Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Opportunity, Montana

Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape on Amazon

If you go to the Amazon product page, be sure to watch the video.

Opportunity book cover "Opportunity was born so that Anaconda could live, and now it's dying for Missoula's sake." [page 217]

Brad Tyer has written a revelatory, passionate, occasionally autobiographical, somewhat historical chronicle about the Clark Fork of the Columbia River, about a very small town named "Opportunity," about the human and planetary cost of extractive mining for metals, about the staggeringly high price of industrialization. Montana is one of the handful of the contiguous 48 United States I've never driven through or along the edge―never even alighted momentarily at a Montana airport on my way to another destination. However, before I read this book, I'd bought the "Big Sky" chamber of commerce image of a near-pristine, close to unspoiled Montana. This book changed my perspective and my awareness!

Had I simply not been aware of the violence Montana's mining history did to land and to people, did I not think of where so many mineral resources (copper, especially) needed for wiring Planet Earth for electrical and electronic aspects of modernization and industrialization originated? I don't know. I've seen Kennecott's enormous open pit copper mine that also yields substantial gold, silver, molybdenum, and sulfuric acid at Bingham Canyon, Utah; I've visited several Arizona mining sites; I've traversed Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, all with deeply conflicted feelings. Particularly contested feelings where earth has been turned inside outside, mountaintops sliced off, green hills stripped barren.

In the Jubilee text of the book of Leviticus we hear, "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land." [Leviticus 25:23-24] here's Leviticus 25. I'm so sure... I am so sure .... proof texting with a snippet of scripture can be plain irresponsible, but can a violated, desecrated, and profaned land ever be redeemed, literally "bought back" and restored into healthy well-being?

"Opportunity was born so that Anaconda could live, and now it's dying for Missoula's sake." [page 217] We know all about that necessary and inevitable cycle of life – death – life – death – life... With "big copper" and "bad water" in the subtitle, this book – and this blog post – primarily are about the place of Opportunity and about the Clark Fork, a tributary of the Columbia that's a river in its own right, but, as author Tyer observes, aptly does not include "River" in its official name, since it's been treated more like a utensil than like a living part of nature. At the end of his book, Brad Tyer describes how redemption of the Clark Fork slowly and gradually is happening. Will a newly created river and riverbank have all the characteristics of its unspoiled, original state? No, but along with the surroundings it touches and influences, it will be livable for plants, wildlife, and people, and will form a prototype of what may be possible in other venues.

Reviews and publicity about this book have emphasized Tyer's interspersed accounts of his interesting but not atypical relationship with his late father, whose main life work was in municipal wastewater management, and to whom he dedicated the book. They didn't disrupt the broad scope of the book at all; in fact, I found them interesting. Who doesn't have stories about ways their parents' attitudes and behaviors have shaped their lives? My late grandfather was a Pennsylvania coal miner; more accurately, I am the granddaughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner, hence my interest in this book.

Any of Tyer's seven chapters would make an excellent serious magazine or journal article by itself: Headwater; Venus Rising; Red Harvest, Clark Fork; Opportunity, Revival; and Confluence. Opportunity, Montana is one of those rare books where almost every detail and description grabbed me. If you count mining, social or industrial history, environment, or future generations among your interests, consider reading Brad Tyer's Opportunity, Montana.

my amazon review: mining and a future for Montana

Saturday, May 18, 2013

new normal

Saturday of Easter 7 / Eve of the Day of Pentecost

Last month I attended the Print Week vendor trade show on Thursday morning 25 April, ArtWalk the afternoon of Easter 5—28 April. God commands Israel to re-member their history and re-assemble in a sense [past] events they've experienced, essentially to bring them into the present. God charges the people to recall both devastations and redemptions that have re-created them into the community – and the individuals – they've become.

