Archive for December, 2019

Those Three ConeSpun Mills

December 31, 2019

2020 rings in another hyped-up year,

as traffic rumbles o’er this city’s streets.

The people slog through their habitual gears

as nights pass by and days repeat.

ConeMillsWO

My stopping by this mill’s ancient smokestack tower

drums up crumbling dreams of 120 years ago

When rev-upped steam drove industrial power

as workers toiled to make America go.

ConeFactry

Except for this site’s massive piled-up, silent heaps

no remnant’s here of their past incredible productivity

We hear no rumbling of gears, no wheeling peeps

Nothing but our clueless, wizzing auto-driven activity.

But down beneath those obsolete smokestack towers

under jagged rebar heaps and brickish piles

behind walls of long gone, humming industrial power

rolled miles and miles of denim ‘n flannel styles.

TextilMachn

’T’was there and then through toiling sweat and flowing tears

workers spun off vast bolts of denim cloth;

in feats of toiling ’20’s roar, then Depression fears,

cranking textile miles, yet with no thread of slouching sloth.

 A shrill whistling of the factory call is no longer heard at all,

just a sunny breeze in unseasonably warm December.

These three landmark chimneys stand so stubbornly, so tall

commanding us by their stature, to remember.

As if we could remember, but no; this legacy is lost to us.

For we, so enamored, or ensnared, by electronic spell,

cannot attain to the fierce pace of their spinning, weaving opus.

Now we demolish their wornout legacy, no more to tell.

But massive was their output–their product so dearly spun;

‘though its flannel flappings waiver yet in this, our age’s fatal breeze.

Soon our bulldozing might will render this heritage undone

as fiberoptic spinning of our  sorcery now weaves.

ConeRevStak

Glass half-Full

Crossing the Great Divide

December 26, 2019

Life is flexible and creative.

Mathematics is different from life; it is definite and conclusive.

When certain modern mathematicians recently figured out—and admitted— that equations can not account for all truth about life itself, they actually enabled themselves to make a quantum leap forward in human communications.

What George Gilder calls the mathematics of information theory is actually a “math of creativity.”

Human creativity is required to make this math work properly. If humans would not intervene—if we were to choose not to intervene, not to tweak, not to program—our stupid, soul-less computers would “churn away forever.”

Caught up in a never-ending loop—that’s what computers would do if we didn’t manage them and tell them what to do.

How did such a bright idea enlighten the computering pioneers of our 20th-21st century progress?

In his book, Life After Google, George Gilder describes a series of progressive mathematical proofs that eventually brought us to an advanced stage of modern mathematics. Beginning mainly with Isaac Newton, these theorems collectively lead, step-by-step, to a system of proven mathematical truths.

But the mathematicians ran into a problem—a dead end. The roadblock showed up shortly after a certain fellow, David Hilbert, came along and, being absolutely  sure that we could express all knowledge mathematically, famously said: “We must know; we will know!”

It seems to me David was gathering his sustenance from an old source that was long ago proven unreliable; it was, I surmise, that phenom that Moses called the “Tree of Knowledge.”

Actually, it was a little while later that his assistant—a fellow named John von Neumann—provided the missing link that exposed Hilbert’s wishful thinking for what is was.

Along those link lines, George Gilder provides in his book a list of other mathematicians and scientists whose work contributed to John von Neumann’s breakthrough. The list includes Kurt Gödel, Gregory Chaitin, Hubert Yockey, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon.

George Gilder explains. . .

“Gödel’s insights led directly to Claude Shannon’s information theory, which underlies all computers and networks today.”

In the midst of this move forward away from mathematical determinism and into creative computing, the contribution of John von Neumann was to encourage Gödel in his emerging proof that absolute mathematical proof was impossible.

Along this path of computing enlightenment, Gilder points out that

“Gödel’s proof prompted Alan Turing’s invention in 1936 of the Turing machine—the universal computing architecture with which he showed that computer programs, like other logical schemes, were not only incomplete but could not even be proved to reach any conclusion. Any particular program might cause it (the computer) to churn away forever. This was the ‘halting problem.’Computers required what Turing called ‘oracles’ to give them instructions and judge their outputs.”

Those “oracles” are human beings. Guess what: Computers need us if they’re going to work correctly!

George Gilder goes on to explain in his book that this creative guidance from us, homo sapiens, is what leads, and has lead to, all the computer progress we have seen in modern times.

