someone interested in renting an apartment in our fourplex (or maintenance of same)
*some other hobby or recreation or weekend travel/family/work packing/planning issue
*my current exercise and injury/health situation
*the bleakness of minimall-world where we live and attempting to see the silver lining (going for a walk in town, sitting at a patio bar, checking out a local trail or river)
*do I have what I need with me for current series of several unrelated errands, including all accessories---hat, sunglasses, water, leash for dog, snacks
*getting in daily literary, news, hobby and philosophic readings
*teaching kids biking and swimming
*timing of family, food, kids, pets daily schedule
*fashion statement and apparel suitability for current and likely weather
*social issues

So that if I go on an outing, an errand, there's typically a several different kind of work projects involved, the kids, a pet, fashion, the weather, several different aspects of timing/schedule, plus an attempt to include some fresh air in all of it.

So that I tend to forget at least one major item each time. Like a watch, or my wallet, or the dog leash (substitute plastic strap from a nearby dumpster and press on...)

Do lots of people live like this?

I suppose it's just being busy. But with so much, so different, flying in the brain at once? Whew. Yet they're just parts of a basic, all-round day, really. ...Amped-up some.

Also, I suppose this list is a blend of doing and thinking. Not all the doing involves a lot of thinking. There is awareness and coordination of the doing/events required, though.

Note that there isn't any "attend town council meeting" or "lead Scout troop" or "bring kids to teams and classes" or "do daily commute" or "go to church." Well, the kids did have Dance and Robot Camps this summer, just down the road. And Henry wants to do Scouting this fall---I wonder if there's a Pack in the subdivision behind us---hope so, more driving is more bad.

Is it because both Martha and I both are our own bosses and work at home and we have little kids and pets and an old house and lots of old, beat-up stuff, and we're living on the minimum (so that, for instance, at least one car repair figures into any outing)?

...And I don't even have a cellphone. And usually no air-conditioning in the vehicle I'm in. Whew!

Photo of a typical attempt of mine to go up north for a couple days---a bunch of work/repair tools for the woodsy trailer lot and to get the car there and back, plus recreational devices, plus camping gear and pet maintenance accessories...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Culture good, culture bad...

The more you have of some cultural traits the worse off you'll be as a person and a culture and society. The more you have of some other traits, the better off you'll be. Seems like to me anyway. OK, let's see the line-up...

Let's start with the depressing bad... This isn't really a ranking, just a list...

*stadium sport
*conspicuous consumption
*freeway exit development
*Jerry Springer
*fun/party culture
*mental medications due to stress
*public rudeness, profanity and vulgarity
*fads like SUVs, Harleys, NASCAR, jetskis, loud boats, generators on RVs, big RVs, noise in general
*nonviolent drug prisoners
*chain stores
*big corporate advertising
*big media movies
*destination resorts
*airline travel for recreation
*1-hr+ solo driver commutes
*camo as streetwear
*casinos and lotteries
*cellphone jabber
*divorce with kids
*unskilled teenage workforce
*insurance abuse and overuse
*avoidance of the outdoors unless it's while connected to a noisemaker
*complain about weather and nature

If you culture has these features, it'll die very soon. Each of these features is a very potent poison. Don't you think? I don't want to get depressed, but is there any data anywhere indicating that any of these features is sustainable? Part of a way of life one can do without injury or illness? Man, it seems like these features are each directly connected to enormous and contagious trouble. And that they each stem mainly from a fevered drive to exploitation both from without and within. And, sure, none of us are perfect, but there ya have it.

OK, what are the good things, what things if you see them you might see them in relation to a culture, community or neighborhood growing or strengthening...

*bike riding (especially to work and for errands but also for R&R)
*porch sitting
*being outside, and doing things manually
*kids playing outside unattended
*going to the library
*knowing the history of your area
*knowing many songs, poems, stories and jokes by heart
*being able to sing, play an acoustic instrument and do actual dances
*a multi-generation, owner-operated business
*eating local food and produce
*doing local things down the foodchain to eat a few meals a year---garden, fish, hunt
*knowing all your neighbors and having at least small ongoing exchange relations with them (cookies, produce, news)
*living near family
*living near where you work
*living near where you grew up
*employer/owners who live next to their business
*people who don't run a credit balance
*people whose homes are paid off
*travel to the edge of town for recreation
*if on the water, use a boat that doesn't make noise---canoe or sail
*if in snowy area, get outside in winter most days for jaunts (on foot, xc-ski or snowshoe)
*families that eat together every day
*older people helping younger people learn about and do all of the above
*young people, even children, out doing most of the above

When you see the things in the second list today, as part of a western-civ setting, is there cause for hope? Are these things conducive to development and creativity? Is there any directly related decay and decline? Sure, bad people can do these things (a la the German Volk and Southern slave-owners, say), but do these things themselves contribute to the bad? When poor people display the second list but not the first are they actually poor? When rich people display the first and not the second are they well-off---for very long?

