Posts Tagged ‘Labor’

From Digging to Digitization

October 26, 2018

The history of mankind has consisted of humans pulling stuff out of the ground and reworking it to suit our own survival purposes.

As people became more and civilized, and organized, the underlying survival instinct took a back seat to other motivations—gathering surplus, tribal organizing, development of skills and trades, cooperation and competition. . . eventually industry,  government, education, business, recreation, sports, entertainment.

The progressive developments of all these human activities required something that was necessary and common to all of them:

Resources.

Stuff from the earth itself. Raw material. Basic stuff:

Water, dirt, plants, rocks, ores, animals, hides.

As civilization moved forward, these basics were refined by us— reconstructed, manufactured to fulfill the requirements of human development.

Locomotv copy

The list of basic stuff (above) was revised to include:

Drinks, processed foods, fertilizer, livestock, leather, pets, tools, machines, lumber, metals, trains, cars, planes, appliances, telephones, radios, televisions, computers.

Computers–aha! With these, human development embarked upon a new phase.

Information itself becomes as useful (or at least we think it is as useful. . .) as all the other stuff that we’re using to make the world a more convenient place since the beginnings. Knowledge itself has became a resource. Yeah, though I dare say it—a commodity.

So we notice that over the course of human progress we did move steadily from pulling stuff out of the ground, and reworking it so that we could improve our life, to—

Pulling information out of our data machines.

Like it or not, this is the outcome of human history. We have come to this. Now development is largely about retrieving and using data files to improve life or capitalize upon its developments.

In the same manner as we traditionally removed natural resources from the ground and turned it into our good stuff.

And bad stuff. Let’s not forget that part. Our progressive high-tech life now generates bad stuff. Pollutants, toxins, noxious substances and, of course, shit itself, which still happens every day on a very large scale.

A consequence of our globally massive improvement project is that more and more persons are being driven into knowledge jobs.

Instead of all that plowing, digging, mining, constructing that we did all through history—more and more of us are typing, cataloging, programming, sitting at desks and watching computers do our so-called  work for us. Such activity (relatively, it is inactivity) becomes the order of the day for us as far into the future as many of us can see.

This digitized transformation of human development will bring us to some huge changes. I read an article about it this morning:

  https://www.ips-journal.eu/regions/global/article/show/the-false-hero-called-digitalisation-3050/n

Seeing as how we now have entered the age of information retrieval slowly overtaking natural resources recovery. . . seeing as how we gaze collectively at what seems to be the setting sun of human physical toil, I offer a tribute to the noble enterprise of Human Labor.

RailEngn

This tribute I offer in the form of a song. Gordon Lightfoot wrote it years ago.

It is one of the best songs ever written about the glory of human labor. You may listen to the songwriter’s rendition here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXzauTuRG78 

I also offer my own rendition of Gordon’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”, a song that I dearly love to sing.

    Gordon’s Railroad Trilogy

As you listen to both versions, imagine you are watching a sunset—the disappearing brightness of human labor accomplishment, being supplanted by a foggy dawn of. . . whatever is ahead for our collective endeavor.

King of Soul

The American Deal

July 13, 2016

Way back in time, hundred year ago, we was movin’ out across the broad prairie of mid-America, slappin’ them horse teams so’ they would pull them wagon out across the grasslands and the badlands, and then blastin’ our way ‘cross the Rockies and Sierras all the way to Pacific and the promised land of California.

GoGate35

And it was a helluva time gettin’ through all that but we managed to do it, with more than a few tragedies and atrocities along the way, but what can you say, history is full of ’em: travesties.

Troubles, wherever men go– travesties, trials and tribulations. That’s just the way it is in this world. If there’s a way around it, we haven’t found it yet.

  But there has been progress too, if you wanna call it that. Mankind on the upswing, everybody get’n more of whatever there is to get in this life, collectin’ more stuff, more goods, services, and sure ’nuff more money.

Movin’ along toward the greatest flea market in history, is kinda what we were doing.

Taming the land, transforming the planet into our own usages, improving, or so we thought, on God’s original versions.

After that great westward expansion transference/transgression, had been goin’ on for a good while, and a bad while now that you mention it, we Americans found ourselves high up on a bluff overlooking history itself. At Just about that time, them Europeans had a heap of trouble that they’d been brewin’ over there and they dragged us into it on account of we had become by that time quite vigorous, grasping the reins of manifest destiny and ridin’ along, as so it seemed, on the cusp of history, seein’ as how we had been raised up on our daddy’s Britannic colonizing, mercantiling knee.

