perhaps a new green life for old cities, william carlos williams, last WW I veterans dies

From a review of SMALL, GRITTY, AND GREEN: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World. By Catherine Tumber. MIT Press. 211 pp. $24.95

Tumber covers a lot of territory quickly, including the budding urban agriculture movement, cities’ efforts to foster “smart growth,” and the rise of green manufacturing. She cautions that midsize cities need to rein in suburban sprawl, which destroys the small farms and other agricultural land close to urban cores that give them an advantage over large metropolises. Cities that were hollowed out as a result of white flight, urban renewal, and other misfortunes are examining ways to put vacant and underutilized land to productive use, at least temporarily, through urban farming initiatives.

Some Rust Belt cities also have begun to retool their work forces and economic development goals to mesh with the emerging low-carbon practices of the green economy. I was surprised to learn that Muncie, Indiana, a town only a three-hour drive from my Louisville home, is becoming a major producer of wind turbine components. Proximity to a major wind corridor and a work force whose skills were honed manufacturing automobile transmissions place the city in a green technology sweet spot.

Of course, not every city is in a wind corridor or has the manufacturing base to create products that will be needed in a low-carbon economy. But Tumber is right that many small and midsize cities share a number of characteristics that could be the basis for an economic renaissance. Their futures depend on what they do with those assets. As Tumber suggests, the quality of a community’s education is one significant determinant.

Economics, the power of the market might – fingers crossed – force some of these changes for medium-sized cities. Transporting and storing food is expensive. If food costs continue to rise – prices are intricately linked with fuel costs – than buying local becomes, not just  the latest fad in greening up the food chain, but an economic imperative. Along the way there would be some health costs benefits. Food that is not processed, the does not come in a package with a lot of stuff many people can’t pronounce, residents of these more self-sustaining corridors become healthier.

I would not put too much hope into the wind power industry. It does have some downsides. While those giant turbines might be a perfect fit for some corners of the desert or offshore, they are not fun to have in the backyard.

Obviously as the book notes there are reasons to hope, with a little community action and some halfway descent leadership, the gritty and green transition could work. Another reason in spending years of your life in a car – Long Commutes Burn Employees Out

coulds, storms, radiant light

cloudscape wallpaper

If corporations are people than why aren’t these corporations cleaning toilets at San Quinton: For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial and spewing cancer causing toxins; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and no bid contracts corporate welfare baby Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer.

In the movie Manhattan (1979) the four main characters played by Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy and Mariel Hemingway are taking a walk together. Keaton and Murphy, have this inside joke called the most over rated people in history. I can’t remember the exact people they name, but it included some great musicians and writers. I remember that some of them are not on my list of favorites I would not go so far as to call them overrated. Keaton and Murphy’s characters were representative of the snobs who makes up such lists. Allen’s character was the egalitarian. He loved all the people they thought were overrated. Adam Kirsch reminded me of that scene, by way of some quotes from literary critics, in this review of three new books about William Carlos Williams – The New World of William Carlos Williams

“During his lifetime Williams had the pleasure of becoming a beloved figure,” writes Leibowitz, the founder and longtime editor of the journal Parnassus. But

voices of dissent rang out from the choir loft, basically rehearsing the accusations that he lacked the rudiments of technique or an understanding of form, that he was a sentimentalist and a shallow thinker, and, most damaging of all, that his quest for a uniquely American poem grounded in speech was a foolish enterprise, doomed to fail.

In the poet Wendell Berry’s The Poetry of William Carlos Williams of Rutherford, a brief personal tribute to a writer Berry counts as a major influence, the same undermining voices are invoked: “I would hear, sometimes from older writers I admired, judgments such as ‘I love Bill Williams, but he has no mind,’” Berry writes. “Late into the drafting of this book I still felt the need to begin by defending him,” before realizing that “defense was not necessary.”

Cited in the review is probably William’s best known poem. I think I first read it in elementary school, later in high school. In a college level literature survey course, like a great of great writers in that monstrous survey of lit put out by MacMillan publishing, we skipped Williams for what the professor thought were more important writers. “The Red Wheelbarrow,”

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

So simple, yet so profound. The spacing and rhythm are everything. Those spaces as much a part of what he meant to say as the words. Yet, it is considered one of his minor poems. I was going to ask who the hell decides such things. Critics, academics and other writers. I am pro art filters. That circle of people are in general good at separating out stuff that captures the popular imagination of the moment from the literature, poems, movies and paintings that have lasting value, but geez can they be condescending and nasty.

Williams was so unsparing in self-criticism that piling on the criticism from others was hardly necessary. This passage about Williams responding to his son’s request for a copy of a new book says it all,

One of those themes is Williams’s sense of inferiority and self-doubt. “Let the successful carry off their blue ribbons; I have known the unsuccessful, far better persons than their more lucky brothers,” he says in the Autobiography; but this was a case of protesting too much. More revealing is the letter, quoted by Leibowitz, that Williams sent to his son, William Eric, when the latter asked for a copy of his latest book:

You say you’d like to see my book of poems. What the hell? Let ‘em go. They are things I wrote because to maintain myself in a world much of which I didn’t love I had to fight to keep myself as I wanted to be. The poems are me, in much of the faulty perspective in which I have existed in my own sight—and nothing to copy, not even for anyone even to admire.

This diffidence never left him: when he was preparing his last book for the press, Leibowitz writes, Williams grew so anguished that he “tore the manuscript to pieces and dumped them in the trash.” His wife had to fish out the fragments and mail them to his publisher, James Laughlin of New Directions, “who put them together like a jigsaw puzzle.”

This video fits in with the theme of simplicity and profundity of the“The Red Wheelbarrow”. Cillie Barnes “Million Dollar Bill” for the

Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, distinct, it has this ephemeral quality and almost paradoxical combination of shyness mixed with a unique, persistent individuality. And that coy individuality shone through in her flipping the perspective on this song with a few word changes, slyly shifting the emotionality as it’s sung from the other side. John Dos Pasos wrote in an essay called A Question of Elbow Room that “individuality is freedom lived” and about the importance of carving out space, making “enough elbow room in society to exhibit unashamed the little eccentricities and oddities that differentiate one man from another man. From within his separate hide he can look out at the world….”

I just saw this come over the news wires, The Very Last World War I Veteran Has Died

A British woman who served with the Royal Air Force for the last two months of World War I was the last known veteran of the war when she died in her sleep Saturday night. Florence Green joined the RAF at the age of 17 and died just before her 111th birthday, which would have been Feb. 19. She had been a mess steward with the air force, the BBC reported, serving in two U.K. air bases after she joined up on Sept. 13 1918.


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