Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So here we are on the Athabaska Glacier, disembarked from our custom-made Terrabus. Of the 23 Terrabuses in the world, 22 of them take folks out on the ice The 23rd is at McMurdo in Antarctica, and its name is "Ivan the Terrabus."
That's your Antarctic humor for the day.
As you can see from the second photo, the Athabaska comes down in three huge frozen waves before forming a long ice river that stretches down into the valley.
Let me tell you, life on a glacier is cold. And slippery. There was a forty-knot wind pouring down the glacier, threatening to blow us all the way to Banff. I was the hardiest of our group, running on and off the bus either to warm up or take pictures, and even with frequent warming stops on the bus I couldn't take more than 20 of our allotted 25 minutes.
The glacier has been in retreat ever since 1860, and loses on average about 30 feet each year. Except that the loss has doubled since 2000, as a result of climate change.
Glaciers. See 'em while you still can.

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Here's your cute animal photo for the day: two bighorn rams grazing by the side of the road.
Canadian bighorns seem a lot more tame, or maybe stupid, than New Mexico bighorns.
If these were New Mexico bighorns, they'd be over the next mountain by now.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Champ de Glace

This glacier feeds three different oceans, the Atlantic, Pacific, and the Arctic.

This is one of the three places on earth that have a three-way continental divide.

I don't know where the other two are.

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We have spent the day surrounded by towering mountains, glacier-fed lakes, and douglas fir.
This is a picture of Bow Lake, which is distinct from the other Bow Lake, and also from Lac d'Arc, which means "Bow Lake" in French. (Though Kathy's theory was that Joan of Arc's family moved here, and the lake was named after them.)
The lake water is actually a bright blue-green turquoise color. This is because glaciers are full of finely-ground rock called "stone flour," which is carried by the water and which absorbs all colors except the turqoise.
We also spent time at another glacier-fed lake called Lake Louise. If you've ever seen a tourist brochure of Canada, the odds are good that Lake Louise was on it.
The perfect reflective water made Bow Lake tops on our list, though.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

O Canada

I'm off to Canada and the World Fantasy Convention.

By tomorrow, I plan to be here.

(The link is a lot more impressive if you click it in the daytime.)

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Sound Familiar?

"While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst -- and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us."
- Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1, 1930

"All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed... and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S."- President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

Here's a list of fatuous and scary comments from political and financial figures, circa 1929-1933.

Any of it sound familiar?


Reviews Too Late: The Sandbaggers

Netflix told me I was going to like The Sandbaggers. Netflix was right.

The Sandbaggers is a Cold War espionage drama dating from the 1970s--- the length of the characters' sideburns is a clue that I decoded before I got to the copyright date of MDCCCCLXXVIII. It stars the Young Roy Marsden, who looks surprisingly like the Old Roy Marsden except with more hair. It is labeled a "Yorkshire Television Colour Production," which assures us that, while the budget was very small and the sets tacky, it's at least not in black and white. (The sets would have looked more convincing in black and white, if you ask me.)

The Sandbaggers is the only spy drama I know of written by someone who seems to have been an actual spy. (Creator Ian Mackintosh disappeared on a flight over the Bering Sea before he could finish writing the series.)

Whether Mackintosh was a spy or not, he's certainly got a convincing mastery of the jargon and tradecraft. Marsden's character, Burnside, is the D-Ops of SOS, who reports to Peele, the Deputy Head SIS, though Marsden frequently goes over Peele's head to C, who is a former diplomat, and thus distrusted by Burnside, who himself has an operations background. (All, however, unite against the threat of MI5.) Burnside's also the former son-in-law of the Permanent Undersecretary, who oversees SIS, and is friends with Jeff Ross, who reports to Langley, and constitutes the other half of the "Special Relationship."

You will understand from this description that the story is more about bureaucracy than derring-do. The series' low budget probably has a lot to do with this--- the agents drive Minis rather than Aston-Martins--- but the low budget is mirrored in the plots, in which Burnside's special operations unit is hanging by a fiscal thread.

In any case, most episodes consist mainly of people talking to each other--- but the dialog is great dialog, and Marsden is just wonderful with it. Burnside spends more time trying to keep his unit away from operations that sound good to politicians than in volunteering his section for active duty. When he does commit his three-person unit to action, they're as liable as not to end up in a complete catastrophe, as in the episode in which one of his agents has to kill another to keep him from talking under torture. (In fact a lot of the regulars die in this series, sometimes in completely arbitrary ways, unusual for a series that has so little action.)