Then long about 1914, them Europeans dragged us into their big fatally entreched mess over there and we went and fought the first Big War, fought them high and mighty Germans that first time and when we got done with it and got back over here the world was a different place.

I mean the world was a different place, no doubt about it.

For one thing, everybody in the civilized world was so glad to have a little peace in 1920, we just went hog wild.

Everybody got out there a-workin’, roarin’ ’20s zeitgeist, scrapin’ crops out o’ the ground, building great machines, skyscrapers. Edison had electrified us; Bell had sounded the bells of modern communication; Ford had tinkered us into a vast new world of mass production with a horseless carriage in every garage and a chicken in every pot and and we were skippin’ right along like a cricket in the embers.

NewkDev

‘Til ’29, when the big crash came along.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39RKRelTMWk

Some folks said that Mr. Hoover, great man that he was, was nevertheless clueless, and so the nation turned to Mr. Roosevelt for new answers. FDR, young cousin of Teddy Roosevelt who had been the father, so to speak, of American progressivism– cousin Franklin D., Governor of New York, took the bull by the horns and somehow managed to breed it into a donkey.

So from Teddy’s bullmoose progressivism there arose, through 1930’s-style unemployed populist cluelessness, Americanized Democratic Socialism;  with a little help from FDR’s genteel patriarchal largesse, the New Deal saved Capitalism, or so it is said among the theoreticians and the ivory tower legions who followed, and are still following, in Roosevelt’s wake.

Well, by ‘n by, between Lyndon Johnson’s grand Texas-size vision for a Great Society, Clinton’s good-ole-boy nod to residual crony capitalism, and then the 21st-century-metamorphosing, rose-colored proletarian worldview as seen through Obama’s rainbow glasses, and now the upswell of Bernie’s refurbished wealth redistribution wizardry– we’ve turned this corner into a rising tide of  flat-out Democratic Socialism.

It will be, quite likely, soon inundating the tidal basin inside the beltway as in 2017 we slog  into the mucky backwaters of full-blown Americanized Socialism, dammed up on the other side of the slough by that other guy whose oversimplified version of the nation and the world seems to want to land us in a brave new world of American National Socialism.

And who knows which way this thing will go; only time and the slowly softening sedentary, dependent American electorate can tell.

Looking back on it all, today, my 65th birthday, having lived through Nov22’63, April4’68, 9/11, yesterday’s disruptions wherever they may be, and everything in between, I find myself identifying with all the old folks whose weary outmoded facial expressions bespoke disdain,  while I traipsed errantly along life’s way. Here’s to all them ole folks who I thought were a little out of it, one brick shy of a load, peculiar, decrepit and clueless. Now, I can relate.

How I wish America could be back at real work again, like we were back in the day.

We’ve pushed through vastly extracted frontiers that yielded to massive infrastructure networks punctuated with skyscraping towers of steel and concrete. Now we’re lapsing into solid-state, navel-gazing nano-fantasies, living vicariously through celebrities in our pharma cubicles.

Maybe there’s a new frontier in there somewhere but I’m having a hard time seeing it.

But hey! let me conclude this rant with a hat-tip to the man–he happens to be a Canadian–who best eulogized the essence of that once-and-future great North American work zeitgeist, which seems to be disappearing into the dustbowl of history, because it looks like  there’s nowhere left to go.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjoU1Qkeizs

Well, maybe there is somewhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38bHXC8drHc

Glass half-Full

The Lady is at Work

June 4, 2016

LadyWork

She heard America singing;

through two centuries’ labors they came a-ringing–

the song and the opus of bringing

a newborn project in a newfound world

‘neath a loud stripey flag ‘t’was unfurled.

From ship to wagon to cart to railroads,

sending out them precious mother-lode payloads

over seas and lands and bridges and field rows–

he hauled ’em in, she bailed ’em out

through highways and byways they sent forth the shout.

Up with the work! and down with the grit

she dug and he hammered; she welded; he shipped it.

Turn up the earth, mine and weld and wield it ’til it fit–

a new land, a new time, new way of doin’

rolling on wheels where used to be horsehoin’.

They rolled up on the far edge of our vast continent,

on the heels of a gold rush at the shore of containment.

Along came the Okies, then Hollywood raiment–

not bein’ done yet, we slid into Silicon valley,

so much bigger and brighter than the old yankee alley.