Monday, July 25, 2005

ULA: the Future of U.S. Literature!

I'm a member of the ULA, the Underground Literary Alliance. We're the only literary activist group in the nation. We're pushing for the publication of relevant literature once again in this country.

Here's a link to a bunch of ULA zeens that are just plain good reading about the everyday life of this here world. It's fun, wild stuff from zeensters who mean bizness: ULA zeens from OYB . Here's the main ULA website, fyi.

We're also launching a new line of books via ULA PRESS in the bold new *OYB CATAZEEN*!

We're making noise in a lot of ways about the state of literature today. We're a small group of totally broke, far-flung readers and writers who are fed up. So we've been acting, and acting up. We're experienced and we know what we're doing. It's working. Very well.

We've busted several corrupt book awards and grants already.

We've gotten amazing coverage in the NYT twice---once in a cover story. The Boston Globe and Washington Post both follow up and report on what we do. We've had big, glossy mag articles on us.

We have the literati on the run, scared.

We say that the MFA system has a lock-grip on literary publishing and that they're driving it into the ground. We say that regular people have given up on quality reading, thinking it's only for out-of-touch NYC limo-elites and the black-turtleneck frumpy wannabes who listen to their exploits on NPR. The status quo today accepts that literature is a tiny niche market.

So we say it's time that zeensters are put on NEA grants panels. That populist publishers be on awards committees. That colleges start studying underground publishing, zeening and alternative literary sources. That folk writing be accepted as EXISTING (right now, folk art is big in music and painting but folk writing is defined out). Oh, we say lots of things. And we do things, and publish, and get the word out.

OYB: a General Interest Grassroots Magazine

What is all this OYB stuff anyway? If you visit the OYB website, which is the homebase for this blog, it looks like a mishmash of books, tiny stories about one guy's life and a buncha weirdo links. So what's up?

OYB is my 10-year project to create a general interest magazine that celebrates the everyday life of regular people. And a new issue is due off-press this week!

The category of "general interest" magazine today is dominated by materials that I suggest have no general interest whatsoever but is merely paid for by the biggest companies. They're about celebrity, fantasy and corporations. How's that general anything? It's specificly big biz, that's all.

I don't dismiss the big mags entirely: they do some good work, they pay the most. But their formula really does miss a lot of the most important and realest stuff out there.

For one thing, small independent owner-operated business gets shut out of general interest media. They can't afford to advertise in it. But I think that what the indys offer is key to our cultural survival.

OYB tends to be about the outdoors, but it also includes plenty of indoor action as well. When people are taking back their lives, doing what they do, where do you find them? --Everywhere but in front of a TV or at a stadium or stuck in rush-hour.

Bummer: 3% of Americans live healthy...

That's what I'm talkin' about!

I heard it on NPR. A survey of 150K Americans gave results that shocked even the researchers: only 3% do the following 4 things: *don't smoke, *eat right, *aren't overweight, *exercise moderately.

No wonder that businesses that encourage and work with people who believe in sustainable culture tend to be small. I didn't realize just how small their audience was!

I wonder if the stats would go down even more if they added "live within their means" to the list of almost extinct basic sound living practices.

The Proper Use of a Meadow Mansion

Meadow Mansions are spreading across the nation. I hope they're being put to good use, but I fear not.

OK, here are the rules. They seem to be accepted by all civilized people. If you're fortunate enough to have a huge house then you do 3 things that small house people don't do.

1.) you have relatives often staying in spare rooms

2.) you have special guests staying in spare rooms---as a result rich/big-house people worldwide have frequently been host to visiting talents and dignitaries

3.) you have big, classy parties and dinners (see Gatsby)

*Note: one does NOT treat a meadow mansion just like a huge college dorm where you crash out after work watching the big screen

The reason why I think this is not happening is that several typical meadowsful of mansions sprouted near our house over the past decade and I walk and ride my bike past them regularly. I basically never see anyone home, for one thing. For another I've never seen anyone visibly enjoying themselves in or in the vicinity of said mansions. And for a last another thing I've never ever seen a mansionite hosting a party, much less a good one, much less a proper catered affair, much less one with valet parking.