Burnside is a terrific character--- he's such a master manipulator and bureaucratic infighter that it's impossible to decode what he's actually thinking, or what his real motives might be. He considers that his subordinates' private lives are, in effect, his personal property, and when one of his agents gets engaged to a woman he considers unsuitable, he employs blackmail to destroy the relationship. When he asks another woman to dinner, is he genuinely interested in her or trying to manipulate her into staying in line? (Both, probably.)

I haven't finished the series, so please don't post any spoilers.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Jo Walton Sez . . .

Hey, Jo Walton is saying nice things about me over on!

Williams is a remarkably underrated writer. He’s amazingly versatile and he’s never written the same book twice . . . I’ve been reading him enthusiastically and buying every book he’s written since I fell in love with Knight Moves on that long ago train. I’ve been expecting him to become a bestseller at any moment with a big breakout book, but it never quite happens. He keeps on writing one brilliant fascinating book after another without ever quite becoming a star. I don’t understand it. (Can I just say that I don't understand that, either?)

And allow me to say, by way of thank you, that if you haven't read Walton's Farthing series, you should go right out and do it.

And, on the same site, Jason Henninger talks about playing Spore.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Starbucks Economy

This from Daniel Gross:

"I propose the Starbucks theory of international economics. The higher the concentration of expensive, nautically themed, faux-Italian-branded Frappuccino joints in a country's financial capital, the more likely the country is to have suffered catastrophic financial losses . . .

" . . . At first blush, there's a pretty close correlation between a country having a significant Starbucks presence, especially in its financial capital, and major financial cock-ups, from Australia (big blowups in finance, hedge funds, and asset management companies; 23 stores) to the United Kingdom (nationalization of its largest banks). In many ways, London in recent years has been a more concentrated version of New York—the wellspring of many toxic innovations, a hedge-fund haven. It sports 256 Starbucks. In Spain, which is now grappling with the bursting of a speculative coastal real-estate bubble (sound familiar?), the financial capital, Madrid, has 48 outlets. In crazy Dubai, 48 Starbucks outlets serve a population of 1.4 million. And so on: South Korea, which is bailing outs its banks big time, has 253; Paris, the locus of several embarrassing debacles, has 35.

"But there are many spots on the globe where it's tough to find a Starbucks. And these are precisely the places where banks are surviving, in large part because they have not financially integrated with banks in the Starbucks economies . . . "

The full story here.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reviews Too Late: Ninja Vixens!

Ninja Vixens: Devilish Angels is strictly low budget. It's a straight-to-video production with poor production quality, little control over color, an often-static camera, less-than-brilliant acting, poor special effects, and inept fight scenes. I ordered it from Netflix because I couldn't resist something with a title like Ninja Vixens.

That said, it has its charms. There are at least a dozen Ninja Vixen movies out there.

We open with starving Yuki staggering through the woods. (She looks pretty well-fed to be starving, but nevermind.) From hiding she observes helpless female Anju being abduced by three bandits, who carry her off to their lair to be raped. Yuki follows, hoping to somehow intervene.
The three bandits have barely begun to grope their prey before they discover that their victim has a superhero uniform under her kimono. She's a Ninja Vixen! (The Ninja Vixen superhero uniform consists of sword, boots, miniskirt, and the sleeveless flare-shouldered Japanese vest called the kataginu, worn over bare breasts.)
Anju beats the crap out of the bandits and steals their money, then wanders off down the road. Yuki follows, begging to become Anju's apprentice. "I am living in Hell," she said. ""If you follow me," Anju said, "you'll just move to a different Hell."
It turns out that Anju is on the run from the Ninja Vixen clan, who she blames for the death of her Ninja Vixen sister, and therefore is being pursued by another Vixen named Orchid, who travels with her Comic Sidekick Rapist. (Only in Japanese popular culture do you find Comic Sidekick Rapists, right there alongside the Comic Sidekick Pedophiles.)
Anju is murdering people for money, which is apparently a Ninja Vixen no-no. (Orchid only murders people by way of following orders. And also for fun.)
The plot heads onward to its showdown between Anju and Orchid, along the way displaying plenty of fanservice, mostly breasts, legs, and skin. There is a comic scene involving a talking penis. We also see Ninja Magic--- Anju disposes of the Comic Sidekick Rapist by use of the "Tears of the Fallen Angel," which cause the CSR to dissolve into a puddle of goo, and none too soon.