Now what’s up with that and where do we go from here–

let bruthas and sistahs step to the music we hear

enduring the pain, dodging the rain, overcoming the fear,

we gotta discover what to do to pick up the slack

so we do not regress, do not turn back.

Maybe we will and maybe we will not–

forge a way past our lethargy, this entitlement and rot

what it is we got to do I know not what,

might have to grab that destiny from some ogre or grinch.

Let’s get this ship turnin’–hand me that wrench!

Glass half-Full

My great jazzified orchestral adventure

June 14, 2015

I had worked my 63-year-old body to a point of exhaustion last Wednesday afternoon, and so I took a little break from pressure-washing. The green mold that likes to grow on vinyl siding had now been blasted from two more high gable ends of the apartment buildings for which I am responsible. I am, you see, a maintenance guy.

So I slid slowly down the ladder and slogged over to my little shop. Plopping wearily into the padded chair, I activated the radio with expectations of easing for a little spell of time into some fanciful musical escapade. Alas, I was not disappointed. My favorite radio station, WDAV,   http://www.wdav.org/  immediately came through in classic style to whisk my overworked mind far beyond the ladder-heightened adventures of blasting H20 onto doomed algae colonies.

And then, strains of unfamiliar, though strangely captivating, orchestral sound came wafting to my ears. The music was soothing, with an elegant piano that stroked my worn-out being, but it was punctuated occasionally with bursts of symphonic divergence in a fashion that indicated some orchestral work of the early 20th century.

These impressionistic, mildly jazzy strains seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I could not place them. Surely it’s Gershwin, I wondered; the snappy snippets erupting here and there reminded me of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is one of my favorites. The very rhythmical slow-to-intense piano allegrettos landed me in a bewildered ponderance of trying to identify the composer. It was Gershwinesque, for sure, spicy with dynamic thrusts of emergent jazz, and slashing staccato poundings on the keyboard, while rambunctious woodwinds answered in the background, followed by lush strings that tamed the composer’s carefully-constructed disruptions into interludes of pure repose.

Then that captivating first movement energy slid languidly into an adagio second movement that soothed my weary soul like balm in Gilead. I had a few moments of unparalleled restorative calm, a true respite from my pressurizing labors.

Now comfortably installed at my shop’s work table, I began replacing the inner parts of a removed toilet tank, one of the 94 that I regularly maintain.

Suddenly, rapid bursts of precise piano, then bravissimo winds and sassy brass, were bursting forth in the last movement’s Presto prestissimo, affirming  my ruminations that surely this incredible piece of music was the work of some great composer. A few minutes later, sure enough, Joe Brant’s vocal coda identified the opus as Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_(Ravel)

Composed during 1929-31, it was a musical opus that Ravel had said “nearly killed him.” I learned this a day or two later on Wikipedia.

That 25-minute concerto took him two years to write. The piece’s intricacy and innovative energy, with brief boogie-woogified left hand in the last movement and all that jazz, convinces me that the composer’s desperate statement is “nearly” true. This intricate piece of music took a mountain of work. It was an exhaustive labor of love, the outcome of which was to to unify two great traditions of music, old European orchestral and new American jazz, in such a work as this.

Here’s pianist Helene Grimaud performing it with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Tugan Sokhiev:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbNoqzpbc0U

George Gershwin was doing similar renovations in classical music at about the same time as Maurice Ravel. And I was curious about this. Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G is, I think, so similar in feeling and era-sensitive timing to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, I was wondering who came first. I was thinking that Gershwin’s Rhapsody had premiered in 1934. Yesterday I learned on Wikipedia that Ravel’s upstart, jazzified Concerto in G was first performed in 1932.

So Ravel’s groundbreaking innovation scooped Gershwin’s?

Actually, not. As it turned out, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premiered in 1924!  not 1934, as I had thought.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhapsody_in_Blue

Which only makes sense–that the American, being born and raised in the land of the blues, the western continent of jazz’s birth, with Louie Armstrong blowin’ his horn down in N’awlins, King Oliver movin’ up in Chicago, Duke Ellington finessin’ in New York, etc etc., it only makes sense that George would scoop the Frenchman Maurice Ravel in this musical transition from one golden age to another, one old continent to one new one.

Here’s a contemporary YouTube of pianist Makoto Ozone performing Rhapsody in Blue with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert. But warning! to you classical music purists out there: this is Ozone’s jazzed up version of Gershwin’s jazzed up original composition! George Gershwin would, I believe, be impressed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxowOVIdnR0

But the discovery of this jazzed-up symphonic scoop is not the end of my story. A little further research early this morning online took me to one of the many black prodigies of American early jazz, Willie “the Lion” Smith. He was ticklin’ the ivories in Harlem and over on 52nd Street back in the day, early ’20’s, before George caught a vision for his blue masterpiece, and before Maurice grabbed hold of his jazzifyin’ Continental groundbreaker Concerto long abouts 1929-31.