Along that path of progress, Larry and Sergei came along and harnessed all that creative oracularity into a thing called Google.

You may have heard of it.

My takeaway is that, back in the dawn of the computer age . . . while Hilbert was chowing down on the Tree of Knowledge, his assistant Von Neumann managed to pluck some life-sustaining nourishment from the Tree of Life.

Gilderbook

Along those lines, here’s a cool quote from George Gilder:

“Cleaving all information is(:) the great divide between creativity and determinism, between information entropy of surprises and thermo-dynamic entropy of predictable decline, between stories that capture a particular truth and statistics that reveal a sterile generality.”

 Maybe you have to be a computer nerd to process all that quote in your very own CPU, or you may be like me and just read a lot . . .

King of Soul

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

December 20, 2019

Driving in bright, brisk December sunshine, winding slowly along a Blue Ridge mountain holler road, I arrived yesterday afternoon at the house address that I had earlier noted.

Turning off the car engine silenced radio reportage about the impending impeachment, which is neither here nor there. I am looking for an old fella that I recently read about in a locally written book.

The house is small, light green, near the side of the road, very neat and compact, meticulously maintained.I  This home is the kind of modest dwelling that was being built around these parts in the 1950’s, but it has been recently updated with vinyl siding. My carpenter eye notices the perfectly installed exterior. Nice job.

An attractive, low stone wall just a few steps from the roadway affords a stairway down to a welcoming front porch.  The front door is absolutely white, six-paneled proper in sunshine. It begs knocking, and so I do.

The lady who opens it is thin, with gray hair. She has a classic Scotch-looking mountain face, pleasantly aged with complimentary wrinkles. I forget now what she said, but it was some kind of greeting. I offered her my concise explanation for my visit this afternoon.

“Hi. My name is Carey Rowland. I’ve been doing some historical research—for a novel I am writing— about the Cone estate, and the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway through it back in the 1940’s or ’50’s.  I recently read an interview, published in 1997, with Mr. Paul Moody, who, I understand used to work for Bertha Cone.”

“I’m his wife.” she said

Well, gollee, I’ve come to the right place.

This was a pleasant surprise. I’m still new at this historical research stuff. The last few doors I had recently knocked on were run-down abandoned places with nobody home. A little confused about exactly what my next question should be, I blurted:

“Is he alive?”

“He’s right in here. You wanta talk to him?”

“Yes ma-am!”

“Come on in. I’ll get him.”

And so I did, and she did.  Next thing you know, I’m looking around in this smallish, comfortably lived-in den or living room. A few seconds later, Paul walks in, smiling.

Well gollee.

“Well, what can I do for ye?” he says, pleasantly.

And so I explained a little— that I had been living around here since the early ’80’s, raising a family with my wife, and the first job I had up here was working on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is, as you know, the missing link, in the middle of a 469-mile parkway that took fifty years to build—

And, as the old shake and bake commercial says. . . “and I helped!”

“Well, sit down,” said Paul.

Not in that chair, I thought, noticing the easy chair. That’s obviously his chair, with visual evidence of Paul’s accustomed comfort, possibly reading comfort, over years of sitting.  No sign of a TV in the room.

So I took my seat on the couch. “Thank you, sir!”

Long story short. Paul began talking about the Moses Cone Estate, on which he had been born in 1933, and thereby born into the hired help. His grandfather had been superintendent of the place back in the day— since before 1908 when Moses had died, and his father had been foreman of the apple orchard.

Paul proceeded to answer just about every question about the place that had been on my mind these last few weeks. This was becoming a very productive day, from a writerly standpoint.

He is a very pleasant fellow, full of history, and willing to talk about it. A historical fiction-writer’s dream informant. After awhile he took me back in the other rooms. He showed me the kitchen cabinets he had built, with frame-and-panel cherry doors on cherry face-frame, then took me back into the expansive laundry room, which was sunshine bright and entirely paneled with whitish, wormy pine, milled from trees that he himself had cut down.

A true mountain man, this Paul. The 16-gauge shotgun mounted over the doorway had been bequeathed to Paul from the Cone estate when Bertha died in 1947.

BRPaulmoody

Here’s Paul with his life-long wife, Margaret, who also came from a family of the hired help of the Cone estate, now the Moses Cone Memorial Park. They’re standing in front of another piece of his handiwork, filled with a lifetime of precious family mementos.