I suspect that rich people in the countryside nowadays are only money-rich and are ignorant slobs in every other way. (I have seen a lot of fancy pickup trucks parked at these mansions.)

I further suspect that these people aren't really rich per se. They're just renting a larger home from the bank temporarily. I've seen almost half of them go up for sale already. They turn over almost as fast as apartments. Still, that's no excuse not to party and support culture and family properly. I also suspect that these folks are Dual Incomers who are both working overtime and whose kids apparently are shipped away to school, since I've basically seen NO HUMAN EVER around any of these several dozen area homes. They must go to work in the early dark and come home even later. Then maybe occasionally sneak out after work to the airport for a vacation getaway---or drive north to their second mansion.

It's a weird world.

Here's a fuller picture of meadow mansion reality below: cracks in the road ahead. And buy-sell as fast as you can...

...You may not own it long but while you're there, you're still obliged to be civil with what you have. And what do you have? SPACE! So use it!

I'm going to start an interactive party webpage for people to put up their own party stories and photos. Let's see if we can find an example of a meadow mansionite who knows what's up.

I suspect that in this disappearing American culture we'll find more cottage-dwellers who know how to host and party. They may have to put guests up in tents and trailers but I suspect they're not as dumb as today's country-rich.

By the way, a proper mansion guest isn't a bother, isn't seen much, except once a day when they give a summary report around after-dinner drinks of what they learned that day while doing their original research or questing of some type. They're supposed to add to your eyes and ears in a quality way.

Note, too, that a 6000sqft MM in rural Michigan probably has HALF the overhead of a similar size house in the Hamptons. A new house, furthermore, has far less upkeep needed. These MM people also aren't likely to have as extensive of gardens. They should be partying more.

So post your party stories and pics down below!

Here's my first one, of the latest REAL DINNER we attended NOT at a meadow mansion, but in a meadow... It's open season...

The Sailor Dog---all time great kid's book!

OK, maybe it's most ideal for a 4-year-old boy, but "The Sailor Dog" is a masterpiece of art and writing that will appeal to anyone, kid or grownup. The paintings are just over the top perfect and colorful. "Oh, I'm Scuppers the Sailor Dog!"

Painter: Garth Williams
Writer: Margaret Wise Brown

To me, there needs to be a t-shirt made of a Scuppers page-painting. I also find the kind of sailboat depicted and the way of life aboard it to be inspirational for life. (But then I like pictures of animal burrows with armchairs and coathooks, and animal treehouses and such, and get inspired by those, too.)

Of interest is that M. W. Brown's body of work was first rejected, even suppressed, when it came out in the 50's. They were not books for teaching morals to kids but depicted a childlike sense of experience. They were break-thrus. The librarian of New York City rejected her work as strange and unfit for children and declined to support it with reviews in the national journal she edited for the library. It was probably known around town that the stylish Brown was a lesbian. As a result, no one bought the books. But Brown broke thru anyway (due to wealth and connections?) and became known as one of the all-time great children's book writers, with "Goodnight Moon" and "Runaway Bunny," among many others. This was a period of great change in education and psychology and her simple, childlike art was part of it. The main artists she worked with also rose to the level of all-time greats. This was before the period of Dr. Seuss, who also faced resistance against first his silliness then his radicalism.

Moth Action Coming On Strong!

This has been a great season for moths for us so far.

A month ago Martha saw her first ever Luna moth---a big, pale green beauty. She found it in an unbeautiful place: on the window of a minimall. But it hung around all day as she brought various friends over to see it. Too bad she didn't get a photo of it.

Then we saw a few strange caterpillars like the one pictured below. I'm pretty sure it's a Tussock moth caterpillar. It had a VERY orange head, 3 tusks, and 4 tussocks. Cool!

Then we saw a weird moth on our porch which we're told was a kind of Tiger Moth. It was about 2" long---a lovely mix of black'n'white spots and fluorescent blue and yellow.

Then in front of our house, in the road, two Polyphemous moths were in a strange embrace when Martha went out for a bike ride. They went flapping like kleenexes right into some passing cars but weren't hit. Martha scooped them into an old pizza box and brought them to our backyard where they eventually recovered and flapped away. I took pics of the smaller one which had a 5" wingspan.

Dodge Sportsman Wagon: cool retro camper!

VW Campers are legendary, but to me they're a little tippy and overly sewing machine-like. Here's the American take on them. The Dodge Sportsman Van (Wagon) seems more stylish and robust yet still trim and compact.

There was a mint condition one for sale down the street a few years back. V8, low miles, Arizona, turquoise, jumping bass sticker, frig, stove, toilet, beds, swivel chairs, chrome, turquoise vinyl: $1500. Rats, we passed it up.