Willie the Lion was an amazing, transitional piano impresario, and a legend back in the jazz age. Now this is where my great musical adventure, having begun in a moment of repose on Wednesday, and then morphing through Ravel and Gershwin, right into now, in the midst of Sunday morning’s research-driven blogfest. Are you ready for Willie?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBhbCjSnemE

Listen on!

 

Smoke  

Advice for thieves

January 27, 2013

About 1900 years ago, a teacher named Paul of Tarsus sent this advice to the Christians who were in Ephesus, Turkey:

“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”

To this  I would add my two cents:

Don’t wait for the labor to come to you; go out and find it. Find some work that needs to be done in your community or city, then go out and do it. Don’t wait for some gov.agency to bail you out of your downhill slide. Rather, find some folks nearby that you can work with, hook up with them, and then go out and do what needs to be done to make your community or city, your/our world a better place.

Your effort will ultimately improve you as much as it benefits them.

Times are hard, but that’s no excuse.  Get busy before this thing goes down, and you with it. Your personal responsibility is  the fertile raw material where  “individuality” so disdained by liberals intersects effectively with “collectivism” that is dissed by the conservatives.

Try to be the middle ground where everybody else is missing it. Somebody needs to. Be the missing link.

Listen: Underground Railroad Rides Again

Golden gated possibilities

June 18, 2012

The Golden Gate bridge was completed and dedicated for use in 1937. It was a pretty impressive piece of work. Check it out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Gate_Bridge

The idea of actually building this necessarily very big, complex structure took hold among some forward-thinking people; they were business leaders on the far side of the San Francisco bay area, in Santa Rosa, north of the waterway. Those enterprising folks in the California outback got together and started pushing the preposterous idea of building a bridge. Everybody who looked into the possibility of such a project knew it would be a tall order, no doubt about it.

Could such a thing even be done?

The Chamber of Commerce in the city of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, set the wheels of potential progress in motion. That is to say, in 2012 parlance, the “private sector.”  haha. They ran with the idea of getting something started. Together with “public sector” legislative bodies, the elected Board of Supervisors of Santa Rosa and of San Francisco, they recruited some engineers to actually get the ball rolling on the design requirements of such a gargantuan task.

An elected governmental body, the California legislature, eventually took on the massive project in 1928, turning its implementation over to their highway department. Bond financing became a problem in 1930, after the Crash when times were hard and folks didn’t have much money. Many didn’t even have, as they say, “two dimes to rub together.” So a major player in the financial industry, a founder of the Bank of America in San Francisco, bailed out the debt logjam by, according to Wikipedia, agreeing to buy the public-issue bonds, in order to get the bridge constructed.  Actual construction work began in 1933.

By April of 1937, long story short, there was a bridge where none had been before; and now, seventy-five years later, it’s still there. I know this is true. Pat and I have walked across the thing many times, even though we live in North Carolina.  Our business-administrating son, a SF resident, rode across it yesterday on his bicycle.

These things have happened in history. Put that in your public/private-sector pipe and smoke it, all ye 21st-century couch-potatoed Americans. Where there’s a will, as our grandparents used to say back in the day, there’s a way.  And they proved it.

Now these days, such projects would be much more complicated.

Or are they? Well, yes, but that’s a deep subject.

These days, you can’t just cook up a big project like that and go out and round up a bunch of folks in need of work and get them to do the thing. Americans don’t work like that any more, and besides, our infrastructure is already built anyway, right? I mean, nowadays you can’t just find a bunch of shovel-wielding fellers and get ’em to dig a big hole in the ground, pour some concrete and steel into it, then do the same on the other side, and bolt up a bridge between them. Can’t do it. Americans don’t work like that any more. We’re not programmed like in the 21st-century.

I wonder what it is that Americans can do now. We are, you know, pretty damned good at, what? making excuses, blameshifting? These days, we’re about as likely to do a big collective work like that as we are to wander out in the yard and watch the sun heat up the roof, or watch the lawn grow.

Glass half-Full

The Swan Song of J. Al DasCapital

May 24, 2012

For some it’s a good thing; for others a bad,

to be like the capitalist, or provoke socialist rad.