One chop. Intermittently amusing. Not nearly enough breasts to hold my attention, given how wretched everything else was.


The Franchise

I voted today. I will spare you the suspense and tell you that I did not vote for White-Haired Senileguy and his dingbat running mate, who grow progressively less charming as the season advances. (Obama's too popular! No, he's a pal to terrorists! No, he's a socialist! No, this week he's a commie! And he wants to steal your pie! And in any case, he's right where we want him!)

What astonished me was that I had to stand in line for nearly an hour before I could vote. The whole point of early voting is to avoid these kinds of lines, but here we are two weeks before election day, and the citizens of Valencia County seem to be taking this election thing really seriously. This hardly ever happens. Nobody votes around here unless their cousin is running, or something. (Of course, that's most of the time.)

Of course it was a ballot that was recorded electronically, so my vote was rendered into electronic form and then sent to Our Secret Masters, who will alter it as necessary. But at least I've done my civic duty for the year.


Alternate SF Covers

MGK offers us alternate covers for his science fiction and fantasy favorites.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Writer's Life, Again

Amazing how much difference a couple days can make.

On Monday, I wrote at some length about the distractions that were preventing me from properly thinking about my work, let alone getting much of it done.

Most of Tuesday I was a total wreck. I blame the fact that we were socked in by rainclouds. I'm a solar activated person, one reason I live in an area that's sunny 360 days per year. Clouds and gloom weigh on me like, well, clouds and gloom.

Tuesday I could barely drag myself out of bed. I was so down that I couldn't even summon up the energy to play computer games. The best that could be said for me was that I got some reading done.

And then, late in the afternoon, the mood shifted. (Not coincidentally, the clouds were dissipating.) I did my workout on the Total Gym, soaked my sore muscles in the hot tub while watching a lovely sunset, then cooked a healthy dinner of tuna steak with mushrooms, asparagus, and a salad.

Then I went to the laptop and wrote like a demon for several hours. Wrote well, finishing more words on the one night than I'd managed for a week or more.

I completed a chapter. It helped in building momentum that the end of the chapter was in sight, because this chapter was one of those accompanied by a lot of second-guessing on my part. The chapter was almost all exposition, and as I worked I kept thinking, "Maybe I should deal with this piece of information later. Or earlier. Or maybe I should just cut it."

It's impossible at this early stage to know whether I made any of the right decisions. But at least the chapter is done, and I can deal with all those issues later.

When I finished in the early hours of the morning, I felt very pleased with myself.

This morning was sunny, and so was I. I bounded out of bed full of energy. I started the day with martial arts, ate a modest and healthy lunch, spent the afternoon dealing with the sort of trivial annoyances that had so vexed me on Monday. I ran for an hour on the elliptical machine, did my stretches, watched sunset from the hot tub, cooked myself another tuna steak. Then I listened to the presidential debate while playing Rome. (The score: Obama 3 for 3, more because his opponent kept shooting himself in the neck than because Obama was so brilliant. And also I am kicking Rome's butt. A good day for sports.)

So now I've got the laptop fired up and will be launching more genius into the fictionsphere. Excelsior!

Forecast for tomorrow: Sunny. Warmer. Wordier.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

AJ Sun

So . . . is this a rabbit hole?

Or is it just a cheesy attempt to sell Chevys?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Crystal Cave

Last night we got to watch our friend, the exobiologist Penny Boston, as she donned her moon suit and went into the Crystal Cave.

No, Penny didn't enter a Mary Stewart novel. She went into the Crystal Cave under the Naica Mountains in Mexico, a place where you can find huge crystals forty feet long and thicker around than a telephone pole. The place looks like Superman's Fortress of Solitude in the 1978 movie.

Except that the Fortress of Solitude wasn't 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or eighty percent humidity, conditions that prevent any explorers from being able to cool themselves with perspiration. Penny and her fellow explorers had to stuff their clothes with ice in order to cool themselves far enough to last 30 minutes in that hideous environment.

The adventure was documented on the National Geographic Channel. The episode repeats 10pm Eastern time on Tuesday, so check it out.

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A Writer's Life

Some of you, I'm sure, wonder why I'm not more prolific, like those other SF writers.

A description of my day might give you a good idea.

I rose this morning, fed the cats, ate a banana, and went out into the breezeway to do martial arts. I did about a quarter-hour of kata before repeated telephone calls and other distractions wrecked my concentration, so I gave up. I showered and had lunch. I went to the office supply place, but they didn't have everything I needed, so I had to go someplace else. I bought groceries, filled the gas tank at one place, then went to the tire store, where I read a book while my tired were rotated.

It was Columbus Day, so I didn't have to spend any time reading mail.

By this time it was 4pm. I read and answered email, did a modest amount of web browsing, then ran on the elliptical machine for an hour. I did my stretches, relaxed for a bit in the hot tub, then made and ate my dinner.

I must admit that I spent the next couple hours playing Europa Universalis Rome--- actually it should be called Roma if they're going to title the whole thing in Latin, shouldn't it? At any rate, I take full responsibility for those hours, as our politicians would say.

I wouldn't have played so long if Ptolemy hadn't put a contract out on my general, forcing me to invade him and teach him a lesson.

It is now 11pm, and I'm now ready to start writing--- after I prepare a package for Federal Express to pick up tomorrow morning, and call FedEx to get schedule the pickup. All the other things I was going to do today, like deal with the insurance company and the Social Security Administration re: my mom and a few other things, are going to be postponed till tomorrow.

I really need a secretary/dogsbody to handle most of this for me, but I can't afford one. I've shoved off as much work as I can on Kathy, who is surprisingly cool with it.

How do people who work eight hours per day manage?

Okay. To work now.

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Reviews Too Late: The Wire

Last night I screened (courtesy of Netflix) the final episode of The Wire, which over its five years has pretty damn clearly proven itself the Greatest Dramatic TV Series Ever. The series never won any major awards, but it's so good that it ought to be inscribed, like the works of Chuck Berry, on a platinum record and sent into space on the next interstellar probe, just to show the aliens how freakin' great we can be.

Calling The Wire a cop show is like describing Oedipus Rex as a family drama. It's an exploration of institutions and the people who live in and struggle with them. In the first season, we saw the Baltimore cops being screwed by the cop system, the lawyers being screwed by the legal system, and the drug dealers being screwed by the criminal system. Building on the first season, the second season explored the failing culture of the docks, the third the failed political culture, the fourth the failed schools, and lastly the failure of the media to note truth from tabloid.

There are no big-name actors, only character actors working in ensemble. (Some of the actors were brand-new, including convicted murderer Felicia "Snoop" Pearson in the role of Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, a character that Stephen King considers the most frightening female character ever.) The writing is brilliant, mainly by creators David Simon and Ed Burns, but also by novelists Richard Price, George Pelicanos, and Dennis Lehane. A lot of local Baltimore reporters also wrote for the series.

The series never lost the ability to surprise. The story and characters were always taking unexpected turns, and the writers were never afraid to kill off characters even if the audience had grown fond of them. (RIP Omar, sigh.)

The only failure is in the series was in the character of its ostensible lead, Jimmy McNulty. How often have we seen the alcoholic, self-destructive cop obsessed with his work and hopeless in his relationships? The writers and the actor did their best, but McNulty never quite rose above the stereotype. Alone of the characters, I always found his series arc completely predictable--- at least until the final episode.

In that last episode, the writers at last allowed themselves a bit of sentimentality. The long, drawn-out farewell--- accompanied here and there by the Pogue's "Body of an American"--- framed all the characters in the place which fate, and time, and their own desperate inclinations had sent them. We had time to say goodbye to all of them.

David Simons' next series will supposedly be set in the New Orleans music culture, post-Katrina. Hey. He found a subject even more depressing than the drug culture in Baltimore!

I'll be glued to the set.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Banks!

So while I was watching CNN yesterday while the markets were doing their Chicken Little dance, and they had a guest ec0nomist named Khan, or maybe Cahn--- at any rate he wasn't their regular correspondent Riz Khan--- who had a solution to the debt crisis so pleasingly science-fictional that I immediately fell in love with it.

The $700 billion bailout is intended to buy or somehow guarantee the toxic debt taken on by banks, so that they can then feel free to lend money again.