BRPMoody

After more friendly conversation and explanation, he took me out to his shop, where he had built the cabinets and the furniture and God-knows-what else.

BRmoodysaws

as far as ole folks from the Old School go, they don’t make ‘em like Paul any more.

BRmoody

And the rest is history, which you may read about in two or three years when I finish the novel . . .

Search for Blue

Christmas

December 12, 2019

And the world wonders at the centuries-long persistence of Christmas among the Christians.

Christmas

Hung upon this tree, almost every ornament represents a hallowed memory, or a different era of 40 years shared between one man and one woman, and the three now-grown children who filled up the void in their shared life.

Several ornaments are hand-me-downs from the grand- and great-grand- generations who are now gone to that great yuletide in the heavens.

Gazing at the tree on a chilly December night, although the room is quite warm, calls to mind all those past Christmases.

Christ the Saviour is born. And another family lives to tell the yuletide tale.

Believe it or not, the true, original Christmas spirit is potent, alive and well, and still passing from generation to generation.

A relic of days gone by?

Perhaps. But much more than that, a celebration of eternity to come, made real by the child born in Bethlehem so long ago—the one who grew up to conquer hell and death on a goddam cross.

Believe it not. The manger was good enough for Jesus; it’s good enough for us. It’s a potent story with an eternal ending. Join in if you’ve caught the Spirit.

Glass half-Full

The Dark Spots in Our Republic

December 11, 2019

I am defining Dark Spots this way.

Dark spots: locations in which election vote numbers are suspect, due to fraud, corruption, tampering, discrimination or miscounting.

Dark spots in our democratic republic are everywhere. No doubt they can be uncovered in numerous locales throughout our entire system of governments. Such dysfunction is a symptom of our human predicament and the institutions we devise to help us all solve our problems together.

I think the number of suspect dark spots is revealed in higher and higher numbers as our counting moves downward to the local level.

There is no statistical explanation for this except that the complexity of voter rolls gets progressively higher and higher as the numbers get bigger and bigger.

In our massive system of vote-counting, the likelihood of corruptive shenanigans is everywhere throughout the nation. The extent of corrupt data/numbers is directly proportional to the number of polling stations in the nation. There will always be a few bad apples in any batch. Knowing which ones are suspect probably requires more time and integrity than our civil authorities can effectively monitor.

It is partly because of this fully expected complexity that the founders of our democratic republic instituted an Electoral College. Admittedly, there are other factors that determined the outcome of this foundational decision, such as: all the writers of  our Constitution were middle-aged white guys who had plenty of land and money. But that was 18th-century politics in the New World and there is nothing that can change that.

To amend the Constitution is a very long, difficult process involving all of our state legislators and Congress. If there are any parties among us who have a mind to do so, you are welcome to go for it. Good luck with that. The Constitutionally-prescribed procedure would require a lot of time and coordinated effort on the part of a large number of citizens.

Now, as to the matter of the dark spots, I continue.

Regardless of the inevitable hundreds or  thousands of illegal or deceased voters and subsequent illegal votes cast throughout our United States– the final number that actually determines who will be President —that number is systematically honed to  a very manageable, low number that is easy to count. So that we can make a definitive appointment that will be held as legitimate for the next four years.

538 electors is the number of Constitutionally determined delegates who declare who will become our President in each four-year period.

270 is the majority number that establishes the outcome of that Electoral College.

In 2016, those numbers were: 306 for Trump and 232 for Clinton. All ye Democrats, read ’em and weep. That’s life in the big country. There’s always next election, so get busy.

The integrity of our selection procedures, from the lowest precinct level all the way up to Congress and the Presidency, is a matter of interest for all of us in both parties.

Let’s keep it as clean and legitimate as we can, from the top to the bottom.

Now, what about those dark spots of electoral meddling that I mentioned earlier. . .

My theory is that in a democratic republic, especially one as huge as ours, there will always be some dark spots somewhere; to sniff them all out and correct them would be an impossible, never-ending project.

We will never get rid of all the irregularities of selective process that our Constitution has prescribed and our  nation has retained for 238 years.

We can try to clean up corruption, tampering, illegal voting and dead people voting etcetera etcetera.That’s all well and good, But we’ll never undo all the evil that men do.

Especially men; blame the men, haha, especially the ole white guys like me, although I am not one of the rich privileged ones.

