The thoughts of a writer.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Are we Gods or Bugs?

In the scheme of the world, there is much debate about our importance. In the past, nuclear war was a frightening prospect, because “we could blow up the whole world!” Could we actually destroy the planet, or would we just affect global changes that would destroy humanity and several other species –while the world just continues on without us?

No doubt, we humans have affected great changes on the planet. Just a few centuries ago, life was very different. People had to grow, hunt and barter for food. They also had to carry water. They had to cut wood to heat their homes that they had to build. Today, we buy food at the grocery store, buy houses with money from working jobs, and we have electricity, water/sewer, and here in the Midwest, natural gas piped in to heat our homes.

When I hike the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge lands, I see that there are high-voltage lines spanning the area above, gas lines beneath the ground, and there is a huge power-plant at Black Dog. Black Dog was the name of an American Indian chief who once lived at the site, but now the name applies to the power-plant, the lake and the road between the two.

The power-plant allows for the production of electricity that is diverted and wired directly into our homes. This allows for a variety of lights and appliances that were not available in the past few centuries. This plant burns huge quantities of coal, which produces emissions. The resulting heat also causes heat-pollution to Black Dog Lake, as the plant uses the waters to cool its systems. As a result, certain fish, plants and animals cannot live in the waters, while others congregate there in the winter because it never entirely freezes over.

This, perhaps, demonstrates that people do have a major impact on the environment, usually disadvantageous to everyone, except for the comfort level of human beings. One can use the analogy of bacteria in a Petri-dish, polluting their environment until they die in their own waste. This could be humanity’s fate at some point in the future.

One thing we do know is that we have made changes in the world, and in the Minnesota River Valley, where the Black Dog power-plant is located. Still, the natural environment, the plants and the animals, hold on and some even thrive. Of course, we should remember that bears, wolves, cougars, elk and bison once roamed these areas, and they are for the most part, long gone. That said, there are still deer, coyotes, raccoons, lots of birds and wildflowers still in abundance.

Our national emblem, the Bald Eagle, made a remarkable comeback after efforts were enacted to save this unique species of raptor from extinction. Unfortunately, other, less charismatic species do not enjoy the same level of public support. Their fates are more perilous.

So in the end, as we consider global warming, are humans affecting serious and harmful changes on the world that will cause catastrophic events? Or, could it be that we are merely fooling ourselves, as a greater and grander series of natural forces follow their own patterns that have occurred over billions of years while humans were still evolving into the egomaniacs that we have become?

Kevin J. Curtis

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Support Chinese Imports

Poor workmanship, inferior quality, yet filled with deadly toxins, Chinese imports: because they’re cheaper.

Chinese translation,
差,裝修質量低劣,但裝有致命毒素,中國進口 :因為他們便宜.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Job Offer?

I had an interview downtown for a job yesterday. When I returned, I had a call from a “human resources person,” who said she found my resume on a job-temp site… doubtful…

Anyway, she said she was from the National Guard, and I was “qualified” for several jobs they are trying to fill.

I asked if I had to enlist and she said “yes.”
I didn’t have to ask what the job was, as I wasn’t interested in driving a supply truck in Iraq. Things must be desperate to try to recruit an “old” guy like me…

Friday, June 15, 2007

Novel Progress

My current novel in progress, “Cottonwood,” is perhaps, half done at this point. That is my plan, but these things often have a “life” of their own, which goes in directions that I never expected. My research has been exhausting lately, and as in my first book, I find it quite a job to extrapolate “reality” from historical accounts that either contradict each other, or deal with illiterate cultures from the long ago.

I have been working on the subject of American Indian burial mounds. My novel takes place over approximately two centuries of pivotal history in the Minnesota River Valley. It staggers the mind to think about the changes that have taken place and the cultures that existed in the areas where we now live. In some unfortunate cases, the remains of these past peoples have been destroyed in the name of progress and development.

I have had some difficulty finding details of ceremonies, due to the sacred subject matter. There is also some politics involved, as well as a desire in some circles to keep certain details quiet. Despite this, I intend on dealing with the subject matter in a way that I hope, sheds some understanding on the humanity of what some would regard as “inconveniently located, old bones.”

This is but one piece of the larger history that is “witnessed” by the gigantic cottonwoods in the river bottoms where I frequently hike. My most recent hike in the Wilkie unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge brought me into the thick, June growth where I experienced among other things, stinging nettles, and about three or four dozen wood ticks.

Why I am so attracted to a place that has the ability to brutalize one’s body with poison ivy, thorns, biting insects and sinking mud, can best be understood by my awe in the sights, sounds and smells that I encounter both on and off the trails. Such things from my recent hike included, seeing thousands of Red Admiral Butterflies swarming around me, or the impressive mother Bald Eagle who swooped low and circled me –just to let me know that she knew I was there and that she was still in charge.

I only hope that my novel will do justice to the wonders that I have found over the past three years as a volunteer park ranger. I also hope that I can convince a worthy publisher, that this book is worthy of being published.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Racial Humor

While stereotypes are never 100% accurate, they exist because of a certain, underlying element of truth. Often, they are like a caricature of reality. In this spirit, I have playfully looked at some racial stereotypes, and also used some firsthand things that I have witnessed.

It seems that when a Caucasian and an African-American are engaged in a debate (argument), if the Caucasian uses logic to his advantage, it will likely be trumped by an even more powerful tool, the allegation that the white person is a racist. Once this allegation is levied, the white person is presumed guilty until proven innocent. It is as if a black hole in space has grabbed hold of the Caucasian, and it sucks him into the depths of doom.

At the school where I work, I noticed that the Latino students are now actively using this technique as well. My observations seem to indicate that whatever the black kids are doing today, the Hispanic kids will be doing next week. I think we have seen this demonstrated with Rap music. This is not to say, that there aren’t white kids who are doing this too, because some are. On a related note, few things are more humorous than a white person who is desperately trying to be black!

Here is a caricature of two Mexican kids at a park, talking to each other on cell phones as they watch a black kid from opposite ends of the park.
Jose’: “What is he doing man?”
Juan: “I think he is jumping man.”
Jose’: “He’s doing what man?”
Juan: “ I said he is jumping man!”
Jose’: “Why is he jumping?”
Juan: “I don’t know man; I think he’s listening to music man.”
Jose’ “How high is he jumping man?”
Juan: “What? I don’t know man!”
Jose’: “Well find out Hesse, we need to start doing that on Tuesday!”

Jose’: “Wait… what is that Asian kid doing?”
Juan’: “I don’t know man, he has a book… I think it says ‘Calculus!!!”’
Jose’: “Aaaaahhhh!”

Since I am white, I realize that I am disallowed from making commentaries and jokes about this. How unfortunate that it is acceptable (regardless of your race) to say negative things about Caucasians, but playful attempts to understand such things by a white person are generally met with hostility. My intent is not to offend, but to strike a chord of humor based on observations. This is risky business in a society of people who are determined to be offended by others who are different from them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Counting Down...

School is out in two more days. I'm (staff) done in three. I'm ready for a break.