Back in the day, Rockefeller and Carnegie forged the enterprise deal;

JPMorgan and Ford cranked up  capitalist zeal.

But then in ’29 the machine broke down; all hell broke loose.

It was a train wreck for sure, from engine to caboose.

Smart as he was,  Hoover was thought clueless in ’32,

so they brought in Roosevelt to set up a new deal crew.

The gov from New York saved us, so they say,

with a big shot of socialism,  making work for payday.

 

Now these days, since the meltdown of ’08,

we’ve the same situation, but reverse, on our plate:

Big Spender Barack’s in the driver’s seat; he’s catchin’ the flack,

while Money-movin’ Mitt says its time to get back

to those good ole days when investors and innovators were calling the shots,

before all these Keynesian Krugmanites got the hots

for quantitative easing, and stimulus, and priming the pump;

’cause they give us a ride, but we don’t get over the hump.

 

Now out here on Main Street where the grassroots grow,

in the shops and garages where the mom and pops know,

we whip up the long tails; we push pins in the bubbles;

we wink at the black swans and laugh at the troubles.

Class warfare’s just a phrase in some socialist goad,

inequality  just a pothole, a mere bump in the road.

No flash-tradin’ froth, no credit default fizz,

we just work with what can be, and we deal with what is.

If the day ever comes when the gov regulates us beyond reason,

or corporations have all the wealth tied up for the season,

we’ll just stick out our necks and  we’ll sing our swan song,

cuz life in the free market goes on and goes on.

Glass half-Full

Couch potatoes, or real food?

May 2, 2012

Most Americans will not do the hard physical labor required to harvest our nation’s crops.

But in these days politicians, thinking that they’re doing us all a favor, want to meddle with immigration laws that effectively kick out the migrant workers who perform that hard work.

But most of us Americans are just not up to the task. Workers just will not do what many of our grandparents did  back in the day to get all that food out of the fields, into the supply chain, and into the pantries and bellies of consumers.

Here’s what has happened in Georgia in the last year or so, after the legislature went trying to meddle with the sensitive dynamics of supply/demand in agricultural labor markets.

In a conversation with Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation last Monday 4/30/12, Dick Minor, partner of Minor Produce, Andersonville Ga., and President of Georgia Fruit and Vegetable  Growers Association, said this:

“. . . that just anybody can come do this job is also a misnomer. We consider these people skilled workers because they are pretty much professional harvesters, and they’re even skilled to particular crops.

So people harvesting watermelons may not be able to pick peaches, and people picking blueberries may not be able to pick peppers. So certain crews that work in certain crops, and they do that year-round, as you know it’s very tough work. It’s very tough conditions – long hours. You’ve got to be in really good physical shape. You’ve got to know the process of harvesting crops.”

When Neal Conan asked Mr. Minor about using parolees to do the work, the President of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Associations said:

“It hasn’t worked out. I was actually one of the test farms that we did that on, and we tried to make it work. It runs into the same problem of using any other domestic workforce: They’re just not skilled in the technique to harvest the crop, nor are they physically able to do that work.

I mean, you have to imagine being in 100-degree days for 10 hours, and, you know, very physically demanding work, stooping down, running, lifting. You’ve got to be, sort of, trained, almost like an athlete. You’ve got to be trained to be able to do it, and we offered open employment to them all summer long, and we had just a constant turnstile of people coming and going.

And nobody was excited about doing it. A lot of them did it for several days, but none of them lasted.”

The net effect of the legislature’s misguided micromanagement of labor markets cost the state of Georgia, in Mr. Minor’s estimation, lost revenuers of $140 million, which, when the “multiplier” effect of that money is factored in, amounts to about $390 million.

This happened because 40%  of workers needed to harvest  Georgia’s crops in the last year were not there to do the work. The accustomed agricultural pickers did not show up because they were not hired because of  bad law, or the workes were afraid of the consequences of showing up and risking deportation.

But American couch potatoes wouldn’t get out in the fields and gather all those watermelons and peaches and whatnot.

In this country, we’ve traded real potatoes for couch potatoes. This is largely the result of our leisurely lifestyle, and obsession with entertainments, and government welfare that robs workers of incentives to prosper, and just plain old-fashioned laziness.

Americans don’ know how to work any more. Its no wonder that the corporations sitting on all that funny Federal money are unwilling to take a chance and grant us more employment.

CR, with new novel, Smoke,  in progress

Time for Soul-searching

April 26, 2012

America needs to find something else to do besides argue and complain. Each man, each woman has a destiny to fulfill.

