Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dandelions Aren't Cancer

I read a horrible advertisement yesterday.  To illustrate a medical approach that roots out cancer by targeting specific genes, the ad's creators chose a graphic analogy of a dandelion being uprooted from a lawn.  As a public service in response, I should point out that, unlike cancer, dandelions will not kill you.  They're actually quite useful; they're even edible.  If they were less common, more people probably would even view their flowers as pretty (more precisely,  the flowers are flowerheads, composed of thousands of tiny flowers).   Unless one is obsessed by achieving the monocultural, chemically dependent industrial lawn that looks like a carpet of grass, dandelions are a rather welcome addition to a yard.

Ironically, the chemicals that power the industrial lawn may give one cancer. Maybe the ad's creators should have used a picture of Roundup instead.  The most cynical among us might think that the institution being advertised, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, might want people to keep dumping chemicals on the lawn so as to keep new cases of cancer flowing in for treatment.  That's probably going too far though.  More likely, some advertising agency just was ignorant and desperate for an analogy.

As William Niering once noted, "There's nothing wrong with dandelions; there's something wrong with people."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cities Return To Wilderness

I recently read "Rus In Urbe Redux", an interesting article in The Economist.  The writer discusses how some cities are losing population and how they are responding to it.  While some cities try various schemes to reverse the trend (few of which seem to work), some have accepted their reduced size and embraced it.  One of the most interesting ways to embrace it is to just let parts of the city return to nature and stop wasting effort to maintain the area.  That appears to be what Dessau-Rosslau, a city in Germany, has done, demolishing buildings and converting them into meadows.  The meadows apparently get mowed once a year or whatnot, so they do not become forests.  I would skip the mowing myself and go all the way back to wilderness, but I suppose the city's caretakers do not want to have to uproot a forest in case they decide to do something with the land later.

I have seen sections of Cleveland, Ohio USA return to wilderness.  I even saw a pack of wild dogs once near Cedar Road close to downtown a few years ago.  Cleveland probably hasn't reached the state of Detroit, Michigan USA yet where trees grow in old schools, as beautifully documented in the book Detroit Disassembled, since the city seems to be at least attempting to manage its decay, but one can find sections of the city becoming wilderness, or postcivilization.  I suppose that there is no true return to wilderness due to all the remnants of human activity from buildings left standing to chemicals left in the ground, but it is an interesting process.

Not everyone agrees, however.  Nevertheless, given all a city's problems, grass and other plants growing as they naturally do, should rank low on the list, but the next time you see a plant growing out of a crack in a sidewalk recognize it as a foreshadowing of what probably awaits all cities given enough time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fences And Front Yards

An Ohio city wants to ban fences from more parts of the yard. The city, Middleburg Heights, already bans fences in the front yard.  The stated reason is to give passersby better views of the lawn and home.

At least the city doesn't bother with the pretense of a safety excuse and goes right for the aesthetic truth of the legislation.

However,it is amazing that this sort of intrusion into the preferences of an individual homeowner is regarded as normal, as opposed to laughable, but that is life in America where the lawn is concerned.

A prominent exception is the very rich, who typically remove their lawns and homes from public view by setting the homes back far from the road and blocking the view with trees or a fence.  It is interesting to drive some roads in Cleveland.  Starting from downtown and heading east to Hunting Valley where some of the people who own Cleveland live, one will notice a curious phenomenon.  In the poor and working class areas, not much attention is paid to the lawn.  Some vacant lots seem as if they are returning to nature, and some people have fenced off their lawns, perhaps for security reasons.  Moving into the nicer parts of the city and the start of the suburbs, the lawn mania begins.  Typically, there will be no fences, so, in the typical American way, the passerby can enjoy the view of private homes, the lawns all linking together to create the illusion of a public park.  This will continue until one hits the outer suburbs, then one will notice fences starting to appear.  At first, they will be split rail or just a string of bushes, permitting a view of the lawns and homes.  As one gets closer to the home of the very rich, the lawn and the home begins to disappear from view, either behind a string of tall trees or a tall fence.

There likely are variations, but I would not be surprised if this phenomenon could be found in nearly every large American metropolitan area.  I would be pleased to hear from people who try this experiment in their areas.   The middle class folks of Middleburg Heights may believe in democracy, even as they practice lawn fascism, and think that we are all in it together, but the rich usually know better and remove their lands from eyes that may become too envious. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Yip!*: The Mekons Live

I saw The Mekons live last night for what I think is the fourth time.  They were great as usual.  It was sort of a greatest hits set since their new album hasn't been released yet (indeed, it hasn't been recorded yet since they are planning to do it live in one take next week).  I also got the sense from Jon Langford's remarks at the end thanking Cleveland venues that the band has played over the years that this tour may be a victory lap/final tour.  The band is older and spread out geographically, so it may be difficult for them to keep going.  That would be a shame but understandable.  I hope that last night was the not the last time I will ever see them, but anyone who does get to see them live while one still can is in for a treat! 

*Yips are good things!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Marvel And DC Announce That Every Issue Will Be #1 From Now On

I was not surprised to see that Marvel was rebooting its comics and starting with all-new #1s since DC had done that a few years back with good commercial results, albeit horrible comics.  However, I was surprised to learn that both comic book companies would be publishing nothing but #1 issues from now on. 

Apparently, every month will see the respective comics universes reborn and the same stories from the 1940s and 1960s retold with updated computer-generated art and a few nods to the changing times such as making Superman a fruitarian and The Man-Thing a lesbian.  In a joint announcement, the Chief Funnybook Officers of DC and Marvel stated, "This way, we can add even more editors to a single comic.  We're aiming at about ten editors per writer or artist.  We're pretty sure that most people who buy these things don't even read them and those that do don't seem to care much if it's bad since they keep buying it when it is.  See that continuity stuff was too hard to keep track of, so we figured with all the multiverse stuff we've been doing that makes no narrative sense, why not do the same on the publishing side and put out a #1 for every series every month and sell some more copies to the collectors as well?   Sure, it'll be a little confusing but if fans can keep track of 15 Batman and 15 Spider-Man titles every month, we figure they can handle this.  In any case, we're just intellectual property farms for the cinema now anyway, so, like, who cares?"

When asked for a comment, John Fanboy, owner of the comic shop Hey Kids, It's Graphic Novels!, said, "I was really looking forward to reading issue 9 of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, so this is a disappointment, but I guess they know what they're doing.  I'll have some customers upset that their favorite series are stopping without finishing the current stories, but, in any case, it's not like I can boycott DC and Marvel and just survive selling Archie."

When informed that Archie had also just started over with new number ones, Fanboy said that he hadn't noticed, then whimpered and crawled into a corner, pulling a box of unsold Image Comics from 1993 over him.

I quietly left the store.

It was awkward, but I am looking forward to the #1s of Sam Wilson, Captain America, Ant-Man, Howard The Duck, and The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, so I will be back.  I hope he has recovered by then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New More Or Les EP


Over a decade ago, I toured on the Perpetual Motion Roadshow with rapper More Or Les.  It was a lot of fun.  I'm glad to see that he is still out there making music.  His latest release is an ep called Post Millennium Tension.

Monday, July 13, 2015

"The First Rose Of The Year"

Red Fez has published another poem of mine.  It's called "The First Rose Of The Year".