Friday, March 27, 2009

In Which I Take Something Seriously

Hey, kids! Know what month it is?

No, not that one.

Not that one either.

No, it's Frozen Foods month!

This makes me happy. The other history specializations going on this month- and indeed, the way history is generally taught--offends me on an academic level. An accurate accounting of the human past would not consider the work of a handful of powerful men to be "real" history, with everything else shunted to the side! Generally, these are little theme park versions of a single social movement in a culture's past (Suffragettes! Potato Famine! Civil Rights!) so that historians can get them out of the way and get back to the REAL business of discussing Men Killing Each Other in Manly Fashion.* And everyone knows this is unfair and wrong, which is why Special Interest History Months exist anyway, but rarely does any real effort get made to change the underlying teaching structure.

But Frozen Foods month is so bizarre, so unprompted by any real social unease, that it's actually worth noticing. It points the way to a better, more accurate way of considering human culture, one that takes focus away from the battles and the coronations and puts it on the things that really matter: the endless little inventions, made by mostly forgotten humans over every day of every millennia of our existence, that have made things better for the humans of their day, so they have the breathing room to make things even better, and so on. It's the little things adding up that carried humans across every continent on earth--and even farther.

Don't believe me? Quick, what's more important to scheduling your day:
(1)Alexander the Great caused Rome some problems.
(2)The sacking of Lindisfarne
(3)Bleeding Kansas
(4)Dinner is in the freezer when I get home

That's what I thought. I acknowledge that the US, as a whole, is a rather future-oriented culture, in that we're doing well to remember last Tuesday. But even in cultures that really nurture their ties to their past, even people who hang on to ancient grudges like they're a good pair of boots, well, folks gotta eat. And wear clothes. And like as not, write down messages in some way. And all of that is made possible not by conquest and battle, but by frozen foods, and new kinds of plant hybrids, and innovations in looms....

So here's to frozen foods month. May it help everyone learn to see our history, not as a grim march of battles and treaties, but as the shared web of ideas it really is.

Now excuse me, I'm gonna go make dinner.

Other nifty things too often overlooked:
The Red Cross-people at their best, when things are at their worst
Social Workers--much maligned, little rewarded, but you know all those people "someone" ought to help? These are the someones.
Peanuts!--They changed the American South. They can be eaten in every course of the meal. They don't even need refrigeration! Find out about one of the awesomest crops ever to be domesticated.

*I find Men Doing Stupid Stuff In A Manly Fashion highly entertaining, mind you, but that's why I have Ninja Warrior and Man Vs. Wild. It's fun, but it's not History.

Happy Frozen Foods Month

Friday, March 6, 2009

I'm a Feature!

Check it out! I'm giving away a pretty on Mannie Mandible's wonderful feature blog:

I love Mannie's features because she lets artists talk as long as they want. More rope, blogger!

Going to be quiet tonight and tomorrow-- I'm visiting Staple!, and independent comics expo. If you think comics are all superheroes and biff-boom-pow, well, you're probably a newspaper features editor. The rest of you know there's a lot more than that going on, right? RIGHT? Anyway, it's that everything else I love and go to celebrate tomorrow. Funtime for me!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yikes, I'm Exposed!

My Creatability team-- about whom I really really have to write, some day when I have world enough and brains-- has an Etsy Exposed treasury, and I'm in it! Which means, for as long as the treasury is up, I'm showing my face! And for that long *only*, because this is seriously wigging me out. So for those who wonder what I look like, here y'are:

On the plus side, I like how my hair looks. And I think I got some pretty good photos, considering I was the photographer and the model, and sometimes an unspectacled blind model at that.

Still. I'm all visible. Unsettling.

Monday, March 2, 2009

In Honor of Things that Should Be Honored

"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.

When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.

When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.

When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.

Nations, as well as individuals, are amenable for their acts to the public opinion of mankind....."

I like that intro. I like it a whole great bunch. It's not quoted the way the the preamble to the American Declaration of Independence is, but it's got some great lines.

That, up there, is the opening to the Texas Declaration of Independence. The American revolution tends to be taught with an emphasis on the words and ideals of the patriots, and rightly so. For all the cost and drama of the combat, it was a war of ideals.

The Texas revolution? Well, it was a war of..well, battles. It was a gloriously stupid revolution. Yeah, I said stupid. The American revolt had been being planned for years by the time of the Declaration; there was a Congress ready to act (or at least debate acting) a serious start at a militia, all kinds of underlying social ideas. From "liberty and property" to "We hold these truths to be self evident", that was a revolution with some underpinnings.

You know the first Texan battle cry? The one on a flag that still hangs in a town not a full hour's drive from me?

"Come and Take It".

"It" was a cannon, and if you don't know the entire story, well, as Mark Trail says,more information can be found on the internet. But anyway. That was it; that was flag of the Revolution. A little black cannony silhouette, and "Come and Take It".

Now I think this is an awesome battle cry, right up there with such classics as "Yeah You Better Run!" and "So's Your Old Man!". And it would prove to be exactly the sort of rallying cry that inspired Texans to take up arms (other things that inspired Texans to take up arms: votes, not voting, slavery, whiskey, cattle, pigs, land rights, water rights, rights on red, proximity to things that can be punched, and the everlasting ideal that Hey There's Something Over There). But honest and clear as it is, it's not the sort of motto a new country can use to convince other countries that it's a real going concern. So the leaders of the --well, see, that' the problem right there, what exactly is this place? A nation? A state? A republic? Let's go with Republic--sat down and wrote out a proper declaration, overnight, while Santa Anna was hilariously throwing his entire giant army against a tiny insignificant barely manned fort.

And later they wrote the Constitution , a document so vital that even today, after multiple revisions and another two whole governing entities, it underlies much of the business of state government. By which I mean it's the size of a phonebook and we've been trying to rewrite it for over a hundred years.

For those who don't know-- and hey, if you aren't from here, no reason you should-- this is the anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. If I've given you the impression in this article that the Texas Revolution was completely ludicrous--that a proper history of my state reads like a bad novel written by someone who knows nothing about how history works--well, that's about right. Really, this is an impossible state with improbable history and wonderful unreasonable people. I could never love another place half so much; I could never be happy living anywhere else.

So today I lift a hot bowl of bean-free chili in honor of the scribe who, in the finest tradition of academia, wrote his essay the night before it was due. Happy Independence Day, ya'll!