As always, I rode the super-fast express bus 50 downtown to Print Week, which meant walking about .6 miles to the convention center; on my walk I re-imaged when I worked downtown in a former life. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' housing peeps were at Government Center, so that felt a little different from strolling through downtown San Diego, but the year I worked at the design studio was in the CBD and a blast of a location.

Recently this has been all over the 'net, so I'll simply quote to set the pace for the next section of this post:
The Italian immigrants of Roseto, Pennsylvania, ate meatballs fried in lard, gorged on pasta, and smoked, but they had half the risk of heart disease as the rest of the country. Why? Researchers concluded that it was because they lived communally, celebrated regularly, and had a huge network of friends. Dinner party, anyone?
Here's a scant handful of "what really was memorable."

• Prior to my move to Former City, being courted by Historic Inner City Church truly was exciting and kind of a mind-trip (they consider me qualified for this?!), but what were the details of that possible call? I don't recall. But I do remember potluck Thanksgiving Dinner at the HICC parsonage.

• From my last couple of years in Seafaring Town at the end of the last century, when I roomed with Heather, it was "do you want your pasta on a plate or in a bowl?" Aside from some gardening and drawing, sharing meals remains my main memory.

• Later with Nick in City of History, I'll never forget dinner together every evening—in fact, aside from starting to write some again by starting an urban page on the old MSN groups, that's the only thing I remember.

• About the church that since that summer disbanded and recently regathered as a mission in a different form? I enjoyed preparing and leading intercessions for Sunday liturgy, I liked playing organ/piano keyboards those Sundays, but more than anything, midweek evening Bible Study, dinner, and Eucharist humanized and fed me.

Week after week in this town, we have another military farewell, or homecoming, or sometimes one of each. Recently on the national news, we've seen families, friends, and communities literally "come together" from all corners and support each other, stand along side each other, and be there physically, emotionally, on every level for individuals and families who've experienced overwhelming losses and who need to grieve, who need help creating elusive "new normals."

In all this I still cannot shake the conviction individuals are supposed to be connected to other people. As Oprah said to the teenager, "You know you can't do life on your own." I remember waiting for a plane or car to pull up; sometimes I was in the car or plane, sometimes someone else was on their way to visit me at my place. Will that happen again? I'm too weary and actually have grown too smart to try to engineer that type of happening again, as I unsuccessfully tried to do for a few years.

Life is about seeking and finding a reasonably good fit amongst people, tasks, and goals. Barring a very cold climate (International Falls, Yukon Territory), I know I could be happy as long as I had human support, a few opportunities to contribute to the greater good. For me it's more about geography and weather and climate than about culture. Even so, how is it that I don't do concerts or museums? Why haven't I for a long time?

To start those activities in a new city or town, you need to connect with people; later you can do them by yourself. Education and skills usually literally "buy" (purchase) certain accoutrements and perks… but I'm well aware of the multitude of free and very-low cost high cultural (remember Edmund Sapir's Kultur?) and ethnic cultural opportunities around here. However, as I wrote at the top of this post, I did go to spring ArtWalk this year. It was fun, but nothing about booth browsing and people watching was enticing enough to convince to go again, unless someone will go with me.

For the past month I've loved listening to the vireos sing! Bird calls are innate; however, birds need to learn to sing from other birds. They begin with a sub song that's not quite singing, then go on to imitative (of other birds, of course) plastic song (interesting terminology), finally find their own crystallized songs. I'm yearning for a community that will teach me my own song, or help me relearn, or maybe that's remember my song, that will help me start composing new songs. A community of people who will raise me from this death?

telling the story

Monday, May 13, 2013


Partners front coverPartners on amazon, with eight chapters, each in two parts: Part One: Neighborhood Revitalization through Partnership; Part Two: Whittier Neighborhood, a Minneapolis Case Study.

