January 2020
Vol. X, No. 1

January 2020

“When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’  That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”   Ram Dass (1931-2019)

Paleolithic "Venus," Renancourt, Amiens, France.

Paleolithic “Venus,” Renancourt, Amiens, France.

"Venus of Laussel," Musée d'Aquitaine, Bordeaux, France.

“Venus of Laussel,” Musée d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux, France.

This January’s issue of Weekly Hubris marks a milestone: we have been at this now, whatever this is, for nine years, and, with this month’s issue, begin our tenth. The lede that I bury, almost every month, is an(y) essay by climate scientist/philosopher Dr. Guy McPherson, who skippers the winged chariot which at my back I always hear: McPherson’s compelling brief on just how little time all living beings have left here on Earth informs my every action, my every breath. Read him and join me in our final classroom. But we begin with Dr. Skip Eisiminger, and a frolic (well, mostly a frolic) in the frigid north. Burt Kempner follows closely with his one, simple New Year’s . . . revolution. Then, we have a visual respite with single-panel cartoons for the new year, from the hand of Mark Addison Kershaw. Poet/Musician Anita Sullivan offers up a (virtual) sketch of an analog pot. Then comes Guy McPherson, he of the buried lede. Diana Farr Louis writes a paean to her co-author-in-cookery, June Marinos, and a magical Greece she, June, and I inhabited (and wrote about) in a time not so long ago. Annie Maffeo considers—with great charm—her toddler, as he weighs the power of a good swear word (or two). Don Schofield contributes a critically important and soaring, poem-studded essay on human violence, Christmas in a war zone, and the respite vouchsafed him by time, geography, and art. The Rev. Robin White turns, for inspiration (hers, ours) to the Gospel of Matthew, an Australian woman who braved the Outback with four camels and a dog, and More Light Presbyterians. Claire Bateman features the poetry of Dr. J. Drew Lanham, and gardener William A. Balk, Jr., of Elko, South Carolina, comes to us grinning, and elbow-deep in potting soil.

In response to the sculptures of The Great Mother featured on our January Home Page, this poem, “Beginnings: National Museum of Scotland,” by Jeffrey Greene: “On the ground floor called ‘Beginnings,’/a fertility stone is displayed/in the diamond-hard blue halogen,/a line etching of an erection/with two equal circles, as one sees/in graffitti in the Underground./The stone is attributed to the Picts,/of whom history says little,/besides the Latin picti,/painted people, tattooed./When set side by side/with Latin engravings/and Roman military hardware,/the artifact makes them/seem pitiful. In the museum/you rise through time,/the text written in first/person plural as if all/who enter are complicitous/with the articles of defiance,/Robert the Bruce, the long/unveering heredity of defeat,/the room of thumbscrews/and ‘The Maiden’ for severing/heretical heads of witches,/upward to the Reformation,/then the rout of the Highlanders/and the exile of the Bonnie Prince,/until the museum seems/like a deep well where/the fertility stone/of the painted people/rests at its bottom,/universal hieroglyph/on which someone made a wish.”

Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in Frogner Park, Oslo: winter.

Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in Frogner Park, Oslo.

Skip the B.S.

“Glögg & Lutefisk: Scandinavia,” By Dr. Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Cold and blue. That’s the way I remember Scandinavia 68 years after a two-week, three-legged tour with my parents when I was nine. In the late 1940s, we were living in West Germany, where my father was part of the occupation forces charged with rebuilding the country he’d helped to destroy. In the spring of 1948, Dad announced that he wanted to photograph the relatively undamaged north before he was reassigned to the States. In a light rain, Mother, Dad, and I headed to Copenhagen, where all I recall is The Little Mermaid shivering in the harbor set against a cobalt-blue sky, but I may just be recalling Dad’s photograph of her. Next, we took a ferry to Malmö, Sweden, drove north to Stockholm, west to Oslo, and then caught another ferry to Copenhagen. I recall a naked forest of sailboats in the Stockholm harbor but little else. The most lasting image of the entire trip was that writhing stone column of naked humanity in Oslo’s Frogner Park. While I shivered looking up at this “Viking Maypole,” dozens of Norwegians were sunning themselves in unlined swimsuits. Like I said, cold and blue. (Read more . . .)