Get hooked up with some person or organization with which you can at least partially agree; get your hands, your feet, your mind busy, to solve the problems that confound you now.

Act on behalf of those whom you love– those for whom you are responsible; assist those who are responsible for you.

If you are in a mess, Big Brother is not going to get you out of it. The government may toss a few greenbacks and food stamps your way, but ultimately you are responsible for your own life.

You go-getters out there–no corporation will fill your destiny. If you want to become an integral link in a corporate structure, remember: its all about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. You do your job right and the good stuff will come after many days.

Get busy. Look around you. Find something in your vicinity that needs doing, and do it, whether that makes you underpaid, underemployed, or seemingly underutilized. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done out there in getting this country turned around from our present dead-end of overinstitutionalism and overgovernmentalization. We need to restructure from the ground up. And I do mean the ground literally. This could involve growing some vegetables or something like that.

If you’re at a loss as to how to find some direction, take some time for a little soul-searching. That’s what I did a few decades ago, and I was never the same afterward. I wrote a song about it: Like Moses, like Martin Luther King, I took a walk up the mountain.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Seattle, spruce and sunshine

March 25, 2012

This January afternoon of 1855, the old Chief’s careful direction would be guiding his people, like or not, to a destination of peaceful reconciliation with those who were to come. Big changes were in the wind, and Chief Seattle knew this. The ancient ways were being compacted to legend by these whitish immigrants with their steam-breathing machines. In the face of narrowing options the Duwamish peoples had no simple, and no welcome, adjustments to make.

Chief Seattle was getting up in years. His footsteps along the mountain trail were not swift, nor as eager, as when he had first trod them as a young Suquamish.   As the ancient path turned his party into a high clearing on the ridge, between tall evergreens, Seattle’s sight was filled with  magnificence of the Great River and wide bay below– what the whites were now calling Elliot Bay.  At that moment the clouds parted; a rare burst of winter sunshine splashed its welcome brilliance through cold, silvery afternoon. He paused to appreciate the scene, then raised his right arm and placed it on a familiar spruce tree, resting. The sunshine warmed the old man’s face, and raised a smile upon his wisdom lips.

Down on the bay shore, Henry Yesler had been operating his sawmill since about two years ago. He had shut the machine off for the day, for this was a day like no other.  He would soon join a few others of his American associates, to sign a treaty with the natives whose ancient lands were all around. Chief Seattle would arrive to represent the Duwamish and Salish peoples; he was known among the new settlers as a reasonable man, a leader who understood the tectonics of this moment’s history.

By the next summer, the high spruce upon which Chief Seattle had leaned was cut down by hordes of Scandinavian lumberjacks who had immigrated across an ocean and an entire continent.  The woodsmen were busily thrusting their cut logs down a skid road to the Yesler sawmill at the waterfront. There would be many a skid road in the Northwest and beyond before this fierce harvesting was all over with.

By 1893, the Great Northern Railway had been completed. Its trestled tracks twisted through the Cascades and over the Rockies, all the from  St. Paul, Minnesota and beyond. Men with names like Washington, Smith, Stevens, Schwabacher, Nordstrom would soon carve a Pacific Northwest 20th-century culture out of the wild Washington woods.

The next hundred years tumbled an avalanche of civilized chaos and semi-organized caterwaullin’ enterprises across that Duwamish River, and out the Puget waterway to the wide Pacific and beyond: hauling millions of felled timbers on rails and ships and, with every imaginable sort of huffing puffing machine, slurry of mined minerals, casting Klondyke gold, picks and axes, bootstraps, neckties, highfalutin’ starched shirts, hopes and dreams, mice and men, with newspapers, rumor mills, steam-driven capitalism and a whole lotta just plain old hard work, driven by a slue of Swedes, Finns, English, Italians, Africans, Asians, Irish and generally all those Americanizing yankee types whose enterprised fervor propelled an expansion unprecedented in the history of the whole dammed world with all the blood, and toil and sweat that have ever and always dropped our tears along the holy terrible trail of human progress.

By late 20th, a slab or two of Seattle spruce had been railed across the prairies and the heartlands, and delivered to a shop in St. Louis, where a selected piece was seasoned, sawn thin and stretched across a resonant box with a hole cut out and a fretted neck with six steely bronzed strings stretched across it. And there from that sound-hole rolls out a reflected resonance of the sunshine and the spruce upon which old Chief Seattle had paused and contemplated, before he was to meet his Maker, all that was to later happen.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress