31 December 2009

It's all Greek to me

The moon is at perigee on the 1st of January, and at perihelion on the 2nd. "Peri" is Greek and means "around." The "gee" is from Gaia, the earth goddess of the Greeks, and the "helion" is from Helios, their sun god. So, the moon is at its closest point to the earth in this lunar month, and the earth is at its closest point to the sun in this solar year.

It's supposed to be a very bright full moon tonight, but alas, the storm clouds here in the State of Jefferson on New Year's Eve obscure the moon's rise. This is the second full moon of December--a blue moon.

Happy New Year!

24 December 2009

Festival time

On sunset of the 11th of December, Channukah began. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was on December 12th. The Winter Solstice was on the 21st. Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Boxing Day and St. Stephen's Day are on the 26th. The New Year rolls in right after that. No matter how you slice it, this is the holiday season.

Merry Everything!

13 December 2009

Graphic noir

This collection from Dark Horse is only 5/8 of an inch thick--120 pages in 6 x 9 format. I was trying to think of something bad to say about Noir, and that was all I could come up with. Simply put, there's not enough of it! I had to read it twice to really savor all the stories and great art. David Lapham's "Open the Goddamn Box" starts things off brilliantly with a savage twist on junvenile delinquents, Chris Offut crisply re-works an old story with "The Last Hit" (illustrated by Kano and Stefano Gaudiano), and Gary Phillips smoothly fuses noir and SF with "The New Me" (illustrated by Eduardo Barreto). Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips contribute a sinister Criminal emission called "21st Century Noir," and Brian Azzarello teams up with Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá for the last piece, a sucker-punch called "The Bad Night." That's only 5 of the 13 offerings. It's great stuff, and it was one of my many fabulous 50th birthday presents (thanks, J&R!). I'm going to try to turn 50 again next year since it worked out so well this year.

10 December 2009

RIP Liam Clancy

In my father's world, there was only one music. All else was noise. That music was the Clancy Bros. and Tommy Makem. As a boy, I heard those records to the point of nausea. In fact, I couldn't listen to Irish folk music for decades. Fortunately, I got over that. One of the best things we did on our two recent trips to Ireland was haunt the pubs where they had "trad" sessions. I was amazed by how many of the songs I knew! Liam Clancy, the last of the surviving band members, passed away last week. Mr. Clancy appeared in Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home, a film about Bob Dylan. He's seated on a barstool, a pint of Guinness in front of him, and reminisces about meeting "that little pain-in-ass" back in the heyday of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Then he sings, a cappella, Dylan's "Girl From the North Country." It's my favorite moment in that engrossing film, even better than Joan Baez' impression of the infamously-nasal Mr. Dylan. Thanks, dad, for turning me on to the music. I'm sorry it took me so long to really appreciate it.
Recqueiscat in pacem.

04 December 2009

" . . . not an unmixed blessing . . . "

Fifty years ago, four scientists working for the University of California published an article in the October issue of Hilgardia, a journal published by the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. It was called "The Integrated Control Concept" and was credited to Vernon M. Stern, Ray F. Smith, Robert van den Bosch, and Kenneth S. Hagen. The paper is considered a landmark work in IPM--Intergrated Pest Management. The same University Division also produces a magazine called California Agriculture. The October-December issue has a short piece by Jeanette Warnert called "The 50th anniversary of a great idea." I quote:

The 20-page paper clearly and concisely described the consequences of pesiticde overuse and detailed their vision of a sustainable pest control system.

Ms. Warnert also points out that this work predates Rachel Carson's Silent Spring by almost three years. Ms. Carson was a careful and prescient thinker, it is likely she was aware of "leading edge" scientific ideas, whether she'd read the piece or not. Clearly there was an increasing awareness in the post-war world of the consequences of rampant technology. None of the men involved, like Carson herself, ever called for the elimination of pesticides. In fact, they all recognized the need for them as part of an integrated approach. That's the whole idea--integrated pest managment. Only a fanatic can comfortably spout extremes. The rest of us have to deal with juggling real-world conflicts. I try to support so-called "organic" agriculture because the practitioners tend to talk about sustainability, not because I believe that chemicals and other technologies are bad. Far from it--the world's billions won't be fed without them. Fifty years ago, some smart folks told us we need to re-think the way we farm. The benefits of large-scale crop-raising and industrial food production are too great to ignore, but so, of course, are the perils. Messrs. Stern, Smith, van den Bosch, and Hagen did their best to help us all sort it out.

(My title is a quote from the piece. I lifted it from Warnert's article.)