Author Archives: Jeff

Time and Love

What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann was coincident with her exhibition/meditation on death.   Her choice of terms for corpses, “carapaces,” jibes with my experience: when I touched the body of my father, my first thought was “this isn’t my father.” The shell felt somehow plastic, although important to others. For me, it meant nothing. […]

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Savage Aesthetics

One passage in William Morris’s News from Nowhere (1890) has haunted me since I read it. The protagonist is navigating the Thames river and passes through an old style pound lock and wonders why the centuries old technology is still in use. In this pastoral vision of the future, the answer he’s given is this: ‘You see, […]

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Hats off to Hungary

While reading Typee, I found myself marveling at the sheer density of his descriptions of food on the Marquesa islands. It’s a romance of sorts, so I was expecting and not disappointed by the number of interludes with native girls and such; but food? Why so much attention to food? Melville wrote Typee while living in […]

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Stan

I went to Kinney Drugs yesterday to get my biannual supply of Williams shaving soap, and as usual, everyone rushed the front and there was a line. The cashier called for help, and I stood about third in line behind an old man with a shopping cart. I didn’t look too hard at what was […]

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Fish Stories

I must confess that I’ve not been able to read Moby Dick in the decades since I first started trying. I make it part way, and then just sink to the bottom of the endless whaling descriptions. Jim Levernier, a member of my Master’s committee and incredibly generous professor of American Literature, swore that I […]

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The Last Resort

A common subject for the “Songs from the Valley Towns” photographs was bars, both active and abandoned. The bar exteriors were frequently poetic, and I fondly remember the Last Resort, on the outskirts of Arvin, California on Bear Mountain Boulevard. I’m not sure exactly where it was, but as I recall it was on the […]

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The Fog of Progress

Bakersfield is famous for its tule fog. It’s literally a low flying cloud that just can’t escape the ground. Lots of people die in automobile accidents during the fog season, but growing up there, I loved it. Fog days! Fog is a powerful metaphor, and random google searching brought a short summary lecture on YouTube to […]

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Mom’s Motel

Growing up in the Valley, I spent a lot of time driving around, and quite literally, to this day I feel that the highway is my home. It’s the landscape I know, and in most ways still, it’s my favorite book. There’s always something interesting to read.

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Knowledge and Power

And underneath the flutter leaf The reams of dreams array Melting into make-believe I hear you gently say Oh please let our people say Just how hard they want to play For you know very well Judas is betraying them tomorrow I’ve been thinking about the imagery in this tune for a while. It was […]

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From Thomas Jefferson to Henry Knox, 1 June 1795

Have you become a farmer? Is it not pleasanter than to be shut up within 4. walls and delving eternally with the pen? I am become the most ardent farmer in the state. I live on my horse from morning to night almost. Intervals are filled up with attentions to a nailery I carry on. […]

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