More than ten years after its publication in 1982, at one of the annual Salt Lake City Neighborhood Conferences I received a copy of this soft-cover, 11.7"x9.1"x0.8" explorative report on revitalization of the Whittier section of Minneapolis. It's printed on heavy, coated paper, and it's packed with narrative, with B&W and color photographs, diagrams, charts, and general inspirations. I'm reading myself and my current situation into some words about the USA from the Prologue that could apply to many individuals:
"This book is about the end of an era and the beginning of a new possibility. The era it leaves behind was 'on the road,' mobile, going anywhere, celebrating space. The possibility it welcomes is 'coming home,' rooting, creating a stake, celebrating place."

partners inside pages

"Neighborhood is about place. It declares that one special place is the foundation for life's living. America 'on the move' was hard on places, whether prairies or forests or older cities. This is the story of a new generation that came home and found a way to recover a place that had been misused by old-fashioned Americans. It is about a beginning, a possibility, a way people act when place really matters." [iv]
partners inside pages
Partners back cover

In the wake of famously misguided attempts by government and by private investors to remedy real problems of inner city decay, neighborhood decline, and infrastructure deterioration, Dayton-Hudson (now Target Corporation) partnered with residents, businesses, local government and other entities to help the actual people of Whittier revitalize and reclaim the community for themselves by creating a home, a place to be, during the 1970s. Partners is a fascinating study about people power, grass roots action, and the resurgence of hope and life. Three decades later, this book is hardly dated at all, and still would be useful and instructive for any urban studies, American studies, sociology, or cultural anthropology course.
partners inside pages

my amazon review: creating home

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Can't-Wait Willow

Legal note - "Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. This disclosure is in accordance with Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR. Part 255: 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

Can't-Wait Willow! from Shine Bright Kids Series on Amazon; written by Christy Ziglar; illustrated by Luanne Marten.

"Choose Right. Shine Bright.
The first book in a new series about helping children learn how to make good choices.

link love:
Always Shine Bright

Shine Bright Kids on Facebook

What a beautifully produced book! The front of the dusk jacket features a shiny embossed dye-strike―sparkles on Willow's dress and headband, too! According to Zig Ziglar, uncle of book author Christy Ziglar, "Sometimes you've got to say 'no' to the good, so you can say 'yes' to the best." Yes, but...

Featured character Willow meets a series of challenges, temptations (opportunities?) to purchase something she wants right now with her (necessarily limited) money; as a result, she ends up without enough cash to attend the circus show and buy a coveted cotton candy. In fact, because she makes so many stops along the way, Willow arrives at the circus grounds so late the show is over. Her chance meeting with the circus ringmaster wins her the gift (unearned grace?) of a ticket to the following day's circus show. At the show, Willow gets to enjoy a couple of cotton candy treats, and she gets to ride on the elephant―even better than the purple stuffed elephant she won the previous day by paying to play a game. Redemption?!

I love Luanne Marten's color-filled, whimsical pictures, but from all appearances, she sets the story somewhere in the semi-rural prairielands of the USA or Canada. Both kids and grownups in the story are ethnically diverse, but everything else about them suggests several decades back in time in the semi-rural prairielands of Canada or the USA. For sure a benefit of reading is for kids to use their imaginations on order to place themselves in other places and times, but given the fact Can't-Wait Willow! is supposed to convey and teach a lesson for today, I'm not convinced the illustrations are exactly relatable. I do get the idea of choosing the best over the better, but how on earth does any kid, left to her/his own choices in a normal average day, know what might be in store later on, even when they originally intended to buy a certain good with their money or scarce time, but in-between discovered several not quite as good options? Besides, all along the way, Willow still contributes to the local economy! Not to rain on Willow's parade, as much as I love animals – because I love animals – a circus without them would have been better.

So far every reviewer has given Can't-Wait Willow a 5-star review, but I can't be that generous. My rating: storyline, 3 stars; illustrations, 5 stars.

my amazon review: visual beauty; okay story

Friday, May 10, 2013

another random 5

revkjarla hosts another random 5 today.

spring promise

1. If I could hear what someone is thinking for a day, I might choose? because? I'll pass on this one… no interest whatsoever.