Art Glass that's gorgeous...and affordable!

A couple years ago we bought a couple vases from Jeff Wright, a mid-Michigan glass artist. We'd seen art glass, new and old, over the years and I found that I really like it. Murano and Czech retro stuff gets me going, as does the new Chihuly. Jeff works a bit in that general vein. But he's affordable! At the local art fair we see his work at much of it costs $30-$50.

Why Cycling?

I know it's not Spring anymore, but this pic from Paris-Roubaix is my all-time favorite "tough guy" bike race photo. I'd lost it but finally found it. Back up on the shop wall it goes!

(FYI, it's Duclos and Moser battling at the front, in the early 80's, from the French mag Miroir, back WAY before there was much bike race media in the US, much less the Net. And back before they were helmets or sunglasses. It was all about the eyes. With a pic this fine I didn't need much more to keep me training every day no matter what the weather. Photo credit and praise to Henri Besson, if you're out there.)

I know it's Tour Time now, but let these two riders inspire you as you watch Lance's big finale.

So Why Cycling?

Why does OYB emphasize cycling so much? Isn't it just another hobby or specialized activity? It's like having stamp-collecting take up most of some other supposedly "general interest" media empire, right? Well...

Here's why. Cycling has it all. Everything OYB, anyway.

It offers companionship, adventure, travel, daily utility, sustainability, liberty which is moderated (as freedom requires), affordability, contact with the world and the senses and the personality, sport, art, technology, scale, harmony, it can be part of the built-world (riding on pavement and in cities) or at home in the wilds (trail riding), resourcefulness, home repair, DIY construction and even DIY innovation. It's even politically liberal, as it's hard to suppress a population on bikes (it's a robust means of communication and an unstoppable mode of transport). It typically involves the input of small business, yet big economies can be helpful. The network of bike culture shows how western reality can be functional.

I highlight the idea that submission and respect are required in cycling to get at the freedom. There's no free ride for the freedom it can give. Effort isn't a big part of the American idea of fun, but effort of a sort that can't be projected against others (unless they willingly join a race) isn't pathological either, unlike so much of American culture.

Yet if you do join a race, cycling offers a darn level playing field. A strong guy on a thrifty bike can still do well. Bike racing offers a good chance for the underdog, making it nicely OYB. Well, no matter what you do on a bike, you get a lot of bang for the buck. A $50 garage-sale model can get you across the nation in a month.

Now, many other activities are wholesome. But I'm not sure how many offer as much as cycling. Cycling is just a wonderful distillation or test-laboratory for all kinds of independence values.

Like, cycling has the speed and daring of motor-racing---only bike racers aren't hidden away behind metal or padding, nor do they pollute and make huge noise, nor are they dangerous for others. Furthermore, cycling is both punk and conservative. It's a uniter. Pure DIY, pure OYB.

By emphasizing cycling, I'm not putting anything else down. There are lots of other strongpoints out there. I can catch a lunch a lot easier with a fishing pole than with a bike. But a fishing rig is a nifty piece of technology not so far removed from a bike (Shimano being the biggest maker of parts for both sports!). One dials in what one brings on a river outing, and how one arranges it, like one dials in what one brings on a bike tour. There's a lot of crossover. But it goes further: one often sees real-world fisherfolk riding their bikes to a river, with pole in hand and bucket on a handlebar. It all works together in OYB-land.

Different-yet-tasty Summer Drinks to Try...

*Great Overlooked Summer Cocktails Ramos Gin Fizz---a great summer cocktail! And don't forget the Mint Julep. Both are classy historic drinks for steamy days.

*Great Summer Beer: the Shandy!
Lemonade and beer, 50/50. More refreshing than lemonade, more thirstquenching than beer. The best of both worlds, fully dialed in for hot weather needs. (Lemon soda also works great.) In Germany they call it the Radler, their word for 'cyclist,' because hot'n'sweaty bikers like it so much!

*Want a fresh, different, cheap summer white wine? Try Gruner Veltliner! Here's one that I like a LOT: Berger, $8.33 a bottle. It's a great change of pace white. Perfect for hot summer days. Dry, light, green, sharp, zingy. I visited Vienna once and they drink it like water there. There are party vineyards that make this wine in the hills around Vienna where folks go to picnic.

*For yet another 'different' summer white try the famous Sancerre. Hemingway liked it 'crackling cold' with oysters. The grapes are grown on old sea-beds and the wine is considered the very best for shellfish. It's known to be a little stinky in a way. Try it!