Excursion 30 (Rider on the Storm)

In mid-May 2014 I had to travel to Chicago for work.  I brought my camera with me so that, on the way home, I might be able to take a few photographs once I crossed back into Ohio.  As I actually did so, I found myself in front of a major spring storm heading east from Indiana into Ohio.  I wasn’t storm-chasing—the storm was chasing me.  As I drove home, this game me some nice opportunities to turn around and take some photographs of the oncoming storm.  Which I now present to you.

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Excursion 26, Part 1 (Vortacular)

Unearthed Ohio is active again, after some time off for questionable behavior.  Unlike most blogs, where inactivity for an extended time portends doom, the extended hibernation here was deliberate.  Much of my free time this past year was spent working with a designer and a developer to create a new version of my other website, then I had to import and convert the old content, then catch up, and, well, it was a monumental undertaking.  I had to put Unearthed Ohio to the side—though I never stopped the actual photography.  Now I can catch up a bit.  With this blog entry, I present photographs from a trip I took in mid-February 2014, deep in the heart of the Polar Vortex.  As I write this intro, however, I seem to be deep in the heart of Polar Vortex 2:  Electric Boogaloo.  Two very nasty winters in a row.  The one advantage that a winter offers is winter landscapes and last year I took the opportunity of a recent snowfall to do some experimentation with snowy photography, which I present to you herewith.

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Excursion 24, Part 2 (The Merry Mannequins of Cambridge)

In which our intrepid hero gets in touch with his inner Victorian…

For many people, the Christmas season is rather depressing, but I must confess that I typically am filled with good cheer during that time of year, even though I am not Christian.  There is just something to the Christmas season for me, a period in which—in theory, at least—there really is “good will towards man” and with the gift-giving, people often do make an attempt to be thoughtful to others.  As a result, I am very pro-Christmas, even if from a secular viewpoint.  On this Christmas day, I found several examples of this seasonal “good will” that made me think the world wasn’t really all bad.

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Excursion 24, Part 1 (Sleep in Heavenly Peace)

In which our intrepid ventures out on Christmas morn…

In November 2013, I finally purchased my first DSLR camera, a Canon EOS 70D, something I had been itching to do for several months at that point, although the Canon Powershot SX50 HS superzoom camera that I had been using is in some ways better suited for roadside photography.  But I felt it was time for me to step up.

Work and the Polar Vortex combined to prevent me from taking the camera on a test ride for some weeks, but one possibility did intrigue me:  going on on Christmas day.

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Excursion 22, Part 2 (Shacks of Yore, Galore)

In which our intrepid hero gets to dwell on dwellings…

Are you a home orphan?  By that, I don’t mean homeless, but do you no longer have ties to the home in which you grew up?   Some of us can easily go back to the home of our youths, because other relatives, typically parents, may still live there.  You can revisit your old room, for example.  But not me.  My parents sold my childhood home in 1988 or so, the year I graduated from college and moved to Ohio.

I grew up in a house on 2624 Hawick, El Paso, Texas.  This was a subdivision with streets named on Irish themes built in the late 1950s.  My house was built in 1959.   It was a tiny house, three bedrooms but only around 1,000 square feet or so.  My mother was from El Paso, my father from Pennsylvania.  They lived in Pennsylvania after getting married but in 1970 they moved back to El Paso.  I was four years old.  We stayed at my grandparents’ house until my parents bought the home on Hawick.

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Excursion 21, Part 1 (Far From the Madding Crowd)

In which our intrepid hero contemplates nature and navels…

One of the things I love about my driving excursions in Ohio is the feeling of freedom that they give me.  I can drive anywhere, do anything; I have no deadlines or schedules or things I must do.  The only pressure at all in that regard is the pressure to wake up early enough in the morning to catch some good light.  Sometimes it seems to me that this sort of freedom is disappearing in modern society.  I don’t mean this in any sort of Glenn Beck/right-wing/libertarian way at all.  I am not talking about politics but personal freedoms.