Frozen soap bubble.

Frozen soap bubble.

Pinhead Angel 

“Resolution, Revolution,” By Burt Kempner

GAINESVILLE Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—I have oftentoo oftenfelt like a tourist in my own life, pausing long enough to take a snapshot or buy a tacky souvenir, but not to see or do or learn anything memorable or enduring. I dressed the part, too. In my youth, my passport to the unexamined life bore many, many stamps. I have been battling this tendency as I’ve gotten older, and I’m declaring 2020 as the year of quiet revolution: in consciousness, creation, and manifestation. Like a true traveler, I aim to give as much of myself as I take from others. (Read more . . .)

Addison-think tankAddison

“About Time, Too!” By Mark Addison Kershaw

ATLANTA Georgia—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Editor’s Note: When I asked Mark, aka Addison, if he had any New Year’s cartoons for us (yes, editors ask crass things like that of their artistes), he replied: “One is New Year related, another is time related (so sort of New Year related); the other three are all over the damn place.” And that response, from Weekly Hubris’s cartoonist-cum-philosopher-not-in-residence, comprises about as many words as I ever get out of him at one time. Addison draws, takes pictures (of non-verbal, local fauna), and stoops, upon occasion, to a caption. But he is a man of many panels, if few words. We are happy, here at Weekly Hubris, to have had him round and about for a year, now, and look forward to sharing more of his peculiar and addictive take on life. I find Addison as poignant and prescient as James Thurber, one of his admitted influences, but he is Thurber pulled, blushing and gesticulating, into the 21st century. I know I speak for us all when I say, “All right, have it your way—you heard a seal bark!”  (Read more . . .)

The pot under discussion.

The pot under discussion.

On the Other Hand

“On The Other Hand,” By Anita Sullivan

EUGENE Oregon—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—When I tell myself I want to paint an empty plant pot in my garden, I’m not talking about applying paint to the pot itself. The pot has already been “painted” but not PAINTED, if you take my meaning. The entire pot, inside and out, is exposed to view now that it has been emptied of soil and flowers in expectation of five long months of rain, winds, and darkness. Its original orange clay exterior was long ago covered over with a glaze of pale aqua with a dark green abstract (or more likely “haphazard”) design caught in a loose unravel around the top. The pot is quite lovely. I would like to paint it. (Read more . . .)

Albert Camus.

Albert Camus.

Going Dark

“Love in the Time of the Sixth Mass Extinction,” By Dr. Guy McPherson

MAITLAND Florida—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—We are in the midst of abrupt, irreversible climate change. We are in the midst of a Mass Extinction Event on Earth. How shall we act? What moral code(s) can guide us? These two questions form the basis for my ongoing work, which I occasionally refer to as Planetary Hospice. I have written periodically about philosophy in this space, albeit generally in passing. Last month provided an obvious example of my long-time interest in philosophy, albeit overtly rather than with the casual approach I customarily employ. In that essay, I pointed out my tendency to think of philosophy in much the same way that I think about science and art, as a personal endeavor. I have further hinted at my own personal philosophy in my earlier essays in this space, while also acknowledging the views of those who have influenced me. (Read more . . .)

June Marinos outside Evripidis Bookshop in Kifissia, Greece.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“A Tribute To June Marinos, Eggplant Lady, & Much More,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Twenty-five years have gone by since June Marinos and I clinked glasses over the first publication of our joint venture, Prospero’s Kitchen, The Cooking of the Ionian Islands from Corfu to Kythera. Since then, “Prospero” has been reprinted three times and we have both published other books, but I wonder if I would have had the temerity to continue and become a food as well as travel writer if she had not shown me the way. It all began on a tennis court in the late 1980s. I was co-editing a magazine for a Greek hotel chain and since my partner and I were writing most of the articles ourselves under pseudonyms, we were searching for someone to do a food column. It never occurred to me to write it myself. Whom to ask but my French tennis pal? You can always rely on a “frog” to be in the know where cuisine is concerned. Immediately, she shouted back over the net, “The eggplant lady.” (Read more . . .)

At this point, no one could extinguish this kind of joy.

At this point, no one could extinguish this kind of joy.