But, as Khan points out, what if they don't? What if they just hang onto the money as a hedge against other parts of their debt turning toxic--- which, as Khan pointed out, is happening very fast as every conceivable investment begins to go down the tubes.

He also pointed out that $700 billion is more than all of our banks are worth.

So what he suggested doing was using the money to capitalize about thirty brand-new national banks. The new banks won't have toxic debt, they can start lending right away.

The old banks either fail or don't, but it doesn't matter either way, the money system is safe and full of cash.

And--- so that we don't end up with thirty huge state-owned banks--- the banks then issue stock which is distributed evenly to every taxpayer in the U.S.

They'll never do it, because it doesn't serve the interests of anyone but the taxpayer, but isn't this a totally cool new meme?

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Brief Commercial Message

I just realized I've gone over a month without reminding you that you should be buying Implied Spaces.
Consider yourself reminded.


Apple Picking Time

I'm going up to this place for a couple days.
Kick back, do some hiking, do some writing, maybe pick a few apples.

In the Dumps

Here's Topaz all depressed because he's not as famous as Ghlaghghee.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Celebrity Chimp Tells All

It's all very well hypothesising about those monkeys and typewriters, he says: isn't it time for human beings to look around? “You've had a million humans, at least, writing away for much longer than a thousand years, and only one of them ever managed to produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Only one! Well, well, what's the big deal?”

Cheeta, Johnny Weismuller's pal, has finally written his memoirs. And, as the holder of the Guinness Book of Records title for world's oldest ape, he's seen a lot.

How much of his success in films was down to him being an animal? Cheeta will accept it's as much as 10%; the rest, however, was talent. In common with every other showbiz memoirist, he claims never to read his reviews; he then quotes them extensively. He mentions several times that he never won an effing Oscar. He will recall a great star such as Rex Harrison by first calling him “that marvellous light comedian”, then getting down to the more interesting truth (“universally despised, impotent, alcoholic”), before coming properly out with it: “an absolutely irredeemable c*** who tried to murder me”. And, like many another stellar memoirist, he can't resist a vicious sideswipe at a fellow thesp. “For three decades I think I ‘phoned it in' a bit,” he confesses. “It happens to actors. Look at De Niro.”

. . . look at the great shrieking jungle that was Hollywood in its heyday, and who better to understand it than a grizzled old showbiz chimp with an in-built Darwinian perspective? “What does any organism ever do except - survive?” writes Cheeta. “In this business, if your profile ever drops, you're dead.”



Sunday, October 05, 2008

21st Century Crime

A man robbing an armored car in Washington State recruited his unwitting henchmen from Craigslist.

" . . . an ad was posted on the free classified advertising site, asking for 15 to 20 men to show up near the Bank of America on Old Owen Road at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday to work on a maintenance project called "Restore Monroe."

"The men were to wear dark blue shirts and surgical masks covering their noses and mouths. In return, they'd be paid about $28 per hour, which Willis said is well above the standard for that kind of work . . . "

While these guys were standing around providing a distraction, a man dressed in a similar fashion maced the guard, grabbed the bag of money, and ran for a nearby river, where his getaway inner tube was waiting.

This is damn near perfect. Using 21st century communication technology, a man recruits a gang of accomplices who don't even know they're accomplices. He's assembled a criminal gang as if they were a flashmob! ("Wear a flat cap, domino mask, and a striped shirt, and carry a bag labeled 'SWAG.'")

Meanwhile in Nigeria, Henry Okah and the boys of MEND use similar tactics to recruit a guerilla army, embargo and/or steal half a million barrels of oil every day.

Here's an idea whose time has come. (And fortunately, it's what my next book is going to be about.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ceci N'est Pas Un Livre

Here's the new cover for This is Not a Game, which will be coming to a bookstore near you in March.
Whaddya think?



So . . . congress passed the bailout today.

The markets went down.



Turtle Parts

So I was washing my hair this morning, and I was using this small sample bottle that we'd been given by somebody or other, and the bottle says on it, "Green Tea and Willow."

Green tea and willow. In shampoo.

Does anyone out there have any idea how these items are supposed to make my hair cleaner or fluffier or whatever?

Green tea has antioxidants, I know. Does that mean that my hair won't get cancer?

And willow is what they make aspirin out of. So now my hair won't get joint pains or headaches.

Does anyone know why the cosmetics industry puts this stuff in our stuff? Any idea at all?

