Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   low-disturbance Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 27 2008

setting: Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland

While the others attended to the bullet points of today's vegan feast, somehow I avoided doing much if any work. At some point, though, my young nephew (who is now nearly five) was trying to play a game called "Harvest Time" with his mother. He'd received the game as a gift last night, and somewhere between then and now he'd lost the six-sided die used to inject randomness into the play. Unlike most die, though, this one had six different colors on its sides, not numbers. What to do? His grandmother eventually found some die for me to modify, and I eventually covered one with paper labels upon which I marked various colors. By this point my nephew's mother, taking advantage of her demanding son's distraction, had gone off to do other things, so I ended up playing a round of Harvest Time with a four and five sixths year old opponent. I didn't bother much with the directions and played the game with rules I made up on the fly, rules that injected the competitiveness and materialism of monopoly into a hippie game of cooperation. In the end I was defeated fifteen harvested crops to seventeen. I have to say this: in the stereotyped universe of a board game, interacting with someone one ninth my age was surprisingly rewarding. I got a kick out of the way my nephew would "fake eat" his vegetable tiles as he harvested them, putting them to his lips and simulating the noises of mastication. The most refreshing thing about a kid that age is how open they are to arbitrarily-conceived-of rules. Had I been playing an adult, he or she would have constantly been asking, "Are you sure those are the rules?" There was no such problem with my nephew.

Gretchen had invited our friends Penny and David to tonight's feast, and they'd agreed to come as a stop on a road trip they'd planned to take down the East Coast well into the Deep South. The arrived some time in the afternoon, followed eventually by Carolιvιa Herron (who wrote the surprisingly controversial children's book Nappy Hair) and Carolιvιa's mother Georgia. Later Brιan Baιrd, House Representative of Washington State's third district, showed up with his wife and two young sons. (Brιan and family had been at last year's Thanksgiving as well.) Eventually we all sat down to eat the fancy vegan meal, which was centered around a chestnut roast. David had brought a shredded cabbage salad and walnut cranberry sauce, and there were also fire-sweetened onions and lemony potatoes. There were also things I don't eat, like mashed sweet potatoes and roasted beets. At one point I looked down at the things being passed around and noted that the vast majority of them were root vegetables.
Last year Gretchen had been upset when the meal dissolved after a few minutes because of the screaming demands and short attention spans of the children. So this year the children were consigned to little tables in the kitchen, where their screeching, yelling, and breaking things wouldn't subsume adult conversation. This made for more interesting discourse than had been possible last year. For awhile Brιan B. talked about how global carbon dioxide levels were acidifying the oceans and killing the corals. He said, however that the creatures making the corals might not go extinct but might live as reef-free anemones instead. I said that this reminded me of the fact that one never finds snails in acidic environments, but one does find slugs. And if all you have is slugs, all it takes to get snails is to build a large concrete structure to neutralize the soil environment. To this Carolιvιa's mother Georgia added the observation that the only place in her yard where there are snails is near a concrete wall.
Then Carolιvιa (who is black) talked about the time the Ku Klux Klan expressed support for Nappy Hair when others were trying to remove it from the libraries. This led somehow into a discussion of words similar to "the n word," and we found ourselves wondering about the origin of "snigger" and "niggardly," words that have fallen out of use because of their uncomfortable similarity to today's worst epithet. Then there was "Arnold Schwarzenegger." [Blackberry-enabled Google wasn't working too well at the table, but I eventually I discovered that "schwarzenegger" means "black ploughman."]
As she and her mother was leaving for the night, Carolιvιa was asked by my young nephew if perhaps she would read Nappy Hair out loud to him. This resulted in a dramatic performance of the book for all of us. She later explained that the book hadn't started out as a children's text but was just the writing down of a story that had been passed down through the generations in her family. Its first print manifestation had been as a college dissertation showcasing the tradition of call and response in African American storytelling.

For linking purposes this article's URL is:

previous | next