Working Through Motherhood

“The Power of a Good Swear Word,” By Annie Carroll Maffeo

BATAVIA Illinois—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—I love to swear. There. I said it. I had a young man, at the tender age of 12 or 13, not want to “go out” with me anymore because I cursed too much. I grew up with an incredibly smart mother and father who, despite their extensive vocabularies, never discounted the importance of a well-placed swear word. This is not to say that they walked around dropping F bombs regularly, but they appreciated a good Fuck yelled out at a stubbed toe or a dropped Bears pass. (Read more . . .)

“Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest against dire economic conditions in downtown Beirut, Oct. 18, 2019.” (Photo: “US News & World Report.”)

Lebanese demonstrators wave the national flag during a protest.

Imagination’s Favors

“The Wheels Grind: Thoughts on Self & War,” By Don Schofield

THESSALONIKI Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Recent mass demonstrations in Lebanon—the so-called “Lebanese Revolution,” in which weeks of largely peaceful protests have toppled the current government and promise to bring about even more fundamental change—have gotten me thinking about the time I visited that country in the middle of its civil war, a conflict which raged from 1975 to 90. Once again, I’m wondering, what made me, back in 1981, sojourn into a war zone? Growing up in America I never experienced war, though once came close. Near the end of my senior year in high school, because I had stolen a car, I was told by the court to go into the army. Either that or go to jail. So, in the fall of 1967, two months after I graduated and just a few months before the Tet Offensive, I took a bus from my home in Sacramento to the Oakland Army Induction Center for my physical. I failed it, one of the few times in my life my 20/400 vision was a blessing. Classified 1y, I was unfit to serve except in case of a national emergency. (Read more . . .)

Mia Wasikowska playing Robyn Davidson in the 2013 film, “Tracks.”

Mia Wasikowska playing Robyn Davidson in “Tracks.”

Wing + Prayer

“Star Trek (Matthew 2: 1-12),” By The Reverend Robin White

LAKE HARTWELL South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—We don’t know who the Magi were, how many of them traveled to Bethlehem, or where they came from. We really don’t even know about the famous star. What we do know is that the story was somehow important to Matthew. Matthew, who was himself Jewish and wrote somewhere between AD 70 and 110, seems to make an extra special effort to appeal to Jewish readers. His report of the Magi incident highlights an important theme in his Gospel—the shifting of God’s singular favor of Israel to a more inclusive relationship, specifically including the Gentiles. (Read more . . .)

Dr. J. Drew Lanham. (Photo: Coreen Evans Weilminster/Carrie Samis.)

Dr. J. Drew Lanham.

Speculative Friction

“The Poetry of J. Drew Lanham,” By Claire Bateman

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Dr. J. Drew Lanham is a Clemson University Master Teacher, Alumni Distinguished Professor, and Provost’s Professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation. As a Black American, he’s intrigued by how ethnic prisms bend perceptions of nature and its care. His writing and spoken word focus on a passion for wild things, wild places, and the personal and societal conflicts that sometimes put conservation and culture at odds. Drew was named Poet Laureate of his home place county, Edgefield, South Carolina, in 2018 and is the author of Sparrow EnvyPoems (Holocene Press 2016; Hub City Press 2019). His award-winning book, The Home Place-Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (Milkweed Editions 2016/Tantor Media 2019; Burroughs Medal Finalist 2016; SELC Reed Environmental Writing Award 2018), describes a mission to  promote environmental sustainability, civil rights, and conservation in new ways by bridging the gaps between science, advocacy, education, and inspiration. (Read more . . .)

My gardening assistant mixing soil.

My gardening assistant mixing soil.

Epicurus’ Porch

“Dealing With My Pot Problem,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—January 2020—Would you just look at that mess? Some doofus has taken that whole wheelbarrow full of gorgeous newly made potting mix and moved it out from under the eaves of the potting shed. I spent half a day mixing that stuff up, getting the texture just right, getting it slightly moistened and evenly crumbly—perfect for all the new plants I’ve got to pot up and all those old ones that need a bigger pot. All that work, and some fool goes and moves it out here where it gets rained on last night, and of course the wheelbarrow doesn’t drain, and of course the rain poured off the roof right into this thing. It’s a tub of mushy black mud now. Daaayuumm! (Read more . . .)

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