This reminds me of an incident early in my marriage. I walked into the bathroom and there was Kathy without any clothes on. Which is usually a welcome sight.

"Get out of here!" she yelled. "I'm anointing my body with dead turtle parts!"

I left rather quickly, as I'm sure would any of you. I was very new to this marriage thing and had no idea to that point that my spouse was deranged.

Kathy explained later that she was moisturizing, or whatever, with an Olay substance, which has some kind of turtle product in it. Apparently "Olay" is French for "dessicated turtle organs."

Why do dead turtle parts make your skin smooth? Does anyone know?

And even if it's true, who was the person who thought of the idea and decided to test it? I mean, it's a totally deranged notion, but someone had to think of it and then follow through, right?

Do answers exist to any of these questions?

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Thursday, October 02, 2008


An article by Scott Reynolds Nelson suggests that 1929 is the wrong model for the current economic crisis. The real model is 1873, the worst depression the Western economy ever endured.

When commentators invoke 1929, I am dubious. According to most historians and economists, that depression had more to do with overlarge factory inventories, a stock-market crash, and Germany's inability to pay back war debts, which then led to continuing strain on British gold reserves. None of those factors is really an issue now. Contemporary industries have very sensitive controls for trimming production as consumption declines; our current stock-market dip followed bank problems that emerged more than a year ago; and there are no serious international problems with gold reserves, simply because banks no longer peg their lending to them . . .

The problems had emerged around 1870, starting in Europe. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire, formed in 1867, in the states unified by Prussia into the German empire, and in France, the emperors supported a flowering of new lending institutions that issued mortgages for municipal and residential construction, especially in the capitals of Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Mortgages were easier to obtain than before, and a building boom commenced. Land values seemed to climb and climb; borrowers ravenously assumed more and more credit, using unbuilt or half-built houses as collateral. The most marvelous spots for sightseers in the three cities today are the magisterial buildings erected in the so-called founder period.

But the economic fundamentals were shaky. Wheat exporters from Russia and Central Europe faced a new international competitor who drastically undersold them. The 19th-century version of containers manufactured in China and bound for Wal-Mart consisted of produce from farmers in the American Midwest. They used grain elevators, conveyer belts, and massive steam ships to export trainloads of wheat to abroad. Britain, the biggest importer of wheat, shifted to the cheap stuff quite suddenly around 1871. By 1872 kerosene and manufactured food were rocketing out of America's heartland, undermining rapeseed, flour, and beef prices. The crash came in Central Europe in May 1873, as it became clear that the region's assumptions about continual economic growth were too optimistic. Europeans faced what they came to call the American Commercial Invasion. A new industrial superpower had arrived, one whose low costs threatened European trade and a European way of life . . .


Since my mother passed away I've been performing the sad but necessary task of going through her belongings. That includes several albums of photographs.
Here's a picture of my mother from 1921, when she was five years old. She's outside the one-room schoolhouse in Makinen where she received her first eight years of education.
I hadn't ever seen this picture before. I imagine it was taken by the teacher, because in my mother's cult, photographs would have been considered sinful, as leading to vanity. Very possibly she would have had to hide this picture from her parents.
I don't know why she's holding the stick, but she seems very proud of it.
One thing I've discovered is that in recent years my mother went through her photo albums, removed most of the pictures, and threw them away. This was no small amount of work--- these were old-fashioned photo albums, with the little corner holders glued to the page, and each photo would have had to have been carefully and deliberately removed.
Why do you suppose she did that? I doubt very much that there as a secret life she desperately needed to conceal. Or was it just that she could no longer remember the people in the pictures? Certainly I have pictures of people I can no longer recall.
My father, I recall, did something similar. He had a box with hundreds of pictures from the Second World War. At some point during his retirement, he put a number of them in an album, and tossed out the rest. What was he thinking?
Of course I've got thousands of photos myself, many of them in the form of slides. I have no intention of throwing them away, but I doubt they'd mean anything to anyone once I'm gone. I imagine that my executor, frustrated with days and days of going through my junk, would toss them without a thought. I suppose I could put them in some kind of digital archive, but the labor involved in scanning them all would be intense, and I doubt I'll ever get around to it.
A photo detached from its context becomes an exercise in composition, and most photos fail on that score. They're like leaves fallen from a tree, all of them more or less alike, carried away on the winds of time.
Morbid thoughts, late at night.