2. If I could be trapped in a tv show for a month, I'd choose Anne of Green Gables because I loved her prairie dresses, the slower than now pace of her daily life; I loved Anne's consideration of others and her constant kindness.

3. If I could do any job in the world for a day, I'd go back to the year I worked at a design studio in the CBD. My colleagues were fun, running out for a quick lunch amidst noisy downtown noonday chaos was a trip, a lot of our projects were challenging, with typically satisfying outcomes.

4. Right now I am loving the many many birdsongs I hear every spring day.

5. Use these words in a sentence? Here you go:
"As I sat at the computer, casually skipping through their website, feeling smug I'd made friendly Georgia my default serif font, suddenly ... bless the Lord, O my soul! That's the cheeseburger from our vacation in Chihuahua." Who took that pic? How did it get here?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Sabbath in the Suburbs

New book by MaryAnn McKibben Dana, Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time

You can find MaryAnn at The Blue Room Blog

Sabbath in the Suburbs coverInspiring and practical! This truly is a book [xii] "...for anyone who wants to learn to live at a savoring pace." Inspired by a visit to Iona, PC(USA) pastor MaryAnn McKibben Dana spent twelve months from September 2010 through August 2011 (literally) practicing keeping a weekly sabbatical day with her spouse and their three kids. "Sabbath" means to stop, to cease work and worry; keeping sabbath means bringing life back into balance by living fully and simply in this present, gifted "now," if only for 24 hours, 12 hours, or another measured segment of chronological time.

Like MaryAnn, I'm also a city girl, accustomed to, often enamored with noisy (in every sense: high decibel, dissonant sounds; savory tastes; intense, colorful sights; interesting smells; varied natural and humanly-created texture) surroundings, uncomfortable with silence. Full of discomfort about being physically alone, by myself. I've also been spending a lot of time with memories of past achievements and experiences (some of that's essential in my current phase of discerning what's next in my life), as I imagine the venue and the shape of future activities and happenings (also necessary if that future's going to arrive). However, to counter that, I need the sense and the reality of [117] "Sabbath [which] is about ... delighting in the sacred ordinary that's always around us ... being grounded in relationships and in place," along with the work of Sabbath, "Play without Purpose" [139]. Sabbath is about living here and living now.

life stuff buttonThe author writes and lives from a Christian perspective, but almost anyone of any or no religious, theological, or spiritual persuasion could benefit from taking twelve months to practice keeping sabbath one day each week. I loved the easygoing, easily readable pace of the narrative as it moved month by month beginning with September, the traditional start of the academic year. Your starting point "new year" could be the first Sunday of Advent, January 1, Lunar New Year, or any ethnic, cultural new year. Or invent and announce your own. I'm planning to set my own date to begin and journal through twelve months of Sabbath in the City; I'll be posting a monthly blog, as well. MaryAnn has filled this book with useful examples from her own life, and brings dozens of relatable quotes from other writers, including Abraham Joshua Heschel, Henri Nouwen, and Wayne Muller.

As much as I enjoy reading and pondering heavyweight theology, I need books and conversations like Sabbath in the Suburbs that will help me (slowly learn to) live closer to creation, more authentically with others and with myself. Those of us familiar with the Hebrew scriptures know Genesis 2:2-3: "And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation." God calls us, and in the Spirit empowers us, to work as co-creators, co-re-creators of creation. But even more so, sabbath is for us because we no longer are slaves, no longer bound to labor and toil 24/7. Deuteronomy 5:15, "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day."

Most of us attempt to "practice resurrection," to live "as if," "fake it till we make it." MaryAnn assures us [23-24] acting "as if" we've achieved the fullness and completeness of a full day of sabbath rest is not lying, not pretending, but rather it is "an act of hope."

my amazon review: inspiring and practical