Good Friday, the Epitaphios, and COVID-19

This week is Holy Week for many Orthodox Christians, but like last year, the COVID pandemic has changed some of the basic rituals of Orthodox life. Giorgos Papantoniou and Thanasis Vionis in a very recent article in the journal Ethnoarchaeology titled “Popular Religion and Material Responses to Pandemic: The Christian Cult of the Epitaphios during the COVID-19 Crisis in Greece and Cyprus.

Papantoniou and Vionis document how practices surrounding the Epitaphios ritual changed in Greece and Cyprus during the pandemic. The Epitaphios is an elaborately decorated wooden bier meant to symbolize the tomb of Christ. The decoration of the bier, generally done by women, is a long-standing tradition during Holy Week that precedes a ritual procession of the Epitaphios by the entire community. The procession of the Epitaphios culminates in the Good Friday mass.

(As an aside I have the fondest memories of watching the Epitaphios processions at East in Athens. It felt like it caused the city to pause for a moment and brought various neighborhoods together both to mourn Christ’s crucifixion, but also to start the final crescendo toward the release of Easter.)

Papantoniou and Vionis document the various ways that people adapted the Epitaphios traditions and rituals to accommodate lockdowns and bans on gatherings. For example, some individuals decorated home made biers in their own homes converting a community and public tradition into a private one that could then be shared on social media with a wider community. They also documented how the church transformed the Good Friday procession of the Epitaphios, another event that precipitated a heighten sense of community typically manifest in the bustling collective ritual, into a remote rite where the community engages with the ritual movement of the Epitaphios from a distance or in virtual ways.

The authors suggest that studying the changes that the pandemic brought to the Epitaphios traditions and rituals offers a model for how rituals change during crisis and both reveals certain underlying values that structure the practices and demonstrates how crises can prompt the adaption of rites. While their research has the feeling of being rather preliminary, it offers an intriguing lens through which to think about materiality during the COVID pandemic by considering a ritual with a rather formal structure and practices. It may be that their work is a point of departure, then, for studies of the post-pandemic world that consider the changes that COVID wrought in our everyday lives.

For all my colleagues and friends who observe, have a blessed and restorative Holy Week! 

Previewing Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook

Over the last few months, The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has been working away at a very special project. In collaboration with the Rural Women’s Studies Associate, we are publishing an edited volume of scholarly essays and recipes that celebrate, analyze, and interrogate the relationship between food, women, and rural life. 

The book is edited by Cynthia C. Prescott and Maureen S. Thompson and is titled Backstories: The Kitchen Table Talk Cookbook. One of the book’s reviewers pointed out that this title is a bit of a mouthful, and we decided that this was entirely appropriate for a book about food!

We’ll be ready to release the book during the Rural Women Studies Associate meeting next month. Like all books from The Digital Press, it’ll be available as a high quality, color PDF for free and as a low-cost paperback.

In the meantime, we invite you to bookmark the book’s landing page here and while you’re there, download a preview of the book!

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Post-Book Projects

I submitted my book manuscript yesterday and have plans to spend the rest of the week mostly distracting myself from survivor guilt, but I also wanted to start to sort out what I should be doing over the summer. I’m a bit worried that turning in my manuscript in May runs the risk of making my summer a kind of victory tour rather than my most productive research time. And while there’s nothing wrong with a victory tour, the summer is usually my productive research and writing time and sort of sets the stage for the fall semester. It’s also a chance to recover, read, and think about stuff rather than bouncing from one deadline to the next. 

That means, I need to start to think about what I want to be dong.

Right now, I have three long-term projects that are looming over me.

1. Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project 2: The second volume of our PKAP duet will focus on the results of our and Maria Hadjicosti’s excavations at the site. Our manuscript for PKAP 2 is stuck at 80% done. We have most of the fussy and fiddly work completed, including the description of the stratigraphy and the artifact catalogues; we now need to finish the introduction and conclusion. This feels a bit more like a fall semester project than one to which I should devote precious summer time.

2. Polis. This is a project that has to move forward this summer, in part, because I have an article due in June that developed from a paper that I read at a conference this past winter on the Long Late Antiquity in the Chrysochou Valley. That paper will focus rather narrowly on revision the dating ceramics associated with two areas that we’ve studied at the site, EF2 (which features the South Basilica) and EF1. 

We have also worked to put together a volume that focuses on our work at EF1. It’s probably 50-60% done as well as a new guide to the excavations around the village. While it seems improbably that either of these projects can be completed this summer, it would also be rewarding to move them forward. Having large chunks of unfinished text floating about is annoying.

3. Western Argolid Regional Project. We’ve scheduled a virtual study season starting in June to continue to push this project along. We heard this past week that our preliminary report was accepted with minor revisions. We also have chunks of text begging to be integrated into a more cohesive final publication. It’s fun work in that the project is genuinely collaborative and there’s still some positive energy and momentum behind it. It makes up for the relatively tedious task of wading through data instead of walking around the Inachos Valley.

These three project invariably keep me up at night as they are long-simmering projects that I can’t forget exist in some kind of almost complete or emerging state.

To this list, I probably should add completing my write up of mid-century housing in Grand Forks, which should be done by Mid-May. I also need to finish up some work on Early Christian baptisteries for a project that I’m doing with David Pettegrew.

In June, I’ll also start to receive contributions for the first volume in the CHAT (Contemporary and Historical Archaeology and Theory) book series that I’m editing with Rachael Kiddey. Our hope is for this book not only to be a wild introduction to our series, but also shine a light on last winter’s festivalCHAT, an online conference modeled on a music festival.   

It goes without saying that I have other obligations including a few volumes approaching production from my press and as editor of of the Annual of ASOR.

This is all good and meaningful and fulfilling work, but I also have a few other projects that are fresh and new and have me excited.

1. Archaeology, History, and Sun Ra. This project will dominate my summer reading list and, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure where it’s going. My hope is to produce a very rough draft of an article at some point in the next six months that considers what it means to read Near Eastern archaeology through Sun Ra.

2. The Greenway. I have this growing fascination with the Grand Forks Greenway. It started as an interest in the flood wall and how such walls contribute to the growing discussion of walls in archaeology. I’ve also become interested in the space as a complex archaeological landscape that serves as a kind of case study for the blurring of ontological boundaries associated with ruins, nature, and contemporary notions of recreation, play, and place.

3. Slow. If I had the kind of job that gave me time to write in a consistent way, I’d work on a book on slow archaeology that brings together a number of strands in my thinking. It would be a short book – 30,000-50,000 words – and essayistic rather than academic, but with citations. It would be self-indulgent.

Music Monday: More Sun Ra Notes

This weekend, I spent a bit of time reading Anthony Reed’s provocative and challenging Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production (Duke 2021). The book is complex and I’m not sure that I have the chops to give it even a superficial summary. It considers the relationship between race, free jazz (broadly construed), and poetry particularly over the course of the “long Black Arts movement (1950-1974).” 

The book prompted me think about my Sun Ra project differently. From the onset, I had imagined that whatever I ended up writing would look to unpack or understand the relationship between Sun Ra’s music and poetry and the archaeology of the Near East and Egypt as filtered through his eclectic imagination, Afrocentrism, Afrofuturism, and mysticism as well as late-20th century attitudes toward race. This is a fine approach, I think, but it tends to see the context for Sun Ra’s work as more important than the work itself. In other words, it suggests that to understand what Sun Ra was trying to do, we have to find his influences which will offer a key to unpacking his work.

After reading Reed’s book, however, I’ve started to wonder if a more productive (and certainly more provocative approach) might be to read Near Eastern archaeology in the context of Sun Ra? Instead of assuming that Sun Ra’s vision of blackness, Africa, history, poetics, and music exist as a distorted mirror of a social, cultural, economic, racial, political or archaeological reality, it seems at least as valid to assume that Sun Ra’s creative work can provide insight into how we understand Near Eastern archaeology and the distinctive character of a black past.

Of course, I’m not entirely sure what an archaeology and history anchored in forms of expression shaped by Sun Ra’s creativity would look like. Moreover, Sun Ra’s creative vision was not static or even consistent over the course of his long career. At the same time, it is easy enough to suggest that Near Eastern archaeology and our understanding of Egypt, the Levant, and archaeology as field have also not remained stable. In other words, assuming that our academic knowledge of the past should take priority over knowledge generated through creative works reifies key elements of colonial, racial, and class-based ways of seeing the world. This isn’t to say that academic forms of knowledge are inherently bad or problematic; after all, they support professional disciplines that have the potential to liberate individuals and communities by mitigating privilege and revealing the workings of power.

At the same time, a significant body of archaeological theorizing has shown, the ways that we narrate, analyze, and interpret the past produce powerful institutional and cultural structures that consistently mitigate efforts to produce radical knowledge. In this context, the radical black knowledge of the Near East produced by Sun Ra and other contributors the Black Arts movement in the 1960s and 1970s offers an often contentious position of critique that reveals way in which our academic forms of knowledge limits the use of archaeology to produce socially useful identities. 

Reading the ancient Near East through Sun Ra (and his fellow travelers) creates a way of thinking about class, race, colonialism, nationalism, and even technology across 20th century Black communities.

Reed’s book pushed me to consider the relationship between jazz and poetry across the pluralities of Black identity and a range of Black communities in the United States. By situating Sun Ra’s efforts to imagine new pasts and futures within this shifting discourse, we can understand his efforts to navigate a relationship to emerging calls for post-colonial African nationhood (It’s Nation Time!), a Black middle class seeking to construct a past for itself modeled partly on the efforts of various middle-class white groups to celebrate their own ethnic and national identities (see: From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement), and the pressures to commercialize his artistic output while also critiquing the uneven benefits of capitalism.  

Of course, right now, I continue just to scratch the surface of the growing body of work on Sun Ra and the larger Black intellectual movement of the mid-20th century. As I develop a broader understanding of the goals and approaches of this movement (notwithstanding its development and the idiosyncrasies of Sun Ra himself), I’m hoping to turn its critiques back toward the Near East. While my grounding in Near Eastern archaeology and history is probably not substantial enough to do anything more than to propose a bridge between two interpretative moments. Even that, however, might be productive and rewarding.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

Yesterday almost felt like summertime here in North Dakotaland with dry, blue skies and temperatures in the mid-60s. Today, however, we’re return to our regularly scheduled weather: grey skies, wind, and highs in 30s and 40s. Days like yesterday are a good reminder to enjoy every nice day here that you can.

Cooler weather this weekend will motivate me to keep focused. If I need a distraction, though, the Cup guys are at Talladega (and I mean that in a disappointing way as apparently Jennifer Jo Cobb was denied entry into the race despite having a ride) and the Indy cars are at St. Petersburg. More interestingly, one of my favorite boxers, Emanuel Navarrete is fighting on Saturday night on a card with knock-out machine Edgar Berlanga and blue-chip prospects Josue Vargas and Xander Zayas fighting down the card.

Otherwise, you can find me looking for some quick hits and varia:

Three Things Thursday: Roads, Books, and Things

Thing the First

Last week, I read a rather well executed article by Alvise Matessi titled “The ways of an empire: Continuity and change of route landscapes across the Taurus during the Hittite Period (ca. 1650–1200 BCE)” in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 62 (2021).

The article does exactly what it says in the title: it analyzes the routes through the Taurus mountains during the Hittite period. The method is as (relatively) simple as it is compelling. The author generated Least Cost Corridors through the area on the basis 90 m DEMs and compared these corridors to the location of Hittite settlements and landmarks. While I’m not terribly interested in his conclusions per se, this approach struck an intriguing balance between the presence of longer term routes through the region (defined in large part by topography) and short term shifts within these larger patterns. 

My colleague and collaborator Dimitri Nakassis sent this along to me with the intent to get us thinking a bit about how patterns of movement across the Western Argolid reflect a similar tension between longer term routes through the region and more narrowly historically defined variation that might be visible at the scale of our intensive survey. In fact, an article on settlement and the Early Modern road network in the region that we published earlier this year offered a nice, if less sophisticated, example of how two different patterns of movement across the region intersected. The main corridor through our survey area followed the route of the Inachos River, but at various periods other routes including those that crisscross the region perpendicular to the river’s path, were significant and remain visible in organization of settlements in the Western Argolid     

Thing the Second

I’m starting to pull together my annual summer reading list. This list is mainly aspirational (at best) and at worst hangs over my head all summer (an into the fall) as as a reminder of my lack of discipline.

Right now, I’m trying to develop the part of my summer list that will deal with the music and context of Sun Ra. It’s for a post-book project that’s just starting to simmer. This weekend, for example, I started to read Anthony Reed’s Soundworks: Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production (Duke 2021) which is a challenging read (and vaguely reminds me of my buddy Paul Worley’s Telling and Being Told (Arizona 2013)  which focuses on orality and performances in Mayan literature), but it evokes many of the artists and musicians that I want to understand better. I’m also eager to tuck into William Site’s new book Sun Ra’s Chicago (Chicago 2020) which I hope will expand my understanding of Ra’s early career and formative influences in that city.

To balance these more recent books, I also plan to read some classic works that unpack the history of jazz (especially the kind of avant-garde creative music with which Sun Ra has been associated). I’m familiar with works like Szwed’s biography of Sun Ra and Paul Youngquist’s A Pure Solar World: Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism (Texas 2016), but I need to familiarize myself with works like Graham Lock’s Blutopia (Duke 1999) which is a bit of a touchstone for later scholars working both Sun Ra and jazz. 

Along similar lines, I need to read a bit more seriously on Afrocentrism, particularly in a mid-century American context. I have Stephen Howe’s book, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (Verson 1999) on my “to read” shelf  as well as Wilson Moses’s Afrotopia: the Roots of African American Popular History (Cambridge  1998), Clarence E. Walker’s We Can’t Go Home Again: An Argument about Afrocentrism (Oxford 2001), and Algernon Austin’s Achieving Blackness: Race, Black Nationalism, and Afrocentrism in the Twentieth Century (NYU 2006). 

At the risk of a bad pun, I’m jazzed!

Thing the Third

The final thing is about things. This weekend, I aim to retire my long-serving MacBook Pro laptop. There was a time when I upgraded computers every year or so and this prevented me from developing much of a sentimental attachment to chunks of plastic, silicon, glass, and aluminum. This laptop, however, has served me well for almost five years. In fact, it’ll serve out the rest of its day doing light-duty file serving and storage. 

Last year, I traded in my beloved 2004 F150 for a newer truck. It’s a cliche to say this, but it happened so fast. One day, the truck and I were inseparable, and the next, it was sitting in the back lot of a car dealer.

I know its crazy to assume that things have feelings, but I also think a good bit about how our long term attachment to things like cars, laptops, watches, and homes creates an attachment that is both irrational and real.

How should I retire my laptop? Or trade in a beloved truck? Or gently allow a treasured watch to fall out of my weekly rotation? 

Shouldn’t there be some kind of ceremony or moment recognizing the bond and at least allowing for the slimmest possibility that the connection between a thing and myself is mutual?  

Performative Informality, Community, and Collaboration

Every year about this time, I pause for a bit to remember my late friend Joel Jonientz who died in 2014. Invariably, this leads to my thinking back to the salad days of the decade from 2004-2014 which felt not only more productive but also more collegial than the years since then. You can read some of my Jonientz inspired blog posts here.

In general, my view of that decade was deeply nostalgic. I saw the good things that happened in those years—collaborative projects such as The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, an interest in a wide range of transdisciplinary digital media, and the formation of social bonds that continue, in some ways, to define my professional life (e.g. Paul Worley serves as the poetry editor at NDQ; Mike Wittgraf and I have published articles together; Crystal Alberts has guest edited an issue of the QuarterlyKyle Conway and I have published together on the Bakken).

At the same time, I recognize that the conditions that produced this major shift in my professional life and identity were not just social ones. The university itself was flourishing at the time. It was near peak enrollment numbers, riding a wave of solid legislative support, and led by administrators who found ways to support innovative projects in the arts and humanities, including the Working Group in Digital and New Media where I formed many close personal and professional friendships. Feeling particularly nostalgic last year, I charted out some of the things that emerged from this fruitful period at UND

I also emphasized this period at UND as one of hope which now seems almost impossible to recapture. Budget cuts, awkward leadership styles, an emphasis on competition between programs and departments, the steady hemorrhaging of faculty, and the corresponding decline in morale ensured that even before the pandemic UND had become a very different place than it was in 2010.

While the passing of time intensifies nostalgia, it eventually offers a more critical vantage point for reflection.

This year, in particular, I got to wonder whether the important social bonds that I formed years ago at UND were also part of a kind of toxic atmosphere that is as much to blame for at least some of the tensions that exist today at UND as budgetary, administrative, and structural issues. For example, the Working Group in Digital and New Media had a presence on campus, but it was every bit as much a social group whose meeting regularly concluded with a trip to a local watering hole and interaction between our families, weekend visits to each other’s homes, and various other social events.

This blurring of social and professional boundaries relied, at least in some ways, in the kind of “performative informality” that creates boundaries. These boundaries which tend to be less than visible to the “in group” who shares the informal convivial rituals and ties, are nevertheless highly visible to individuals in the “out group” who feel excluded by these practices. That our group was largely the same age, largely the same professional rank, and largely the same place in our personal and professional lives, further reinforced the exclusivity of our performative bonds.

It strikes me that these informal bonds are fairly hard to recreate in a way that is not exclusive, at least when compared to more formally defined professional relationships. In fact, the the university, for all its faults, has tended to invest in relationships, collaborations, and partnerships defined on the basis of professional standards. It is perhaps idealistic to think that this investment ensures greater inclusivity as recent research into structural racism and sexism in higher education has shown. That said, there are many who see changes to professional standards of collaboration and cooperation in higher education as easier to achieve than long standing practices of social behavior and performative informality. It might be that these institutional shifts have the potential to create more inclusive groups on campus.

This isn’t just an issue of inclusivity and fairness in our professional life, but also reflects an interest in creating more enduring institutions. As I’ve blogged about before when faculty moved on, resources dried up, and campus culture changed, groups bound by performative informality crumbled as the social bonds succumb to distance and changing professional responsibilities.  

In hindsight, then, I wonder whether the easy collegiality that was so productive in the short term, had shallow institutional foundations because of practices that hindered its ability to reproduce itself in persistent ways.

This doesn’t mean that I regret the friendships and sense of community that I developed over that decade or that I’ll stop looking back on it as a period of growth and intellectual development, but I suppose that I should also recognize that the exclusive character of my collaborative circle created a kind of fragility. In some ways, my current sense of intellectual isolation on campus is perhaps as much a result of choice that I made 15 years ago as conditions on campus today.  

Final Bit and Bobs and What This Book Is Not

This week, I’m tying up some little bits and bobs throughout my book manuscript with the hope that I can submit it one week from tomorrow! You can read more about this long simmering book project here.

As part of that work, I’ve put together a brief statement on what this book is not. I suppose these kinds of statements are rather generic in contemporary academic writing. They’re efforts to gently guide that hand of readers (reviewers!) away from weakness in a work and toward the idea that I included and excludes some things deliberate in an effort to sculpt the work into a coherent book (or something like that).

In many ways, this section, title “What This Book Is Not” might tell folks more about what the book is than anything else.

At this juncture it is probably important to define what this book does not do. This book will not explore in a sustained way the important work of forensic archaeologists which overlaps with archaeology of the contemporary world in its frequent interest in the recent past, but also has developed a unique set of methods, practices, and problems that relate to its development in a judicial and legal context (e.g. Groen et al. 2015). This book also does not offer a sustained discussion of issues surrounding heritage and heritage management in a contemporary context. While these are important area for understanding how archaeology shapes and reflects contemporary social, cultural, and political concerns, there is a massive body of literature on these topics that often overlaps with archaeology of the contemporary world. For example, the recent volume, titled Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (Harrison et al. 2020) features many of the same scholars who have lent their voices to archaeology of the contemporary world. The scholars share an interest in interrogating the ambiguously defined “future” for whom heritage managers traditionally preserve a community’s natural and cultural heritage. In contrast scholars such as Randal McGuire’s and the Ludlow Collective not only examined lives of the miners and their families involved in the Ludlow strike and massacre, but also engaged contemporary organized labor to commemorate and remember these events. Christopher Matthews (2020), Paul Shackel (Schackel and Little 2014: 85-93), Laurie Wilke (2000; 2001), Krysta Ryzewski (2017), and many others have worked with contemporary and descendant communities to understand, protect, and preserve their shared heritage. This work will appear throughout this book, but since the complexities of contemporary heritage have developed its own vast body of literature, it will not be address here specifically.

Finally, this book will not stay in its lane and remain narrowly focused on the work done by disciplinary archaeologists. Instead, the following chapters will often draw on work by scholars of material culture, geology, media culture, history, art, and literature both to contextualize the interests of archaeologists of the contemporary world and to outline the transdisciplinary space of present and future work. Along those lines, I make reference to larger political and culture trends that stimulated various developments in the archaeology of the contemporary world. For example, the environmental movement of the 1970s inspired research into contemporary discard as much as a growing interest in behavioral archaeology and formation processes. The growing interest in things in archaeology parallels critiques of material culture in public rhetoric, in literature, and in other academic disciplines. Needless to say, that our growing awareness of human-caused climate change informs archaeology in a transdisciplinary way and supports a critical engagement with concepts like the Anthropocene. The parallel development of environmental history likewise contributes to how we understand the archaeology of landscapes, cities, and the countryside in the post-war period. As the final chapter of this volume shows, the COVID-19 pandemic, the protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder, and the deadly and disruptive riot in Washington, DC are already exerting a catalyzing influence over not only archaeology, but many other disciplines and academic and activist approaches to contemporary culture. The abundant cross-pollination in archaeology of the contemporary world has shaped the tendency of this book to reach easily across fields to create a sense for not only the past and present range of disciplinary practices but also its future.

Writing a North Dakota Essay

I’ve been utterly charmed by some of the essays compiled over at the Midwessays project. You can check them out here

For a moment, I thought about writing an essay for this collection. I had two interrelated ideas, but I couldn’t manage to distill them into anything worth writing (and polishing). 

First: The Silence

I’ve lived in loud places. I grew up on the East Coast. I went to graduate school in an ersatz East Coast pseudo-Rust Belt city and have lived for a number of years in Athens, Greece. These place never seemed particularly loud to me. In fact, the ambient din of these places was comforting. Then I moved to North Dakota. 

To be clear, I do not live on some isolated prairie farmstead. I live in the third largest city in North Dakota, Grand Forks, and I live close to its revived and busy downtown. But even here there is a profound sense of silence.

I think it may be a combination of things. First, in the winter, a thick peace comes to the Red River Valley. You can almost see the peacefulness as the frigid winter air slows down outdoor activities, causes most self-respecting animals to bunker down, and most economical humans to close up their homes. Our houses become little capsules of life surrounded by deep quiet.   

Second, there is a sense of quiet here that emanates from a deep sense of privacy. People who live here in North Dakota know one another, but do what they can to keep their lives from becoming too entangled with those of their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. I suspect this has to do with their sense of self-sufficiency or maybe an outsized sense of family. It may even relate to their awareness of small town gossip. In daily practice, however, it means that many folks aspire to silence. People quietly going about their lives. 

Interlude

I’ve heard a story of a faculty member in another department who has taught an entire class without speaking. The class is conducted in total silence with neither the professor nor the students making any intentional verbal or non-verbal contact with one another over the course of the semester. As one might expect, half of the class regarded the course as a complete waste of time, while the other half left profoundly moved. 

I know the professor who teaches this class. He moves like a shade through the hallways of the English department without acknowledging anyone around him. It is said that he experienced a grizzly murder as a child which rendered him silent and distraught. Others say that he’s taken an oath of silence for some religious order. 

Second: The Public

Most days, I take some time for a walk on the Grand Forks Greenway. The Greenway is a large public park that doubles as part of the city’s flood mitigation system. Separated from town by a series of imposing flood walls, the Greenway is an amazing public space with parks, trails, paths, golf, and even a pool that traces the course of the Red River. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite public spaces and, as you might expect, the community takes particular pride in its size and amenities.

There are some funny things about the Greenway, though. The oddest is that when I’m walking, running, or biking around its paths, people rarely greet each other. In fact, many folks intentionally avoid eye contact or look pained when I say “hello” or even the typical half-wave that you encounter when driving on section line roads. In the past, I’ve connected this to the alienation associated with modern life

Now, I wonder whether it’s something else. I wonder whether it’s a distain for the very idea of public space. Folks from the West have long distrusted public spaces which limited or complicated the rights of individuals to make a living. In North Dakota this is no where more apparent than political conversations about oil and public lands (as well as the role of the state in protecting any sense of the commons whether through mask mandates or environmental regulations).

I wonder how much recent political trends have bred a sense of resentment toward public spaces and amenities. This must create a kind of unpleasant cognitive dissonance between those who enjoy the Greenway and the realization that it embodies the very commons that they distrust in other areas of life. 

This kind of dissonance must be distracting. Simple greetings while walking along the paths may even feel like a betrayal of their deep seated distrust of public spaces and the public good.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

After a snowy few days, it feels like spring is returning to North Dakotaland with temperatures set to soar into the mid or even upper 50s today. Remember to wear your sunscreen, stay hydrated, and limit vigorous outdoor activities until your body adjusts to the warmer temperatures!

I’m planning to take lots of little breaks in front of the ole TV this weekend, catching the Formula 1 guys back in action, Cup in Richmond, the Sixers at home against the Clippers and the Phillies series against the Cards. If there were more hours in the day (or night), I might even catch an IPL match or the Sheffield Shield final, but I suspect any free time will be spent cleaning up the mud the dogs have tracked into the house from the garden.

Or, you know, doing my job. 

In the meantime, here are some quick hits and varia:

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