Let me illustrate what I mean.  I think far fewer children simply play than when I was a child.  These days, it seems that all too many parents channel their children’s “playtime” into organized activities, like team sports and day camps and so forth.  I have to say that when I was a kid, if you wanted to play, you walked down the block and knocked on the door of some other house and got the kid who lived in that house to come out and play.  We played “cops and robbers,” or “pirates” or “cowboys and Indians,” and we played games like hide and seek, and we played sports, like baseball or basketball.  We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood.   I never once was on an organized soccer team or anything like that.  We didn’t need those things to have fun.  These days, however, it seems like organized activities are all parents think about—this is certainly true for the parents I know.  And those few parents who do seem to allow their children the chance to simply play do so like they were East German border guards.  One set of parents I know would never let their children play outside—on their own block!—unless one of the parents was outside watching them.

I confess that I get very crotchety about this.  My parents would set limits, which varied as I got older, typically making sure I knew when to be back, what geographical limits I had, and so forth.  But then they would simply let us play.  To me that seems to superior to choosing an organized activity for your kids and making them engaged in that supervised, constrained activity.

Where has that freedom gone?  The freedom to simply be a kid?

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Excursion 19, Part 2 (The Edsel)

In which our intrepid hero misses an important clue…

When I was a kid, like a lot of kids who read a ton of books, I had a reading vocabulary that was much bigger than my speaking vocabulary.  One word that I knew the meaning of was French in origin:  hors d’oeuvres.  In my mind, I pronounced this word something like “whores davores.”   I knew the word meant something like appetizers.  There was another word that meant basically the same thing:  “orderves.”   I don’t even know how many years passed before I finally realized that “orderves” and “hors d’oeuvres” were actually not synonyms but the same damn word.

 

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Excursion 19, Part 1 (Definite Feeds for Definite Needs)

In which our intrepid hero encounters aged agrarian advertising…

I learned a new (to me) word the other day:  earworm.   You and I and everybody we know have experienced them; an earworm occurs when a piece of a song or melody gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out.   It seems to me that there is a linguistic equivalent, of sorts, to an earworm, and that is when a particular phrase gets into your head.  It may not repeat itself but it is there and will come to mind, unbidden, with the right trigger.  Let’s call them eyeworms, just for the sake of convenience.  Earworms and eyeworms alike must be gold to advertisers.  Surely that is something they seek:  a commercial jingle or an advertising pitch line that lodge in people’s brains like G.I.s on Omaha Beach.  Think for a moment—do you remember any commercial jingles or advertising slogans from your childhood?  God knows I can.  “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”   “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”  “I can’t believe I ate that whole thing.”  “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

 

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Excursion 16, Part 4 (The Hanging House)

In which our intrepid hero encounters some bad noose…

This year I “celebrate” my 20th year of studying extremists in the United States, something that began as a completely unplanned and odd little outgrowth of my dissertation (which had nothing to do with extremism or, for that matter, the 20th century).  By January 1995, I was spending a lot of time looking at domestic extremists and the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing essentially changed my life forever, causing me to focus on extremism and terrorism, first voluntarily and soon professionally.  I’ve done that ever since.  But my very first encounter with extremism occurred decades earlier, when I was a child.

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Excursion 16, Part 3 (Requiem for a Limousine)

In which our intrepid hero sees horses and horseless carriages…

When I was a kid, my father bought a horse.  He liked to hunt and his hunting buddies liked to go deer hunting up in the Gila Wilderness.   They used horses to get back up in the mountains where there were no roads, so my dad decided he needed a horse, too.  He found a quarterhorse with the dubious name of Maude, a former barrel racer whose career in rodeo ended with an injured leg.  I don’t know how much Maude cost him, nor how much it cost to keep Maude at a time when not much money was coming in.  Horses are expensive.  My father did save on the stabling.  He convinced an uncle-in-law, who owned a small farm that grew cotton and alfalfa, to let him build a corral on the uncle’s property (probably paying him some form of rent).  This began for me a long relationship with Maude and an even closer relationship with Maude’s manure.

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