But What Does it Mean?

What does “populism” mean? What do you want it to mean? Are you a political scientist, a historian of the US, a modern journalist, a pundit? Each one has a slightly – or very – different definition of that word, and others.

My students are familiar with my precision, enough so that they probably roll their eyes, at least now. There are times in history when words had very different meanings, and I feel compelled to hammer this into them. Not that it takes, not always, but sometimes it works. Continue reading

The Winter Browns

Winter on the High Plains is not white, at least not since the 1970s. Even then, the white often melted and left the brown shades of winter in charge. One of my colleagues is pining for snow, because “everything’s ugly in winter. Snow helps.” I agree that we need snow, rain, more rain, more snow, but I disagree on the ugly. Continue reading

Thoughts on Re-Reading Marx

  1. He’s still the least funny of the Marx Brothers.
  2. Anyone who redefines terms without being specific as to why and for good cause is probably going to have ideas that are flawed in some way. Marx leans on Hegel’s definitions of some historical-theoretical concepts, and uses them accordingly. A reader approaching the material with standard German definitions in mind is going to be confused.
  3. Compared to Das Kapital, “The Communist Manifesto” is a work of succinct clarity. But then so are a lot of other books.
  4. I keep feeling like a math teacher. “Show your work. Show your work. Quit skipping steps, Karl, show me how you get from here to the world without classes and the State.”

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Maybe It Wasn’t the Reader, Maybe It Was the Book

Sunday morning I was glancing through the Amazon sales e-mail and saw something that looked potentially interesting. The book title was The Only Harmless Great Thing, and it was listed as a fantasy/alternate history. I decided to look at the page, and after reading a little of the ad-copy, blurb, and reviews, realized that this is not my sort of reading.

It sounds too much like Faulkner’s style, and I tried Faulkner twice. 0-2, and that was that. I’ll stick with his short stories, thanks.

What caught my eye were some of the reviews. The one and two stars, all of which said the same thing. Continue reading

The Citadelle Museum, Canadian, Texas

My folks and I drove two hours each way to go to a little art museum in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. This was the second attempt. The first time, we didn’t know the museum was closed for Christmas and New Years. Then we tried to go before school started and the weather intervened (8″ of snow on narrow, winding roads.) The third time was the charm. We got to see the Rembrandt etchings.

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A What to Society?

What had been a mild mental fog thickened into a cloud of confusion over our heads and the commencement speaker continued, saying, “You have been granted a special gift. You were allowed to go to college instead of working, or raising children. Never forget this. You owe a debt to society, one you must pay back, a dept to the community that let you go to college.”

The woman sitting beside me didn’t just bristle, she dang near turned into a cross between a porcupine and an echidna. She’d worked a part-time job off campus, plus an on-campus work-study, plus earning two scholarships in order to go through school. I think I might have heard something about “I don’ owe society nothin’.” Continue reading

The Ghost of a Lake

Once there was a playa, a rainwater lake. It nestled between two low ridges, collecting water from the slopes and the rain and snow. At its fullest, it could stretch over a mile north to south, and as wide east to west. In dry, droughty years it shrank into a puddle, a refuge for water plants and ducks.

Over time, a city grew toward the playa, expanding east to west. The two could not coexist well, and so the city dredged the playa, added plumbing, and turned the remains into a storm water catchment. Houses and businesses, roads and parks covered the old playa bed, leaving only the rainwater catchment to show that once a playa covered the land.

Except… Continue reading