Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Fair Trade

We saw the screening DVD this afternoon: it's called "The Fair Trade," a documentary film about both one young woman's journey to find vitality after loss and also the beginning of a fair trade business. Wonderfully weaving together a personal story of death and rejuvenation with a bold mission to give value to struggling poor in Togo, Africa, The Fair Trade tugs at the delicate strings of the human soul and dares to take up the heavy moorings of human economy.

If you see The Fair Trade playing, trade your time for it and go see it.
If you see The Fair Trade for sale, trade your money for it and go buy it.
'Tis a bargain that will benefit your souls.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bored and on the Internet?

Then I have a favor to ask! I am in the process of re-doing my business website - take a look and let me know what works, what doesn't, what you like, don't like etc!
and Thanks!!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Down (or Up) the Hatch!

For the last year I've been getting into our ceiling crawl space (to check insulation, open the house fan, and wage bloody war on squirrels) by emptying the closet in our bedroom, removing the shelf and clothes rod, taking out the ceiling panel, extending a ladder into the overhead recess, and climbing up to the crawlspace.

I even installed 50 feet of 18" x 24" plywood sheets to make a catwalk down the length of the house using this entrance.

No more!

I just completed a new access to the crawlspace from the other end of the house, where a loft exists that sits just 4.5 feet below the ceiling. There's still ladder climbing involved, but it's a fixed ladder that's part of the decor, as opposed to one I have to lug in from the garage. And I only have to remove a 21" square panel, as opposed to a hundred pounds of clothes and an awkward piece of drop-drywall in a closet.

I even framed the hatch (with wood salvaged from our living room ceiling project of last summer--thanks again, Josh and Christopher) to match the trim in the rest of the house: clear-coated white pine. Here are a few pictures to celebrate.

Homeowners: 4

Powers of Chaos and Disorder: 0
(for anyone who's keeping score)

View from the crawlspace:

View from the loft up:With the hatch in place (as yet unpainted):
From the ladder (Escher View):
From the second floor (can you tell the trim is new?):
~ emrys

Le Plus Ca Change (or Revolution)

[If you are not interested in history, or the analysis thereof, I shall not be offended if you skip this entry.]

I just finished reading a book by Gordon S. Wood entitled "The Radicalism of the American Revolution" (1992). It won a Pulitzer or some such great prize for history. This guy's thesis is that the great revolution of 1776 in the British colonies in North America was one of huge social consequence, far beyond the normal high-school summary: Paul Revere giving the finger to bunch of Redcoats because taxes were too high.

Gordon wrote a tome, almost two inches thick, with no pictures and huge paragraphs. It's really a historian's book. But I found his style just accessible enough for me to make it through and gain some good insights, even if I did have to pay attention more than when I'm reading Clancy. Gordon rewarded my attention.

One of the many discoveries I made through this book:
Monarchy was a worldview, way of life, and complete social structure. To believe in monarchy (in the 1700s) meant to believe that there was a great chain of being with many levels, from the king and queen down to the beggar, and one had his or her place in it. Monarchy, though it committed the unpardonable (by our standards) sin of slotting people in classes of aristocracy and lower classes, also allowed people to belong somewhere in society. No one could easily lose one's place in the chain: there was security in knowing where you fit.

The great chain of monarchy also meant that higher levels were responsible for lower levels; the aristocracy was wealthy and didn't have to labour for money, but it also had a responsibility for tending to the lower levels with justice and mercy. The lower levels had to serve the higher levels, but they could depend on those above to tend to their needs. You knew to whom you had to go for help and support. You knew your place, but you also knew others' places.

This is how monarchy offered a cogent worldview which, when operating as it was supposed to do (and we know how often humans do that), explained the needs and responsibilities of everyone in society.

The great shift of the Revolution, after all was said and done (and there was much said and done between the 1750s and the 1800s--hence a 2-inch tome), was one to a society of equality. We applaud this equality, and hold it up as one of the great maxims of our country: that all men [sic] are created equal.

However, when we are all equal, that means there's no aristocracy anymore. There is no ontological lower class. Therefore, no one is beholden by the social worldview to take care of anyone else, and no one can rightly go to someone else and stake a claim on that person's aid. Everyone may (and must) work for self-improvement, and the drive to better oneself--most often expressed in the earning of money--is the one thing which makes us equal.

The Revolution deprived the colonists of their security in privilege and responsibility. Now everyone stood on a level: the game became every man (still just men in those days) for himself. You could make yourself out to be anyone you wished; but you could depend on no one to help you do it. The only tool by which you might curry favour or aid was money (or its equivalent in labour or resources). Every person, it could be assumed, was driven by self-interest--the "pursuit of happiness"--and upon that motivation alone did individuals make their choices: intellectual, political, and economic.

I was struck by the radical loss of security and certitude that comes from losing the monarchial structure of English society. If you don't have a place, then you've got to make one for yourself, and that place can be lost to someone else who wants it. So with the opportunity for self-promotion and aggrandizement comes the danger of debasement and destitution.

Gordon retiterated several times the disappointment of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, George Washington, and Ben Franklin at how the Revolution had turned out. Apparently they hadn't wanted everyone to become quite that equal; they maintained a vision of an educated and politically active upper class who would act for the good of all the people. What they found instead was controlled mob rule where people gathered in solidarity only around economic interests (hence the development of political parties as we know them now). As Gordon put it: it's not that the Revolutionaries' ideas didn't work, it's that they worked too well.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in some heavy, thought-provoking words about how this country came to be the way it is. Reader beware: this one requires your full attention!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just How Cold is 0 Degrees?

So cold that in the 20 step trip to the mailbox this morning my hair (still wet from the shower) FROZE!!

I think today is a work inside day!!