Nevertheless, as a citizen of the United States of America, I am entitled to a vote, which figures at a certain level in the selection process. Then those who are selected by the compilation of my vote and yours will go on to vote on the larger decisions, including who will actually be President.

Along with the vote I am entitled to my opinion,  and I am endowed by the Constitution to express it in any ways that do not infringe on the rights of my fellow-citizens.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And the Constitution, including the Electoral College—that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

That’s our history and we’re sticking to it.

ElectCollg

Like it or not, according to the above procedure, 270 is determined as the necessary majority number if you wanna be President.

Now let’s get started on the next election cycle. The American people will select our next President according to the systematic process that our founders instituted and we have retained for, lo, these many years.

And if you Democrats out there have a better person for the job, well let’s see what you come up with. Then we will  collectively render our decision in December of 2020.

May the best citizen for the job win.

Glass half-Full

Demo QuidPro v GOP Quo

December 10, 2019

The  gentleman

was referring to the meeting of the 23rd

at least that’s what I think I heard

HouseComm

He said she said thus and such

at then the other said just as much

on such and such a day we know

but it does not constitute the quid pro quo 

Just answer yes or no:

Thusandsuch was provided for soandso

but it doesn’t amount to a quid pro quo,

yet the majority puts on its impeachment show

while minority says no no no

still aint no quid pro quo.

The gentleman will please–

I don’t know I don’t know

The gentleman is out of order

was that your memory of the–

The gentleman is badgering the witness

and was that the same meeting where

–no sir that was on the meeting of the 16th

 so are you agreeing with mister soandso’s–

Just answer yes or no

I am not prepared to–

It was not at the meeting of the 23rd.

The gentleman’s time is up.

The gentleman will please—

Let me finish sir

the gentleman is badgering the witness

the gentleman can’t get a word in edgewise

point of order

that’s not a point of order; that’s a procedural–

The gentleman’s time is up.

The chair wishes to recognize the gentleman from–

point of order sir

let me finish

but the majority members have an agenda

is it quid pro quo or no?

This is what we need to know

But the record  does not show–

I do not know sir. The chair wishes to recognize–

point of order sir

no no that’s not what the president said

is my memory of it.

 The gentleman will please–

Oh but the gentleman is badgering the witness.

oh no but he told him no 

on the phone you know

that’s what  the metadata show

It all depends on how far you want to go

with this hyped-up committee  show,

media  display of public futility

with impressive legal facility

But where  shoulda been judicial governance

 we see rabid rhetorical comeuppance

as ship of state gets beached in procedural mire

surely John and Jane Doe will  tire

as  congressional spellbinding winds higher

they’ll bluster til the cows come home

til quid pro quo is committee’dly shown

while donkey detailers go on braying

elephants in the room are disobeying.

Meanwhile the documents pile and pile.

This could go on for awhile.

That Trump’s a loose cannon we all remember.

Let the American people decide in November.

Glass half-Full

A Republic If We Can Keep It

December 6, 2019

Since the 2016 election, Republicans have gradually made their peace with a President who plays fast and loose with public resources. He’s a fast-talking wheeler dealer. Principled politicians from the old schools took a long while in making their unsteady peace with his real-world, Wild West shoot-from-the-hip way of doing things.

Now we find that, as we might have expected, our infamous Executive has been playing fast and loose with public resources, for personal advantage, behind the scenes. And not only Stateside, but also overseas.

His international behind-the-scenes shenanigans have now been dragged  out into full view by the Democrats.

This was to be expected. Their post-election shock was eventually summoned up and directed by the zealots into a midterm rage. Now a nearly-full-cycle organized election strategy has emerged. They will  drive him out of office any way they can.

For them, it is a matter of principle! Not so much just . . . you know, politics. Okay,  I’ll give them that; there are important principles of statehood involved here.

But politics is still politics. Gotta get it while you can. By hook or by crook, they’ll take a shot at running him out of there.

Now we shall see just how well our two-party system still works. Although these days, it works with considerably more animosity than in former times. This is due largely to the internet revolution, through which public opinion has been commandeered and widely destabilized by the unorganized masses.  An unprecedented GooFBooTwit takeover of public opinion channels has demolished what was formerly domination by the old, TV/Press media networks. The net effect nowadays is intense polarization at both ends of the idealogical spectrum, and a bizarre display of ridiculous political behavior—in the halls of power as well as out on the street.

Now our ever-faithful opposition party dutifully drags out its nitpicking legalistic revelations about the Trumpster’s self-serving  misdeeds in foreign capitals.  The Prez and his legal hit-man have been exposed in opportunizing–for personal advantage– Ukrainian vulnerability–an instability that emerged from their messy, destabilizing Soviexit.

Here on our home front, the old school Republicans, most especially those in the US Senate,  will soon have to make some hard decisions.

Will they avert their eyes from the exposed Emperor of Impropriety? If they do, their Senate tolerance will be at the expense of our Foundational principles.

That’s one way of evaluating the situation.

Here’s another: if Senate Republicans concede to the hyper-legalistic fact-finding of their opponents across the aisle, then Trump will be impeached all the way to the point of being driven out of office.

There’s a lot that could speculated about that scenario. But I’ll just cut to the post-chase.

When the dust settles, the reality would be that our next President is Mike Pence, at least for a few months if not four+ years.

Quite possibly, Mike will be a more honorable President than Trump. And he may actually give the Dems a better run for their money than the Donald would have.

On the other hand,  the oldschool Senate Republicans may loosen their classic statesmanlike standards for the sake of  standing behind our embattled President. Their compromising support would be ostensibly for the sake of continuity in public governance, if not  the very stability of our Republic.

Either way, it seems to me that the likelihood of all hell breaking out in this country is high. We will have a bunch of very mad citizens from one or the other side, or both sides, roaming the streets of our cities. And trolling the currents of our Web.  This scenario would unleash widespread destabilizing, maybe anarchic, forces. Our Constitutional framework and cultural heritage will certainly be put to the test.

When January of 2021 rolls around, we will still have a President, one way or the other. Even more important than that however, is this: We will still have a Democratic Republic, the United States of America, if—as Ben Franklin had wisely said—“you can keep it.

And that mean you!

UncleSam

Look at the face in the poster. Notice it is not Donald’s face, nor Mike’s, nor is it the face of Joe, Elizabeth, Bernie, nor Pete.

Ok, I’ll admit that’s an old white guy, just like me. Imagine, if you prefer, that it is not Uncle Sam’s visage but an image of Susan B. Anthony, or Dr. Martin Luther King. You get the idea. We gotta hang together.

Either way, It’s ours: a Republic if we can keep it.

Glass half-Full  

Winter Daydream

December 4, 2019

Having grown up in Louisiana, I moved to the Blue Ridge mountains while in my mid-20’s.

Ever since that time—the late 1970’s—I have lived, married, parented and grown steadily older in an Appalachian culture.

Truthfully though, the two cities I have lived in reflect a post-Appalachian culture.

Ole long-bearded Zeb with overalls—you don’t notice him so much anymore; he’s probably running a landscape business to service the manicured lawns of well-heeled snowbirds.  And barefoot Ellymae in threadbare calico on the front porch—she’s more likely now to be monitoring the  gas-pumps from behind a convenience store checkout.

To some extent, mountain culture has become homogenized with the dominant American obsession with superficial style and commercialism.

But not totally.

One thing that is nevertheless still quite different  from living down the mountain is the temperature. We typically see a 7-12 degree lower thermo up here.

We actually have four seasons here!

In the Deep South . . . not so much.

When this southern boy first arrived in the high country, I cultivated some romantic notions about the cold weather. I suppose this is because—in spite of the painful nipping in fingers and toes —it was such a refreshing experience after growing up in twenty-four blistering deep south summers.

The immanent—and in some ways, dreaded— arrival of our 2019-20 winter comes as no surprise.

WinterComin

This morning I woke up remembering an old song that I had written and recorded, many years ago, shortly after becoming a mountain man myself. The song is, on one level, about the coming of winter.

On another level, it is about a very noticeable shift in our American culture that has happened in my 68-year lifetime—single parenthood.

I am not one of them. But being a man married, thankfully, for forty years, and a grandfather. . . now provokes rumination about the many challenges  young parents must face in this age of temporary partnerships.

We have many more single parents in 2019 than we did back in the 1950’s-60’s when I was growing up. My old song that crept into my imagination this morning presents a romanticized image of a single mother as she contemplates past and future. In her foreground is the upcoming winter outside her window on a cold, crisp early-winter day.

Since memory of  the song seems to have popped out of nowhere this morning in my awakening dream-state, I thought sharing it with you might be something to do.

      Portrait of a Lady

Glass half-Full